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LED: Lógica – Estrategia – Deducción» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Twinkle, twinkle, little LED light rss

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Charles
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(Those interested in the original Spanish version of this review can read it here).

LED is the first entry in a new series of "Designer games" recently launched in the Argentine market by local publisher Bisonte.

This new line of games features original work from novel or previously unpublished local game designers. Right off the bat I'd like to applaud this effort if only because AFAIK this is the first case of a designer getting full credit on the game box -- a refreshing attempt to follow practices and standards that are commonplace in other latitudes.

LED -the acronym stands for Lógica-Estrategia-Deducción (Logic-Strategy-Deduction)- is the brainchild of Luis F. Marcantoni. I didn't have much info on the game and was only dimly aware of its existence when I happened upon it, shyly peeking out from behind piles of chess and checker sets at the end of an aisle in one of my local toy stores. I simply had to get it to see what it was all about.

This is an abstract game for 2-4 people. Players must gain points by connecting LEDs in their own color, while preventing opponents from doing the same. The general design owes quite a bit to Carcassonne, and not just because of the tile-placing (I believe this is the second Argentine game to use tile placement as a main mechanic since Spielen's Zug). But this one's even more simple and accessible.

LED combines an elegant design with simplicity and tactical depth in a package destined to provide many hours of entertainment.


Components


Although the general quality of components used in Argentine games is usually no match for their international counterparts, LED does a very decent job. I have only two minor quibbles in this area that happily have not impaired my enjoyment of the game as a whole.

The game comes in a box of similar size to that of Zug (or Carcassonne, for that matter). The box is sturdy and has a very pleasing matte finish. Inside, we find a folded rectangular board containing the scoring tracks; it is fairly thick and looks like it will stand many uses. The low point are the score markers, which are actually little plastic dice printed on just one face. The reason for choosing dice over regular, flat plastic tokens is probably cost, but they're not particularly suited for the task -- they're cumbersome to handle, and they tend to slide off the track too frequently. Thankfully, they are easily replaced by any conveniently available token.



The score markers.


Each player in LED keeps a 5-tile hand that they must keep out of the view of the other players. The game comes with four cardboard screens that stand upright and act as cover for each player's tiles. Although useful, these screens are rather light and thin, which makes them prone to sliding or falling over if there's a hint of a breeze or if someone happens to sneeze (or sigh heavily) in the vicinity. Again, this is undoubtedly due to cost factors, but I'd like to see these issues straightened out in a future reprint (maybe a deluxe version?).

Ok, with the questionable components out of the way, let's dive into the goodness. The tiles are really where the game needs to get it right, since they are the backbone of the gameplay and should allow easy manipulation. While not as thick as Carcassonne's, the tiles included in LED are strong and easy to pick up and handle, which is usually my main concern in tile-based games. They also seem to be quite resistant to warping. The matte finish makes them also fairly easy to read, with no glaring to obfuscate the players' visual assessments.



The scoring board.


LED's sharp art design is also very good. Black dominates the backgrounds and provides a nice contrast to the bright colors of the LED lights. The general look is rather spartan, but it fits with the sleek elegance of the gameplay. This is a game that should look good on the coffee table.

A nice touch is the small black cloth bag provided to store the tiles -- considering that these are 2-sided, they cannot be arranged facedown in piles a lá Carcassonne, so an opaque container is a necessity and it's included in the box.

Lastly, the glossy booklet containing the (Spanish) rules is clearly laid out with every aspect of the game explained properly, with illustrations and photos when needed. After a few bad experiences with game rules that were riddled with holes and typos, it is refreshing to be able to get in the game right away without having to scourge BGG's fora for answers and clarifications.


How It Works


At the start of the game, each player takes a numbered screen and draws a "hand" of five tiles from the bag. They're also dealt a special facedown tile showing one of the four colors - blue, green red or yellow. This is the players' unique color that they must (strive to) keep secret throughout the game. Another special, larger "base" tile is set down on the table to kickstart the tile-laying.

