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Subject: Wow! Top Ten Reasons to Gush Over Triplock rss

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Barry Miller
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Game: Triplock
Publisher: Chip Theory Games
Designers: Adam Carlson and Josh Carlson
Players: 1 or 2 (with official variants for co-op and 3 players)

This is a review of sorts. It's "of sorts" because you won’t find the typical regurgitation of how to play the game along with an itemized component listing, all followed by a single paragraph review. And for that matter, you won’t even find a review of the gameplay itself – not one’s that’s thorough and intelligent, anyway. Instead, (spoiler alert) I’m simply compelled to gush about the superb product, called ‘Trip Lock’. And I don’t gush often.

With that, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Gush Over Trip Lock (including one nitpick), in no particular order:


1) The Artwork.

Artwork across the boardgame industry continually improves. And Josh Carlson’s art for Triplock has only accelerated the pace of improvement. To say that he’s risen the bar for photo-realism in boardgames would be an understatement. Though, I guess I could be wrong… perhaps the stunning Charlie Beckwith, or the ultra-gritty “Axe” Derrenger, or the red tinted glasses and beard of Doctor Elliott are actually photos of actual people, photoshopped to give them that “close to real” look. But assuming this not to be the case, then the artwork alone does a superb job of immersing the players into the theme (more on that later).

Also, assuming the that Josh Carlson credited with the artwork is the same Josh Carlson who's credited as one of the game's designers, then this only adds to the accomplishment! It makes one wonder if he’s an artist who designs games only as a vehicle to showcase his art, or if he’s a game designer first who does his own artwork to save a buck! Either way, it all works. The only thing about the art being so realistic is that for some reason, Charlie is always my go-to character! (Whoops… was that my “out loud” voice)?

Finally, if the artwork really is nothing more than photoshopped images, then I wonder how much did Johnny Depp charge for that picture on page 14 of the rulebook?


2) The Theme and Backstory.

If you ever want an example of how to incorporate theme into what’s most certainly an abstract game by any definition, then look no further! Yes, the theme is strong with this one (sorry… ‘Star Wars’ is everywhere right now). Being an abstract game, who would’ve thunk that theme could hold such a presence? Successfully pasting a strong theme onto an abstract game is akin to marketing the Pet Rock. Yet Josh and Adam managed to pull it off very nicely! The theme lives through both the evocative artwork and the extensive storyline presented via the large Character Story and Location cards.

But let me be clear… there’s a difference between a thematic game and a game with a theme. ‘Triplock’ is definitely the latter. In other words, can this game be played completely without any reference to, or of any theme whatsoever? Of course it can. Still, that the theme is strong and actually enhances the play experience is the point. Quite an achievement for an abstract game.


3) Multiplayer and Solitaire Play Seamlessly Integrated from Day One.

‘Triplock’ presents two modes of play - multiplayer and solitaire/co-op. It’s obvious that both were equally integrated into the game’s design from day one. (And by the way, although the rulebook includes a variant for three players, in the context of this review, “multiplayer” means two players). Unlike most multiplayer games which have a solitaire mode - even if added during the design process - it’s almost impossible to tell if Triplock was designed as a multiplayer game which accommodates solo play, or as a solo game which accommodates multiplayer play! (Though see item #6). This is a rare game that simply feels just as natural no matter the mode of play!


4) The Two Different Colored Dice.


Yeah, you bet that I noticed this little gem of a feature! Considering that the faces of both dice are exactly the same, I immediately wondered,
Huh? Why are the dice different colors?
Then the lightbulb turned on... “Of course!
This feature facilitates the gameplay by enabling a more intuitive way keep track of which die is being used for what… or which die has already been used for what. It makes one wonder why more publishers don’t do this.


5) The Challenging Gameplay.

If your memory is good, this game will be fun as you’ll thoroughly enjoy the workout. Plus there’s the thrill of beating your opponent in a delightful test of memorization and spatial awareness! Unless... unless he/she beats you first! Because (shhh!) the big secret is that memory isn’t everything in this game! And that bears repeating…

Memory isn’t everything in this game. Whew, that’s a relief! So if you’re the type who can never remember which side of your car the gas goes into, worry not. Because Triplock provides other avenues of approach and mitigation tactics to help overcome an opponent with a superior memory. Note that the game is a race, really, and the fastest to complete either five diagrams or acquire ten points, wins. So those with a lackluster memory will want to shoot for completing five 1-point diagrams as quickly as possible. Doing this requires ZERO memory skill! At the same time, “Mr. Memory” - your opponent - will likely go for the 4 or 5 point diagrams which take a little more time and mental effort to complete, but so worth it if able!

