Thank you for checking review #53 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An Overview of Assembly
Assembly is a game designed by Janice and Stu Turner and was published by Wren Games. The box states that it can play 1-2 players and has a 10-20 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 1.00.
Description from the designer:
Assembly is a quick, 2-player cooperative or solo, puzzle card game that fits in your pocket.
Using the Command Cards in your hand Draw, Swap, and Rotate Room Modules around the ship until they sit on their matching Blueprint where you can lock them into place to build a ship and escape.
No two games will ever be the same because of a variable setup, several role cards and the optional use of malfunctions activating on locking that force you to change your strategy. Also, 2-player games add limited communication into the mix and the optional use of sign language instead of verbal communication.
You are on an orbital platform that assembles luxury spaceships. After a recent micrometeorite impact, a deadly virus has emerged and wiped out the entire staff. Luckily, you seem to have natural immunity and now you must escape to help create a vaccine before the virus spreads to Earth.
In an attempt to quarantine the virus, the computer locked down all systems, undocked all the spaceships and is currently venting the oxygen to prevent you from ever leaving. Fortunately, it has missed one. Unfortunately, it’s still on the assembly line and only partially complete. You must finish building it to escape.
Against all odds, you have outwitted the computer and are now in the control room of one of the spaceship assembly lines where the incomplete ship lies in front of you. On the screen above your head, you can see the required layout in blueprint form and on the assembly line you can see the completed Room Modules hanging around the edges ready for placement in the bays corresponding to the instructions overhead.
You have discovered a rather limited set of commands to complete the ship but for some reason the controls keep glitching. Does the computer know what you are trying to do? You must work together and use your commands wisely to assemble the ship and make your escape.
Can you complete the ship and escape before you perish?
Setup and gameplay for 1 Player
Shuffle and give yourself a Role Card that is placed face-up in front of you. This provides you a one-time power to use during the game. Shuffle the Room Modules (the round discs) and place them in a stack in the center of the play area. Set up the Bay Number cards for a 12, 3, 6, and a 9 and orient them like the face of a clock, and then shuffle and deal out the Bay cards onto the board, starting with the 12 and going clockwise. Roll a d12 and place a single Room Module face-up on the corresponding room. Set aside an Any Rotate and a Wild Command card, as these will help track the game’s timer. For a solo game, also put a Draw/Lock, a Swap, a Clockwise Rotate, and a Counterclockwise Rotate Command card back in the box. Shuffle the remaining Command cards and deal yourself 3 of them.
On your turn you simply play a Command card and carry out its action. They actions are:
Draw/Lock: Either draw 1 new Room Module and roll the d12 to place it out on a Bay card, OR lock 1-2 Room Modules in place if they are on the correct Bay card.
Rotate: Rotate all unlocked Room Modules 1-2 spaces in the direction shown on the card. Locked bays are skipped over as part of movement.
Swap: Change the position of any two Room Modules.
OR you can discard all 3 Command Cards to treat it as though you played a Wild Card.
Yep, it is that simple. Your goal is to try and get all 12 Room Modules locked onto the correct Bays before you empty the deck of Command Cards a 3rd time.
There may be malfunctions present on slots 12, 3, 6, and 9 that can help or hinder your progress when the Room Module locks onto that Bay.
When you need to draw a card from a depleted Command Deck, you will add either the Rotate Any card into the deck and shuffle it the first time, and then the set-aside Wild card in the 2nd time. In addition, all unlocked Bay cards will be shuffled and redistributed, starting from the 12 and going clockwise. The Room Modules remain in the numberical orientation they were at, meaning that the Bay it was on could be on a completely different part of the orbital platform.
The first thing that reeled me in was a combination of the theme and how it was expressed in the rules. There was a witty humor laced throughout those rules and it made me want to try this game. The gameplay itself sounded interesting, sure, but it was that first impression during the rules that made me want to try and review this game.
