Resistor_: Review

Resistance is futile. Resistor_ (don’t forget the underscore) is a quick, two-player romp through a 1980’s cyberwar. Players are one of two competing computer systems. Each system tries to annihilate the other by sending colored signals along the game’s ever-changing wired connections. Fairway reviews this Kickstarter-funded game.

Resistor_ by Cardboard Fortress, and published by Level 99 Games, is a two-player, card-flipping, path-building card game. From setup to victory, this game takes less than twenty minutes. And because the only things necessary are the box and the cards, you can (and I do) take this game anywhere.

Initial Impressions ^

  • The box is amazing: the hole in the lid fits the internal cardboard sleeve doubles as a stand to hold the cards upright.
  • Graphic design is thematic and intuitive.
  • Over-sized cards make the handling of the cards easy and improve visibility even from across the table.
  • First games feel chaotic: lots of hidden information that requires memorization across a large and ever-changing game space.

Game Play ^

At its core, Resistor_ is a path-building game. It uses double-sided cards to form a colorful network of wires connecting two computers. Each side of a card has a part of a path between players, a “resistor,” or a combination of those things. The game is played in a round-robin with each player always taking three actions in an attempt to make a connection to the other player.

On a turn, a player must flip over a card, replace a card with one from their hand, and replace a card from their hand with a new one from the deck. Players decide what order to take the actions.  At the end of the turn, if there is a completed connection from one player all the way to the other player, the player takes a hit and lowers their DEFCON. The game ends when one player goes below DEFCON 1.

Resistor_ relies heavily on memory since the “flip side” of a card is almost as important as the face-up side of the card.

Resistor_ also uses two neat gameplay mechanisms. First, your hand is the combination of the front of the cards you’re holding and the back of the cards in your opponent’s hand. You don’t see the back of your cards until your opponent plays it (or you play it and it later gets flipped over).

Second, resistor cards are scattered throughout the deck. When played face up on the table, resistors “short out.” This causes the board to shrink and, in some cases, flip over other cards or heal a lucky player. These resistor cards can be played strategically and occur as a random consequence of a “flip over” action. Resistor cards can also chain together shrinking the board quickly, often in spectacular fashion.

The Kickstarter game also included a few other gameplay variants. We played with the lock card addition. The lock expansion adds a fourth action: lock. The lock prevents your opponent from anything to the locked card on their next turn.

On the Green ^

From concept to execution, this game computes. It calls to mind Joshua from War Games ("shall we play a game?_").  The green color scheme, the PCB-themed cards, and the dot-matrix style rules add to the Cold War-era, cyberwar feel.

The graphic design also facilitates the game’s basic scoring mechanism: follow the colored path from one side to the other.

The box is nifty too. There is a lot of attention to detail and thought that went into its design. There is an obvious difficulty of playing with double-sided cards. The unique box design is a terrific and novel solution. By placing the “wired” side down in the box and having players pull straight up, there’s much less risk of exposing the hidden information on the card. Also, because of this design, the game is small and travels well.

The game is also simple to teach. There are no complicated or messy mechanisms. Since each turn consists of the same three actions, there is no steep learning curve or struggle about what to do. The real complexity comes from determining where to take those actions and in which order to take them.

Where it comes up short ^

This game is fantastically short. Most of the issues below are not major issues and really don’t detract from the overall experience since the game is short and you get to play again.

The Randomness.  After playing with a few people, there’s one persistent problem: the game often feels arbitrary and random. There’s a general understanding that your strategy should follow what you “remember” about the cards that are played. But the game renders this a difficult strategy because:

  1. The cards move in and out of play quickly.
  2. The are long stretches of cards with hidden information, especially in the early game.
  3. The first “resistor” will render almost anyone’s memory of the actual shape of the playing field useless. It is even more unlikely when turning up chains of resistors on the same turn.
  4. Beginning players spend a lot of time planning their own moves and miss the other player’s interactions with the board.

The beginning of the game is particularly taxing on this point. The starting network consists of seven cards set out in a line randomly dealt from the deck. Neither player knows what’s on the flip-side. One potential fix to this early randomness is to allow the players to build the start.  In this case, each player gets half the cards, lays them down, and can know the “back” of the cards that their opponent played.

That Starting Sequence. The starting sequence also has a huge impact on play.  In at least a few cases, players were distraught when a huge number of the cards had connections going all the wrong direction.  And since there’s no “knowing” the back of the starting sequence, this made “flips” for them risky.

Again, the variation noted above would correct some of this perceived unfairness.

Ties. More than one game has ended when the board is shrunk way down and both players end up taking hits frequently. The “Lock” card variant exacerbates this issue, which caused us to introduce a house rule: no locks after the first resistor is revealed.

In the hole. ^

For anyone that regularly plays light, two-player games, Resistor_ is a must-have. Even for its random-feeling, this game is too much fun to not play again. The over-sized cards, in a functional, game-oriented box make it portable and playable anywhere. And we certainly do.

RESISTOR_ makes it into the hole for a birdie. ^

This post was originally featured on The Inquisitive Meeple.

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