Monday, March 25, 2024

Thoughts on the original Blokus Junior

 My son and I recently sat down and tried out Blokus Junior. His real love is video games but we do get in the odd board game now and then. 

Having already played Blokus, Blokus Duo and Blokus Trigon (I don’t count Blokus 3D since it’s a rethemed Rumis by a different designer. Great game but not the same umbrella), I can honestly say that I feel that every game since the first one is better than the original Blokus. Yup, Blokus Junior has kept that trend.

The Blokus family is a set of abstract strategy games that are part of what I think of as ‘stones on the board’ design strategy. (Yes, Go had a big impact on my life, thanks for asking) Every game in the family is built around the idea of trying to cover more of the board than your opponents with different shaped pieces. You always have to touch the corners of your own pieces, but you can never touch the sides.

From what I have read, newer additions of Blokus Junior are actually the same as Blokus Duo just with larger pieces. We have one of the older additions, where each player has two sets of twelve pieces. so, I have gotten to experience the actual different game.

And having a simplified set of pieces does create a different game. Heck, just having two singe-square pieces makes a big difference in your strategy. Blokus Junior is honestly a simpler game with simpler patterns.

To be honest, one of the virtues of the Blokus family is how simple the basic rules are. You can explain the game to just about anyone in a minute or two. At the same time, the family offers a rich decision tree. Just because the rules are simple doesn’t make the choices you make simple.

So I don’t know how necessary it was to make an even simpler version of the game. I will honestly say that I think Blokus duo is stronger than the original Blokus Junior. (Blokus Trigon remains the best and one of the strongest three-player abstracts I have ever found) 

Having said that, we still enjoyed Blokus Junior, and we would happily play it again. Personally, I found it interesting to play with such a different set of pieces. I first played Blokus… decades ago? Eeep! I enjoy the change up. And I like how Blokus Junior continues to have the starting positions in the middle of the board. The starting corners in original Blokus is one of its biggest weaknesses.

Just because there are better games doesn’t mean Blokus Junior isn’t a good game. Indeed, there are all too many worse games. Frankly, the simple game of Blokus Junior isn’t a bad choice for a school night after homework when thinking isn’t the sharpest.

If you are dealing with a very limited storage, space, or if you only want a collection that is the best of the best, I would recommend just picking up Blokus Trigon. But if you like abstracts and have room for variety in your collection (and can find a used copy), Blokus Junior will be rewarding.

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