Matt's Uptown Stuff

Uptown is a game by Funagain Games. A functionally identical game has also been published under the name "Blockers". I have never seen a Blockers set, but I gather that there are more of them floating about than Uptown sets.

The game has very few rules, but has significant strategy. So far, this page exists to point out several variations on the printed rules, all of which affect that strategy, that are in use among my gaming groups.

Number of Tiles in Rack

The printed rules say to keep 5 tiles in your rack. We have always played with 6, because Richard said so, and it seems to work fine. It may or may not be significant that the racks seemed sized for 6 tiles.

The rules also say that you are supposed to play until you have no more tiles to draw, and then once more around the table, so that you have four tiles left. Well, starting with six, we have interpreted this to mean that we end with five tiles unplayed. But is this the True Way? The council is conferring on this question.

Win Condition

The printed rules say that the player with the fewest groups wins, and as a tie breaker, the player with the fewest captured pieces wins.

Currently popular in Minneapolis is for the win condition to be the lowest value of the sum of number of groups and number of pieces captured of the color that you captured the most pieces of (the tie breaker is the next most captured color, and so on, and the total number of captured pieces as a last resort). This leads to a substantially different strategy, so agree on what rules you are playing with before you start!

Are there other variants on this floating about? I'm not sure.

The Physical Game Set

The game is well made, but the tiles, despite seeming quite solid, are only made of cardboard, and are quite susceptible to water damage. The very first time we played with my set, we ruined two via root beer explosion. Fortunately, the tiles for each color are punched out of a six by six grid, but only 28 are needed, so you get eight blanks per color. Keep the blanks!

The game box is nicely sized to hold the game with not much room left over. Hurray! A welcome rarity. On the down side, if the box comes open, there's nothing to stop all of your tiles from spilling all over the place. Little foam blocks (supplied by you) do a good job at wedging the rows of tiles in place to prevent this.