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Dice Game Review: Knock Your Blocks Off

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In one of the most innovative games I have seen, Gamewright combines the skills of dice battling and construction, creating a whole new level in Knock Your Blocks Off. There are games such as Battle Dice or simply Craps where people roll dice hoping to get either a higher number or something specific, and there are plenty of blocks out there, building and racing to achieve a pattern. Knock Your Blocks Off creates something new with it synthesis of defensive building and dice-throwing skill.

The game is for two to four players, aged eight and up. It is very quick play, lasting only ten to fifteen minutes, and great fodder for a group that likes a competitive bracket. The learning curve requires a fair bit of memorization, but at its bones, the game is simple: build a structure with the Building Dice, set a Crown die on top, and attempt to knock it off with the Demolition Die. Game goes round after round as players race to build and then work skillfully to destroy, gaining Victory Tokens along the way.

First comes the Building phase. Players take their six multi-colored Building Dice and assemble them so that white only touches white and color only fits next to color. The first one to cap off the structure with the Crown die achieves a Victory Token. Five shapes may be formed, each with their own powers. The Gate (two columns together) gives a bonus of an extra token for a successful attack, the Fort (three squat columns together) gives an invulnerability to Boulder rolls, and the Steps (three columns of increasing height) allow for a second attack roll. The two fastest-to-assemble structures, the Wall (all blocks lined up flat) and the Tower (all blocks stacked up straight), do not give a Victory Token for being the first completed, but the Wall gives the possibility to choose an attack from two rolls while the Tower grants an extra Victory Token for defense. Handy laminated Structure Guides keep all this straight for the players.

Next comes the Destruction phase. The winning player takes the Demolition die and rolls it, coming up with a Boulder, Ogre, or Dragon, each with its own style of attack by flicking the die, tossing it underhand, or dropping it from above, respectively. Successfully knocking off an opponent’s Crown brings in another Victory Token. If the attack fails, the defender gets the token instead. The game sets up for a new round, and the first player to eight tokens wins. With tokens quickly being assembled with two per round, the game is incredibly fast-paced.

Knock Your Blocks Off also comes with possibilities for home rules. Very skilled players could be bumped back on the minimum distance to make their attacks or given bonus for special achievements, like knocking the Crown off but leaving everything else unscathed. Even at its most basic, however, the game creates a fascinating two-stage set with its brainy reflexes construction in the Building phase training pattern identification and the brawny precision of the Destruction phase using key hand-eye coordination. Further, players can study their opponents’ skills, learning which structure is the best against someone who could drop better than flick, for example, and adjust strategy for unknockable blocks and dicey victory.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.