There are other mitigation techniques worth mentioning, such as using your “Skill Bead” to gain an easy 2 points. Except that doing so costs you three valuable turns of game time as the glass bead spends those turns dedicated to only that one outcome. This of course is at the expense of other things it could be doing for you instead… such as blocking your opponent from gaining his two points! Note that you can always "re-task" your Skill Bead" to another purpose at any time, but again at the expense of losing any progress made to that point for the current task. Ah, many delicious decisions.


Solitaire/Co-op Play

And finally, let’s not forget the solitaire game! Now, this is a cognition test in the very best of ways. But first, let’s face it… solitaire players enjoy punishing themselves. Many will say that if they win a game one out of five - or even one out of ten - times, that there’s no satisfaction to be had in such an “easy” game. So where does Triplock fall for such players? Ha! I’m not the one to ask as I don’t enjoy self flagellation as much as other solitaire players do. Still, with that in mind, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my solitaire plays and have found them quite challenging and fun.

Out of the box, the game comes with a solitaire scenario called “The Station” which presents the player with a series of challenges (aka “Rooms”) to be tackled in sequential order. Each Room offers a step-up in difficulty from the previous. Note that some of the rooms also accommodate cooperative play.

Winning each room requires spending just as much "memory energy" as those before it, but with ever-increasing pressure constraints placed upon the player. Yeah, the fun never stops! Thus while many of the actual diagrams to be completed in Triplock might fall into the “easy” category for co-op or the hardcore solitaire players mentioned above, the ever-increasing pressure felt as you progress from room to room results in an extremely satisfying solitaire experience nonetheless! Then on top of all that - if that's too easy for you - there’s also a “Challenge” mode which I discuss under, “Replayability”.


6) Additional Expansion Scenarios for the Solo Game.

The existence of, and the quality that went into producing the three expansion scenarios is perhaps the only reason I might suspect ‘Trip Lock’ was born as a solitaire game first, with an accompanying goal for it also to be a two-player game. The expansion scenarios come complete with creative backstories, more superb artwork, and new, very creative ways for the game to challenge the player. Three solitaire expansions are currently part of the line-up. And as with the ‘The Station’, the expansion scenarios also accommodate co-op play.


7) Replayability.

By definition, abstract games are infinitely replayable. And this is where the two-player version of Triplock shines. The solitaire version is also replayable, of course, but over the years, the BGG community has become unforgiving when it comes to the definition of “replayable” (i..e, ‘Chess’ wouldn’t qualify as a replayable game by many current standards). So to help with this, the designers included a “Challenge” mode for all the Solitaire scenarios. Once you’ve accomplished (and beaten) all the solitaire scenarios, then go back and do it again - except now try to beat the “Challenge” mode for each. I imagine it’s akin to playing against the “Nightmare” decks when ‘The Lord of the Rings’ LCG has become too blasé, too easy.


8) Production and Component Quality.

Given the publisher's reputation, why isn’t this higher on the list? Well, because it didn’t occur to me till just now, is why. It is Chip Theory Games (CTG) after all… where SUPERB production and component quality is NOT a surprise.

Even mentioning the notion of quality when it comes to this publisher is more of an afterthought because well, it’s so assumed... sort of like how people have stopped paying attention to New England Patriots wins as their victories have become so routine. (I threw that last bit in there as “comment bait” – only to see if you’re still paying attention).

So without producing an itemized list, let’s very quickly paint a picture of Triplock's quality... From the hefty, nicely colored, and handsome chips; to the functional and perfectly sized neoprene game mat; to the differently colored for no reason glass beads; to the slippery-as-hell plastic coated cards (OK, this can be a bit annoying… but, oh, the quality); to the wholly unnecessary but thoroughly enjoyable Character Story cards which BTW, can also serve double duty as beer coasters; to the dice (I mean, who includes a d6 anymore that isn’t colored your standard red, black, or white? CTG does, that’s who)… and even to the optional double-sided and edge-stitched play mat with its heavy plastic tube case covered with an end to end, full wrap-around vinyl label (exhale now)... the production quality and components literally put other good games to shame. To shame, I tell ya.

Here’s a metric to consider: Other than ‘Mechs vs Minions’ and ‘Too Many Bones’, and excluding games that are nothing more than decks of cards, this is the only game in my substantial collection that I don’t feel compelled to pimp or upgrade.


Playmat (competitive side) w/ Case (Optional Item) >

9) Customer Service.

Bottom Line: The positive attitude embraced by Chip Theory Games while producing for, and serving their customer base is, IMHO, the model for all other publishers to emulate. Period. Their customer service is superb… even if it means they take a loss in the process.

