Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I don't think I'm going to be able to resist Resistor_

If you are anything like me you are pretty sick of kickstarter and most things that go along with it. Kickstarter has gotten to be huge over the last few years and it seems like there are more disappointments than triumphs through it.

I get approached by people doing kickstarters regularly and over time I've chosen to be a lot more discerning on what I choose to review, promote and/or put my name on. I will admit that most pitches I get from kickstarter projects I politely turn down.

When I was contacted by Cardboard Fortress Games about their new game Resistor_, I almost did just that: turned them down. But, reading the pitch that Nicole Kline sent me, had me curious about the game. Her pitch talked about a fast paced two player game that relied on hidden information and tactical decision making that simulated hacking computers. 

The whole double sided card deal and only seeing your side of those cards sounded neat, so I dug deeper. Nicole provided a link to their Kickstarter Preview page and the more I read and watched, the cooler the game sounded. So I agreed to check it out. 

After playing a few games with my wife and other local gamers, I think Cardboard Fortress may have gotten me to back another Kickstarter when this one launches. It's a really cool game.

Update: The kickstarter is live now!

What is Resistor_?

Resistor_ is a two player only card game about nuclear war. Well actually it's about two computers trying to hack each other before they both launch nuclear weapons. Even more abstractly, the game is about a player trying to make a direct path in their colour from their start card to the other player's start card, and do that five times.

This game is quick, easy to teach, and quite tactical. Our games were coming in at a bit over half an hour for the first play with teaching time and under half an hour once both players had learned those rules. 

The copy I received to review is a prototype copy, and included a very cool box design. You slot the card holder into the top of the box. I was very amused to see the UPC code on my copy and the "made in" note. 

The box design is set up so that the card deck can be seen and drawn from by each player from opposite sides of the deck, It's not just a marketing gimmick.

The instructions are clear and look like an old school dot matrix printer paper accordion. They include plenty of examples. I couldn't find anything wrong with them.

How do you play?

Each player chooses a super computer to play. Blue9000 or DeepRed I think they were called. Blue or Red is what we generally called them. You take your starting card, your CPU, with DEFCON 3 and 4 on it and put it down on the table, with your DEFCON 1 and 2 card on top so that the 1 side is up. As you 'take damage' you flip the first card, then trash the first card, flip the second card, etc. showing what damage level you are at.

After your starting cards are out you lay seven cards between them making sure that the chip graphics on the sides of the cards match up. Each card looks like a circuit board and has a cool very bright almost glowing set of pathways on them in Red or Blue. These pathways connect at the chips on the cards. Then each player draws two cards from their side of the deck making sure that they only see one side of them and that their opponent has a clear view of the back side of the cards.

The goal of the game is to create a pathway in your colour between your start card and your opponents. If you have that set up by the end of your turn you damage your opponent once. Do that five times and you win (pretty much, there is a way to heal, see later).

Sounds simple enough right? Well not quite. See the thing is that every turn you must take three actions. These are:
  • Flip one card over.
  • Draw a card and discard.
  • Replace a card.
The key word up there is must. Even if you have a nice, full, completed path at the start of your turn, there's a good chance you will be forced to mess it up because you must take all three actions every turn.

Flip a card over is pretty simple, just flip one of the double-sided cards on the table. The other two actions are a bit more interesting. The reason for this is that you only get to see one side of the cards. You see your hand and the back of your opponents hand. They obviously see the opposite. You cannot look at the other side of your own hand. 

When a player takes the draw or replace action, they can draw a card and discard from their own hand or their opponents. This means you can play your opponents cards and use them against them, or use a draw action to force them to discard a useful card. 

There is one more thing that keeps things interesting: there is a special type of card called a resistor. These have a bright white square on them with one or more connectors coming off of them. If you can set it up so that a resistor traces back to your CPU, you get to heal one point of damage. After any healing, every single card that is connected to the resistor flips over. Lastly, the resistor card is removed from the game. This shrinks the path between the two players. 

As expected, a resistor card really changes up the game state and often gives a player that looks doomed a chance to catch up. The shrinking board also adds a time limit to the game. If the players ever get down to just one card between them then the game ends and the player with the most health left wins.

Why I'm probably going to back it

I really dig Resistor_, as has everyone else I've played it with. It sounded rather neat with the whole hidden information thing and the way the cards flip and it is. The fact that you must take each of the three actions every turn is brilliant. You have no idea how frustrating it is to start the turn with a parallel path to your opponent only to be forced to screw it up by subbing in a new card or flipping an existing one over (or both). To put it simply: I like the way this game makes me think.

The production quality is excellent on my prototype copy and I only expect the full game to look even better. The price point is just about perfect to me as well. $20 for a solid small box game that's a great two player experience, you can't go wrong with that.

How can you get it Resistor_?

Resistor_ is going to be released by Cardboard Fortress Games on Kickstarter this January. As of the last preview page update there are only three backer levels. The $20 level is the base level for getting you a copy of the game, as well as any stretch goals. There's also a $1 support level and a $250 special edition copy up for fans with way more money than I have :)

Update: the Kickstarter for Resistor_ went live today, March 3rd. I've already backed it and you can join me here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/933157520/resistor-hacking-on-the-brink-of-nuclear-destructi

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