Board Gaming · One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming · Solo Month · Uncategorized

Review for One (& two) – Circuit Breaker

Thank you for checking review #56 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.

**A prototype of the game was sent for review purposes. Opinions remain our own.

An Overview of Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker is a game designed by Peter Mariutto and was published by Freshwater Game Company. The box states that it can play 1-3 players and has a 30-45 minute play time.

Circuit Breaker is a casual strategy game that can be played solo or with up to two other friends. All players attempt to successfully re-wire their own houses in time for a hastily scheduled house party, and will score points by connecting a variety of quirky electrical doodads to their home circuits. Resource management and a crafty rodent will be put to use in a fun and cheeky race to be the most ‘happening’ place on the block.

—description from the publisher

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

Lay out the party favor tiles and place the corresponding cubes on those tiles. Shuffle the Wire stack and place it face-down, and lay out two cards from the top of it next to that stack. Shuffle the Appliance stack and place if face-down beside the Wire stack. Place a breaker box in front of you. Stack the round tokens in ascending order. Deal yourself a secret objective card, 2 Appliance tiles, and a Wire tile. Take a mouse and 8 dice, and setup is complete.

The object is to score as many points as you can before the end of the 4th round. You’ll roll all 8 dice and then start taking one of four actions:

Buy a tile or Party Favor – spend 1 or more dice to take one of the 3 available Wire tiles or a Party Favor, matching the value spent exactly.

Trade for Appliance – Discard an Appliance card from your hand to take the top card off the Appliance stack into your hand. Or you can trade 4 value in Party Favors to look at the top 3 Appliance cards and keep one, putting the other two on the bottom of the stack.

Place up to 2 Tiles – Put 1-2 tiles from your hand out onto your network, making sure everything connects properly (1-wire to 1-wire, 3-wire to 3-wire, etc.)

Move the Mouse – Subtract 2 from an active die to move the mouse. The die must be used for a purchase on the same turn and must happen before movement. Then, the tile that the mouse was on is taken back into the player’s hand. That appliance cannot go back in its old spot on the next action.

Play continues until all 8 dice have been spent, at which point the round ends. Reroll all dice, draw an appliance card, and remove a round counter.

At the end of the game you score 1 point per single appliance not on your objective card, 3 points for each non-objective pair of appliances, 3 points for a single appliance on your objective card, and 9 points for a pair of appliances on your objective card. You also score points for the value of your remaining party favors, divided in half and rounded down (ex. 15 points in favors, divided by 2 = 7)

Changes for a 2-3 player game

Each player gets 6 dice. On a player’s turn they may complete each of the four actions once (so they take 1-4 actions). There is a mousetrap token that can be moved in the same manner as the mouse.

Placing the mouse on another player’s tile will allow you, when you move the mouse again, to bring that tile into your hand. Placing it on their breaker box will allow you, when you move the mouse again, to steal a tile from their hand. Moving the mousetrap onto a mouse will send it back to the appliance stack without losing your tile.

As soon as a player cannot make at least two actions the round ends and progresses in the same manner as above.

My Thoughts

 This game shines with another player at the table. The push-pull with the mouse is what really makes this game come alive. It becomes a fun exercise of trying to decide when to place those key appliances and how early to put out a pair or anything else that might become a target. Using the mouse trap is a great defensive addition, and this interaction here is what is really lacking in a solo game of Circuit Breaker. But I wanted to emphasize that there is a significant difference between the solo game and the 2-player game.

 I like the requirement to move the mouse being to not only reduce a die by 2, but to also immediately make a purchase using that die. The mouse can play a small part in opening up spaces on the board in a solo game, but it becomes a critical element in the 2-3 player game experience. The cost to move it presents some interesting decisions along the way, which is something that is otherwise limited throughout the game.