LED is won by the player who scores the most points. A player earns points by:

a) Completing LEDs, and
b) Closing networks of LEDs in his/her color

The scoring board includes two tracks, one for each of these scoring methods. The first track is used for tracking the player's personal score for completing LEDs (this is the "public" information), while the second track tallies the progress of each color.

Players must keep an eye on both tracks, especially on the progress of their secret color's marker, as it can be affected by other players.

Each rectangular tile in the game is bordered by 6 half-LEDs (called semi-LEDs): two along the long side, and one along the short side of the rectangle. In their turn, players must play a tile from their hand so that at least two of its semi-LEDs get in contact with an equal number of semi-LEDs (in the same color) from any of the tiles already laid on the table. The active player receives one point for each full LED that is formed in this manner, and his/her "public" marker on the first track advances that amount of spaces.

Tile placement rules allow for a fair degree of freedom. As long as at least one full LED is formed and no semi-LED is adjacent to a different color, tiles can be placed horizontally or vertically, following the existing tiles' arrangement or placed in offset, etc.



A valid tile configuration, with open networks.


The second scoring method involves the second scoring track, and the creation of LED networks.

All semi-LEDs of the same color in a given tile are connected by a line/cable link. As more tiles get added to the "board", these lines end up connecting groups of full LEDs and semi-LEDs. In game's terms, this is called an "open network". When all semi-LEDs in a group connected by the same link have been completed, a network has been closed.

A player who closes one or more networks will still score the usual points corresponding to the number of individual LEDs completed (on the first scoring track). But in addition, for each network closed as a result of the play containing an X number of LEDs, the matching color marker on the second track will advance X points. Example: closing a blue network consisting of five LEDs will add five points to the blue marker on the second track.



The image shows two closed networks: one green (4 LEDs) and one yellow (2 LEDs)


Note that a player may end up closing networks of colors belonging to other players, and thus will be contributing to their final score!

Each time they play a tile, players replenish their hand by drawing a new tile from the bag. Closing at least one network provides an extra benefit -- the player may play a second tile immediately, and THEN draw two tiles from the bag. This is called a "double play". The turn passes to the next player in clockwise order.

The game goes on in this fashion until a player reaches or exceeds a set number of points (40 in the standard version) on the "public" scoring track. When this happens, the round is played to the end and then it's time for the total scoring, which usually holds a few surprises. Each player reveals their secret color and adds that color's marker position on the second track to their "public" score on the first one. The player that ends up with the most total points is crowned the winner.


Digital Logic


LED is a deceptively simple design - some will label it a filler - that hides quite a bit of tactical depth in its core. This might not be evident in the first few plays, where the luck of the draw might seem too decisive a factor for some.

A few more games in, though, and the ways in which players can exert control -sometimes subtly- on the colorful chaos become readily apparent.

For starters, you eventually realize the importance of closing networks and keeping an eye on the color track. This may seem a bit bewildering at first, given that the primary track is so straightforward: one point for each completed LED, and that's it. But soon you see that the real gains lie in gaming the color track successfully.

You could of course focus on completing LEDs and ignore the network-building side (which I think would make for a nice kid-oriented variant). Completing LEDs nets the player a theoretical maximum of 6 points per tile played (one per semi-LED on each tile). In practice, however, you'll mostly see harvests of 1-3 points; 4 are unusual, and I've yet to see anyone scoring 5-6 points on a tile. This means that markers on the primary track often keep close to each other throughout the game.

What disrupts this equilibrium -and provides the thrills- are the networks. The influence of Carcassonne on Marcantoni's design goes beyond the tile-placement mechanic.

Carcassonne rewards the player who goes for the larger cities. You could always spam two-tile cities for a quicker, but substantially smaller point gain (which can be partially balanced by astute farmer placing). In LED, going for the easy buck is tempting, but often the real difference is achieved on the color track.

This is a nice departure from Carcassonne, with its open struggle for feature ownership where each meeple/follower has a clear master and everybody knows who gets the points. In LED, keeping your color under wraps is essential to avoid leader-bashing and to keep the more competitive players from making your life miserable.

