Picture the scene at The Happy Puzzle Co development table circa 2017... '62208 solutions, you say? I'm not playtesting all those!' Welcome to Genius Square, designed by Salim Berhiche, a puzzle game that can be enjoyed solo or against another player in a race. Each puzzler receives a chunky plastic board with a recessed 6x6 grid of coordinates from A1 to F6, seven blockers, and nine differently shaped wooden polyomino pieces. Seven dice are rolled and both players locate the blockers on their grid where shown, then... go!
The simple objective is to fill the remaining spaces on your board with all the polyomino pieces before your opponent does on theirs, which makes the game a hybrid of Rubik's Race (University Games) and Ubongo (Kosmos). Apparently there are over 62000 combinations the dice can roll and - the box proudly proclaims - all of the resulting puzzles can be solved. Without analysing the dice to work out if that's really true, it is possible to create patterns with the blockers that are not solvable, so you have to trust that the maths is right. There is a great tactility to placing the segmented polyominos into the recessed slots, which produces a very satisfying sensation indeed. As with many speed puzzle games, if the players are of different skill levels, it's not going to be much of a contest but, with an equal opponent, it is a fun race.
Trying to show off my own proven genius, I rolled the dice and proceeded to demonstrate the game at my 10-year old son's birthday party, only to find I couldn't actually solve the random puzzle created: there's no note in the admirably succinct rules about what to do if neither player can succeed. Rolling again isn't that hard to do, I guess, if the players agree. Plus, it can be a great lesson in humility.
For a quick head-to-head puzzle race or a solo session against the clock, Genius Square is a pleasing diversion which will put your spatial awareness to the test at pace. And, if you enjoy it enough, pick up a second copy for a four-player version!
(Review by David Fox)