Buzzworthiness: FUSE

A few months ago, I won a copy of today’s game in a Twitter contest.  And now that I finally have a chance to, here’s the review!

image by BGG user Camdin
image by BGG user Camdin

FUSE is a real-time cooperative game designed by Kane Klenko and published by Renegade Games.  It’s for 1-5 players and takes 10 minutes to play.  Intruders have invaded your ship, and have planted bombs.  You don’t have time to evacuate – you must defuse them all in ten minutes.

FUSE comes with 25 dice, 65 cards, and a dice bag.  Additionally, you’ll need a timer – a free app is available, but you can use any timer.  To set up the game, all 25 dice go in the dice bag and you deal out two cards to every player, making sure that at least one of them is level 1 or 2.  In the solo game, you get four cards, needing at least three levels represented among them.  You then build a deck of bomb cards based on the number of players and level of difficulty, then deal four of those to the center of the table.  Finally, you’ll shuffle six random FUSE cards into the deck.  When you’re ready to start, hit the timer.  You have ten minutes.

image by BGG user aldrichb
image by BGG user aldrichb

FUSE is played in real-time, so there are no turns.  One player takes the bag and draws out as many dice as there are players (3 in a one-player game, 4 in a two-player game).  He rolls them, then everyone can claim one die (you get all three in the one-player game, and both players get two in a two-player game).  Dice taken are placed on one of the bomb cards in front of you, which look like this:

collage of images by BGG user Scott Gaeta
collage of images by BGG user Scott Gaeta

All bomb cards have a value of 1-6 (no 5s), and the number indicates both their difficulty and how many points the card is worth.  Each one has different conditions to be successfully defused.  The top left bomb (value 1) requires two dice of the same color, and two dice of the same number.  The top right bomb (value 2) requires a red die, a 2, a black die, and a 6.  For both of these bombs, the dice can be added in any order.  For the bottom left bomb (value 2), you need to build a pyramid, with a red and a green die on the bottom and a blue die on top. For the bottom right bomb (value 3), you need to stack three dice – blue, then black, then red.  The value 6 bombs require six dice, and you’ll either be building a three-level pyramid or making two stacks of three dice each.

When all dice have been claimed and placed, pass the bag to the next person who then draws the number of dice and rolls them.  If any dice are ever unclaimed, they must be rerolled one at a time, and then all players lose a die either of the same color or number as the rerolled die.  If you have no dice that match the color or number, you don’t lose anything.  As you complete bombs, you set them aside into a score pile and take a new one from the center.  The new bomb is immediately replaced from the stack.  There is a possibility that you will draw a FUSE card, which will indicate a color or number.  All players must lose a die either of that color or number from one of their bombs if they have one.  You then draw a new card until there are once again four available bombs.

When all bombs have been taken out of the center, the game ends and your team wins.  You will still have bombs in front of you, but that’s OK – they turned out to be duds.  However, if time runs out before you clear the center, your ship explodes.  In either case, you add up the points of defused bombs plus two per FUSE card you activated to see how you did.

image by BGG user LaborLawLarry
image by BGG user LaborLawLarry

COMPONENTS: There are three main components to the game – the cards, the dice, and the bag.  The cards are well laid out and the symbology used is quite intuitive.  If you’re color blind, you will have issues with the game, but generally, it’s easy to understand what’s going on.  The cards are pretty god quality, but as this is a speed game and you’ll be grabbing cards quickly, it’s probably a good idea to sleeve them.  I did, and this game has the honor of being the first game I ever sleeved. (This is a good time to recommend the Sleeve Size GeekList at BGG)

The dice don’t have pips on them, just numbers in a digital font.  This is probably the best for a game like this where you need to know what the numbers are immediately.  A lot of experienced gamers don’t have to count pips, but numbers makes the game much more accessible.  The dice bag is of a good quality, and it has a wide enough mouth that you can easily reach in.  I have pretty big hands, and mine fit inside with no problem.

I would recommend keeping the box around during the game to roll in.  You don’t have time to go looking around for dice that go bouncing off the table, and the box makes a good dice tray.  Of course, if you have your own dice tray, feel free to use that, but use something with walls on it.

One final component that is not included, but easy to get, is the timer app.  It’s free, and does the job of counting down.  You can use a basic voice or a personality voice that mocks you and gets more and more hysterical as the timer gets closer to zero.  Plus, the app allows you to save your scores so you can compare how you did at a later time.

THEME: Trying to defuse bombs quickly is a good framing device for the game, but it falls apart a bit if you think about it.  It’s weird that all of the bombs left when the center is clear turned out to be duds, and it’s strange that you can lose progress throughout the game.  But, there’s only ten minutes, so don’t think about it too hard.

MECHANICS: This game is all about dice rolling and pattern matching.  By having it so each player can only take one die per round, it means that communication is vital to your success.    Real-time cooperative games are the best at combatting the alpha player problem that so many people complain about.  In FUSE, no one can be in charge because the time is flying and everyone has to be responsible for their own bombs.

The FUSE cards provide a little random chaos in the game, meaning you’ll occasionally just lose a random die from your card.  Unclaimed dice also could wreak havoc on your tableau.

Overall, the game plays simply – roll, claim, hopefully defuse.  Repeat until you win or blow up.

STRATEGY LEVEL: FUSE is a dice game, and therefore it’s really difficult to strategize what you’re doing.  You should try to fill in spaces that will be tougher first – if you need a blue 4, don’t use a blue four die on a space that just needs a 4.  But really, this game is very in the moment and you have to just go with it.

ACCESSIBILITY: The game is not difficult to learn.  The symbology is very intuitive, and gameplay is easy to grasp.  The game can be difficult right from the beginning, but you can also level it up for more of a challenge.  The rules suggest taking out the level 6 bombs when first learning, but I think those are the most fun.

REPLAYABILITY: This game is very replayable, partially because it’s so tough, and partially because it’s so quick.  Also, it’s a lot of fun in the right setting.

SCALABILITY: You can play FUSE with 1-5 players, and while BGG says that 4 is best, my experience is that I really like it more as a solo game.  I think my multiplayer experiences have been marred by people who didn’t really want to play, but the game does become more difficult with more people as you need to squabble over the dice sometimes.

INTERACTION: In multiplayer games, communication is key.  Everyone is working on their own bombs, but you have to be smart about dividing the dice.  Sometimes that means taking a hit so someone can finish a bomb.

FOOTPRINT: The game doesn’t take up a lot of space – 2-4 cards in front of the players, and four in the center.  A smallish table should work fine.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I like FUSE a lot, but then, I like real-time games.  If you’re not a fan of the genre, I doubt this will change your mind.  To me, it’s a fun, frantic, tense game and I look forward to playing it more as time goes on.

Thanks for reading!

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