Lines and Your Biggest Rectangle: A Review of Clustered
Review for Clustered
- # Of Players: 1-4
- Ages: 7+
- Rules Wt: Light
- Publisher: Sculpin Games
- Price Point: $18.00
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this game to review.
Clustered is an abstract card game where players are trying to match their cards to the pattern formed by cards they have previously played, or attempt to block an opponent from getting a higher score.
What I Liked…
- Helps teach pattern recognition
- Very good introduction to strategy
- Gameplay requires planning
- Appropriate for ages 7 and up.
What I Didn’t…
- Has the potential to become tedious if played too often
- This game takes up a lot of tabletop real estate
Playing the Game
Clustered is a very simple game, rules-wise. Each player has a deck of cards that contains 27 unique cards and two wild cards. after drawing their starting hand of five cards. Players take turns playing one card from their hand, then drawing a new card from their deck.
To place a card it must have two attributes in common with all adjacent cards. Points are scored for each player’s largest rectangle, and for each line that has at least three of their cards in a row. Play continues until all players have played their last card. The Winner is the player with the most points.
While Clustered may seem “easy” at first glance, I can promise you that its “easy” appearance is nothing more than a ruse. Clustered is elegantly devious in its simplicity. Every card you play increases the difficulty of the game. Especially if you play cards randomly or without much planning. And considering that your opponent may be actively trying to impede your progress by playing a card to block future plays, and you wil quickly realize that Clustered is not easy. Especially when played with more than two people.
Every card in clustered has three attributes: Shape, Shading, Number. Each Attribute has 3 possible variations. It is important to remember, every card in each deck, with the exception of the wild cards, is the only copy of it in that deck. So every time you play a card you reduce your options
Clustered is all about making “matches.” Not of identical cards, but of cards that are related to one another by at least two attributes. You gain points for every line of three or more you make with your cards, and you get points equal to the number of cards in your largest rectangle that is 2×2 or bigger. Additionally, each line in your rectangle that is 3 cards or longer in length is still counted as part of a line for the purpose of scoring. This makes it possible to score one card three times. As the game progresses making matches becomes harder, and your mistakes become more costly.
While Clustered is a competitive game, and it is possible to play cards to hinder your opponent, offensive strategy in Clustered is a two-edged sword. Every time you play one of your cards against an opponent, you are sacrificing at least one point and potentially sacrificing SEVERAL more. Unless, of course, you plan on building off the card you are blocking with. Since every card is unique using it against an opponent means that you probably no longer have that option later. You may have even made it impossible to play further related cards because of where, and how you chose to play this card. This can end up costing you more points than you prevent your opponent from getting.
When playing clustered It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that you need to pay attention to several variables while playing: What cards you have played, what cards your opponents have played, where you have played each card, what cards both you and your opponent have left, and what cards, if any, that you have played against your opponent or have been played against you. So how, why, and when you play it is rather important.
If you are playing less competitively, how you play your cards is just as important. It is better to play 9 cards as a 3 X 3 rectangle than to play 9 cards as one line. The reason is that a 3 x 3 rectangle is scored at least twice, and three times if the rectangle is your largest. That is at least 18 points, and potentially 27.
I love Clustered. While this game is not one you would bring to your adult game night, Clustered is a fast and very family friendly title that will fit in perfectly with your other family titles. Additionally, Clustered has educational elements that can help a child with pattern recognition and logical thinking, as well as basic math skills if you make them add while scoring. My one concern is that the game could potentially become tedious after too many plays. Otherwise Clustered is an excellent family game, and I highly HIGHLY recommend it to anyone.
One word of advice: you need a big surface to play Clustered, especially if you are playing with more than two players.
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