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Recently, I reviewed the Shape by Shape game from ThinkFun, one of their four "By" series, and I was quite impressed with the versatility of the game, which allows you to create all kinds of interesting shapes and patterns. Now, I've spent some time with another one of these fascinating games, the Square by Square, and I'm equally excited by its capability of pattern-making.
This time, instead of focusing on a Tangram-like concept, the makers of this game, Yoshikatsu Hara and Yoshio Kimura, were inspired by the nature of polyominoes (pieces made by joining square units into different shapes). In the game you can see a mixture of monominoes, dominoes, trominoes and tetrominoes. There are a total of 14 pieces, eight blue and six green, and with them you can create numerous patterns and shapes. The game already includes 60 challenge cards with figures for you to solve, but when you finish these you can resort to your imagination and creative skills to create your own patterns (see the example below, with my initials).
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The goal of the game is to create an image from the challenge cards provided. The card only shows the shape, in green, and the rest of the frame is filled in blue. You'll have to use the green pieces to create the shape and then combine it with the blue pieces to complete the image. All pieces must be used, and you have to pay close attention to the relative position of the pattern in relation to the frame's borders, so you don't get stuck. If you do get stuck, you'll find hints at the back of each card to help you solve it, but I believe you won't need it that often...
From what I was able to experience so far, the Square by Square is the easiest game of the four, because the monominoes and dominoes ensure you have lots of possibilities to place them on the board. However, that doesn't mean it's not fun to play with it. In fact, it means it's easier to create your own patterns as well. Another perk of this game being easier is that each challenge has multiple solutions, many ways to reach the same goal.
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The Square by Square is the perfect puzzle to get started on packing puzzles, because you'll learn more clearly the relationships between the different types of polyominoes and how they interact with each other. It will give you the confidence to try more demanding puzzles and, ultimately, enjoy them best.
Availability: I got the Square by Square at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com. You can also find there many other games from ThinkFun.