Short Fuses and Heart Attacks--A Double-Take Review of Bomb Squad

Today's review is Bomb Squad, that's right you've graduated from Bomb Squad: Academy and made it on the squad. Lucky you. Bomb Squad is a co-operative game played in real time. Players have to work together to program their bomb-diffusing robot to rescue all of the hostages, and/or disarm all the bombs before time runs out! So is Bomb Squad an explosive hit or a big fat dud? Let's find out!


The Components

The game consists of modular boards, cards, and lots of punch board tokens. The tokens represent everything from your bomb-diffusing robot, to doorways, to the bombs themselves. The modular boards are double-sided, so there are plenty of options for maps. 


The Gameplay

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Each player has a hand of cards that allow the robot to turn, or open a door or disarm a bomb, or rescue a hostage. Everyone is programming the robot in turn, but you can't see you own hand--a la Hanabi but more stressful. You're giving intel to other playersa bout their hands, playing a card, or activating the robot, all done while holding your cards face out so you are unable to see what you have in your own hand. Meanwhile the penalties for a bad play are potentially devastating, causing you to drain your robot's battery even faster than normal, which can cripple your efforts. Your selection of cards is important because certain doorways can only be opened by playing certain colors of cards, and the same set of rules applies for disarming bombs. You're also trying to determine the best path to send the robot on as it travels through the building's rooms in order to save the day. Oh, yeah, did we mention this is all done in real time, so you're timed?! 

The game ends when:

  • A bomb detonates and the building explodes.
  • The robot disarms the last bomb. 
  • The Reserve Battery falls below zero.

The game comes with two training missions and 12 regular missions of escalating complexity and difficulty. More rooms. More obstacles. More bombs. More hostages. And let me tell you: even the "easy" missions are a challenge. We consistently got our butts handed to us. 


The App

The game features a companion app that will countdown in real time to the detonation of the bomb(s). You tell it the scenario you're playing, and when you're ready to start freaking out, hit start and off you go! It works really well, and helps ratchet up the tension. You can just use a regular timer, though.


The Verdict

Jeremiah--First of all, let's address the Hanabi comparison. Yes the game play will feel similar to Hanabi, mechanically. You hold your cards facing away from you, you give intel in a non-direct way, and you wince as everyone holds their breath while you decide to play a card. While that may seem like a lot, that's about where the similarity ends. The pressure is ON! And even the introductory scenario of this game is ready and waiting to hand you your rear end on a silver platter! The theme is much more intense, and the stakes are higher! 

Firestone--Yeah, Bomb Squad 's cardplay is very similar to Hanabi, but this isn't nearly as elegant. But Bomb Squad is more than just the cardplay. There's also the programming. And the real-time aspect. And the scenarios. So I wouldn't spend much time worrying about how similar they are--they're different beasts. 

Jeremiah--If I had one complaint about the game it would be that the scenarios can take some time to setup which is repaid by a quick gameplay due to the real-time aspect, so there have been instances when setup takes nearly as much time as it does to play.

Firestone--We definitely felt the same way. But it gives you a good reason to play a few times, since it's already set up. 

Jeremiah--The artwork, and graphic design are about what you'd expect for a game in this theme/genre, and the component quality is spot on!

Firestone--I had a couple of problems with the components. First, the Mission Briefings book has four scenarios on each spread, and that makes for SMALL pictures. Maybe it's just these old eyes of mine, but I had a hard time figuring out how to set up the scenarios. Second, and the bigger problem, is that the board frame doesn't fit the scenarios that only have two tiles. That includes the two training missions, and the first three regular missions--leaving seven missions with the larger frame where everything fits just fine. You can make the 2-tiles fit, but you have to be very careful or you'll rip the tiles. Tasty Minstrel is offering replacement frames for anyone affected, so don't let this keep you from the game if it interests you. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--While the setup time can be a bit of a setback, if you're up for trying to run through a few scenarios in a night, they're subsequently easier to set up. Be sure you have a great grasp of the rules before the game starts because there's no time to stop and explain once the timer starts! Bomb Squad is a hectic, stressful, pulse-pounding good time!  

Firestone's Final Verdict--I'm not a huge fan of real-time games, but this is one of the better ones I've played. It's a challenging, frantic race that keeps the pressure up across the multiple missions. Personally, I liked the stretch goal extra game, Bomb Squad Academy, better but if you like real-time cooperative games, definitely consider Bomb Squad. 

Theology of Games would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing review copies of Bomb Squad. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 

What are your thoughts on Bomb Squad? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!