Switchboard - A Solo PnP Puzzle
I'm always searching for new PnP games to keep my self busy these days. I found Switchboard - another Mark Tuck game - while purusing winners of the 2019 9 Card winners. Yes, this is a really cool yearly competition. Switchboard came in third. The only place I could find a copy was on the Random Skills website. For a small price of $0.99 - I was off to the printer and busy making my 9 card deck. (I was also able to download three other games for the comforting price of FREE!)
With the 9 card deck - 6 different colored cubes are added in pairs making 12 total cubes. One cube of a color represents the incoming call and the other matching color represents the recipient. Three six sided dice are used for "time" counters. The goal of the game is to connect the calls before time runs out. Seems simple enough.
The game is played over three rounds. First with 4 calls; then 5; then 6. All three dice are set at 3 and when they get to zero - they are removed from the game. Dice are not reset between rounds.
The game is set up each round by making a 3x3 grid with the cards and randomly placing the colored cubes on the incoming sides - bottom and left - and matching cubes radomly chosen and set on the recipient sides - top and right. The directions picture the starting spaces and are very clear on where they go for each round.
There are 4 moves - Swap a card (2 seconds); Rotate a card (1 second); Swap cubes of the same type that are connected - incoming swap with incoming/receiving swap with receiving (1 second); Move a cube along a cord to an empty space of the same type (1 second.)
Each cube move or rearrangement/rotation of cards cost time that is reduced on the player's choice of cube. Once a connection is made - cubes of same color - those cubes are removed. Call connection "cords" passing through connection circles add time back onto the dice - player's choose which die, but seconds cannot be split and cannot exceed 6. If a die goes to zero - it is removed from the game.
Round two the cards are shuffled and reset in the 3x3 grid. The Priority cubes are added into the setup. These cubes must be connected first before other connections are made.
Round three adds the Emergency cubes. Emergency cubes must be connected first - then Priority - only then the player may start connecting and removing other colored cubes.
This game is so simple on the component and design side. I'd suggest that there is no need to even bother with the colored cards. They play no role except to help a seasoned player know the cards at a quick glance. There is an icon that identifies cards that are symetrical and have no benefit in the rotation action. In short - the design is straight forward and direct. No fluff here.
The theme makes the goal of the game obvious. The lines are cord/wire connections. The circles and colors are a bit less theme oriented. This really is an abstract game/puzzle. "Switchboard" is a theme that could be replaced with Hunter/Prey or any other combination that is similar. The cords do have branches that are a bit less clear - on which way is the call traveling - which the branches effect - is also a bit less clear. The theme offers little help. Incoming vs recipient - the incoming is to the hotel switchboard - and the recipient is in the room at the hotel. I had to reread the flavor text to redefine that in my mind - even though left to right was intuitive and I did play it that way. But like electricity - does the electron travel toward the negative?
This is a VERY puzzley game. You must visualize how card movement/cube movement/and position movement works in your favor. Meanwhile, there are the time dice to manage. My first play through I could barely get one connection made. I suggest that the dice be ignored for the first few plays. I believe that would offer enough puzzle for most. As a player gets more experience - the timing dice will force a smarter approach.
The one difficulty is that moving the cards does make the game and play pieces get messy. There is a bit of fiddling with pieces and cards and knocking things about. I see no way to make that better. As players get better their ability to visualize each move without actually moving cards will be rewarded with faster play.
Is this worth the $0.99 and the time it takes to craft. Definitely. Honestly, I make a lot of PnP games - and I really only review the ones that are worth it. Thanks Mark Tuck for another great little puzzle to add to my collection and visit Random Skills Games and see all the great PnP games they host on the site.