 There are only three ways to get those critical appliance cards: discard an appliance from your hand to draw a new one, or discard 4 value of Party Favors to draw 3 and keep 1, and you draw one at the end of each round. Well, apart from the mouse being on the top of the Appliance stack, too, which will get you a card once it is moved off there, so technically there are four ways. But for the majority of the game, it is only two. One is simple and costs you little but it is slow. The other costs you something you have to purchase with those dice, which is your finite resource to gain wires in order to expand your network.

 You can’t do the same action twice in a row, which prevents you from endlessly digging for those appliance cards. That means you either need to play cards or spend dice in between that desperate search. And in order to play cards, you’ll need to buy those wires, which cost dice to gain (up to 8 value!) and can bring the round to an end even faster. I like that the game requires you to change things up each turn, which will eventually bring that round to an end no matter how much you might wish otherwise.

 Scoring is relatively simple and straight-forward, rewarding you for placing pairs of appliances and for placing the appliances on your objective card. You also score for those leftover Party Favors, which is a nice touch and allows you to spend those “garbage” dice on something meaningful toward the end of the game if you don’t need wires to place appliances.

 I find the theme and the art to be really fun in this one. Honestly, that is what hooked me when they reached out to me. I think some people might be turned off by the theme, but they shouldn’t be. Unique ideas to a game’s theme, and some fun and vibrant art like the art in this game, should be rewarded and encouraged.

 That appliance deck can really suck. Like, brutally suck. There is a pretty thick stack of appliances and you’re looking for 4 specific appliances. There are a total of 8 cards in there you need because each appliance appears twice. Good luck trying to get that appliance you desperately need, because the odds are against you. And since a non-objective appliance is only worth 1 point (unless you get them both out), the game seems to encourage you to toss cards over and over until you dig up what you needed all along. I like that it is costly in resources to cycle that faster, but every game I’ve played started to feel like a challenge to see how fast I can get lucky and draw that card I needed.

 Dice. I didn’t even try to teach this to my wife after my first two solo plays of this one because I just knew. If the dice in Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia and in Ars Alchimia bother her, there is no way she’ll like them in this one. Yes, if you are really unlucky and roll a lot of the same number the rules allow you to reroll. But there is no manipulation of those dice once they are rolled. If I roll a combination that is almost all 1-3 and you roll almost all 4-6, I’m way behind. My buying power is effectively half, at best, what yours is for the round so you’ll be able to get those wires (especially if they are all 7-8 cost) and party favors you need for “cheap” whereas it’ll cost me more dice to get the same things. No die roll is wasted, as you can buy party favors, but with no way to increase those dice you’ve very much at the mercy of the random roll.

 The solo game is just not interesting enough as the prototype stands. The mechanics of it are fine, but there is just something lacking from the experience. Yes, there is a scoring system (identical to with more players) and you can try and beat your own high score. But I don’t like these types of solo games that only have that. I need a win/lose requirement in there or some sort of AI or other system that competes against me. Fire in the Library does this well by having the AI score points and burn more of the Library with the cards that are already in the standard deck. Imperial Settlers does this well by having an “opponent” that gains cards and can steal your buildings with a simple set of cards. They both simulate something that can happen in a multiplayer game, and I really think that Circuit Breaker needs something like that to take it to that next level. It has that great mouse mechanic already in there. Now it just needs a way to simulate player interaction points in order to provide both an obstacle to the player and a point threshold for the player to surpass. If they can add something like that into the solo experience of the game, it would help that to be a great solo addition to pull out when you don’t have 1-2 other players to game with.

Final Thoughts

This game was an interesting one to get, and one I hadn’t really planned to review as a solo experience. It simply worked out that I ended up with an empty spot in the month late-in-the-game and I had played this a few times. My first play solo fell flat, but it was definitely on me rather than the game. I played it a little wrong, and that was the difference. It felt way too long and free-flowing. The next play, with the right understanding of the rules, was way tighter and ended up over 10 points lower for a score. It went from feeling sandbox-y to feeling tight with what I could accomplish.

