I’m not really a Reiner Knizia fan. I often say that I appreciate good mechanics over theme, but I think I prefer games where they are well integrated. Knizia games are almost always abstract games with themes that mean nothing. My two favorite Knizia games are Blue Moon City (which has great mechanics, a fairly weak theme, and beautiful art to make up for it) and Ingenious (an abstract with no pretension of theme). Other of his popular games that I’ve played – Tigris & Euphrates, Lost Cities, Battle Line, Through the Desert, Medici – don’t really do anything for me.
When FITS came out in 2009, it really interested me. It wasn’t so much Knizia’s involvement, but the Tetris connection. I loved Tetris growing up, and still do. The game garnered enough good will to be nominated for the Spiel des Jahres that year. Now, we have a sequel – BITS. Published by Ravensburger, the game is for 1-4 players aged 8 and up, and takes around 30 minutes to play. The game has already been released in Europe, and should be making its debut stateside early in 2012. Now, where FITS was about completing lines and filling gaps to score points. In BITS, you will be attempting to make shapes on your board.
A copy of this game comes with four ramps, much like the ones in FITS (though in a slightly different shape). There are four player boards, as opposed to the eight in FITS. The variability in the game comes from the 16 task cards. There are 90 plastic tiles, featuring four sets of 20 game tiles (distinguished by symbols), five starting tiles, four neutral tiles, and one spare tile. There are also 20 corresponding building tiles and 5 start cards.
Each player starts with a ramp, a board, a complete set of 20 tiles, and the matching neutral tile. The task cards are sorted by the number on the back, 1-4, which correspond to the round number. The building cards are shuffled into one pile, and the start cards are shuffled into another.
This game is played over the course of three rounds (four if you’re playing the advanced game). Each round follows the same three steps. First, reveal one of the task cards from the stack that matches your current round. This will give you your goal for the round, a shape you’ll need to complete (or that you’ll need to avoid making). Round one cards give you a specific shape, as well an extra condition for scoring points. Round two cards give you a specific shape in a specific color. Round three cards give you a shape that, if completed, loses you points. Round four cards give you five-square shapes to work towards. Shapes must be complete with no extra squares of a color to score. Each task card will remain in play from round to round.
The second stage involves each player drawing a starting card and placing the appropriate tile. This means that all players will be placing a different tile to start. As in FITS, you position the tile at the top of your board, then slide it all the way down.
Finally, you start flipping building cards. Each player will then place the appropriate tile in the same manner – slide it from the top to bottom. You are not allowed to fill in gaps – once you’ve started sliding, there’s no more left to right movement, and you can’t pass through already placed tiles. You also can’t extend past the top of the grid. You can choose at any point to play a neutral tile instead of the on indicated on the drawn building card.. Neutral tiles are gray and help define color blocks. They are NOT wild…they just help you make borders.
When no one can play any more tiles, the round ends. Add up your score, clear your board, flip up the next round card, and begin again. Remember that task cards remain in play from round to round, so that shape you were making in the first round will still score points if you make it in the third round. At the end of the third (or fourth) round, the game ends and the player with the highest point total wins.
I keep bringing up FITS because this game is very similar. Both are essentially multiplayer solitaire games – there’s nothing you can do to affect your opponents in any way at all, apart from trash talk. Each player is trying to solve a puzzle on their own, and the winner is the one with the most points. A lot of people don’t like this style of game, and I completely understand. I tend to prefer this form of multiplayer solitaire over, say, Yahtzee, primarily because all players are working simultaneously. Rounds are the same – flip a card, place a tile. There are the same rules for placement. The board set up is similar, and each player begins with a different starting piece.
However, there are a number of differences. The variability from round to round in FITS was accomplished through the use of a different board with different conditions from round to round. Here, it’s the task cards. I think I would have liked to see a lot more task cards included to provide more unpredictability. But I do like the stacking mechanic – you’ll still be working on the same tasks throughout the game as you add more. Of course, the bits of BITS are different, with two square tiles instead of the four square Tetris shapes in FITS.
Overall, this seems like a pretty good successor to FITS. If you like puzzles (which I do), then this one should be right up your alley. There are also rules for solo play, which is basically trying to beat a certain score. It is nice to have games you can pull out and work on without having a whole new set of rules to learn, but it does tend to cramp the multiplayer experience. I’m looking forward to checking this game out when it gets a domestic release. Thanks for reading!