A.I

Tetris the board game is Tetris minus the panic

Have you ever wanted to play Tetris, but also wanted to play a board game at the same time? I have good news for you, because there’s a new board game called Tetris that is — and I cannot stress this enough — literally Tetris.

But it’s a really decent version of Tetris with a few fun bells and whistles thrown in.

Tetris is published by Buffalo Games (Apollo, Pac-Man The Board Game, Skee-Ball), whose line of inexpensive and surprisingly good games have made big inroads at Target and other big box retailers. Designed by Phil Walker-Harding (Gizmos, Sushi Go Party), it has everything you need to play Tetris — namely, big chunky plastic tetrominoes and somewhere to put them.

Inside the box is a small cardboard game board for a short stack of cards representing the tetromino that is currently in play and the next tetromino coming up. There’s also a set of cards for victory conditions — six completed rows; four pairs of matching and connected tetrominos; four completed rows by playing that one, awesome long tetromino; you get the idea. Once you’ve settled on a victory condition for that round, then up to four people can play Tetris at one time.

Image: Buffalo Games

Also inside the box are three clear plastic playing fields, not unlike smaller versions of Connect Four. You drop your tetrominoes in the top, and when you’re all done you dump them out. That’s it. That’s the game.

Except it’s not, really. Walker-Harding went a little bit further, inventing something called a “mino.” It’s just one of those squares that make up the larger tetrominoes, and it’s just the thing for closing up gaps that appear in your lines. Tossing a mino in before your tetromino each round is super effective, and you can earn more minos with strategic play.

I mentioned inexpensive above, and while the game doesn’t feel cheap necessarily there are a few issues with the components. In my playtests the tetrominoes tended to get stuck in the play field, which caused some frustration, resulting in banging of plastic bits against the table to get things to lay flat. The issue was compounded at the end of the game, when once or twice we needed a bamboo skewer to get all our tetrominoes out again. Also, the stickers that are attached to the playing fields are full of air bubbles, which are distracting to say the least.

But honestly, the game looks great on the table. After all these years playing Tetris on a screen, it’s really a delight to see it as a physical object. The entire thing is semi-transparent, which means it looks even better under the right lighting conditions. It’s a sure-fire conversation starter at your next board game night, and games take less than 15 minutes to play, meaning it’s a great way to get people warmed up. Since everyone knows how Tetris works, it’s also dead simple to teach.

Look for Tetris on store shelves starting Aug. 1.


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