Game: Bomb Squad
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Designer: Dan Keltner & David Short
Bomb Squad game onto my radar as a game which gave Hanabi more of a theme and a purpose. Being a timed game, I was a little nervous, but I’ve enjoyed games like Escape: The Curse of the Temple, so Bomb Squad seemed interesting. I was lucky enough to find an unpunched copy of the game at the bring and buy sale on our first visit to the UK Games Expo this year and it was pretty easy to get to the table because of its guaranteed quick play time.
The main mechanism of Bomb Squad is that each player holds their hand so that you don’t know what card you have, but all of your fellow players can see. The game is co-operative, so much of the game is about giving your friends limited clues to help them figure out enough about their cards. As a team your goal is to accurately drive a bomb disposal robot and enable it to rescue hostages, defuse bombs and travel around the office through locked doors.
On your turn, you can either give a clue – pointing out all cards of one type in someone’s hand eg. “all these cards are blue”, or “all these cards are hostages”. Alternatively you can play a card face down to programme it for future movement, or you can discard a card, naming what you think it is to try and charge your battery. You can choose to activate the robot, or you can wait until you’ve programmed a full 8 cards and the robot will automatically activate without you wasting an action. Once activated you must put all cards in an order and move the robot. Any mistakes are penalised with battery lost and the end of the run.
|The different card types and colours|
It’s really difficult, but really critical to keep track of what’s being played so you don’t waste too many actions and run too low on battery. The game is run by a timer app, so time is of the essence and you lose the game if you run out of reserve battery. If you succeed in defusing all bombs in the time limit, then the hostages saved as well as reserve battery retained will contribute towards your score. Your score is a rating of how well you did in that scenario. There is a whole book of ever more difficult scenarios to keep the game fresh.
So what do I think?
Well, firstly, I apologise that this review is a few days late. After the last game we played I had to take a few days to reflect so that my review wasn’t full of anger and resentment for the game. It was the third game we’ve played and every one has made me more and more angry. The ticking timer app, the reliance on your partner to play quickly, trusting that your partner sometimes knows best because you’ve seen other cards get played - it’s simply a super high stress environment.
More objectively, Bomb Squad is a really well themed game. It takes the mechanics of Hanabi and gives it a purpose. Playing blind and relying on your team mates, really emulates what I think it might be like to be the operator of a bomb disposal robot. It’s one of the most co-operative games I’ve ever played, because you really need to read each other’s minds to figure out if you’re jointly giving up on a hostage or fighting to send the robot in different directions to different targets. It’s really hard too! We only managed to complete the first training game with 8 seconds to spare!
|A two-player game setup|
I’m weirdly quite keen to keep playing through the mission book and seeing how far we get with Bomb Squad. Unfortunately I think the consequences of playing more games will be a divorce (or similar – not actually married yet) so Bomb Squad has been put on the trade pile. Very sad, because the game is actually really quite sounds, but just far too stressful!
I think I might prefer it if you could play this game at a slower pace and more tactically. Maybe then you might actually be able to remember what your cards are and remember what’s been played rather than the random chaos that ensues. Perhaps you can do this although the difficulty level might be put out of balance. For me at this point, I’m not willing to try, I just don’t want to see the red mist caused by playing Bomb Squad ever again.
It should get higher marks, it’s not a bad game, but for me Bomb Squad only gets a 4/10.