Gobblestones from R&R Games will delight players young and old with its race to become the fattest goblin by laying the most tiles. Fun art sets the comical background as players gobble up delicious precious stones. Just like in real life, the more one eats in a single go will make for more sluggish eating later on, and so players have to balance gorging and a few nibbles to keep their pace among their fellow goblins.
At first glance, one might take Gobblestones as a kid’s version of the classic Scrabble. While the tile-laying mechanic is much the same, players do not need a dictionary-sized vocabulary. Instead, Gobblestones focuses on making the best matches of colors in a straight line. Players draw up five tiles of different colors matching the colored spaces on the board, which is created out of arranging nine smaller boards. With more than 360,000 possible arrangements, each game will be fresh with the focus on finding the best possible match for one’s pieces, not trying to crack the board with memorization.
The truly innovative mechanic in Gobblestones is its limitation on draws. The number of tiles a player draws to refill his or her slate depends upon how many tiles were played. More plays means fewer draws, thus limiting the possible plays for the next turn. Some players may favor a strategy of alternating feast and famine, while others may try to keep a moderate diet, gaining points each round.
While the spaces on the board feature unique symbols, the tiles themselves are distinguished only by colored stickers. This may run into an issue for players with color-deficiencies, and even the blue and purple might seem overly similar, but these issues can be easily fixed with a simple permanent marker if they were to come up.
Alternate rules for Gobblestones include a bluffing variant. In this version of the game, players lay their tiles facedown, claiming to match the colors on the board as they are supposed to do. However, a player may try to get ahead by bluffing and taking up squares by lying about the color played. This social aspect of these alternate rules take the game to a completely new level, and opponents will spend their off-turns judging the ticks and character of the player laying to see whether they should challenge and potentially cost the trickster some points.
Gobblestones is a tile-laying game for two to four players aged ten and up. Games last about a half hour and are fairly predictable regardless of the number of players since the “timer” is the tiles in the bag: once the bag is empty, the game is over, and the player with the highest score wins. It is an excellent family game, keeping minds sharp through the strategy and optimum matching with just enough luck-of-the-draw and social rules to level the playing field against those particularly crafty opponents.