Reiner Knizia


No. of Players:
1 - 4



Although computer games tend to get more and more sophisticated, there always have been times when people were captivated by rather minimalistic games with a high addiction value. In the last 10 years the frantic “Moorhuhn Jagd” (“Crazy Chicken”) was such a game which could be found on the office PCs of hundred thousands of people, but going back in time a bit more most of you will remember “Tetris”, a game about falling blocks created by the Russian programmer Alexei Paschitnow in 1985. With its simple but effective playing mechanism (creating walls with different-shaped blocks falling with increasing speed), “Tetris” captivated computer users all around the world, and now the German top-author Reiner Knizia has taken up the challenge to create a multiplayer-boardgame from this legendary computer-game. And indeed, the new RAVENSBURGER game Fits matches the general playing feeling of the old classic rather fittingly, although Reiner Knizia has finetuned the scoring mechanism in a way to create more tension and an increasingly difficult challenge.

Each of the up to four players in the game receives his own plastic display and a set of different blocks which he will use to fill the different slots of the display. The game is played in four rounds, and each of the rounds requires the players to put a different playing background below to transparent plastic top of their playing displays. These backgrounds will be used for scoring, but whereas the first-round background just shows a certain number of rows which the players will need to cover as good as they can with their stockpile of blocks, the backgrounds of the following rounds show smarter challenges like bonus numbers which should be left uncovered or symbols which need to be left free in matching pairs.

When all players he prepared their displays, two decks of cards are shuffled – the starter deck and the regular game deck. Before the game begins, each player first draws a card from the starter deck. Each of these cards shows a different block from the player’s stockpiles, and each player now uses the shown block as a starter block for his own display. So, the players take the matching blocks and put them at the upper end of their displays where they may turn them in either direction or even mirror them by turning their backside up as front. When they have chosen an orientation for their blocks, they start moving them towards the bottom of their displays, locking them along leading lines which prevent further rotation or movement between the lines. The blocks then come to their final position when they cannot move downwards any further.

With these preliminary steps done, the real game starts with the players shuffling the game deck and turning up the front card of the deck. This card now shows the next block which needs to be used by all players, and so the players take the matching block and place it onto their displays just like they had done with their starting blocks. Once again, the new block may be mirrored or rotated, and when this is finished the new block one again is moved downwards as far as it can go. The game then is continued turn by turn by revealing new cards for additional blocks, and slowly the players will try to build closed lines of wall, going up from the base-line of their displays. However, as you might guess this task is by no means easy, since the block stockpiles of the players contain an array of rather misshapen shapes which are rather difficult to use in a consistent manner. Since these blocks cannot be rotated anymore once the player has started to slide them downwards the challenge of building closed walls is more difficult than it might sound, and so the players constantly have to compromise and must hope for the right pieces to turn up. The only possibility in which a player may miss a turn is when the current card shows the block which he has used as his starting block, but this is of no greater meaning since the player then simply rejoins the current round with the next card.

The round continues until all players either have used up their blocks or cannot place additional blocks anymore, and when this moment is reached an evaluation takes place. Now each player receives one point for each completed wall-line on his display, and the points will be recorded since they need to be added up with the points scored in the following three rounds.

After the scoring the players remove all their blocks from their displays to refill their stockpiles, and then they change the playing backgrounds of their displays to the first advanced display which will now be used to play the second round. Once again a scoring takes place when the round is over, but this time the players not only receive points for completed lines of wall but they will be assigned penalties if they have left gaps in their lines through which penalty values of the playing background may show. After the scoring=2 0has been done, the game continues in this manner with rounds three and four, but the scoring gets increasingly difficult since round three offers a background which shows penalties and bonuses alike, forcing the players to try to leave some voluntary gaps in order to score additional points. Round four is hardest, with the playing background showing six sets of two matching symbols, and the players will be assigned bonus points when they leave both matching symbols uncovered, but they will receive a penalty if only one symbol of a pair is still visible by the end of the round. The game then is won by the player who has scored most points after all four rounds.

To my mind Reiner Knizia has done astonishingly well with this computer-to-boardgame transformation, although I was a bit astonished to find no reference of “Tetris” anywhere on the gamebox or within the rules. However, there is a number of differences which sets the game apart from the computer classic, and – apart from the fact that FITS is a multiplayer game – upfront comes the fact that it offers a more pronounced strategic orientation since each player knows which blocks he can still expect. In addition, there is no constant increase of playing speed during the course of the game, and so the players can focus on the placement of their blocks without any real hurry. However, the placement challenge is difficult enough, since the stockpiles of the players contain only a few evenly shaped blocks so that they will have to face a flood of misshapen shapes which need to be placed in compromising positions. Still, if players are up to an additional challenge, the use of a timer clock limiting each player's turn to 15 seconds might bring an additional increase of playing speed!

The name of the game turns out to be truly ambiguous, since there will be occasions when the players joyously will cry “It FITS!”, but more often they will get hysteric FITS when the required blocks simply refuse to appear. Most important, players with a mind for such task orientated games will feel a certain addiction value despite the fact that there is no direct interaction in the game. Here it helps a lot that the game is divided into four rounds and scoring phases so that competition is kept up by the changing scores. Luck has some influence so that the game is not just a matter of the individual building style of each player, but it certainly helps to keep an occasional eye on the pieces still available especially during the last phase of each round. Overall, I found Fits to be a rather entertaining and refreshing alternative to modern-age complex gather-and-building games, and it perfectly FITS in as a starter or dessert on a nice gaming evening.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2009 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany