Having spent countless hours playing Tetris, to the point of formulating a personal philosophy about it (“Never say, ‘I can’t get the piece I need.’ You have the piece you need; you need to know how to use it.”), Tetris the Card Game from Fundex Games immediately jumped out to me. The game proves versatile — it is able to go in multitudinous directions… some better than others.
Tetris the Card Game is labeled as a family game for one to four players ages eight and up with games usually running about 20 minutes. The main setup is a family or party game where players compete to be the first to complete ten Matrices. The game’s learning curve is steep, leading to a fair bit of scrambling over the nine-page instruction sheet until things make sense. Each player places 10 cards face up (or “Tetrimino up,” as the pieces are called) as a score counter. Then each player gets two cards and attempts to play one of the Tetriminoes on the Matrix (the back of the card where the grid shows) of the first card on the draw pile. As everyone takes a turn, each line filled is a score card flipped. If a player cannot complete a line, the punishment is flipping a scored card over again. Gameplay with two or three players is a bit like Chutes & Ladders, more luck than skill. Without four players there is little room for Contested Play (double-checking a possibly uncompleted line) or a Steal Play (pointing out where a discarded Tetrimino could have completed a line). The latter is the most fun with begrudged looks meeting clever grins.
What kicks this game into “cool” territory is its versatility. The core game is a bunch of shapes and a bunch of grids, which can be used in multiple ways. The main group play is expanded with five Special Cards such as Rotate, reversing order of play… a move reminiscent of another straightforward game, Uno. Drop 2, Drop 4, and Bomb all allow for more clever actions including forcing opponents to turn scored cards back over. Most unique is the Power Up card where a player may swap the card for any opponent’s unscored cards. If someone needs a straight piece to complete four lines at once, they can grab any shown, which causes players to strategically flip their score cards.
Further versatility comes from altering the deck. For beginner players, take Special Cards out of play or lessen the number of score cards needed for victory. For more advanced players, decrease the score cards. For fewer players, take out a few Special Cards. The official rules include a Solitaire Play with no special cards and running through ten Matrices trying to solve each, which proves to be challenging in itself.
The most chance for versatility, however, comes from home rules. Maybe players have to complete exactly the number of lines on their score cards with too many counting against them. Or perhaps Drop cards might be split. Or edit a Power Up or two to increase the number of cards in hand. Or players might play multiple cards at a time. This is a great game for those who like to tweak the possibilities.
While some might think of Tetris as a boring way to play with blocks, it is definitely a good game to master spatial thinking, and Tetris the Card Game allows a new level for creativity.