Penny Black Game Review

“It’s already round eight?”

Check out Justin’s review of Penny Black, the new stamp collecting tile-laying experience from Gamewright and Buffalo Games!

Back at Gen Con 2023, I had the pleasure of speaking with the team at Gamewright about their newest family releases. One game at the demo tables was Penny Black, a family-weight tile-laying game with stamp collection as the theme.

I loved the production; chunky stamp tokens, handsome collection albums used as player boards, a simple turn structure using market boards to select lots that are then placed into the collection albums.

It looked delightful. Of course, most games look “delightful” to me at conventions, then I get them home only to find out something different. Not so with Penny Black. It is exactly what it says it is, making it one of the big surprises from 2023.

“That Was Fast!”

Penny Black is a 2-4 player tile placement game with a simple set of scoring mechanics that plays in about 20 minutes, just like it says on the box.

During setup, players lay out their player board—a stamp album, conveniently set up in two halves. Star tokens—which provide a resource pool that can be spent to break the game’s normal rules—are placed in various spots on each album. Once those stars are covered later by stamps, they become accessible to spend as a free action to do things like swap previously-placed stamps or draw a random stamp from the tile bag.

The other setup task: selecting two cards to place outside each half of your stamp album. These scoring cards provide all the direction you need for the game. Your final score will mostly come from how well you do against these tasks. The scoring conditions are very simple to understand, and for any questions about what a “set” or a “block” of stamps looks like, the instruction manual clearly defines any edge cases.

The game features one final scoring element: Penny Black stamps. In real life, the Penny Black stamp, featuring an image of Queen Victoria, originated in the UK in 1840. It was the first adhesive stamp used in a public postal system. The stamp was black, and cost a penny. History!!

In the game, a small number of Penny Black stamps are included in the draw bag that will come out as options during the drafting phase to begin each round. When placed in a stamp booklet, Penny Black stamps score two points for each stamp of a single color touching that Penny Black token.

Turns are a breeze. Using market boards equal to the number of players plus one, each player must select one of the boards and all of the stamps on that board. Each board will have either three randomly-selected regular stamps, or a single Penny Black stamp. The regular stamps come in three sizes: square (taking up a 2×2 space on your stamp album), tall (3×2) or wide (2×3).

Once a player drafts a market board, they can immediately begin placing tiles in their tableau, either all on one side of the album or split across both sides. There are clearly marked starting spaces where stamps must be placed, and successive placements must orthogonally touch previously-placed stamps.

The market board that wasn’t selected? The stamps on that board are broken up and spread across the now-empty market boards used by other players, and someone draws new tiles from the draw bag until each market board has three regular stamps or a Penny Black stamp to choose from. The start player rotates clockwise and players do it all again, ten times in total. In my experience, games of Penny Black usually wrapped up in 15 minutes with two players, longer with more players.


As a tabletop media critic, I try to poke holes in everything I get the chance to play. I still always start from the same place, though: was the game fun?

Penny Black entertained everyone who sat with me for plays. It’s easy to learn. The accessibility is incredible, thanks to the simple scoring rules that are different for each player based on their card selections. The game presents a light puzzle, but it is still a puzzle…each game has presented a minor challenge while trying to maximize the placement opportunities. And the use of the Penny Black tokens to boost scoring of certain sets has always been the difference in my games.

The production here is just fantastic. This could have been a $20 game with cheap-looking stamps and player mats instead of the included stamp albums. But for $30, Gamewright and Buffalo Games have given us a production that really shines. The feel of these plastic tiles is just chunky enough to elevate everything, including the fun moment of digging through the draw bag to pull out tiles at the start of each round.

The round track board is loud and colorful. The round tracker is a wooden stamping token that delivers a quiet whoosh when moved from round to round. The artwork on the tiles does the trick, and feels just as olden-timey as the Penny Black stamp in some cases. Other times, you get more modern fare. The art here isn’t as distinct as the images from Art Society or other games in this category, but for a game you’ll be playing with your grandparents during holiday gatherings, Penny Black does the job.

Finished stamp albums really shine too. I took a number of pictures of the final result at the end of my plays, and I really like the feeling of accomplishment that surfaces when a game wraps up. My kids, in particular, liked this moment as well. It’s fun to build something, even in defeat.

Players really struggled to nitpick Penny Black, as did I. It would be a stretch, but I’d love for each of the 115 included stamp tiles to feature different images. I’d also love for each of the 36 scoring cards to be unique, but they are not. The Tetris side of me would like more than just three stamp sizes, but the reality is that stamps don’t come in T or L shapes in real life, either.

Penny Black was a family gaming home run. Games don’t have to advance the medium to be perfect in my eyes…they just need to consistently deliver great times for their intended audience. In this way, Penny Black delivers. It will stay in the collection and come out any time I wanna lay tiles with the family!

  • Perfect - Will play every chance I get.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!


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  • Wow. This looks amazing! I saw a review (you wrote?) about setting up an art wall. For some reason, as I was reading this, I kept thinking of that other review.

    Great work!

  • Hey Justin,

    First of all, we love Penny Black, however, consensus is that several of the cards are a little nebulous and interpretive.
    Are there more detailed explanations or examples that can be provided to offer further clarification?
    – 2 sets different colored tiles = 5 points total or 5 points per set?
    – Are any two same colored or same shaped tiles automatically considered a block?
    Things like that.
    Please advise.

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