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Subject: Thin Red Line (...and Blue Line) - A Review of Resistor_ rss

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Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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Game Summary
Resistor_ is an abstract strategy card game with a lightly attached theme. Each player is a supercomputer controlling the nuclear launch codes of opposing countries. The players are racing to raise their opponent’s DEFCON rating to 5 by connecting a wire of their color across 7 (or less) cards to the other computer. On a player’s turn they get three actions which they can take in any order. In this review, I’ll be looking at the Print and Play edition of the game which is available in the File Section (Cards and Rules).

Game Play
Resistor_ has pretty simple rules and can be learned and taught pretty quickly. The game is set up with both players’ computers at DEFCON 1 and 7 randomly drawn cards placed in between. Each player is given a hand of two cards.

The game at set up.

Each turn, the players will complete three actions in any order they want. These actions allow a card between the computers to be flipped over, a card to swapped out of the hands, and a card to be discarded from the hands. There are three action cards with the two players colors on either side. As you perform actions, you flip the action card over. When all three are flipped, the other player repeats the process.

The unique thing about these actions is that the cards are double sided so you can use or discard cards from your hand, or the cards you can see in your opponent’s hand. This means that if the reverse side of a card in your hand benefits your opponent, he or she might use it and replace it with another card.

You can always see the cards your opponent has in his or her hand.

In addition to the three actions, the game also has special cards called Resistors which look like a small diamond. These cards can cause all sorts of chaos. If you ever discard one, your opponent automatically gets to flip over a card. If a Resistor is ever part of the chain between computers, it will flip over any card connected to it. This can obviously destroy the carefully laid plans of both players. However, if you can connect your computer to a Resistor card you can actually lower your DEFCON level so it is often worth the risk of chaos. Finally, after all Resistor effects are applied, the Resistor is removed from the game and the number of cards is permanently shortened.

The effect of a Resistor Card. Note that when the connecting cards were flipped, a second Resistor Card was found so that is why two cards were removed from the game.

Each time a player can trace a line of his or her color all the way between computers, the opposing computer must raise its DEFCON by one. (If you manage to connect two lines the DEFCON is raised by two.) The first player to successfully raise the opposing DEFCON to five is the winner.

Quality of Components
I don't own the published version so I can’t speak for what the printed cards are like. In this game, the most important piece of information is the color of the lines. The Red and Blue lines contrast nicely with the white background on the cards. There are black boxes showing where the cards connect as well.

Detail of the cards

The rulebook is clear, tightly written, and filled with examples. The game is very easy to learn and after learning the three actions, I found that I didn't need to refer to the rules at all.

Theme
As I was playing this game, I was reminded of games like Twixt, Hex, and other Connection Games. As with most of those games, theme is not an important element to Resitor_. While there is a supercomputer theme, it has little to do with the actual game play. It’s worth noting too that the theme is mildly violent (the end of the game represents a nuclear launch) so some players may wish to modify or ignore the theme - especially if playing with younger children.

Print and Play Information
This game has been published (with much nicer artwork) but a Print and Play version is available here on BGG for those who’d like to try-before-they-buy. The file consists of nine pages of cards and a small box to hold the cards during play. Each sheet contains six double-sided cards. Note that there are a few blank cards on the sheet which are not used during play. The instructions say to cut the cards individually and tape them, but I think the method below is probably a bit easier.

Game crafting in progress

1. Using an X-Acto knife, lightly score the cardstock along the dotted line. Do not cut all the way through the paper.
2. Apply adhesive spray (or glue stick) to the back side of the sheet.
3. Fold the paper along the score line so that the two sides are attached.
4. After the glue dries, use an X-Acto (or scissors) to cut the cards.

Because of the double-sided cards which must be carefully aligned, this game is a little more involved to make than many other card games. However, most people with experience making PNP games could probably craft this in under an hour. The double-thick cardstock feels very sturdy as well.

The graphics in the PNP version of the game are very minimal so there isn’t a lot of ink required to print the game. Most of the cards are composed of white spice with only thin lines of red, blue, and black.

All the PNP cards.

The box used to hold the cards has helpful fold lines and crafts quite easily. I built mine with only a small amount of tape to hold it together. There is plenty of room in the box for all the cards.

Final Comments and Rating
Resistor_ is a very unique game. You have access to the cards in your hand, plus the backside of the cards in your opponent’s hand. Because the cards are double-sided, there is a strong memory element to the game. You’ve got to try and remember the backsides of the cards in your hand, your opponent’s hand, and the cards laid out on the table. Figuring out how to connect the line using your three actions every turn can be a brain burning experience.

A completed game with a victory for the red player.

The game seems like it would lend itself to analysis paralysis, but I’ve found that the limited number of actions and small hand size helps to alleviate some of that for most players. The chaos introduced by the Resistor Cards also helps the game moving along since your carefully developed plans can be totally turned around at a moment’s notice.

The game does have a few small downsides. One thing I encountered fairly often is that the game is literally hard to put to down. Because you can’t see the back of your cards and your opponent can’t see the front of them, it is hard to find a way to set them on the table if you need to take a bathroom break or leave the table for a moment.

Also, the game can occasionally fall to a runaway leader syndrome. Once a player connects a line it can be challenging for the opposing player to modify the cards enough to make it difficult for the first player to simply reconnect the line. While Resistor cards can change the board very quickly, without them the board changes much more slowly so a player can accumulate points pretty quickly once the initial connection is made. Thankfully, Resistor Cards are pretty common so it’s usually not too difficult to get out of this situation.

These negative points are not significant compared to the awesomeness of the rest of the game though. This is a terrific blend of strategic planning with some chaos thrown in. I use the word chaos because there are elements of the game that you can’t predict when they’ll occur, but even those are mitigated by your ability to remember what is on the opposite side of the cards that get flipped. Overall, I found the game to be a lot of fun. It plays pretty quickly but still scratches the strategic itch.

When I played, we actually had a lot of laughs over the game because of the crazy things that could happen. Once, I was so focused on connecting my line that I didn’t notice that I had accidentally connected my opponent’s line too. Another time, a Resistor Card that I played flipped over cards that very nearly connected my opponent to my computer. Things like this happen more often than you might expect and keep the game feeling more lighthearted and exciting than an abstract strategy normally would. Whether you print this yourself or buy the published version, I highly recommend that you check it out.
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Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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If you're interested, you can also check out my interview with my interview with one of the game's designers, Nicole Kline.
Interview with Nicole Kline - Designer of RESISTOR_
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