With thanks to BGG user tasurinchi for use of image
At Essen 2012, an attractive game about pigeons caught my eye and I found myself hovering around the booth of small French publisher, Ludocom. Upon purchasing two of their titles, Arriala: Canal de Garonne and Columba (the afore-mentioned pigeon game), I was delighted to be given a free gift of the disarmingly pink Baby Boom. The box-cover immediately screamed "Bomberman" and subsequent reading of the rules confirmed that this was indeed the inspiration. Baby Boom is a dice game where you don't roll any dice. The numbers on the dice represent the ticking down of the clock, as each individual die approaches detonation. The key thing to consider is where will the die be when it explodes, and how many opponents can it take with it?
Very Brief Summary of the Rules
Each player has a number of dice on a small 5x5 grid, varying according to number of players. On a player's turn, they must move one of their dice one space, and turn it to the next lowest facing on the die (e.g. a die, with 5 showing, moves one space and "counts down" to 4). So the dice of each player gradually count down until they reach the lowest value, which is illustrated by an explosion. Players can push an opponent's die if it is currently showing a lower value on the uppermost face, than that of the pusher. When a die detonates it destroys all dice in both the horizontal line which it occupies, and the vertical line too. The exploding dice remains on the board for final scoring. When one player remains with un-exploded dice on the board, the round ends and the final scoring occurs. Each player scores points according to the total of all the face-up numbers on their dice remaining on the board. 3 rounds are played, and the player with the highest total score wins.
The game offers two variants. The first introduces an element of luck into what is, so far, an entirely strategic affair. In variant 1, when a dice detonates, a dice is rolled to determine the distance the blast extends and thus determining how many opponents this takes out. This adds tension to the game, and can lead to players taking risks, exploding dice when in-line with potential victims of their own colour. It also means that placement of dice becomes a little more cautious; now players must think about proximity to opponents dice, not just being in-line. The second variant introduces conveyor belts, pit-traps, exploding devices, walls, etc. These tiles are placed on the grid by each player in turn, before the round begins. They add a chaotic element to the round, and create new tactical decisions since you are no longer just avoiding your opponents, but also other hazards and obstacles. There is a constant threat that you will be pushed into a trap.
The tiny box contains a similarly tiny board with a 5x5 grid, a bunch of dice in four player colours, a few tiles, a tiny rulebook and well... that's it. The dice and tiles are sturdy. The rulebook is clear. The graphics are garish, but they are reminiscent of the Bomberman aesthetic, so it all adds to the flavour.
How well does the theme hold up?
To anyone who has played Bomberman on a games console, this will seem immediately familiar. The game has been streamlined, in its transition to board-game format, to keep the quick-playing pace of the original game. Hence, the counters here are not bomb-carriers as in the console game, but the bombs themselves. This works well, because every single move pushes the game along to its final conclusion. There is no rest-up. The pacing is excellent: the early game is full of tactical positioning, and when one bomb goes off, you can be sure several others will follow in quick succession resulting in the end of the round before you know it.
Two games in the Bomberman video game series, with thanks to VGG user project matter for use of image
The rules are extremely simple, but this game is not brain-dead. There are many options for tactical decisions, and it instills a chess-like focus and concentration in the initial moments, before the chaos of the explosions ensues. It is however, simple enough for any player to pick up: ideal for kids, families, non-gamers. It is ideal as a short filler for gamers too.
The Luck factor
The basic game, without variants, has no luck at all - odd for a game featuring many dice! The first variant adds a hefty dose of luck, but it still doesn't turn it into a mindless game of chance - there are still many tactical decisions to be made. This variant adds tension and excitement. The second variant doesn't add any luck, and could be played in combination with the first variant, for more tension.
Number of players
In my view, the game is most interesting with 3-4 players, but it can be played fine with 2. With the larger player-counts, there are quite a few opportunities for king-making. Often a player will have the choice of moving their dice in any of four different directions to detonate, which means they can specifically pick on a chosen opponent if they so wish. Clearly in a 2 player game, this option is not available.
Will my non-gamer partner enjoy it?
Yes, although it is very short. It would be a good game to play in a cafe, pub, hotel etc. It's very portable.
With thanks to BGG user styren for use of image
What other games is it like?
It belongs to the same family as Chess - i.e. moving your own pieces strategically, to remove other player's pieces from the board. Beyond that (weak) comparison, I can't think of any other games which have similar mechanics.
I think, with more lavish production, this game could rival the most popular "take-that" filler titles, such as King of Tokyo. The game runs quicker, offers some excitement and tension, and has a retro-console-game familiarity.
I think the countdown mechanic of the bombs is very clever, and would like to see it used in a bigger release. The game would function well with a bigger grid, more obstacles, more players, different sized explosions (4 sided dice, 8 sided, 12 sided etc.), more traps and hazards. With the low level of luck currently present, the game could also withstand the introduction of a little more luck - special powers for individual players, event cards etc. There is a lot that could be done with this mechanic, and I hope that first-time designer, Max Valembois, gets an opportunity to revisit it at some point in the future.
- Low on luck, high on strategy
- High nostalgia value for Super Bomberman
- Very easy to teach
-Very small production leaves only a tiny arena
- Game is over before it really begins
- Only a very limited selection of hazard-tiles available
Is it a keeper?
It's a good filler game, to start an event, end an event, or fill a space between bigger games. It's not mindless - there are plenty of decisions to be made, and the conflict is direct, resulting in a lot of interaction. I love the counting-down bomb mechanic, and would like to see it incorporated into a bigger release, with more lavish production.
See my other reviews at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146115/europhile-reviews-a...
It would be too big to use in its entirety, but I'd wager the board from Mutant Meeples - sections of it - could make an interesting combo with the mechanics.
Interesting read, thanks! Very tempted to hunt down a copy, now.