Blueprints: A four-sided game review

Blueprints box contentsBlueprints is something of a ‘super filler’ for two to four players. It sets up/packs down fast and plays in 30-45 minutes, but has a surprising level of puzzly depth for what initially looks like a light dice game.

There’s also a surprising actual amount packed into a small box (9x6x1ish inches); you get 32 dice (in a bag), 45 cards and four player screens. And these are proper dice too – not the kind of Mickey mouse ones you get in games such as Quarriors.

Blueprints is played over three identical rounds. At the start of each one players receive a blueprint onto which they will place six dice over six identical turns. Depending on player count, each player in turn will take one of 7-9 dice on display and then replace the one they’ve taken by rolling a new one from the bag and adding it to the pool.

Dice can be stacked on top of others of equal or lower value, or placed next to each other in any configuration; you don’t have to follow your blueprint’s design, but if you do you’ll get a small points bonus. The dice come in four colours, each of which scores in a different way – and you’ll need a good memory, as people will be building on their blueprint behind their player screen.

Dice score as follows: Green award points for the total amount you’ve amassed; black dice score more the higher they are stacked; orange score extra points for each of their neighbours on the blueprint; and clear dice simply score the number on the upturned face of each dice.

Teaching

Blueprints diceOn the plus side, Blueprints is simplicity itself: put six dice onto a card, score them, rinse and repeat three times. The rules are clear and fit easily onto a six-fold sheet of A5 paper, including illustrations.

The player screens even have the way each dice colour scores printed on the inside. What could possibly go wrong?

Funnily enough, even though it is that simple, one quirk in the scoring does tend to throw people – in fact, probably because everything else is so straightforward. Having taught the game several times now, I’ve found you really need to ram this home before you really get going – and even then you’ll probably find someone doesn’t get it right away.

Blueprints scoring

Here’s the issue. Each round you’re amassing 20-40 points on the scoreboard by dice placement; at the end of each round these points lead to the award of victory point scoring cards (for example, in a four player game, whoever scores the most points gets a card worth 3 victory points, second gets a two point card, third a one and fourth nothing). The scoreboard is then reset for the next round – you only keep you victory point cards.

In addition, there are other goals you can achieve each round that will score you points – have five dice of the same colour, four with the same number etc. Each of these is worth two victory points – so it would be possible to never score a single point from the scoreboard but still win the game. Once people understand this, it should be plain sailing – and this variety of scoring really makes the game experience.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious amalgams drawn from observing my friends, and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: This was everything I’d hoped it would be after reading the rules pre-Essen. Light on rules but relatively deep for the game length, Blueprints has really founds its niche in my collection. Better still the rather dry theme means it won’t scare off non-gamers, while the small box makes it perfectly portable. This makes it one of my games of the year, despite it being one of the least exciting.
  • The thinker: There’s quite a lot to like here and don’t be put off by the dice; rather than adding randomness in game play, see them more as a method of creating a modular playing space each game. The way the odds change as a round progresses is fascinating, with seemingly high risk strategies sometimes becoming the easiest way to score points. A fine aperitif to a heavier game experience.  
  • The trasher: Blueprints is a game I like two player, as you have more control and can really psych out your opponent. Not only do you take a dice each turn, but you also dump one, meaning you should really be able to mess with the other player. With three or four though, it’s not really a game for me – but as it’s quick, its not a game I’d turn my nose up at either.
  • The dabbler: I thought the memory element might be a bit of an issue, but its not for a couple of reasons. Firstly, rounds are fast so there’s not much to remember. And second, you can ignore what others are doing and still have fun playing. Especially with more players its pretty impossible for most people to remember what three other people are doing at once, so why bother? I can win while having a natter, as long as I keep a rough tally of what colours are disappearing fast.

Key observations

Blueprints finishedI’ve heard some moans about the component quality, which surprises me greatly. The dice, while a bit dull in colour, are of a good quality and the cards are fine too – especially as you hardly handle them. The artwork is generally a little bland, but certainly not in the lower echelons in terms of game publication.

Some of this complaint may have come thanks to the game’s initial price at Essen, which was 30 euros. When you saw some of the crazy bargains on show there, it was easy to baulk at this – which is probably why it ended up dropping to first 25 and then 20 euros. I paid 20 for it, but will I get 30 euros worth of fun and value from it? I very much expect so.

Another interesting comment I’ve heard a few times is its a game that everyone likes, but nobody loves. It’s an interesting talking point, and I can see why some might think this, but I don’t think it does the game justice.

Blueprints doesn’t last three days, doesn’t have orcs or space ships or pirates or zombies, and is every bit an abstract – something that seems to be quite a dirty word amongst most modern gamers, who rather contradictorily seem to turn a blind eye at even the most pasted on theme. For this, sadly, many will leave blueprints on the shelf.

But the game has an average score on Board Game Geek that’s very close to a seven at the time of writing, with a lot of eights and nines in the mix – suggesting its got some kind of fan base already. Will the posh video review guys give it some love? Probably not, as there are so many shinys out there, but hopefully word of mouth will see it rise above.

Conclusion

Blueprints screensIts not often you find a game that you’re confident will go down well with pretty much any audience: for me, Blueprints is one of them. I’ve played it with heavy strategy gamers, light gamers, non gamers and drunks and it has been a hit every time.

Using dice to create an ever evolving landscape while placing little emphasis on the numbers themselves is a really tough trick to pull off, while balancing the two ways to score points is a stroke of genius. Under a rather drab exterior is a very colourful bit of game design.

I currently rate Blueprints a 7.5, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t do it justice – but then I rate Ticket to Ride on the same score, which is one of my most played – and loved – games. In terms of importance to my collection, Ticket to Ride would more likely be a 10 and I think that in time, Blueprints would probably be just below it on a nine. But time will tell.

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