Bomb Squad is a 2-6 player cooperative real time board game where players are a team of operatives controlling a robot that diffuses bombs and saves hostages. Bomb Squad is designed by Dan Keltner and David Short, published by Tasty Minstrel Games. Players take turns doing various actions, whether it is giving a teammate a clue about their hand or programming the robot. Play continues until time runs out, the robot’s reserve battery goes to zero, or players fulfill the mission conditions. In the last case, players win the game!
Bomb Squad uses an action and movement programing mechanic to control the robot as well as hand management with a twist: players must face their hands out toward their other teammates. In other words, each player does not know their individual hands, only the hands of their teammates.
One of the actions that players can do is give clues to a teammate’s hand; for example, show their teammate which cards in their hand are red or which ones are move cards. Another action a player can do is play a card into the programming queue for the robot. In regular missions, players have to do this face down, so only their teammates know if it was the right card. Thirdly, a player can discard a card and name an attribute of the card to recharge the robot battery. Lastly, a player can program the robot by turning over the cards in the robot program queue and arranging them as needed in order to move the robot, open doors, disarm bombs, or save hostages.
What makes Bomb Squad stand out from other cooperative games is that it is real time. You have to make fast and frantic decisions, as the time ticks down. Players who have analysis paralysis beware, you cannot take time thinking about the optimal move, you must go on instinct. While there are other real time cooperative games out there, what I love about Bomb Squad is the replay value of the game. There are 11 missions and 2 tutorial missions, and they are hard. It took my group 3 tries to finish the 2nd tutorial mission. You will likely have to play each mission at least twice, depending on how fast your team thinks.
There is also a modular board, so later missions will have a larger board and thus a harder set. No mission is longer than 30 minutes, so even if you lose one of the harder missions, you can reset easily and try again. The modular board is a very tight fit though, we had to force the pieces to close. Otherwise, the component quality is very good. The various tokens are thick and the cards shuffle well. There are no colorblind issues because the cards are primary colors and they have levels that correspond with the color.
I like to say that Bomb Squad is like Hanabi meets Robo Rally in cooperative real time. The outward hands plus having a time limit makes for a very different strategy than Hanabi, and discarding cards does not yield bad penalties. It also varies than Robo Rally in that you don’t have to worry about turning the robot, which definitely helps for those that have a harder time with spatial reasoning.
Bomb Squad is a very solid cooperative game that will leave you sweating at the end. Having to make frantic decisions has the time ticks down holds to the theme very well. Gamers that want a challenging cooperative game will certainly enjoy Bomb Squad.
I was provided a review copy for Bomb Squad.