Reviewer Reviewed On Publisher Designer Published In Rating
July 2, 2003 Ravensburger Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling 2002 8.5
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When I first saw the video game Tetris, I thought it looked quite boring. Then I played, and found how addictively fun it could be, especially when played against a human opponent. So when I saw Pueblo, the blocks immediately reminded me of Tetris – and the game looked like you fit blocks together, just like Tetris. So I purchased the game, hoping that the game would be fun enough to get me past its abstract theme (I’m not a huge fan of abstract games.)

So is Pueblo a good and fun game? The answer is yes, it’s a quick, fun abstract game for 2-4 players. Unless you can’t play a game without a good theme, I think you would enjoy this fun yet deep game. Now for my usual longer answer…

First, a short description of game play….

Each player is given a number of blocks, according to the number of players in the game. They receive a number of blocks both in their color and in a neutral (tan) color. All blocks are the same shape (unlike Tetris). Basically, the blocks are 4 cubes connected in a way so that from every side, three faces are showing. The playing board is placed in the middle of the table, and the scoring board next to it. The playing board has 100 squares in a 10 by 10 grid. The grid is split into four quadrants, each composed of 25 squares. The outer thirty-six squares make up a path on which the “chieftain” moves around the inner sixty-four squares – the playing area. Each player places a little pawn of their color on the scoring board, which is just a spiral-scoring track from 0 to 100.

One player starts, and then each player takes their turn in order. On a players turn, they do two things. First, they place one of their blocks on the board. Then, they move the chieftain one to four spaces on his track and give out points. When placing blocks on the board, there are some restrictions, but mainly, the blocks can be placed anywhere you want. After the player moves the chieftain, points are scored. If the chieftain is not on a corner, he “looks” straight down the row in which he stands. Any color he “sees” gets points according to the height of the color. For example, if the color showing on the fourth level is red, then red would get 4 points. If the chieftain lands on a corner space, he instead takes an overhead look, giving one point to each color in that quadrant that can be seen when looking straight down at the board.

Now, it should be noted that points are a BAD thing in this game, and a player should try to avoid being seen by the chief. After every player has placed all their blocks, the chieftain takes one more walk around the outside track, stopping on every square, and scoring it. After this final scoring round, whichever player has the lowest points is the winner!

There are two variants to the game, which can be added separately or jointly. The “Demolition” version follows the basic game. After the “final” round, each player then takes turns in order again. However, this time, they are removing a block, then moving the chieftain. When the last block is removed, the game is over. The “Pro” version adds two things. Cult sites are the first. The are little “L” shape cardboard pieces that are placed on the board before the games starts at the players’ discretion. Nothing can be built on top of these sites, making space even more valuable. The other thing the “pro” version adds are auctions for turn order. As going first is a valuable thing, it is auctioned off twice a game (three times if playing jointly with the “Demolition” version). Points are used to auction with, with the winning player “paying” (moving their piece) the amount of points they bid. Small changes to the rules, but both these variants change the basic game quite a bit.

Some comments on the game:

1). Components: The components for this game are top-notch. The block colors are nicely done, and the blocks themselves are of high quality plastic. They’re light, stack well, and generally are easy to work with. The little tokens and chieftain token are nice, and the boards are also nice, decorated with an ancient New Mexican design. The box is very nice, square, and holds all the components well – has spaces for the smaller ones. A small white chip is provided with the game to help you remember where the chief starts when you move him around the board for his final walk. You could use your finger, but adding this unnecessary but useful piece is a nice touch. Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the components.

2). Rules: The rules for the game came in a booklet with five languages – each taking up four pages of rules. As the rules for the game are both simple and short, so are the printed rules. But, since some of the rules can be a little confusing, colored illustrations on how to place blocks, score blocks, and move the chieftain are extremely helpful. I found that this game is very easy to teach and learn. People pick up on the game rather quickly – although not on the strategy.

3). Strategy: I’m still not sure what the best strategy for this game is, as I don’t do very well at it. I know that you must try to keep at all costs from getting your blocks up high, as that can produce a lead in points that can be rather devastating to you. There are plenty of places to place your block each turn, but not too many so that analysis paralysis sets in. Every turn, a player will feel like there is no good place to put his blocks – and that’s a good thing. One should just strive to put their block in the least worst place. There is also a little strategy when moving the chieftain. As with many abstract games, there is no luck, but in this game, it didn’t bother me that much.

4). Variants: I like the “pro” variant quite a bit. The auctions are nice, as going first is good, and going last is horrible. However, the cult sites really help the game out. They can take up to 12 spaces on the main board that cannot be built on – pushing the blocks to the higher levels, and generally making the game hard. When teaching people the game, I’ll teach the basic version first – but then quickly move on to the “pro” version. The demolition version isn’t quite as good. In my opinion, it just drags the game out longer. Yes, the winner may be different, but it’s not that big of a deal. I would play it if I played Pueblo all the time and needed a change.

5). Fun Factor: The theme is definitely pasted on to this game. It’s an abstract strategy game, through and through. Yet I had a good time playing. It wasn’t rip-roaring fun, but the game was amusing and quick enough that I enjoyed it. Part of it was getting to build with the cool little plastic blocks. Then the “Tetris” feel seems to bring in a lot of people too. All I’ve shown this to so far, have enjoyed it. Also, it makes a good two-player game. I enjoy the multi-player game much more, but it’s a good game that I can pull out for my wife and me.

So I have to give a high thumbs up to Pueblo. If you need a theme to have fun, then look elsewhere. But if you want to build little blocks, and have a lot of fun doing so, while making agonizing decisions, then this is the game for you. It’s a short, fun, abstract game.

Tom Vasel