At both player counts my one gripe remains the same: the game feels a little too driven by chance. There is a large stack of appliances, and it is difficult to dig through there without spending dice, which in turn will reduce the wires you can buy (that is one thing I do love). But there are so many different appliances in there. Each appliance has a single pair in that deck. Getting a pair of appliances can cost you a ton of actions. Digging for the ones on your card can cost you the game. If one person gets those cards early and the other one gets non-matching and non-objective appliances for most of the game then it can feel like it snowballs in a bad way. Same with the rolling of dice: if I roll higher than you, I will be able to buy more over the course of the game.

In the solo game, this becomes a chore of trying to dig until you find pairs and/or objective appliances. And it can be really flat when you have to dig for a long time.

In a 2-player game, this aspect can shine. Your opponent draws that appliance you need? There’s the mouse to pull that into your hand. That push-pull system is so much better with a higher player count, which is something I had been told to expect when they sent me the game. And I agree – 2 players is probably the perfect player count on this one. I imagine the 3-player game can be interesting, but could have a small chance of kingmaking or runaway leader. The solo game is a puzzle without any real win/lose conditions (something that, maybe, could be tweaked before the game is published? I’ll be asking for that!)

Overall, if you like a strategic game that does have some above-average dependence upon dice then this is a good one. Its length is a little longer than I’d like for a game with that much luck, especially solo, but the interactions can make this one fun enough to forgive that randomness. Plus my wife and I are pretty averse to random elements as a whole, so we’re not necessarily the target audience here. If you enjoy dice-rolling, interesting decisions, player interaction, and a fun and unique theme, then you should definitely check this out when it hits Kickstarter.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Circuit Breaker. 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.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

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Board Gaming · One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One – Black Sonata

Thank you for checking review #55 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 Black Sonata

Black Sonata is a game designed by John Kean and was published by Side Room Games. The box states that it can play 1 player and has a 15-30 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.0.

For more than four centuries scholars have argued over the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. According to the sonnets, the Dark Lady seduced the poet and held him in an agonised thrall while also conducting an affair with the Fair Youth who Shakespeare also loved.

In Black Sonata you will find yourself in Shakespeare’s London, circa 1600, in pursuit of the shadowy Lady. A specially ordered deck of cards determines her hidden movements from place to place. You must deduce her location and then intercept her to catch a glimpse and gain a clue to her identity. You will need several clues to deduce her identity, but with each clue gained the Lady becomes harder to track. Black Sonata combines hidden movement and logical deduction into a unique solitaire steeped in literary history.

Can you finally solve English literature’s greatest mystery? Or will the Dark Lady elude you, melting from your grasp like a curl of smoke and promises?

***

For this review I am doing something a little different: videos! Check them out to see my progression of thoughts on this fun little game.

Unboxing

First Impressions

Runthrough

Final Thoughts

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Hopefully you found these videos to be a useful look at Black Sonata. 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.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · One-Player Only · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One: Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game

Thank you for checking out my ninth review. 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.

Because this is a print & play game that is not formally published, I’ll briefly cover more of the rules than I typically do in my reviews.

An Overview of Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game

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Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game is a game designed by Chris Hansen and is web published, meaning it is a free print and play game. The game is designed to play 1 player and has a 15-20 minute play time.

Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game is a solitaire micro card driven game. In the game, you control the French forces and must try to defeat the invading English forces in the Battle of Agincourt, which was fought on October 25, 1415. Your forces are represented by cubes and strength dice. You must move your cubes along a simple point-to-point map, but your movement will be hindered ever step of the way by English arrow fire. Your goal is to move two of your cubes into the English line, which will disrupt it and allow you to capture Henry V.

Setup and gameplay for 1 Player

The setup is simple: take the map card and place one red cube on each of the edge boxes in the second row up. The other boxes on the second row gets blue cubes. The bottom row gets one yellow cube, placed on either edge, and a pair of blue cubes goes in the remaining boxes in the bottom row. Pull out a blue die and a red die and set them both on ‘4’, and then grab a differently-colored pair of dice. Shuffle the 8 cards and draw three, leaving the remaining cards face-down as a draw pile.