This game has surprisingly rich decisions to make. You have three cards in your hand, so deciding which one to play can be important. Knowing when to add more tokens into play and when to lock the tokens you have in place can be critical. Especially deciding when/if to use that card even though you can only lock one room with it (making it less effective) so that the token you’ve worked hard to get in place doesn’t move any more. I enjoy feeling like the decisions I make matter, and this does a good job with that.
The best thing in the game itself is what happens when the draw pile is empty: all of the unlocked rooms shift! That token you had oh-so-close to locking down? Its room might be clear on the opposite side of the circle. You know when it is coming. You can plan accordingly. And it adds such an interesting wrench into the puzzle that I absolutely love it.
I love that the game has a built-in way of tracking the rounds with the two set-aside cards. It makes it easier to know what round you’re on with the deck, especially good when playing the game several times in a single sitting. And while it’d sure be nice to have that Wild in at the start, but it does make it far more challenging to make the best progress you can with the cards in your hand.
Discard three cards to use them as a wild. What a horribly inefficient play that is! Not only do you toss extra cards, but you also cycle the deck faster. I could see this being beneficial only at the end of a deck cycle, knowing that all of those cards will shuffle and possibly get you a better hand. Or, like I did, at the very end of the game to get that move you needed to win as the deck runs out.
Don’t play without malfunctions! They aren’t that complicated, and they add some more interesting decisions to the game. I played the first one without them and found myself regretting that decision. It doesn’t take that long to learn the mechanics of the game, and those four positions don’t ramp up the complexity. However, I do wish that they could be modular rather than tied to the 12, 3, 6, and 9 spots. I understand the necessity for it, but imagine if they moved, too, to random locations!
For using smaller-than-standard cards, this thing still takes up a fair amount of table space. Don’t expect to play this at a restaurant while you are expecting the meal to come, although it would probably be fine for before/after when the table is relatively clear. It isn’t a massive hog, but that circle of 12 cards will take up room no matter how close you inch those rooms together.
This is 100% a me thing and only applies to the print & play. Don’t print this on regular paper. Or, if you do, find a way to attach it to something sturdier. You have to fold some of the cards, which meant I either had to deal with that or glue them shut. And I chose Elmer’s glue. Yep, my copy isn’t very good any more. Also, if you print the low ink version, some of the symbols on the cards can be faint. I have to look closely at a few to see the matching symbol.
This was a game I went into with, honestly, really low expectations. It was an early reply to my call for Solo Month and the theme sounded fun enough, and the print was simple enough, that I was willing to give it a try. Had this come later in the process, as I was getting flooded with contacts, I don’t know that it would have passed the test and become an “Yeah, I’ll review that” answer. It was cooperative. It sounded really simple.
And yes, I am very glad it was an early contact because I truly have enjoyed my plays of Assembly.
It won’t be a contender for #1 solo game, but it doesn’t need to be. It provides a great little puzzle contained with a handful of components. There is enough randomization to make it really replayable while also not having too much randomization to ruin the experience. This is the ideal version of a “puzzle” game because it offers a win/lose condition to fulfill before you even get to see how you scored. And even though I’ve found success in winning the game, it has never been with much in the way of scores. So there is a ton of room to improve while still testing out the dynamics of each variable set of malfunctions.
One of the best things about this game remains that rulebook and the clever, witty humor that drew me to the game in the first place. The game is good fun. I could see someone who love cooperative games really enjoying the 2-player version of this game. As a solo game it is well-designed and enjoyable every time it hits the table. It remains a game that isn’t in my wheelhouse, per say, but one I’m glad I played and will continue to pull out on occasion because it succeeds at being a fun and fast solo game, and sometimes that is exactly what you need for a gaming session.
I look forward to seeing what else the husband & wife duo at Wren Games puts out in the future!
Check out the launch of their game, Assembly, on Kickstarter the 24th of May. This link will take you right to it: www.ks.wrengames.co.uk
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Assembly. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.
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