Stripes Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages five and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Align the stripes to create your finish line


  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and theatre designer, Pablo Picasso, said, “Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. Just as one can never learn how to paint.” In this game, players will be shifting the position of colored stripes, making patterns. The complexity of the game is not the matching of the colors, but the proper arrangement and timing of the alignment. In the act of doing so, the players bring forth color harmony.

Stripes, designed by Maxine Ekl and published by Breaking Games, is comprised of 60 Stripe cards, seven Action tiles, one Starting Player token, and 12 Reference cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The token and tiles are made of thick cardboard. The artwork for the game is exceptionally minimal. Cards have a series of striped colors only. For those who have difficulty identifying colors, each of the unique color stripes has a pattern, making it easier to distinguish the color differences.

Playing with Colors

To set up the game, first give each player a blue and red Reference card set. These are used to help align the stripes on the Stripe cards. Any Reference cards not used should be placed back in the game box.

Second, shuffle the Stripe cards and deal seven to each player (or six cards if playing with five or six players), face-up in a row. The alignment of the cards is determined by using the small dot found at the bottom of each Stripe card. Ensure that the dot is closest to the player the Stripe cards are being dealt to. Once the Stripe cards are dealt, the player places the Reference cards at the far left and far right of their row. This full row of cards is referred to as the player’s “Tableau.” Place the remaining Stripe cards face-down in the middle of the playing area. This is the draw deck for the duration of the game.

Third, place the “Shift 1”, “Shift 2”, “Flip,” and “Draw” Action tiles next to the draw deck, face-up. Include the “Steal” Action tiles if playing with five players and the “Steal” and “Shift x2” Action tiles if playing with three or six players.

That’s it for a game set up. Determine who will be the first player and give them the Starting Player token.

Stripped Stripes Streaking

Stripes is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. On the player’s turn, they select one of the face-up Actions tiles and complete the action the tile indicates.

Note that the position of the Stripe cards in the player’s Tableau is essential. From the player’s seated position, the cards are aligned from left to right, with the Reference cards acting as endcaps. This is referred to as “row position” with the “first” card in the left-most position, and the “last” card is the right-most position between the Reference cards. Also, the stripes on the Stripe cards are used to indicate position by shifting up or down one ore more stripes based on the Stripe card’s position in reference to the other Stripe cards around it. This is referred to as the “stripe position.”

This starting position of all the cards when the game is first set up is referred to as the “default position” and is further reinforced by one of the two Reference cards. The following example image shows a minimal version of a player’s row.

The available actions are as follows:

  • Shift x2: This action allows the player to select any two Stripe cards in their Tableau and shift the position of the card up or down by one stripe in the same direction. That is, you must move two cards up or two cards down one stripe position each. You cannot move one Stripe card up and one Stripe card down.
  • Draw: This action allows the player to draw two Stripe cards from the draw deck and select one to play. The chosen card will replace one Stripe card currently in the player’s Tableau in the default position. The card not selected, and the replaced card, are both placed in the discard pile.
  • Flip: This action allows the player to flip one Stripe card in their Tableau, switching the position of the top and the bottom of the Stripe card. The card is then aligned to its default position, ignoring the white dot.
  • Shift 1 / Shift 2: This action allows the player to select any one Stripe card in their Tableau and shift its position up one or two stripes (depending on the chosen action).
  • Steal: This action allows the player to select one Stripe card from their opponent on their right, replacing one Stripe card from their Tableau with a card from their opponent’s Tableau. The stolen cards must be placed in the player’s Tableau in the default position. The opponent who had their card stolen may place the Stripe card in any stripe position they like but must orientate it correctly using the white dot. Caution should be used when taking this action, as the player could be giving their opponent an advantage.
  • Trade: This action is similar to the “Steal” Action tile with two exceptions. The players may select any opponent and the Stripe cards must be in the same row position.

Once the action is completed, the player’s turn is over for the round. The next player in the turn order sequence now takes their turn, selecting any of the remaining face-up Action tiles available.

End of the Line

The round continues until all players have selected one Action tile and completed the action it indicates. The round is then over. The Starting Player token is passed to the next player in the turn order sequence, and all the Action tiles are placed face-up.

