Gaming Unplugged: FITS

September 20, 2009


If any game were to be nicknamed “Tetris: the Board Game” (other than the actual Tetris board game… both of them), FITS would be at the front of the line and elbowing competitors like Blokus out of the way.  FITS — which stands for “Fill In The Spaces” — is a Reiner Knizia design and published by Ravensburger, supporting one to four players.

Each player gets a ramp that holds a board and a plastic slide. Each board has a dozen lines of six dots each, with some boards containing additional symbols used for scoring purposes. Along with the ramp comes an assortment of blocks, from three to five blocks in size. A card representing each block is also included, as well as four special “start block” cards.

Play is quick and simple. Each player randomly takes one of the start cards and slides that block on to his ramp. Then a card is turned up and every player places that block; when your start block’s card comes up you simply don’t place a block on that occasion. This repeats until the deck is exhausted, although most players will probably fill up their ramp long before that happens (blocks can be placed above the dots, but may not breach the side walls). Blocks must “drop” straight down, and cannot shift into awkward spaces or rotate after you decide where they’re going; in other words, once you miss the opportunity to fill in a space, you can never correct that mistake. This is unfortunate, as every unfilled space will cost you a point at the end of the round. 

While the point-per-dot penalty applies to all rounds of play, each round has its own unique way to gain points. Round One simply awards you one point for each fully-filled line; this is the warm-up, and it’s more difficult than you might think. Round Two features specific dots that are worth one, two, or three points if they are uncovered at the end of the round; Round Three is similar but also contains five-point penalty dots that you definitely want to cover up ASAP. Finally, Round Four challenges you with five pairs of symbols; each pair of symbols left uncovered is worth three points… and each partially-uncovered pair (that is, every unpaired symbol) is a three-point penalty. Yeah… that’s as evil as it sounds, believe me. Negative scores happen (in each round) and are surprisingly common.

FITS is really a solitaire game at heart; even with multiple players it’s really just several solitaire games comparing scores against each other. The only difference is the start piece of each player and the decisions that must be made as the ramps fill up. That being said, there’s a strange sort of amusement that comes when the next piece is perfect for your ramp but hellish for everyone else’s. This can also be a source of “analysis paralysis,” as players try to minimize the damage they’re about to inflict on themselves, but other than that a single game should be done in about 30 minuets, tops. FITS may never be the main event at game night, but it’s a brain-taxing filler that is more than capable of giving you fits (yeah… I went there).