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The game plays over three rounds, and in each round there are three total turns. Each turn has four phases. So you get a grand total of twelve turns to accomplish victory. During your turn you play a card from your hand. This either can be played for the effect mentioned at the top of the card, or else for the number shown in the top corner. If you chose the latter, you get either 2 or 3 movement points (whichever value is depicted) and may attempt to move your units up the tracks. After the card is resolved, either through the completion of its event or through the use of all movement points, the English Archers fire. With the first two cards of each round, they fire twice: once at cavalry and once at infantry. After the third card, they also conduct a Hammer & Axe attack if there is at least one unit in the combat area. After the archers attack, it moves to the combat phase if you have at least one unit in the combat area. After combat, you check to see if you have won, and then the next turn or round begins.

Correction by Chris Hansen: One correction here is that the Hammer and Axe attacks don’t begin until the third turn of the game. So you’ll play through the first two turns with only Infantry and Cavalry attacks for each card. Then, on the third turn, you’re subject to Hammer and Axe attacks for each card played (assuming a unit is in the Combat Area).

Movement is accomplished by choosing the unit you want to move (left cavalry, right cavalry, all front infantry, or all rear infantry) and then drawing the top card of the deck, resolving its middle text effect. After that, you roll 1d6 and add that to the number shown on the corresponding colored die. If that value is greater than 7, the unit(s) successfully move forward. If not, nothing happens.

The strength of your units can never be lower than 2 nor higher than 5. The strength can increase through the effect of some cards, and a successful rear infantry move increases the infantry strength. Cards can lower the strength of a unit, as can rolling doubles during the English archer phase or a successful English Hammer & Axe attack or a collision during a unit retreat. In general, the strength will drop far more often than it will increase.

The English Archers have two dice rolled during their attacks, and depending on the results shown either hit or miss. If doubles are rolled, the targeted units lose 1 strength in addition to a retreat. As an example, when firing at the Cavalry if both dice show a 1, 2, or a 3 then the left cavalry is hit and must retreat one space. If both have a 4, 5, or a 6 then the right cavalry retreats. But if the dice showed a 3 and a 4, it would be a miss.

Combat is the most complex of the phases because of a few modifiers. First you flip the top card and apply the bottom effect listed if possible. Then you roll 1d6 and add that to the strength of all units in the combat area. Depending on the makeup of your units in the combat area, you may have a modifier to your roll so having both types of units (cavalry and infantry) is the ideal goal. If your total result is under 9, you lose 1 strength on your unit which has the highest strength (so long as at least 1 of those units is in the combat area. Cavalry lose a strength in a tie). If your result is 15 or higher, one of your units breaks through the line (infantry is used if possible). If you manage to get two units to break through before the end, you win the game.

My Thoughts

This game is hard. So very hard. I still haven’t beat the game, although I have always managed to get one unit to break through the line. Sometimes that happens on the final turn. Once it happened at the end of the second round and it still didn’t matter. The dice can hurt you, and the cards almost certainly will. So if you enjoy a game experience where you are not guaranteed victory, this will be a game you will like. I get the same feeling while playing this as I do when playing Space Hulk: Death Angel. I am not necessarily expecting to win, but to have fun getting as close to that victory as I possibly can.

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Nine cards, a few cubes, and some dice. That is all you need to have a full, fun experience with this game. It was my second ever print & play, and it was fun enough for me to go buy cardstock to reprint this, along with his new 9 card came: 9 Card Siege. It is a game with a small footprint and almost no work to go from print to play, which makes this a perfect game to add to a collection.

This game plays really close to that 15 minute advertised window. I didn’t believe that after my first play, but that was partially because I was logging each step of the play for a Sessions report and partially because I needed to stop and look back in the rulebook to try and play accurately. Each play gets a little faster and there is a great 2-card reference that can be printed as well. That doesn’t have everything I’ve needed, but it contains the major things. I plan to write anything it is missing that I need to look up on the back of those.

