Defusing FUSE

image by BGG user Camdin

One of my goals this year is to revisit some of the games on my shelf and really study them out. So, today, I’m going to talk about FUSE. I first reviewed FUSE back in 2016, and it’s a game I’ve pulled out sporadically over the years. I mentioned in my initial review that I feel like the game plays best as a solo game, and I stick behind that. I’ve played with multiple people a few times, and it just doesn’t click. The one thing I still need to try is two-player because I think that might feel a bit better. Still, solo is currently my preferred way to play.

But what is this game that I prefer to play solo? It’s a real-time dice game where you’re rolling dice and trying to match patterns before the ten-minute timer runs out and you blow up. That’s really all there is to it – you have a set of cards (bombs) that each have a pattern on them, and you need to try to fit the dice you roll into those patterns. Bombs have five levels of difficulty – 1 point, 2 points, 3 points, 4 points, and 6 points. The more points, the harder the conditions are to fulfill.

The game really has no strategy. I shouldn’t say that. It has a little strategy. Most of what it has is speed – your speed in recognizing what dice go where, and in removing them when you’ve defused a bomb or can’t use certain dice (in which case you need to reroll and possibly pull already used stuff off of bombs). The main strategy, as I see it, comes from deciding which bombs you want to use in order to replace stuff you’ve defused. Do you take a really easy 1-pointer so you can hopefully cycle through the bombs quicker at a lower score? Or do you take that 6-pointer for the massive point boost? (Spoiler alert – I almost always take the 6-pointers. They’re pretty fun to complete, and are very valuable to your final score.)

In general, however, the game is a lot of luck, and no amount of strategic planning is going to help you sometimes. If all you’re getting is 4-point cards, you’re going to have a rough time because I think they’re the hardest ones in the game. The 6-point cards require more dice, but they’re always either in stacks or in a pyramid. The 4-pointers usually have stuff like “all dice must be the same color” or “you need dice that are specific numbers and/or colors”, and they are tough.

The game also has some fuse cards that further hinder your progress by making you remove stuff. Six of them are shuffled into the deck, and each one one has a specific die for you to remove. You pull out a blue fuse, you have to remove a blue die (if you have one). You pull out a 3 fuse, you have to remove a die with value 3 (if you have one). If you don’t have the matching die, you just put the fuse card in your score pile and move on. Each one is worth two points, so it’s great when they come out and you don’t have to do anything for them.

In short, the game is mass chaos. You’re trying to defuse bombs, and hoping you get the right dice to do so. What I don’t like about the multiplayer game is that everyone is fighting over dice because each player must take one. Time is ticking away, and you have to discuss what would be best to take. In the solo game, you have more bombs to deal with that are in front of you, but you get three dice to place where you want. That makes it triply devastating when you can’t take any, however.

Renegade Games has an app that covers several of their games. The FUSE is just a timer with a personality voice that makes fun of you as you play. Actually, it’s more like she offers very unhelpful commentary on what you’re doing. There’s also a basic voice that just warns you about how much time is left, but that’s a little boring. My biggest problem with the personality voice is just that she has the same things to say every time you play. It would be cool if she had some variances in her proclamations. The best thing about the app that makes me recommend it more than just using the timer on your phone is that it saves your scores so you can compare how you did.

At the start of this year, I decided to make it a quest to defeat the five levels of difficulty in the solo game. The levels of difficulty add more cards to your bomb pile, so you have to work quicker and more efficiently to succeed. For the solo game, Training gives you 16 bombs, Standard gives you 19, Expert gives you 21, Elite gives you 23, and Insane gives you 25. This is on top of the four you have out in front of you, but you only have to go through the stack to win. Once all that’s left is the four in front of you, you are victorious because those are duds. It took me two tries to defeat Training mode, one try to defeat Standard, three tries to defeat Expert, one try to defeat Elite, and three tries to beat Insane. So, basically I went 5-5, which is pretty good. Some other stats from my campaign:

  • My average score across all ten plays was 77.
  • My lowest score was 44, in my first play on Training. It had been a while since I played, so I was shaking off the rust. My next play on Training was a win with 86 points.
  • My highest score was 94, in my final play on Insane*. That was also the best score I’ve ever had, beating my previous record of 91 (set in 2017 on Standard – I must have beaten that one pretty quickly).
  • My lowest score in a win was 80 on Standard. I had no losses with a higher score than that.
  • My highest score in a loss was 75 on Insane.

So what can I learn from these stats? Honestly, not much. My numbers trended higher as I played, which is to be expected since there were more bombs in play and the potential for more points. But not that much – the difference between my win on Training and my win on Insane was just 8 points, which is weird since I had to defuse 9 more bombs. You do get bonus points for winning quickly, so I probably won faster there. I didn’t keep track of times, and the app doesn’t either, which would also be a nice feature.

OK, I think I’ve rambled on enough. I think this is a really fun game and I enjoy playing it. I do like a chunk of chaos in my games, and real-time stuff appeals to me. I also recognize this not a genre that is for everyone, so I’d say to be sure you think about that.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!

(*I realized after I wrote this article that Insane mode requires you to defuse all bombs, including the ones in front of you. So my “Victory” on Insane mode has to have an asterisk. I’ll take it anyway.)

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