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Board Game Review – Puzzle Strike

2011 August 20
by Michael Schroeder

Review copy kindly provided by Sirlin Games/Game Salute.

I’ve always enjoyed puzzles…but this puzzle sure strikes up a lot of fun! Puzzle Strike by Sirlin Games.

Puzzle Strike by Sirlin Games

Puzzle Strike by Sirlin Games

Designer: David Sirlin

Number of players: 2-4

Age: 8+

Time: 20 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…


Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips is all that and a bag of chips!


Puzzle Strike is a card game played with cardboard chips instead of cards that simulates a puzzle video game called puzzle fighter that, in-turn, simulates the fighting game street fighter that is emulated in puzzle fighter


If you don’t understand any of that, that’s ok! Puzzle Strike is a complete game in a box that has the fun of a customizable card game without the marketing scheme of selling you parts of the game in random packs. You build your deck *as* you play the game. Every game is different because the bank starts with a different set of chips each game. Also, there are 10 characters to choose from, each with different gameplay. Between all that, there are over 411 MILLION starting conditions in a 4-player game.


A built-in comeback mechanic means that when you’re on the edge of losing, you’re also able to do even more combos than usual.


Shuffling cards takes too long and is boring, so in Puzzle Strike you just put your cardboard tokens in a bag and shake them up to shuffle! Plus, it’s pretty ballin’ to play a game with chips. Play it on your yacht, impress potential mates, etc.

Basic idea in my own words:

Puzzle Strike simulates a Puzzle Fighter type video games, in a board game format. These games are the type where you are opposing fighters, such as a Mortal Kombat game and when you hit your opponent or do combos, trash/junk/bad stuff, such as gems or blocks, gets thrown into your opponents container area. That player loses the game when the pile of gems reaches the top. In this game, the winner is the last man standing. You lose, when your “gem pile” reaches a value of 10 or more gems, during your turn. The designer and the game prides itself on being a balanced game, in my plays, it is. It’s a great game that uses similar mechanics of deck building games, but uses chips in a bag instead of shuffling cards.

How do you play?

On your turn you have a sequence you must follow and following it in order is very important, just like all these board games we play.

  1. Ante – On the beginning of your turn, you must take one 1-gem chip from the bank and add it to your gem pile – remember, you don’t want your gem pile to be too large.
  2. Action Phase – On this turn, you get to resolve 1 action on any of your chips that have a banner on them. Remember, one action but like other deck building games, you want to have the best combo of action chips in your deck so you can string along and chain together actions.
  3. Buy Phase – During the buy phase, you can add up the number of value of your gems you drew this turn (not in gem pile), and make as many buys as you want and can afford. The newly gained chips go into your discard pile. During this phase, if you have a value of 10 or more chips in your pile, you lose.
  4. Cleanup Phase – Put the chips you used to buy anything into your discard, and any actions, basically everything except your gem pile, then you draw 5 chips, the moment you can’t draw up to 5, put your discard pile into the bag and draw till you get that 5…now wait your turn.

That is what you do on your turn, play order proceeds clockwise. So you play what you drew on your hand and what you essentially want to do, is build up a high gem number, such as a 2/3/4 with the least amount of gems, in your gem pile. Because the higher numbered gem you have, the more junk your throwing at your opponent.

Double Crash Gem

Double Crash Gem

How do you throw trash at your opponent? On your turn, if you use a crash gem as an action, you get to crash one gem chip, no matter the gem value of that chip. So if you crash a 4-gem chip, you send 4, 1-gem chips at the opponent to your left, and that 4 gem chip you crashed, goes back to the bank! So the game revolves around the table like this and a round lasts about 20 minutes depending on the number of players. It’s very fun! There’s a single crash gem, a double crash gem. The double lets you crash 2 gems. There’s also a combine chip, this allows you to combine two gem chips, so if you can for instance, combine your 1-gem chip and 2-gem chip, to a 3-gem chip. This will help in attacking your opponent.

In addition to gem chips and crash gems, there’s puzzle chips. Puzzle Chips are your special actions. There’s 10 randomly selected in a round, and 5 each in a pile. It’s your job to pick these and crash gems the best to string together the best combos.



Also to mention, there’s wound chips and character chips. At the beginning of the game you chose a character and get 3 character chips for that character. These chips when pulled, are special actions. They can be very helpful and I find some to be a waste.

The wound markers act as fluff or crap in your possible hand of chips. They don’t explicitally harm you, but it’s just a chip that does nothing that clogs up your chip deck.

Review Breakdown:

Components: 5/5

The quality of this game is awesome! I was extremely impressed with the thickness and smoothness of the chips. The Chip insert is great and labeled; the manual has that nice rulebook smell that reminds me of 1992, and cracking open a new SNES game; The velvet? bags that players use are very thick and quality! Great job!

Theme: 2/5

Don’t really care for the characters, again I’m not into fighting anime stuff but the theme that its a video game turned into a board game is pretty darn cool.

Luck Factor: 3/5

Much luck in this game depending on a random pull out of the bag. But this of course is mitigated by you choosing what you want in your deck/bag.

Strategy: 3/5

Good strategy in this game. Again, like other deck builders it depends on your planning ahead of what you increase your chances on pulling!

Overall Feelings: 4/5

This game is very fun! I’m liking it more and more. I’m not obsessed or in love with it. Our first play felt a bit lackluster, but that was with 2 players. But with more plays it got more and more fun.

Notes: Thanks for those on BGG that posted pictures, which I used.

One Response leave one →
  1. October 30, 2011

    Dear Michael,
    Speaking of which, You’ll love Qwirkle, the board game by MindWare. It’s not just for the kiddie set, mind you. Even adults are having fun with its surprisingly simple layout. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a plain match-the-colors-and-shapes game. Qwirkle is Scrabble, Rummikub, and Dominoes combined, which means there’s logic and strategy involved. If you don’t watch out, you might find yourself scrambling for the right tile to rescue you.
    Keep up the good work

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