This game, somehow, evokes a very strong theme. Not due to any artwork, but rather through the historical flavor on the cards and how incredibly difficult it is to overcome those Archers. There is a reason why those archers were feared by the French, and this game helps to demonstrate why in a very short, tight experience.

The cards all have four (technically five) uses: discard for movement points, use the event ability, movement draw, combat draw, and you *can* discard a card during combat for an added +1 to your combat strength. This is how the game can be a 9-card game, and it works really well. A wise, experienced player can know before a flip what cards they will not encounter based on their hand and/or what has already been seen so far and can use that to their advantage. Odds are, it still won’t help but at least you’ll feel like you can play the game rather than have it play you!

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Did I mention this game is hard? The game rewards you for moving both cavalry and infantry into the combat zone, yet accomplishing that isn’t easy. The rows bottleneck toward the top, meaning that cavalry either blocks the infantry or the infantry blocks the cavalry. And you don’t want to have the units collide. Nor do you want to end a turn with only one unit in the combat area because it would be very likely they will not hit 9+ for the combat roll. You almost need a perfect series of events to occur to set you up for your units to rush into the combat area. This is both great and frustrating at the same time.

This is a solo experience that every solo gamer, and every wargamer, should experience at least once. There are so many moments where your best-formed plans blow up in your face and it is still fun to play. Cards that seem like they help you can serve to cause you more harm than you expect. I play the game, lose, and immediately want to set it up and play again. Or, if I can’t do that, I spend time wondering how I could approach things differently. For a game with such few pieces, on a small footprint, and with a short play time, that is incredible. Don’t have cubes? Print some and cut them out! The investment, if you leave the rules unprinted, is 1-3 pages. You could even print it all in black & white to save colored ink and take a crayon to the cubes. You can read the rules, print & cut the game, and play it all in under an hour. This game is worth at least an hour of your time, and arguably you will end up giving it much more than that over multiple plays.

I know a fan made the reference cards, but I really would have liked the last page in the rulebook to have a sort of summary of those key rules. It would have saved a ton of time, and there is plenty of space for a single sheet of paper to be out next to this game. Hopefully this is something that might appear in a revised version of the rulebook, or at the very least something to make its way into the 9 Card Siege rulebook as that develops.

The artwork isn’t bad, but it isn’t memorable. I now have the backs printed on my cards, but they don’t really add much. I am not complaining, as it isn’t important to me, but some people may find it hard to get past the art in this game. We’re too spoiled by modern board games and want to have things pretty and elegant and with miniatures, which is no fault of the designer’s in this case. So if you need a pretty game with pretty pieces, you’ll be disappointed. Which is really a sad thing, because this game is a fun experience.

My biggest complaint? I still haven’t figured out what use the crossbowman serves. I understand it can shoot into the English line for a combat bonus. I just can’t seem to ever get it close enough to accomplish this! It also isn’t completely clear at first how it moves. The assumption is with rear infantry and, after several times looking, I believe I’m playing that correctly. Like the historical battle, I just don’t have the ability to gain any benefit from its presence.

Final Verdict

There is a lot more I could say about this game. It is wonderful fun, and was a perfect print & play experience that has left me very eager to find more print & play solo games for future plays and reviews. It made me a fan of this designer, and he deserved the awards this game won from the 2016 nanogame print & play design contest:

Best Thematic Game – 1st Place
Best Wargame – 1st Place
Best Written Rules – 2nd Place
Most Innovative Mechanic – 2nd Place
Best Solitaire Game – 1st Place
Best Overall Game – 1st Place

It is worthy of every one of those awards. This game deserves to be played. It deserves to be talked about and reviewed. It scratches every solo itch I could ask and delivers a great historical theme in the process. The rulebook has several pages just dedicated to historical background about the battle of Agincourt, which is outstanding and wasn’t necessary.

Seriously, stop reading this and go print it out right now. You can come back and thank me later. I am confident you won’t regret it if you enjoy challenging solo games and/or wargames.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas