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FUSE» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Fuse, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Play a Game That Isn't Such a Bomb rss

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Stephen Hall
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Renegade Game Studios has had a pretty good track record with our group. Their versions of Snow Tails, Gravwell: Escape From the 9th Dimension, and Lanterns: The Harvest Festival were all hits. They were 3-for-3. When I heard about Fuse (Kane Klenko, 2015), I knew I wanted it for my collection.

I usually like real-time games. I enjoy the stress they put on you, the way they make you think on your feet and try to make the best decisions you can under a time crunch. I also like cooperative games and dice games. I was sure to like Fuse.

And then I played it. Boy, was it a disappointment.

The game has a cool theme. Players have 10 minutes to defuse a stack of Bomb cards using the 25 custom dice that come with the game. The dice are standard d6's in 5 colors. In real time, players draw a number of dice from the bag, roll them, and divide them up evenly amongst themselves, placing them on one of their Bomb cards. The Bomb cards have slots on them which call for certain dice to be placed there. For example, you might have a card that calls for two dice of the same number, and two more dice of the same color. Thus, if I place two red dice (regardless of value), and a black and a yellow die showing the same number, in their respective slots on the card, I have completed that card and can move on. That's all well and good; it's an interesting challenge to divide up the dice quickly, so that everyone gets what they need.

Therein lies the problem. Sometimes players can't get what they need. If one or more dice cannot be placed, they are re-rolled one at a time, and all players must lose a die corresponding to either that die's color or number. This rule completely ruins the game, because you always feel like you're backtracking. If two dice cannot be claimed, this most likely means all players will be losing at least one, maybe two of the hard-earned dice they have previously placed. If I'm one die away from completing a card, losing one or two dice from that card could set me back substantially.

Some would argue that you can get around this by being strategic in how you divide the dice. However, it proves very difficult to use all the dice each round, because it all comes down to which colors/numbers people have spaces for. For example, let's say that both my Bomb cards are one die away from completion. In order to complete them, I need either a blue 2 or a red 6. When the dice are drawn and rolled, none of them match these requirements. This means that I automatically can't take a die. But it's not really my fault. It's not that I played poorly, it's just that the game didn't give me the dice I needed. Thus, I (and all my teammates) will likely lose dice this round.

It's one thing when a game punishes you for playing poorly. Most of the time, I'm okay with that, because I feel like I deserved it, and I can learn from that round and play better next time. It's another thing when the game gives you a no-win scenario. And yes, there are times in the game when all the dice can be divided perfectly, and everyone is happy, but way too often, you get screwed at no fault of your own.

I'm sure people will say that the difficulty of the game fits the theme; defusing bombs is delicate work. But in Fuse, losing dice doesn't come across as thematic, it's just frustrating.

The best way I can describe a Fuse is like this: it's like when you play old Nintendo games with really bad controls and level design. Those games are very hard, but not for the right reasons. They're hard because the game is flawed, not because you're playing badly. It's much more rewarding when a game is hard, but fair. In these games, when you lose, you want to come back and try a new strategy. You want to work for that victory. Fuse, unfortunately, is the former. I played 5 rounds of this game with different players, and every round fell flat. As much as I love Renegade Games, Fuse is a bomb. And not in a good way.

Originally posted at www.antimonopoly.wordpress.com.
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Christopher Corrigan
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It is true that many folks who I have played this with did not like it. Some just don't like stress. Some don't like relying an others. Some say they like luck but really they don't like it at all when it is "bad" luck. Some are impatient. Some take on too many difficult cards at once due to over confidence. Some are poor at communication their needed dice. But this game only takes ten minuets and which afterwards experience and debriefing pays in future rounds. I have found that this game takes a well experienced team that "enjoy" stress to make this challenging game's victories worth the many failures.
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Matt Williams
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I personally really like FUSE, it has gone down very well with my group and has seen a lot of play.

I understand where you are coming from, sometimes it is impossible to place dice and you will end up losing the one that you desperately need. That is frustrating but these set backs are what makes the game challenging, if every die could be placed every time or there was no punishment for unplaced dice then the game would be far too easy.

There is a necessity when playing to choose the right bombs to defuse, it is always better to have an easy one as it is much more likely that you will find a die to match. It is also important to pick cards that are after different things, don't take two cards that are both after 3s for example as it massively limits your ability to take dice. The example stated in the review made it sound far too limiting, if you end up in the position that you need two dice both of a specific colour and number then chances are you have taken the wrong cards and are making the game too hard.

There is also a strategy in leaving the right dice behind; if you can't take them all then try to ensure that the remaining dice are not the same colour as the at-risk dice on players cards.

I love the challenge of trying to make these decisions under extreme time pressure, but I know that even if you take the best available cards the dice will always let you down at some point. Winning this game is not easy, even on the lowest difficulty setting but we enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction we get when we do win.
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Stephen Hall
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Thanks for your replies. I really do understand where you're coming from. On the one hand, yes, the game is only 10 minutes, so if it doesn't go well, you can try again very quickly. And yes, as I said, I know there can be strategy in which dice you take/leave. (We tried the suggestion from Dan King about saying "Priority 1," etc.)

I didn't really touch on the problem of taking two difficult cards (it turns into a game of "I'm sitting here waiting for a yellow 3"), but this also makes the game unlikeable for me.

The fact that there is a "correct" strategy (in this case, don't take two high-difficulty cards at the same time) limits the players' options. I like games where there are multiple viable strategies, not one single strategy. I know it sounds like I'm being too hard on this game. It's a silly, 10 minute dice game, after all. But, in my eyes, that doesn't make it okay.

To me, the biggest problem with this game is that it often doesn't feel like your decisions matter. When you draw a new set of dice and you can instantly see that none of them are what you need, you feel a lack of agency. It doesn't matter what you do, because the game gave you the wrong dice. Yes, of course, you can work as a team to minimize the penalty by strategically selecting certain dice, but in the end, you may be doomed to failure from the start of a round. Lack of agency is really unsatisfying, and one of the worst feelings you can get in a game.
 
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Grant Fikes
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juggler5 wrote:
To me, the biggest problem with this game is that it often doesn't feel like your decisions matter. When you draw a new set of dice and you can instantly see that none of them are what you need, you feel a lack of agency. It doesn't matter what you do, because the game gave you the wrong dice. Yes, of course, you can work as a team to minimize the penalty by strategically selecting certain dice, but in the end, you may be doomed to failure from the start of a round. Lack of agency is really unsatisfying, and one of the worst feelings you can get in a game.


You probably wouldn't like any cooperative games, then. Virtually all of them have randomness to make them impossible to solve, and to make the cardboard AI more menacing by making it unpredictable. Pandemic can screw you over with outbreaks you can't prevent. Hanabi can screw you over by putting all of the yellow 1's close to the bottom of the deck.

As an experienced solo player, the more you play the game, the faster you get at making reasonable decisions. The more dice you can roll in that 10-minute time frame without making blatantly inferior decisions, the higher your chances of winning. As for the multiplayer game, I recommend getting with very experienced and skilled players if possible, because I've seen people on BGG report that the multiplayer game is easier than the solo game, but my small sample size seems to contradict this. The logistical aspect might be part of it, but it might also be because I don't ever have much time to help those other players develop actual experience with the game. The people in my board game group seem to prefer playing a variety of games every fortnight instead of getting good at one really hard cooperative game! The group I've played this with the most is a married pair of seniors, and while they aren't dreadfully slow or anything, my win rate on the standard difficulty with them never really caught up to my solo win rate on Expert.
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Jacob Holmqvist
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I have not played this, but from what i've seen this has a lot of great decisions for a 10 minute filler.

Which die to take, when there are multiple, both with regard to if another player can fill a difficult spot with it or can only take a single die, or the same thing for you or which die sets you up the best to not have a hard time completing the rest of the card. I imagine sometimes it's better if you have the opportunity to finish a hard card, to take that specific die, even if it means another player can't take any dice.

To make sure there is versatility when you take a new bomb card is also an important decision.

On top of this, it's a speed game and you can make up for bad luck by moving on in a rapid manner. The time aspect makes it necessary to be economic with rethinkng decisions and talking things out.

I would not expect everyone to like it though, but a lot of people seems to with it's current rating being 7.2. And I cant think of any short fillers where you have different strategies to win (barely in full length co-ops either), but that doesn't mean the decisions are obvious, often it's a matter of balance.
 
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