A new round now begins with the player in possession of the Starting Player token selecting the first Action tile.

Striped Victory

The game continues as described above, with each player selecting an action per round and the round coming to an end once all players have completed a single action in turn order sequence.

The game comes to a close when any player completes at least one continuous striped line of the same color between the two Reference cards using all the cards in their Tableau. The first player to do so wins the game.

To learn more about¬†Stripes, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had a lot of fun with this game, finding it visually appealing and tactically fulfilling when shifting the cards around. According to one Child Geek, “I really like the game. It looks simple but starts to feel like one of those sliding tile puzzles. You have to be careful what you shift, and each card takes a whole turn to move.” Another Child Geek said, “A game that is both a puzzle and a game. I think you could play this alone as just a simple puzzle, but playing against others makes it feel exciting and a little stressful.” When all the games were over, the Child Geeks took a vote and found that Stripes did everything right to bring a smile to their collective faces.

The Parent Geeks were also agreeable to the game, finding it to be a fun, casual, engaging game that allowed for an equal amount of gameplay and conversation without disruption. According to one Parent Geek, “A great game to play with the family. The biggest challenge for me was to determine what action I needed to take as all the actions always seem like really great ideas.” Another Parent Geek said, “Visually appealing and a fun exercise of matching colors to an ever-shifting line of patterns. A simple enough approach, but I found the game wonderfully complex. A real thinker and great stuff. I would highly recommend it.” When the last games were played and the cards put aside, the Parent Geeks voted and fully approved Stripes for their family and friends.

The Gamer Geeks liked the game’s approach and its gameplay but were split when it came to their endorsement. According to one Gamer Geek, “I think this is an excellent example of an abstract puzzle game that is easily taught and difficult to win. What I was afraid of would be the repetitive nature of the game, but the limited actions and shifting player position make each turn into a real treat to play. I enjoyed it and would recommend it as a casual game to my elitist gaming buddies.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A good game that is essentially all about color-matching and shifting cards around. I get that it can be difficult, but I felt bored. While the actions you can take are not always available, none of the actions are bad. There is always something to tinker with, and I think that is what turned me off. I never felt like I was gaining any moment. I was just going through the motions until someone won.” When the last vote was counted, the Gamer Geeks gave Stripes a mixed endorsement.

Stripes is a solid abstract strategy game with enough depth of play to keep the gaming elitists happy and straightforward enough to allow our youngest players to join the fun. At its heart, the game is all about pattern matching using vertical and horizontal alignment. That is in and of itself not difficult. I should also point out that if that was all there was to the game, it wouldn’t be much of a review. The real effort in the game comes from making micro moves by thinking several steps ahead, which is necessary if you are to succeed. Add to it the level of complexity that comes with selecting the best possible action per its availability and the ability to mess with your opponent, and you have a game that is not easy to win.

There was some controversy regarding the player’s ability to mess with an opponent’s Tableau. The original idea was that doing so would disrupt the game too much and make it unplayable. The argument went something like this:

“If I can rearrange an opponent’s card positions at any time, I can make sure they never win.”

Nothing in that statement is true, however. First, you cannot rearrange an opponent’s Tableau anytime you like. The action must be available to the player on their turn. Given that a player can only select one action per turn, it makes little sense to waste it on just messing with an opponent’s single card position. Second, taking action against an opponent has an equal action on the player’s Tableau. It’s very much a 1:1 transition. To put it another way, you can never “screw” with another opponent because doing so would “screw” with you, too. In this way, the game is perfectly balanced.

I very much enjoyed the game. I felt very involved from the start and became engrossed in the small but essential changes I made to my row of cards. Paying attention to your opponent is necessary, but you’ll be spending most of your time just concerned with your Tableau. Since everyone starts with the same number of random cards, it stands to reason that everyone begins in the same position, but this is not true. Some players will have fewer choices to make to complete their line based on the random card distribution. This makes Stripes very similar to a race, but one in which everyone is working on their track having started in different positions. The same finish line, but a different journey to it. Great stuff.

Do try¬†Stripes when time permits. It’s engaging, fulfilling, and, best of all, challenging. Put it on your family game table and see if it doesn’t align with your gaming interests.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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