Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 16 August 2016

Boom baby!:- Bomb Squad

Game: Bomb Squad

Publisher: TMG

Designer: Dan Keltner and David Short

Being a bomb specialist is a surprisingly calm job, there’s lots of training, sitting around waiting for things to happen and then, once every couple of years, a hell of a lot of excitement. But now, with drone technology coming along so far, it’s a much safer job. Where we used to be the first people rushing into a highly dangerous place, now we are a bunch of programmers sitting behind monitors. It’s strange, we still do good work, save lives, and property from the scum of humanity, but I somehow miss the old days of rushing into a building, adrenaline rushing through my veins, not knowing if I'd see tomorrow!

Bomb Squad is a 2-6 player card game in which you play as a group of bomb disarming experts controlling a disposal robot remotely to rescue civilians and prevent explosions. The game is fundamentally similar to Hanabi, each player has a hand of cards which they hold so that everyone except them can see them. You then have to give each other clues about the colour and type of cards that you have, which you then play onto a programming list for your robot, when someone decides they are happy they activate the robot and fulfil the functions to try and perform actions on the map.

I’ve heard it said that Bomb squad is Hanabi with a point, referring to the central map where you wander around with your robot, ensuring you use the right movement cards to reach your objectives before you perform the action to interact with them. All of this is done with a timer, every bomb in the game explodes after 10/20/30 minutes, all controlled by an app, so you have to stay on your toes and not waste time. Personally I think Hanabi’s interpretation of giving you unlimited time but making every action count is a better way to play. Bomb Squad gives you limited time, but unlimited actions, this results in each action meaning very little and mistakes aren’t as costly... most of the time.

A mission part-way through, we have just decided to activate our robot, you play cards face down and then only player opts to reveal and play all of them, you do get a chance to reorder them so that you can perform actions. Errors cost your robot power which can only be restored by discarding cards.

There are 3 colours of cards which indicate both rarity and “power” a blue door can only be opened with a blue door card as it’s the most secure door type, naturally then the blue cards are rarer than the red and yellow, so you have to be careful with them. There are only 2 blue doors in the deck, so making a mistake with one can be costly as you may need to cycle half the deck to find one again. All of this makes the game quite stressful, every game we have played we had very little time left on the clock. I think the main issue with stress is the constant timer, complete with mood-setting music, gives you no break. I love the timer mechanic in XCOM, but it gives you breaks, intense timed phased followed by slower phases where you enact your actions. In Bomb Squad you have to be moving quick all the time, and if you are playing with someone who is likely to get annoyed at mistakes then that can detract a lot from the fun.
All of the classes in Bomb Squad, each adds a little twist to what you can normally do, though some add entirely new actions which can be extremely useful.
Something I like about Bomb Squad is the different robots and different player characters, each has a unique ability which can be very helpful. They tend to be minor, but enough to change how you play and keep things fresh. The game also has a campaign mode which slowly progresses in complexity as you go along, this is a nice way to slowly introduce rules to you and even include a little story. To bring up perhaps my biggest gripe, at least in our copy of the game, the game board doesn’t fit right! The game board is made up of double sided map tiles placed in an outer frame, which would be something I'd normally love, adding replayability to the game, but they don’t actually fit in the frame and end up sitting at a slight angle.

Ultimately people can say Bomb Squad is Hanabi with a point, but if you ask me it’s Hanabi without the charm. The negatives far outweigh the positives. I associate Hanabi with being a quiet game which we play at pubs on holiday. Bomb Squad is a game which we play and end up stressed and wishing we didn’t. I like what they are trying to do with the game, the theming, mechanics, all are good ideas, they just weren’t quite polished to my taste. I think it plays better with more people, so you have some time between actions to think, but as a two-player game it’s far to stressful to enjoy.


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