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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Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Break the Code

Game: Break the Code

Publisher: IELLO

Designer: Ryohei Kurahashi

Year: 2017

Break the Code is a small box deduction game, now published by Iello, but originally from Jelly Jelly Games and published in Japan. Break the Code is pure logic. In this game for 2-4 players, each player has a five digit code, and you need to be the first player to guess another players code correctly. The questions you can ask are limited to a display of 6 question cards which are laid out each round, so you'll need to carefully pick the best questions based upon what you know.

To make things a little more difficult, all numbers come in a black and whit variety, so to get the codes right you'll need to know the colours and the numbers.


At the start of a game of Break the Code all of the number tiles will be shuffled and 5 are dealt out to each player. The players will then assemble these numbers into a 5-digit code going from smallest to largest behind their screens. Every number can be either white, or black, with the exception of five which is always green. Your objective is simple, guess your rival's code, including the colour of the numbers, before they can guess yours.

In the middle of the table there will always be six question cards. Players will take turns choosing a question card to ask their opponent, who must answer honestly. After asking a question that question card is discarded and a new one added to the board. The questions are often of limited use, asking your opponent which slot they may have a certain number in. They could have two of that number, in which case you know where they both are, or they could have none, which means you've gained only elimination knowledge.

Either way eventually you will have a good (enough) idea of what your opponent has. Instead of asking a question you can instead make a guess at the code, if you are correct then you win the game, if you are wrong then the game continues until someone guesses correctly.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Break the Code immediately makes me think of the traditional game Mastermind. Though instantly improved by the nature of being competitive rather than an essentially solo game. The addition of the question cards restricts players enough to prevent the game from every being logically solved, which means that everyone has a reasonable chance to win when they sit down to play. This can come with a downside, as early in the game you will find almost every question is worth asking (though some may seem better than others. Int he late game you may only need to find out colour or number facts, and the questions can sometimes not support you in that activity.

Of course if you are really stuck then you can always guess. In fact this is how I managed to build up quite the winning steak. My worthy opponent would deduce every last number and colour that I had, while I was willing to take that 50/50 shot. 50% of the time it works, every-time! You may have gathered form all this that Break the Code is not a complex game. It takes a classic game format, mixes it up a little and adds some speed requirements in order to do well. This results in a game where you constantly feel pressured and engaged. Break the Code does what it tries to do very well.

So the question I end up asking is do I like what it's doing? Yes, enough. But the nature of it not breaking the mold means that it's ended up being a replacement for a game for me. Break the Code is a straight upgrade for that childhood game of Mastermind. At my stage in life and gaming I don't need an upgrade for Mastermind, but if you wanted a logical puzzle game that plays fast and plays differently every game, then break the code might be the game for you.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Break the Code is a very simple concept, that I can envisage working really well with older relatives, as well as a family or couples audience. It can play up to four players, but it did feel like a native 2-player game. What I really enjoy about deduction games is inferring more information than simply what the other player can tell you. For example, if you ave some of the numbers, that means the other player doesn't and that might help you figure out extra information. Break the Code is very simple but still manages to give you those exciting moments.

What I find particularly interesting about Break the Code is that the logical questions are determined for you. It's kind of like a game of twenty questions, where you can only answer yes or no, but flipped on its head so that the questions are a rigid set of rules, but answers come in more varieties by nature of the game. I think this really helps with accessibility because you're only owning one half of the logic puzzle - the one where you deal with information received, unlike Cluedo, where you have to forma  clever question and interpret the answer.

Of course, many families play Cluedo, but some people are far better than others at the logical aspects, and age is probably a big factor. In Break the Code, I wonder if the playing field has leveled a bit too much. Two adults of similar intelligence will probably come to an answer in the same number of turns. We often found that the winner was the player who was brave enough to make a 50/50 guess one turn early, and then got it right on the round before their opponent knew the answer for certain.

Break the Code is perhaps one of the most basic deduction games you could find. There's certainly more complex games out there that serve a gamer audience better. But for portability and broad appeal, Break the Code is a very clean logical deduction game.

You Might Like...
  • Break the Code is pure deduction and perfect for people who love the puzzles you find in newspapers.
  • It's a great bridge from puzzles into gaming.
  • We find deduction to be an inherently satisfying mechanism.
You Might Not Like...
  • With equally matched players it will always be a tight game, often a little too tight.
  • Break the Code is such a pure deduction game that some people will simply be inherently better at.

The Verdict
6/10 Break the Code certainly isn't revolutionary, but it is a compact deduction game that works really well at two players. We generally would like a deduction game with more meat to it, but for a game that you can take with you anywhere, Break the Code is good to get your brain in gear and is a very elegant system.

Break the Code was a review copy kindly provided to us by Coiledspring Games.

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