19 September 2018
It’s Tetris meets Connect Four – but its rulebook drops the ball
At first glance, Drop It looks like a double-barrelled blast of pure nostalgia. With its upright plastic game board, it bears a striking resemblance to the old family favourite Connect Four. And, while it doesn’t use the same iconic blocky polyominoes, its emphasis on strategically dropping shapes into high-scoring positions is enough to leave you with the theme tune from Tetris inescapably embedded in your brain.
At its core, the game’s premise is pretty simple. You and your opponent(s) take turns to drop a collection of wooden shapes into the slot at the top of its plastic casing: squares, triangles, circles and diamonds. You’ll score points based on where they land, with higher positions netting you greater rewards. Shapes have a tendency to bounce, slide and roll off of one another, and it takes some finesse to expertly slot your pieces into the best spots.
To make things more challenging, you’ll also have some restrictions to deal with. You won’t score anything for pieces that land touching others of the same shape or colour, which means you’ll have to think carefully about where your plummeting wooden bits might come to rest – and whether you might inadvertently leave juicy scoring opportunities open for your rivals.
Drop It adds a little more complexity to the mix in the form of areas denoted by symbols on the edges of the play area that limit the types of pieces you’re able to play in them. Drop a shape into a position where it touches a forbidden edge of the board, and you won’t score any points even if it’s an otherwise legal spot.
It leads to some chin-stroking situations where you’ll get up and examine the game from all sorts of angles, looking for places where you can precisely drop a piece to avoid trespassing on the wrong bits of the board. There are some gut-wrenching moments where a perfectly positioned shape wobbles, totters and tips over in exactly the wrong direction, negating all your best efforts.
It’s incredibly poorly explained in the game’s rulebook, though. In our first few games, our interpretation of the rules left us with few viable ways to score points. A look at reactions to the game online reveals that almost everyone who’s played it has run afoul of its ambiguous manual, playing with far more restrictive rules than the designers intended.
Getting past this confusion greatly improves the experience, but at times it still feels like the rules are getting in the way of the fun. The game even comes with a variant mode, giving players cards they can use to ignore the placement requirements and score points for pieces that would otherwise be invalid. It’s as if the designers themselves realised that the scoring system was dulling players’ enjoyment – in the end, Drop It’s combination of old-school toy appeal and gravity-based spatial challenge doesn’t quite stack up.
Drop It’s colourful, toy-like appearance promises accessible fun, but its confusing rulebook will leave many players feeling frustrated. There are some satisfying moments to be had once you’ve worked out how to play it correctly, but it’s still hit-and-miss.
Designer: Bernhard Lach, Uwe Rapp
Artist: Fiore GmbH
Time: 15-30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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