Tile Up from Winning Moves Games combines math skills with building spatial patterns into one of the smartest games families can play together. While some educational games have far advanced principles built into them that leave younger players guessing, Tile Up is straightforward with its shape-recognition and simple lesser-than counting. The challenge is making the best use of secret goals.
Tile Up begins with each player setting up a screen in front of them to hide their tiles and two goal cards known only to them. Other goal cards are set out on the table where anyone could score from them. The grid board is set up with numbered tiles in a plus-sign formation at the center. Players then take turns choosing to draw new goals, draw more tiles, or place tiles on the board. Since players may only take one of these options per turn, there will always be strategizing on whether it is better to start out early by drawing for a stock of good tiles and goals or move quickly when scoring is possible.
The object in Tile Up is to score points by placing tiles in colors and shapes to match the goal cards. Each tile in the shape is worth a point, so more complex shapes are worth more points. Some players may strategize by saving up their tiles to lay them perfectly in time to score a major haul. Others might try to go for easier scores with fewer points. The optimal strategy, however, is to always be adapting to changes in the board and even the goals themselves.
Having the goal cards on the table as well as secret goals everyone has behind their screens allows for a wide set of options. Players will frequently attempt to score from the publicly available goals, which can give some prediction on how the board might look in the next round. It is constantly evolving as players add their tiles, not only spreading across the board but stacking upward as well. To be stacked on top, a tile must be a different color and a lower number than the tile below. This creates limits to the potential height of any square, so players must keep aware of what portions of the board may be blocked off.
A game of Tile Up ends when the four corners of the grid on the board are covered. Tiles must be laid adjacent to each other, which gives time for the game to evolve. However, this flexible time limit means that players could swoop in with a sudden ending when they are higher on the scores.
Tile Up is a board game for two to four players aged eight and up. It is a moderately long game, lasting about half an hour or more depending on how quickly players make their moves. This length gives time for the board to develop but does not go so long that it wears down a player from the many different angles of strategy required to master balancing the space, color, and number of the tiles.