Mar 012014

In Blueprints players assume the role of architects attempting to create structures with various materials represented by dice (wood, stone, glass, and recycled material). Each of these materials will score in a different manner. Wood (orange dice) will score two points for every other orange dice adjacent (sharing a dice face) to it. Stone (black dice) score points for being higher in a structure — the higher up the more points they score. Recycled material (green dice) score higher for the more you use in a building. For each glass (clear dice) the top face of the dice is scored. For each of the three rounds in the game, two different dice are randomly chosen to be “in demand” materials. The materials represented by these two dice are used to break any ties for prizes or awards at the end of a round. Then a randomly chosen pool of 7-9 dice are pulled from a slightly undersized sack. The dice are rolled and then organized by number of pips showing. Either ascending or dscending order – go nuts.

How do you play?

In turn order, each player picks one die. They secretly place that die according to the building rules behind their screen (Shhh! Is secrets). Then they randomly pick a new die from the aforementioned small sack, roll it, and place it in the pool of building materials. After each player picks six dice, and thus completing their building (each building consists of six dice), the screens are removed and points are scored — TA DA! Just like in real life, some architects are conservative and build exactly according to their blueprint and scoring the requisite six points for being dull and following the blueprint (they will have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries). Others, perhaps drank a bit too much Ecto-cooler on site and created some…interesting constructs hoping for artistic accolades. Luckily, there are prizes for creativity so go wild, but not too wild. Remember, when placing dice you have to obey the building rules — you can’t place a die on a cross-hatched space in your blueprint, you can’t place a die on top of another die of a higher number (so you can’t stack a 5 on a 6 but you can place a 6 on a 5), and you never cross the streams! Totally simple!

Once the buildings are complete and scored, the awards and prizes are…well, they are awarded. The highest-scoring building gets a Gold Award (3 victory points), second highest gets a Silver Award (2 victory points) and third gets the Bronze (1 victory point). The amount of awards vary with the number of players. The truly daring can try to win some of the special prizes (each worth 2 victory points). A building with five or more floors gets the Skyscraper Prize; a building with four or more dice of the same value gets the Structural Integrity Prize; the building with one dice of each value (1-6) gets the Geometer’s Prize; and lastly the Materials Prize is awarded to the building with at least five dice of the same material. For the Gozer Prize, you need to open a portal to another dimension — this tends to be a game-ender as well as an ender of worlds. The in-demand material die will be used to resolve any ties with the players with the most in-demand materials winning.

What did you think?

I’ve been developing a healthy love and deep respect for lighter, filler games lately. In fact, I am completely happy playing a bunch of filler rather than one or two larger games. It feels like filling up on the h’ordeuvres and skipping the main course especially when done as a tax write-off by playing with clients rather than friends. When a small box comes with a large amount of options (a’la Scripts and Scribes), a hefty amount of player interaction (a’la Lifeboat), or isolates a wonderful mechanism and exploits it (a’la The Great Heartland Hauling Company) I get excited. When a game does all three and plays quickly, I start to vibrate with happiness at a high velocity. Seriously, I start to sleep above the covers…six feet above the covers. In Blueprints, the simple dice drafting mechanism of “pick a dice and place a dice” pairs well with the fairly wide decision space. It is by no means a deep thinker but the variety of options are impressive especially for a game that plays in 20-30 minutes. The material come out randomly with different values providing enough tactical decision to make each round significantly and unique.

Add to that the fact that the “in-demand” materials create a slight (but not devastating) resource shortage plus a slight amount of bluffing, secrecy and misdirection and the game becomes tense and interactive. Players can’t be too obvious in what materials they are choosing and why (for example, no cold riveted girders with cores of pure selenium). The blueprints themselves are templates, mere suggestions rather than actual rules (cats and dogs living together!)…so the choice whether to follow them exactly or to use them for prizes is an important one and dependent upon the dice rolled. The scoring mechanic is refreshing. Rather than tracking a large number of points, each round has separate scoring which results in prizes/awards, making scoring at the end of the game simple. It is similar to the scoring in Pinata another crowd favorite at our gaming events, where players collect candy in order to gain medals. Although, unlike Pinata, the scoring in Blueprints can be a bit confusing for the first play.

As a filler game for beginners, Blueprints clearly succeeds. The game presents new decisions without altering the landscape of the game too much. There is not pivotal point of the game where the strategy switches. Each round is the same decision with different choices available. There are dice, a blueprint and one action (pick and place a dice) and that is it. But the value, type and amount of each dice will differ. Players pick this up quickly and can dive right into the game. The pool is large enough that a player can also pick out a few potential routes from the dice pool accounting for what other players will pick. After the first round, players get a feel for what everyone is doing and despite the player shields, careful attention to the choice of dice will help determine other player’s strategy.

Would you rather?

Would you rather play Blueprints or Scripts and Scribes? Both games employ an interesting dice drafting mechanic. While Blueprints is slow and steady with a “take one, play one” approach, Scripts and Scribes provides much more variability and strategy. So this is going to depend upon my mood and the people around me. If it is a new crowd of emerging gamers with little experience, then I would go with Blueprints since the strategy of the game becomes pretty apparent quickly. If I am playing with more experienced gamers that prefer more options then I would go with Scripts and Scribes. Another issue is that Blueprints provides dice but not really the most satisfying thing about dice — rolling them!

This game seems a bit abstract….any other abstract games that you would rather play? Abstracts are a tough call for me. Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends appeals more to me in theme and interaction but it’s play is a bit too complex and the theme could be off-putting to some. The Duke only plays two and I prefer to table four people if I can. It comes down to the innocuousness of the construction theme in Blueprints. People can understand the premise of the game quickly and that is a big plus for a family or general audience game.

Would you rather play Blueprints or Zombie Dice? Other than both employing dice in some way, I don’t see the similarity. Blueprints is not a real-time dice-chucker like Escape: The Curse of the Temple. It doesn’t employ a Yahtzee mechanic in any way so it isn’t similar to King of Tokyo or Zombie Dice. It won’t scratch that optimization or real-time itch. There is no push your luck. What you have is a tactical game of patterns using randomized components. The satisfaction isn’t in rolling or resolving dice, the satisfaction is in making smart tactical decisions

Bottom Line

Blueprints is a quick, simple, dice driven filler game that will appeal to a wide audience. It teaches quick. The player investment is small for a decent amount of decisions. New and experienced players alike can get plenty of satisfaction from the amount of choices from the simple dice-drafting mechanism. Would it topple my current top filler games? No. But Blueprints definitely fills that niche for a quick, family-friendly, innocuously-themed-but-still-well-integrated, fast game.

Harold Ramis in the reading room of the Mid-Manhattan Library during Ghostbusters principal photography in 1983. Photo from NYPL The New York Public Library archives.

This review is done in memory of Harold Ramis. Shown here in the reading room of the Mid-Manhattan Library during Ghostbusters principal photography in 1983. Photo from NYPL The New York Public Library archives. See you on the other side, Dr. Spengler.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

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