As I haven’t experienced any customer service situations with Triplock, I’ll instead briefly touch on my experience as a customer of Too Many Bones (TMB), another CTG product which one or two of you might've heard of. About 15-20 of my TMB cards were miscut/misprinted, resulting in each being blemished. The degree of blemishes ranged from significant to minor and inconsequential. And given the way the printing process works, this also means that the defective cards were spread among several different decks.

So an email to CTG asking to replace only the major blemished cards saw a very quick reply from Adam. He was all over it. After confirming exactly the cards with issues, he sent replacements for each – even for the minor blemishes – no questions asked! Contrast this experience to that of a friend and a different game where that publisher claimed that because his blemishes were inconsequential to gameplay, there would be no replacement.

Now, of course there are many great boardgame publishers who care about doing customer service right. And they too, will send replacement components free of charge. So CTG isn’t unique in that regard. But it’s the attitude by which CTG goes about it that sets them apart. For instance, less than a week after I received my replacement cards, I received this email from Adam:

I am just writing to follow-up on the package we sent earlier. Please let me know if everything you got was suitable for your replacement needs.
Again, I want to apologize for the need for replacement components. You had a bit of bad luck… and that’s all there is too it. Fortunately, we are here for you!
Please accept our one time credit for $10 on our webstore for all the troubles we have put you through!


Sure, it's probably a canned email, but still, it's a nice touch which I personally haven't seen from other publishers. And then let’s not forget the TMB upgrade pack which CTG offered at cost so TMB 1st edition owners could upgrade their copy to 2nd Edition standards! CTG had no interest in making money off the upgrade pack. All they cared about was that no customer was left behind. Very classy, indeed.

So never mind that the above anecdote is about a different CTG product. The bottom line (again) is that their industry-leading customer service is across the board. As such, I'm confident that any issues with Triplock would be handled with the same enthusiasm and care.


10) I have only one nitpick. (As opposed to the three, five, or ten nitpicks which I manage to harness for most other games).

The last item on my "Top 10 Reasons to Gush", is that I have only one nitpick. And that one nitpick is that the rulebook is a bit nebulous in two areas… 1) How to physically setup the chip stacks for play, and 2) Whether or not both action die results are optional. And those are pretty nitpicky. Other than that, I have zero issues with the rest of the game, the rest of the rulebook, the components, or even the box!

WTG, Chip Theory Games. Yet another home run!


Edit: This post has been edited to fix layout issues and fix some wording for better readability.

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Mark Morrise
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Great review! I received my copy of Triplock plus the three expansions on January 3rd. Last night I read through all the Location Cards and the story text on the Room Cards. It is an intriguing story! See The Triplock story.
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Brian Lewis
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Who are these "Patriots"? Do they have something to do with sportball?

Nice review. meeple
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Crazed Survivor
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Another nitpick is:

The back of the cards is cloudy, difficult to read, which is true for small and big cards, and judging by the pictures, true for the deluxe mat as well but we'll see when I get my hands on it.

Also, the tube from the core game is a joke and getting the mini-mat rolled inside it is only going to damage the edges of the mat.

Finally, solo mode is not very replayable, challenge mode or not. The fact that you have to chain several rooms is a bummer, especially when one of them is close to impossible (Factory Room 3).

Great as a two player competitive game though, even though the characters (most of which are useless solo) are underwhelming.
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Barry Miller
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1) I consider the plastic tube (in the core game) to serve more as a protector for the mat while the game is in transit from the printer to the customer. Though if you roll the mat "snuggly" enough, you can slip it inside the tube without damaging the edge of the mat, as I know what you're talking about! Regardless, I still use it.

And BTW, don't throw that tube away! When you get the large playmat, you'll want to keep the core game mat in that small tube, so that you can "more easily" toss it into the larger tube while the large playmat is rolled-up inside of it.


2) And I'm puzzled why you say that the solo mode isn't replayable? After all, each game is going to be setup differently, so will be a different challenge. Not to mention that you will draw different Diagram cards each game. I'm not a statistician, but the probability of encountering the same starting condition for two different games must be around a millionth of a percent! (I could do the actual math with some effort, but you get the point).


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Jared Chua
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What about shuffling the room cards - one pile for solo and another pile for the co-op rooms and then picking 3-4 solo and one co-op room as the 'boss' with varying amounts of characters: 6-8?

Since you've read the story already you can just treat these rooms as regular rooms or challenges you have to overcome, with a finale encounter

After I complete all the episodes I plan on playing Triplock this way

Or instead of a co-op room as the boss you can just use the challenge mode of the final card
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Charles Bame
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Thanks for the excellent review! I was one of the fortunate people who received the game early (randomly chosen) when they had extras in the early batch, further proof of CTG's concern for the customer.
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