This week in second grade strategic thinking, we played the game Blokus.
Blokus is a two- to- four- player game where each player is assigned a color and 21 game pieces in that color in different geometric shapes. The goal of the game is to put as many of your pieces on the board as possible. The trick is that all of your pieces need to touch one another, but only at the corners — none of the sides may touch sides of pieces of the same color, and none of the pieces may be free-floating.
True Blokus-devotees know the official names for the pieces, so I provided the kids with a cheat sheet to help them learn the names:
We then discussed strategy. I gave the kids the following strategic tips:
- Play toward the center. Since you want to cover as much of the board as possible, start by claiming as much of the board as you can by placing your pieces in a line angling toward the center.
- Play your biggest pieces first. You should play a five-square piece if you can, unless you have a strategic reason why a smaller piece makes more sense (and usually you don’t have such a reason).
- Block your opponent from moving into your territory.
- Save your one-square piece for as long as you can, and use it to jump into another area if at all possible.
Then I set them loose to play. One of the great things about Blokus is that it’s often easy to see who is winning just by glancing at the board from across the room. It’s easy to tell who is working toward the center, and who is playing their biggest pieces first. Kids who play Blokus with their pieces all in a pile clearly aren’t paying attention to what they have or thinking about their next move(s).
The kids were divided about the game. Many of them loved it, but an almost equal number were frustrated and found it more difficult than they expected. They forgot to try to anticipate their opponents’ moves and were upset when the moves they planned to make wound up blocked. It was a good lesson in considering not just your strategic moves but the moves of your opponents as well.