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 20 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Bandido

Game: Bandido

Publisher: Helvetiq

Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Year: 2016

Bandido is a small box game from publisher Helvetiq. Helvetiq make a number of games in this line with really stylish graphic design, typically aimed at a family market. They're extremely eye-catching and Bandido is the second from the line that we've tried.
Bandido is a cooperative game for 1-4 players, themed around a prisoner trying to dig and underground tunnel network to escape his cell (or her cell if you choose to buy the new version, Bandida!). Collectively, players must build a network with no open ends to ensure that the prisoner is trapped in his own network. 
The game starts with a bandit located in a rectangular cell, depending on your difficulty will depend on how many exits to that cell they have made. Each player will have a hand of three cards showing tunnels with a varying number of exits. Players will take turns playing one card from their hand next to a card already in play. This will extend the tunnel, potentially granting the prisoner further ways to escape. After playing a card the player will draw back to three cards. This continues until the bandit is caught or the deck runs out and the bandit escapes.

In order to catch the bandit you need to block off all of their escape routes. This is easier said than done as cards vary from 1 to 4 tunnel entrances, meaning you'll potentially be ending a turn with more gaps in your defense than when you started. While you can't place a tunnel entrance so that it goes into the wall of another tunnel (the criminal isn't that stupid), with careful play you can create loops, closing off sections of the tunnel. Otherwise you'll be relying on the dead end tiles, which feature the torch of the approaching police!

Amy’s Final Thoughts
There aren't many games that can be put in front of a player and you can expect them to play immediately. The rules for Bandido are simplicity itself and more to the point they are exactly what you expect them to be. You can teach the game fairly well in once sentence "On your turn play a card then draw a card, we are trying to close off all the exits". The length of the game is just right for a filler of this complexity too, with a game taking up 5-10 minutes to play. While the visuals aren't particularly exciting, they are clear and do the job, and the resultant maze does look impressive, particularly the shear size of it!
While Bandido might be a small box game, you can't help but notice its table presence. True, the cards are on the smaller side, but once you start building up your map the game expands rapidly. This can be a problem as often you'll close off one side of the map, meaning the playing area is expanding largely in one direction, often toward the end of the table. Make sure you have a large table to play this game on, or else be prepared to take breaks to move the entire map ten inches to the left! This is entirely due to the finely crafted maze mechanics which see's you infuriatingly making more and more exit routes if you don't have the right hand of cards. Conversely when you have the right card that's able to close off two or three holes at once it feels great.

While I did appreciate the mechanics of the game, the net result is a puzzle that, after a few plays, I now feel done with. There aren't any new mechanics to be found, or extra surprises that the bandit can throw your way. So once you know how to solve the game the experience of playing doesn't change much. Unfortunately this means despite a very solid and simple core mechanic, Bandido is lacking in the replay value I'd be hoping for. It's good fun in a small package, but perhaps best left for playing with new/younger players.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Bandido is a slick game. From its presentation, to its very simple rules, it's a clean and simple production with an easy to understand premise. The game feels suitable for all ages and abilities with its one rule of always playing a card so that the entrances and exits match. If you're like me then perhaps you'll start the game feeling smug - blocking a few exits within seconds and wondering if the game will last more than 2 minutes. Soon you realise that only a very fortuitous shuffle will result in anything other than a large table covered in cards, where each move seems to cause an extra problem, rather than solve problems.
I enjoy how communication is limited so that you're trying to cooperate in a way that causes most of the interesting moments in the game. Comments like 'Please don't place there, I have the perfect tile' or 'What if we work together to try and make these two segments join up' level up the game from just placing a card wherever you feel is best on a given turn, to an experience where you're trying hard to collectively limit your problems - sort of like stopping a leak that keeps sprouting new smaller leaks every time you block one up!

Bandido is a lovely little package, but it's probably not one we will play again, much beyond our initial success with the easy and hard mode. It's certainly got a place as a very light bar game, cafe game or family activity, but there's nothing here that I can see gamers getting their teeth into. For something a little more complex, I'd suggest Sprawlopolis for your visual route-laying needs.

You Might Like...
  • The box size, artwork and accessibility of the game all point towards Bandido being a great gift.
  • If you fail, there's a huge urge to try again straight away.
  • Bandido is so intuitive to play that it barely needs a rulebook.
You Might Not Like...
  • Once we succeeded with the easy and hard mode, we did feel like the game was completed.
  • You will need a huge table, especially if things start spiraling out of control!

The Verdict
5/10 Bandido is a very intuitive game to play, with extremely simple rules. While it is not that interesting in terms of gameplay, we can't deny that we were addicted up until the point that we solved both easy and hard mode. It's the kind of activity that would be nice to pull out at a bar if you had a big enough table, but otherwise is perhaps a better family activity than a game for a gamer audience.

Bandido was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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