Blokus may be a really old design by board game standards, but it’s a great way of getting people to play together.
Players simply take turns to place their Tetris-style pieces on the board until they run out of space.
The aim is to be able to place all of your pieces with the smallest one going in last, and if it sounds easy to understand that’s because it is.
The rules can be explained in a couple of minutes and then you can be playing pretty much straight away.
However, just because the rules are simple doesn’t mean that the game itself is easy and it can be tough to get ahead against strong opponents.
It’s important to maximise your placements so that you can get into a really strong position and hopefully block your way to victory.
Territory is one of the primary considerations in a game of Blokus and players always need to be providing options for their next moves. For these reasons moving toward the centre of the board is always advised, as well as placing larger pieces first and maximising the number of possible future placements. In general players should:
- Control the centre ground
- Use larger pieces at the beginning
- Leave your pieces’ corners open for options
- Shut down the corners on your opponents’ pieces
- Think about when best to use the single square
- Leave free placements for later
- Watch your opponents’ moves and their remaining pieces
The main rule for playing Blokus is that a piece can only touch another piece of the same colour at a corner, so never along the edge.
You also must cover a corner space on your first move, but apart from those two rules that is pretty much it.
This video by Triple S Games will take you through everything you need to know to be able to play Blokus in a minute.
Every player’s first placed piece must cover a corner square, so in any game, no matter how many players there are, the board is going to be filled in from the corners.
When you think about how the pieces will build out from the corners this means that at the start each player “owns” a section of the board and begins to expand from there.
Head along one side of the board and you’ll run into one player, but head along the other side and you will find another opponent.
To move towards your third opponent you would need to head across the board, as they are directly opposite you.
In terms of how territories overlap the most hotly contested area is therefore going to be in the centre of the board, which is the only place where all four people at the table are going to run into each other.
Moving in one direction or another will certainly put pressure on one or maybe two players, but the only way you are going to be stealing placements from everybody else at the table is by moving to the middle of the board.
This way every placement you make not only benefits you but has the possibility of getting in the way of all three of your opponents, and that is the ideal situation to be in.
Even with fewer players the centre of the board is valuable, simply because at the start it is open on all four sides, so get in there and mark out your territory.
It sounds obvious but it is easy to overlook – at the beginning of the game when there is a large amount of space on the board you should be looking to place your biggest pieces.
By the time everyone has crept towards the centre of the board (although you got there first, right?) things are going to be getting tight, so you should be saving your smaller pieces for the late game.
This is also important because you lose points at the end of the game for each piece that you have not been able to place, and the bigger pieces will cost you more points.
Another benefit of thinking big early on is that you can get to the centre quickly and start causing problems for your opponents.
Combine this tip with our first one about moving towards the centre early on and the beginnings of your games of Blokus will immediately improve and set you up for a strong ending.
It’s no use doing all the right things and then finding yourself with only one place where you can put your next piece.
Because your new pieces can only ever touch the ones you have already placed at the corners you need to give yourself options.
If you can grow your network so that it has several open corners at the end of your move then you will have multiple options when your turn next comes around.
In theory it would be great to place where you would like to but your opponents are going to be getting their elbows out to block you so you must have several possibilities.
Getting into a position where there is only one way to add a piece is something you want to avoid for as long as possible, and finding yourself unable to get a piece down spells the end of your game.
That’s another reason to save your small pieces for later, and combining this with multiple places where they can be added provides you with the flexibility to keep getting your shapes onto the board when other people might be experiencing problems.
The reverse of the above tip is that you should also be looking to cut off your opponents’ corners if you can.
By doing so you limit the options they have on their next turn and force them to make weaker moves than they want to.
Better still, if they have kept some of their larger pieces you might be able to prevent them from being able to place them on the board, and that is always worth doing.
By keeping your own options open and shutting down your opponents’ choices you will be able to tip the odds in your favour and begin to exert control over what happens on the board.
Small things can be incredibly powerful, and that’s definitely the case with your smallest piece in Blokus.
It’s just a single square, so it doesn’t look like much, but it has some special powers that the other pieces do not have.
Most obviously of all, if you manage to place all of your pieces and the single square is the last one you put onto the board then it’s worth five points in addition to the fifteen you score from having placed everything.
However, if you find yourself in a tricky situation then that single square can prove useful in the middle of a game, as it’s especially good at getting you out of tricky spots.
For example, if you find yourself blocked into a certain area of the board then a carefully placed single square can enable you to break out into new territory.
It can also offer an unexpected bonus because it can have as many as three corners free when you place it, and that means multiple possibilities for your next move.
Of course, you probably won’t have all those corners available to you if things have become tight, but it is still a really useful piece.
You do need to keep in mind that you would be giving up the bonus points at the end of the game if you use it early on, but if it allows you to place all your pieces without being blocked then it might be worth it when you consider the penalty points you might otherwise have incurred.
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you can identify an area of the board that no other player can take and you can place a piece there, don’t take it, at least not straight away.
Instead, put that piece aside and come back to it later – after all, nobody else is going to be able to build there.
The principle behind this is simple, that you should always be putting pressure on your opponents, causing them problems and getting in their way.
If you take a turn to place a piece in safe territory that your opponents cannot build into you are effectively giving them a free turn when you do not need to, and it can bite you hard.
Instead you should wait until much later in the game and keep blocking and getting in the way of the other players instead.
Always keep an eye on where your opponents are building, but also which pieces they have left in their supply.
As long as it fits together nicely with your overall aims you can move towards them and block their progress, especially if you can work out in which direction they are looking to expand.
By leaving them space you are gifting them options, and you should be avoiding this at all costs, but if you have an eye on which pieces they have left then you can interfere from afar.
Really advanced play involves placing a piece that happens to block off one or more of the spaces an opponent would have needed for their next placement.
Especially later in the game, if your opponents have been foolish enough to keep hold of some of their larger pieces you can effectively lock them out of the game by shutting down their options until there are none left.
It goes without saying that you should always be keeping an eye on the board but combine it with what is going on off the board and you can really sharpen your game.
Now that you have these tips on board, why not take a few moments to watch this complete game video by Dad’s Gaming Addiction and see whether they followed our advice?
It’s a two-player game in the video, with each player in control of two colours, but our tips still hold good for playing this way.
As with so many games, the best moves to make are the ones that benefit you the most, and that can be done not just by helping yourself but also by hindering your opponents.
However, if you can find a placement that advances your pieces and blocks others then you will have your opponents caught in the worst possible situation for them, where they get weaker as you get stronger.
You will often have tricky choices when faced with different moves but keeping our tips in mind alongside an assessment of how each move will tip the balance of power in a game is a sure fire way of getting ahead.
So follow our advice from your next play and go out to win from your first placement.
To sum up:
- Always be looking to control the centre of the board
- Place your largest pieces first and your smaller pieces later on
- Try to give yourself options for future placements by leaving multiple open corners
- Shut down your opponents by blocking their open corners
- Try to save your single square for the end of the game, but keep it in mind if you need to break out of a tight space
- Leave free placements for later in order to put pressure on your opponents immediately
- Look at where your opponents are heading and which pieces they still have to play in order to cut them off