Blocking opponents by cleverly placing tiles so that they cannot complete a feature is a fundamental tactic in Carcassonne (at least for those who play it aggresively). This is also true for LED. The two-sided tiles are versatile enough, but certain sequences of colors are simply not available, and once identified (after a couple of plays), these unsolvable patterns can be used in combination with the generous placement rules to prevent opponents from closing key networks.

Even so, keeping one's color hidden is not as easy as it sounds. It requires subtle play and good bluffing skills. I feel this is one aspect that would truly shine if the game accommodated a couple more players, although I'm not sure if the impact on components and length would justify it.


Conclusions


So what's my verdict on LED as a whole?

A firm thumbs up. The household is happy to have added LED to our boardgame collection. This is one of those games that should appeal to basically all ages and players, gamers and non-gamers alike. Those fond of a more cerebral experience will find many reasons to like LED, as will those who enjoy pattern matching. And of course there's the whole "guess the secret color" subgame that should be a hit with the younger folk.

The fact that a typical game clocks in at just below the hour mark, added to its good portability, make it a good fit for breaking it out on the table after dinner for a quick game.

Basically there's not much to dislike about LED. Sure, it lacks a strong theme, but the same applies to basically every abstract. Despite a few issues with some components, I believe this new series from publisher Bisonte has started on the right foot with a strong and very accessible first entry that feels both familiar and personal.

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Nick Sparks
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Do you know how a person living in USA could purchase a copy?

¿Sabe usted cómo una persona que vive en Estados Unidos podría comprar una copia?

- Nick

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Peter 'Pedro' Goins
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Struan wrote:

Even so, keeping one's color hidden is not as easy as it sounds. It requires subtle play and good bluffing skills. I feel this is one aspect that would truly shine if the game accommodated a couple more players, although I'm not sure if the impact on components and length would justify it.

In Clans, there are four players but five colors. This way, even with the full complement of players, there is one color that you can safely score that won't help other players. The downside is that in the games we've played, the unused color tends to score far fewer points.

I wonder if this game might similarly benefit from an extra color or two. Of course when only two are playing, it would make deduction far more difficult.
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Eurojuegos Buenos Aires
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Indeed. With only 2 players, giving up your secret color WILL cost you the game. Not so much with 4. But still, having a second turn whenever you close a full circuit is what really makes you a difference in scoring, so you have to plan for it and do it whenever you can (every turn, it is either scoring about 4, or about 8). Most times, the circuit you are closing won't be of your color, but you have to try and close it nonetheless. So you better deduce who you are giving points to ASAP.

Acquiring the game from abroad can be a pain these days. Our government has just imposed a whole set of ridiculous new regulations regarding foreign payments and shipping. Hopefully, we can find a way around them soon
 
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Nick Sparks
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Pastor_Mora wrote:
Acquiring the game from abroad can be a pain these days. Our government has just imposed a whole set of ridiculous new regulations regarding foreign payments and shipping. Hopefully, we can find a way around them soon


It is sad sometimes how far we are from becoming a "global community" isn't it? Thank you for the insight. I will wait patiently. Hopefully, I can someday find a way to get a copy.

- Nick
 
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Leo De Luca
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nsparks wrote:
Pastor_Mora wrote:
Acquiring the game from abroad can be a pain these days. Our government has just imposed a whole set of ridiculous new regulations regarding foreign payments and shipping. Hopefully, we can find a way around them soon


It is sad sometimes how far we are from becoming a "global community" isn't it? Thank you for the insight. I will wait patiently. Hopefully, I can someday find a way to get a copy.

- Nick


I want a copy of this game! It reminds me a little of Wooly Bully / La Guerre Des Moutons with the secret color scoring. Visually, it also makes me think a bit of Ingenious, but that might be because I've been playing that a lot lately on my phone.

How much is this game in AR pesos? And where would I be able to find it? Maybe I could bring a few to the US if they aren't that big. I can't make any promises, though.
 
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