Review – Puzzle Strike

Posted on by Jesta

A chip based vs deck building game.

Title: Puzzle Strike

Year Published: 2011

Designer: David Sirlin

Publisher: Sirlin Games

Players: 2-4

Game Time: 20 Mins

Set-up Time: >5 Mins

Ages: 10+

Theme: 2D Fighting Games

Mechanic: Deck Building

How to win: Have the fewest chips in your Gem pile when a player is eliminated

Game Description

Puzzle Strike is a card game played with cardboard chips instead of cards that simulates a puzzle video game such as Puzzle Fighter or Tetris.

It’s a deck building game, which means you build your deck *as* you play the game. Every game is different because the bank starts with a different set of chips each time. Also, there are 10 characters to choose from in the base set, each with different game play. Between all that, there are over 411 MILLION starting conditions in a 4-player game, and even more if you include the expansion.

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.

You don’t have to worry about shuffling cards because 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.

Though the game is fun even if you’re terrible at it, it’s also balanced for high level play by veteran asymmetric game balancer David Sirlin

Set Up

Each player takes a screen and a game board. Each player gets 6x 1 Gem Chips and 1 x Crash Gems.

Each player also chooses a character and puts that characters 3 special chips into their bag, along with the other making a total of 10 chips.

The bank is made of the following…

In every game, these are added…

  • The rest of the 1 Gem Chips
  • The 2 Gem Chips
  • The 3 Gem Chips
  • The 4 Gem chips
  • The Combine Gems
  • The Crash Gems
  • The Double Crash Gem
  • Wound Chips

Then 10 random stacks of the other chips are used to make up the rest of the bank.

Puzzle Strike Setup


(Image from Board Game Geek)

Game Play

Game play is A -> A -> B -> C

A – Ante

Put a 1 Gem from the bank into your gem pile

A – Action

You can play ONE action Chip

B – Buy

You must buy at least one chip

C – Clean Up

Discard any chips you drew this turn and draw 5 more

End Game

If a player has a Gem pile totalling 10 or more at the end of their turn the game ends. The player with the smallest Gem Pile is the winner. In the case of a tie, those players take one turn each until the tie is broken.

Round Up

This is essentially a deck building game. But, there’s so much other stuff happening you can’t JUST call it a deck building game.

The Ante phase is just a way of getting Gems into the game. You Ante 1 per turn. As the game goes on and stacks are depleted from the bank, the Ante goes up. Where X is the number of players, if that many stacks are depleted the number of Ante is increased by 1. So in a 4 player game, when 4 stacks are depleted the Ante increases to 2, 5 stacks is 3, 4 Stacks is 4.

This means as the game goes on it rapidly speeds up and stays interesting.

The Action phase is interesting. You only have 1 action so use it wisely. Some action tokens allow you to take more actions so chaining these are important. The whole point is to ‘Crash’ the Gems in your pile into someone else’s. They can counter crash which uses Gems in their gem pile to Crash into yours removing Gems from the game, reducing both players piles.

Getting a balance of chips that give you extra Actions, chips that allow you to Crash and Block, Draw Chips, Bank Chips and give you money to spend AND allow you to manage your Gem pile is the key.

This shows it isn’t just a normal deck builder.

Puzzle Strike Gameplay


(Image from Board Game Geek)

The Buy phase is where you have to make these choices.

You HAVE to buy so if you don’t have any money to spend you take a wound token which does nothing but takes up room in your ‘deck’.

Even the Clean Up phase is something you need to pay attention to.

You can Bank Chips if you played the relevant action in the Action phase meaning you can put unplayed chips in your hand to one side before drawing. This is KEY to building a good strategy.

The downside is experienced players vs new players… With the way you NEED to build a deck to win a lot of players buy too Crash gems early or not enough money. Also new players Counter crash far too often. Counter crashing removes Gems from the play area and sometimes you need more Gems in play to get the game ending quickly, especially if you’re winning.


It’s a fun game, as long as everyone knows what they’re doing. There’s a lot more to it than just trying to keep your own Gem pile down. When you’re in the lead you NEED gems in play so counter crashing isn’t something you want to do.

I give it 5/10

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