Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Starting the year with a Roll and Write

The first game I’ve learned in 2020 has been Blankout, a roll and write that I printed out and laminated. I enjoyed the game but this is going to be one of those yes... but reviews.

Here is Blankout in a nutshell: you’re filling out a grid with polynomials that are determined by rolling a die. In a multiplayer game, you all use the same rolls and whoever is the last person who can fit a shape in wins. If you’re playing the game as a solitaire, then your score is the number of shapes you were able to draw.

I like polynomials. I have ever since I first discovered Blokus at basically the start of my board gaming life or maybe when I discovered Tangrams before that. They let you play with space and patterns. And drawing shapes and Roll and Write go well together. The core concept of Blankout is great.


This is far from the first time I’ve seen the idea used. Discounting non-Roll-and-Write games like FITS, I have still played games like Mosiax or 13 Sheep or Bentoblocks and that’s just scratching the surface of polynomial Roll and Writes I’ve seen or heard of.

And Blankout is probably the most simplistic, most basic one I have seen. Even 13 Sheep, which was the previous placeholder for simplest before Blankout, has a more complex goal (fencing in sheep) and a little more twists (bushes that block fences)

Bentoblocks, which is the game that reminds me the most of Blankout, has dice drafting, two choices of shape per dice and competing to fill in sections of the board. In other words, Bentoblocks has more choices baked into it and is simply more interesting.

So the biggest flaw Blankout has is that there other games that are very similar and, in my opinion, better. In and of itself, it’s definitely serviceable. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a cute and light little game. I will keep it in rotation and I am planning on actually making a nicer copy.

But... here’s the other thing. A lot of the games that are like it aren’t available for free. Bentoblocks isn’t anymore and, as far as I know, Blankout still is. (You can order pads of playing sheets from the designer, though) And that’s honestly no small thing. If someone asked for me a game like this or I needed a game for a youth group of some sort, Blankout would be the top of the list. (It has kicked out the previous placeholder for that, ‘Not Another One’) I can picture running games of Blankout for groups of twenty or thirty people.

Blankout isn’t the best in its class but it is a useful tool to have in your files. Glad I tried it and it will come out on occasion.

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