Designed by Laurent Escoffier | Published by Blue Orange
2-4 Players | 15 Minutes
Ancient creatures, hidden for generations, are stirring from below the lake depths. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough room for them all. Taking on the role of one of these great water serpents, you’ll work to outmaneuver your opponents, being the last one to elongate your monster and control the lake.
In this abstract, lake-monster building game, you’ll take turns growing your monster on a gridded, peg board. Monsters will twist and turn in specific ways to extend from their heads and tails in and out of the water. As the monster grows there will be less and less real estate. Only with careful planning can you hold off your opposing monsters and be the last monster stand… er… swimming.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
To begin, each player will choose a monster color. Each color has a variety of monster segments of varying height and length. You’ll begin with your monster’s shortest segment and take turns placing it on the game’s peg board.
Each monster segment has 2 spots, at the front and back, where you’ll attack the head and the tail. You’ll eventually move the head and tail onto new segments as your monster grows throughout the game.
Players will then take turns “growing” or “elongating” their monster. To do this you only need to follow a few simple rules:
1) You can add segments to the head or the tail
2) You can only add a new monster segment to one of the 3 adjacent peg board spaces at the head or tail of your monster.
3) You may cross over another player’s monster, but always above and never beneath.
4) If you run out of legal moves, your game is over.
The rules are simple, but the game’s difficulty really depends on the participants. This can certainly be a casual game, or it can be a cut-throat game of careful planning and execution… it’s completely up to you.
The winner is basically the last player standing – the one who is able to build the longest sea monster.
The game’s components are almost more in-line with a kid’s toy than a board game. The plastic monster segments are high-quality and built to take a beating. I suppose a ton of wear and tear could eventually lead to the head and tail pieces not quite fitting tightly, but I wouldn’t worry about that. The playing board sits inside the box and seems sturdy enough. This game is built with younger kids in mind and the components reflect that.
There isn’t a ton of artwork in the game to review. The box art is silly, fun and colorful and immediately drew in my younger daughters. Outside of that, the board artwork is fine – certainly nothing negative to report here.
It’s pretty clear Block Ness is geared toward a younger audience. The thick plastic pieces and cartoonish box art have their sights set on your children from the store shelf like a glowing box of marshmallow cereal. That’s not to say there isn’t an interesting puzzle here.
The ultimate goal is to create the longest sea monster. The segments of the monster dip and rise in and out of the board like Nessie at Loch Ness. You quickly find the playing board gets really small in a hurry. If you’re not careful to plan your turns in advance, you’ll find yourself in a corner and out of luck.
The game’s rules create interesting limitations by not allowing you to go under another monster segment or cross over the head or tail of another monster. This contributes to the game’s greatest asset: player interaction.
In Block Ness you always have to be mindful of your opponents – where they’re at on the board and where you think they’ll move next. If you use your pieces effectively, you can potentially block an opponent AND create additional real estate to twist and turn your sea monster to your heart’s delight. Of course, with 3 other sea monsters each acting of their own freewill, the game’s chaos can’t always be foreseen. I actually found the unpredictable moves of my 6-year-old to really help bring the game to life. In fact, she was even able to transition some of that unpredictability into victory a couple times.
I enjoyed the game for what it was from the abstract/spatial puzzle perspective. My kids enjoyed the game because you’re building sea monsters, the pieces are colorful and fun and there aren’t many rules. No matter who’s playing, the end result is always a cool looking knotted-up mess of sea creature parts going this way and that on the board.
I think the easy accessibility and game length combined with the “potential” strategic depth are ingredients of a successful family game. While this seems to be a game more focused on a younger audience, there is plenty for a parent/adult to enjoy as well. It probably won’t become a family classic, but I think it could have some legs for the right crowd. It’s definitely unique in theme and mechanics and it’s super easy to get to the table. If you’re in the market for a family-friendly game that can both engage younger children and adults alike – give Block Ness a closer look.