If you’ve ever heard of Tetris then the principle behind Brikks will be familiar to you. If you haven’t then... no sorry, I don’t believe you, everyone’s heard of Tetris! Brikks is basically Tetris the board game. I know, this should not work, and yet it really does! Bear with me and I’ll explain.
Brikks is a roll and write game. Each round a player rolls a pair of dice and everyone uses the results to draw in a shape on their player sheets. You’ll have one player sheet that looks like an old arcade computer game. Here you’ll keep track of tetrominoes as they fill up your “screen” as well as energy points and bonus points. You’ll also have another sheet with a picture of each tetromino shape on it. Each of these shapes has a colour and number designation that will correspond to a roll of the pair of dice. If you don’t like your first roll you can always roll again, but thereafter you’re stuck with the result.
So let’s say you rolled green and 3. All players now use their little transparent disk to mark the upside down green “L” on their shape sheet. Now I’m quite happy with my inverted “L” but Mavis over there would much rather her “L” lay on its back with its toes in the air. That’s fine Mavis but you’ll need to use one of your energy points to rotate it. Energy points are marked at the bottom of the sheet, circle one to show its activated and cross it off when it’s used. Now Derek doesn’t want an “L” at all, he wants a square tetromino. Well that’s ok too Derek but changing to a shape of your choice will cost you a whopping 5 energy points!
Staple it Together
Now everyone’s happy with their shape and it’s orientation you’ll all virtually drop your shapes into your game sheet. Shapes drop from the top of the sheet downwards following traditional Tetris gravitational rules. They’re marked off with crosses when they’ve reached their final resting place. In this way you’ll all fill up your 10 x 11 grids. Hopefully with as few gaps as possible because the more boxes in each row that are filled the more points you’ll accrue. You’ll also notice there are coloured circles in some of the boxes of the grid, covering these is how you gain those energy points we were talking about.
You may well find yourself at some point stuck with a completely useless shape. Thankfully in true arcade fashion each player has 3 bombs for just this occasion. Cross off a bomb and you don’t need to mark any shape this turn. You blew it up! Careful though, bombs are worth good points at the end of the game, so don’t be too gung ho about it.
Tetris was one of the most successful and addictive video games ever, but at its heart it was just a never ending abstract puzzle game. It shouldn’t be so surprising then that the core mechanism works so well in this analog format. After all polyomino tile laying has been a staple board game mechanism for ages. Think Barenpark or A Feast for Odin.
What Wolfgang Warsch has managed to do with Brikks is take the best bits of Tetris, and add a smattering of simple tabletop strategy. He then wrapped it in one of the most successful genres in the past couple of years, roll and write. The result is a simple but addictive dice game. It has a pleasant offering of strategy but manages to stay chilled throughout. Unlike its digital counterpart which started off fun and then ramped up the stress to ridiculous degrees, Brikks retains its relaxing polyomino puzzle solving vibe throughout.
Brikks doesn’t really contain any art, it really is as simple as they come. The graphic design is fine. The arcade game style of the player sheet is a fun little nod and the muted neon while fairly uninspiring ties in pretty well with the retro 80’s vibe. One thing I would recommend is swapping the black felt tips out for coloured sharpies. Having a finished grid full of uniform black crosses is a bit anticlimactic. Blocking out each brick in its relevant colour leaves you with a cool looking finished product. It might be sad but I like it.
Brikks is not going to win any awards for attractive presentation or groundbreaking new mechanics, buts that ok, I don’t think it set out to. It does however tap into a massive well of nostalgia around a beloved piece of digital age mass culture. Brikks is a fun and enjoyable way to spend half an hour and if you like polyomino style games or roll and writes in general it’s sure to be a hit. It scales from 1-4 players which is nice and versatile.
All in all I really like Brikks, and not just for the nostalgia factor. Filling up your grid as economically as possible is a pleasant puzzle that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. Mitigating bad rolls with the energy points makes it a game of skill that rewards good choices rather than a slave to luck. While the roll and write market is nearing saturation point, this little game has earned its place in my collection. It may not be the prettiest example of the genre but it’s definitely a case of substance over style.