A couple of months ago, someone mentioned Board Game Arena to me and I signed up to take a look. The site carries a huge collection of board games, all of which can be played online. You can either play in real time (live against an opponent) or (as is my preference, turn based in which each play has a day or more to make a move. Not all games lend themselves to turn-based play, but the ones that do are handled well by the site.
Board Game Arena has recently added Nick Bentley’s Blooms to the site. And this is proving to be a frighteningly addictive two-player game.
The rules are pretty simple. The game is played on a hexagonal board made up of smaller hexes. Each player has two sets of coloured stones. The first player players a single stone and in each subsequent turn players can place one or two stones onto any empty space — if you play two stones they have to be different colours. To capture a stone or ‘bloom’ of connected stones you have to surround them so that there are no empty spaces into which the bloom can expand.
And that’s it.
The game is inspired by Go in that you place stones to surround territory but differs in that the emphasis is on capturing stones rather than territory. Also, the much smaller board size makes for a much faster game.
The number of stones you have to capture varies depending on the size of the board (15 stones when it’s four hexes per side; more for bigger boards).
What makes this game really fascinating is that you have to watch out for your opponent’s pieces but also your own. Each player has two colours which means that, if you’re not careful, you can end up trapping your own pieces. This adds a whole new element to the game and one that makes it a real challenge.
I’m still terrible at this game, but the depth that emerges does leave me wanting to play more and to get a much better handle on the game. It’s a game that is easy to understand but one in which you really need to think about your moves if you want to avoid tripping over the sort of mistake that can quickly lose you the game.
It’s certainly a game worth playing, but I would suggest you avoid the four hexes per side option. This makes for a very small playing area in which the outcome is determined by whoever makes the first mistake.
2 thoughts on “Board Game Arena and Blooms”
I recently saw someone post a video of them playing Go and it looks really difficult! They explained the game to me and it still doesn’t seem to make sense, but I was told that the rules aren’t supposed to completely make sense? I was surprised to read that this is similar to it, but I think your explanation makes sense. Gotta love a game that makes you think about not only the consequences of your choices, but anticipating the opponents too! I’ll have to give the game a go one day, once my obsession with Homescapes transpires.
The thing about Go is that it has very few rules but once you start playing, the possibilities quickly become endless, which makes for a very challenging game.
I love these sorts of abstract games and spend far too much time playing them 😉
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