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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Hack Trick

Game: Hack Trick: It's Hacking Time

Publisher: Mind Fitness Games

Designer: József Dorsonczky

Year: 2015

Hack Trick is a small 2-player game that was completely not on our radar. After recently playing the game for review, it seems a shame that this small box game has been missed, even though it appears to have had a recent reprinting in the UK with the sutitle 'It's Hacking Time'.

Hack Trick is a deduction game which is really a twist on traditional noughts and crosses. Thankfully, unlike noughts and crosses, Hack Trick is not a solved game and it has some great mechanisms that really make you plan ahead and try to outthink your opponent. Let us tell you more about this compact and intriguing little game.


At the start of Hack Trick one player is dealth a hand of 4 cards and the other a hand of 3, then two card will be discarded face up so everyone can see. The player who has 4 cards will be the second player and will pick one of their four cards to place face up to be the starting card. Both players will then tell each other the sum of the values of all the cards in their hand.

You objective is to either get 3 of your virus cubes in a line on the board, or get 3 cubes on one location. On each turn you have 2 major actions to choose from, you can hack a location by playing a number card, you add this number to the number of the last card played to get a value from 1-9 and then place a cube of your colour on the map at that location. If there are any of your opponents cubes there you claim them for later use. Alternatively you can instead draw a card from the deck and end your turn.

Hack Trick Ready to play, the bottom row is where players play cards, so with the 1 there the next play could be any location between 1 and 6.
On top of this you have a couple of extra actions, you can spend one of your opponents cubes that you have captured to get them to tell you the sum of the cards in their hand. You can sacrifice one of your own cubes to force them to play a card next turn, or you can sacrifice one of your cubes to prevent them from doing that to you on their next turn. But be careful doing these too much as you lose the game if you have no cubes left!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Hack Trick is a game that grew on me, the first time we played it seemed that the game was more about dumb luck than strategy. I was completely mistaken. Cards vary in values from 0-5 and there are 3 of each number, so as the game develops you can plan your moves based on what you know is in play and in your opponents hand. If you need a certain number and you know (from spying on them) that your opponent can set you up then that's a perfect time to hack them and force them to play. Similarly knowing when to set up your firewall to defend is incredibly difficult, but can be the difference between victory and defeat.

There certainly is luck involved in Hack Trick, and I think that's why the rules suggest playing to the best of 3. But the game is really about card counting, if you have a good memory for what your opponent has, and can work out the rough odds of getting what you want then you are sure to win. But it's a far cry from playing poker, all the evidence is laid out in front of you, so if all 3 fours have already been played then both players will be fully aware.

That said the game is not without it's issues, sometimes it feels like every move you make can be instantly countered. If happen to have the same hand as your opponent then it's quite possible to get a situation where you claimed, for example, area 7; only to have them take it back instantly, leaving you in a purely worse condition. Now your opponent has a cube on the board, you have none, and on top of that they can use the cube they took to spy on you. Some games it seemed that I had no presence on the map from the get go and it was only a matter of time until my loss. Hack Trick also has a fairly weak theme, although it is integrated into the art style fairly well, when you are playing you in no way feel like you are hacking into computer networks across the globe. You are too busy concentrating on counting cards and fretting about your opponent's moves.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Hack Trick provides me with a perfect bite-sized mental challenge. It's a deduction game with just two or three channels to think about at one time, and although you're trying to second guess your opponent, you're not really trying to mind read, you're just weighing up the chances of what their next move might be. We don't spend too long deliberating over a turn, but based on the cards visible on the table as well as information you know from spying on them and hearing their hand's total value, there's a lot of quick probability calculations you can make.

Although some games seem to have a higher dose of luck than others, the game is fast and I'm constantly searching for an 'ah-ha' moment where I pull of something truely clever by deducing what's in my opponent's hand, forcing them to play it, using the hack action and then winning the game as a result of what they play. I've been wanting to play the game more and more to see if familiarity will lead to more satisfying games, and it really has. As the actions become more second nature, it feels like the luck in the game diminishes and you are taking more control.

The game's components are really quite basic, but the decisions are fantastic. We've taken this out of the box, slotted the components, including the three part board, into our Quiver and taken the game on holiday. Hack Trick is a pretty unique game in our collection and it's great to find a new small game to give the mind some exercise and have a great two-player experience.

The Good
  • Hack Trick is a game that slowly grew on us. At first it seemed really random, but then it had some moments where you can make some really clever deductions.
  • The game is super portable - it was a great one for us to take on holiday.
  • Hack Trick is a unique two-player experience for us - we don't own anything else like it.
The Bad
  • Sometimes it feels like you just get worse luck that your opponent.
  • The game can seem quite simple and repetitive until you get used to using the Hack, Spy and Firewall actions with some skill.
The Verdict
7/10 Hack Trick is a very clever and portable game. It's a great example of a simple and effective two-player deduction game and we'd definitely reccommend that you give it try.

Hack Trick was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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