Pocket Ops: Review

Most gamers can attest to the fact that there is something just not fun about tic-tac-toe. You almost always stalemate, or methodically win. Pocket Ops from Grand Gamers Guild fixes all that nonsense and turns tic-tac-toe into a game you actually want to play repeatedly.

About the Game

Pocket Ops is a two player game which lasts about 20 minutes. The story behind the game is players are secret agents, competing to be the one to successfully steal the doomsday device, claiming the victory. To do so, a player needs to win two rounds of Pocket Ops. Each round, players will take turns, one player placing a square of their color on the game board, and the other player attempting to guess where their opponent might play.

During setup, players choose a color, then receive all of the plain square tokens known as spies which matches their chosen color. Then players receive five additional tokens with special icons on them known as Specialists which match their chosen color. These specialists, when successfully played, provide the active player with a special ability. These special abilities include being able to swap your Specialist with an opponent’s token, removing an opponent’s token from the board, and have the opportunity to make stronger guesses about your opponent’s placement by guessing twice. Players only get one Specialist to use per round, and this Specialist is chosen between two Specialists, which are chosen at random from the five total available Specialists each player has.

Players are also given a deck of cards lettered A-I called Prediction Cards, which represent each square on the board, also lettered A-I. These cards are used by players to make their guesses about their opponent’s placements.

On a player’s turn, she waits for her opponent to select a Prediction Card. Once the opponent has chosen his card, the active player places either her Specialist, or one of her Spy tokens. After she places it, her opponent reveals his card. If his card does not match the square in which the active player placed her token, her token remains on the board. If the token is a Specialist, the Specialist’s ability is now triggered.

If her opponent guessed correctly about her placement, she removes her token from the board. If the token was a Specialist, it is removed for the rest of the game. Once the active player’s placement is resolved and Specialist abilities occur, the active player’s turn is over, and it is now her opponent’s turn to attempt a successful placement of one of his tokens.

When a player places three tokens in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, that player wins the round and earns a crystal. When a player has earned two crystals, the player receives the Doomsday Device and successfully stops it from destroying the world, winning the game.

Final Thoughts

Mechanics

These mechanics were easy as pie. Players are either picking a card, or picking a place to put a token. No other crazy stuff going on. The Specialist abilities which players may attempt to activate really help a player that is falling behind catch up, and the prediction element and potential removal of a token truly helps make a game like tic-tac-toe into something with replay-ability.

Rules

The copy of the game I received is a prototype version, however the rules were quite easy to read through. I do not recall experiencing any ambiguity.

Art

The art is ok. Not my style, I’m not one for spy/war/action styled art or theme, so I could do with another theme. This brought me to an idea, however. This game really does carry replay-ability, and there are so many different Specialist-like abilities out there that would do well with this game, which makes me think that this game could do well with multiple versions. Pocket…Restaurant? Maybe the squares are tables? Pocket…Garden? Squares are carrots and players are rabbits trying to eat them? I really think this game has so much opportunity with theme, that the fact that I didn’t like the spy theme and artwork style to match really didn’t bother me.

I do want to make mention that I had a difficult time identifying the red v. blue colors on the Prediction Cards. I do not know if the colors are color-blind friendly, but I am not color-blind, and I had issues. It is easy enough the split the cards by letter as each deck is the same, but colors are easier to sort through, and as this is a filler game, the quicker the setup, the better.

Product Quality

As previously mentioned I received a prototype copy of the game, so I am unsure how the final copy will look. This copy had square foam tokens, but the Specialists, Doomsday Device, and game board all were pretty sturdy quality.

Is It Fun?

Yes. It really is. It is easy to play, very accessible as most people have experience with something like tic-tac-toe, and it’s not always easy to make fun two players games, so I have to give props to this one for succeeding in doing so. The replay-ability is always available because there are so many other variables now involved with the game. You can remove an opponent’s token. You can actually lose a round because your opponent swapped with you and now has the winning position. You can stop your opponent from placing. So much more is now a part of the game that you will not experience the same game twice. Even the Specialist of which you choose for each round is somewhat random, furthering the replay-ability.

This game is now one of my few two-player games I enjoy bringing with me when I am out and about with my husband. I recommend this game to both new and seasoned gamers who are looking for a fun two-player game which players under thirty minutes.

For more information about Pocket Ops, visit:
www.BoardGameGeek.com

Pocket Ops will be on Kickstarter beginning June 6, 2017.

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