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Steve Oksienik - Cardboard Insanity

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Want to read more awesome reviews from Cardboard Insanity? Head to our website at http://blog.cardboardinsanity.com/ for more reviews and links to our award-winning* podcast!

This was originally reviewed on Cardboard Insanity episode 6. If you'd like to listen, here's the BGG link: Games from Oz - Cardboard Insanity 6 There's also an interview with the game's designer on there.

I remember my first computer. It was a Commodore 64. Oh, the wonders of having video games in my own house! I also remember my father spending hours upon hours typing code from magazines to generate a game. He spent an entire day programming Space Invaders to a cassette tape only to have it not work when loaded. Fast forward several years and I was in the new computer lab at my school. We were shown some introductory programming using Basic. Making that sprite move around the screen felt like sorcery. When I heard about One Zero One, I was grabbed by the theme and new it was a game I had to review.

One Zero One is a two-player strategy game that plays in about 15 minutes. One player is the Zeros and the other is the Ones. Both players have an identical deck of 16 cards. There are 5 rows for players to play in denoted by a card (10, 20, 30, 40, and 50). There’s also an indicator card to show who’s winning each row. In addition, you get some extra cards that can be added in to each player’s deck later for an advanced game.

Gameplay is very simple. Each player takes a deck, either green or gray, and shuffles it. One thing you’ll notice right away is that the cards are double sided with 1 on one side and 0 on the other. Shuffle your deck with your number face up and then draw 3 cards. Players then take turns playing cards into the rows until either both players are out of cards or the 50 row has three cards in it, completing the program. Anytime a card is played, check to see which player has majority in that row and align the indicator card to show who’s winning. When the game ends, each player scores points for the rows they are winning. High score wins.

In the beginning, players can only play in the 10 or 20 row. As the rows get full, players can move down. You can start a new row when all rows above it have at least 3 cards. This actually creates one of the major strategy points in the game. Once a row is unlocked, players tend to start going for them because they are worth more points. Due to the card count rule, you get to control the pacing somewhat by choosing how your cards are played. This is huge when you get to the 50 row because it can be very tough to win that. You will need to try to control your opponent’s ability to play there by controlling when rows open up.

Some of the cards have special powers, and these really spice the game up. The special ability is printed on either the top or side of the card. You can rotate the card any way you want when placing it so you have the choice between top and bottom or left and right, depending on the card. For example, if I play a card with Enter on the left, the card to the left of the card just played will get sent down a row. You can also play a Delete card which removes the card next to it from play. Print let’s you play another card from your hand next to your card while Save keeps cards next to it safe from tampering. Then there’s my favorite, the If…Then card which can be tremendously powerful if played correctly.

Playing these cards at the right time can be pivotal, so this adds a great hand-management aspect to the game. There will be a lot of opportunity to use these cards but picking the right time can make or break the game for you. You have plenty of vanilla cards that do nothing, but don’t underestimate them. These are your bread and butter and will form the backbone of your scoring. I love the mix of cards and how you are tasked to maximize their use, while still trying to improve your position with them.

One of the very interesting aspects of this game that takes some getting used to is that you will see the next card in your deck and your opponent’s. At first, this felt weird, but as we played more it felt awesome. It gave you insight as to what your opponent is doing or planning on doing. We found that paying attention to that could really impact your game. If you really focused on what your opponent was planning, you’d be ahead, even without drawing the power cards.

In fact, One Zero One forces you to pay great attention to your opponent. This is definitely not a game that you can just do your own thing. You have to watch your opponent’s cards, look for a rhythm to his play, and work your own strategy and tactics into it. This game has a huge amount of interaction as both players combine to form the fabric of the game. There are no mechanisms here to move the game along. There are just the players and they control everything, from the flow and pace all the way to the end.

One Zero One harkens back to days when less was more in gaming. One of the best comparisons I can draw is Battle Line. Battle Line is the epitome of “less is more” design. One Zero One is wonderfully close in it’s design asthetics. There’s no fat here. Nothing feels bolted on or out place. It’s a wonderfully lean design the encourages player interaction more than some games that cost five times more and have a box full of components.

If you want a highly interactive two player game that’s confrontational, but not cutthroat, I can’t recommend One Zero One enough. This is the epitome of what a small-boxed game should be. The design efficiency is marvelous and produces a play experience that is deep and satisfying yet plays in under 20 minutes. At a price point under $15, you’d be out of your mind not to add this to your next game order. There are a bevy of two-player games out there, but very few that offer so much replayability, depth, and ingenuity in such a small, affordable package.
Buy this game. You’re welcome.

If you've never heard the Clutch song before, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFSm9vfwtNw

Want to read more awesome reviews from Cardboard Insanity? Head to our website at http://blog.cardboardinsanity.com/ for more reviews and links to our award-winning* podcast!

Thanks to Grail Games for the review copy.
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