Let us all hope that students learning to defuse bombs in real life are far less reckless than me and my play group were during this game.
Bomb Squad Academy is a game for 2 to 5 players, designed by Josh Cappel and Daniel Rocchi. It’s another small-box game from Tasty Minstrel Games and offers more than it’s diminutive size would initially suggest.
You and the other players are cadets at the Retro City Bomb Squad and the Academy instructor has rigged 3 training bombs for you and your other classmates to try to defuse. However because this is a training exercise all 3 bombs will explode – eventually. It is up to you to show your value to the instructors, cut the right wires at the right time, get the most points and graduate at the top of your class.
Will you risk the bomb exploding and cut one of the 4 coloured wires by playing one of your Cutter cards?
There are 4 decks of cards (green, blue, red, yellow) representing the four different wires of the bomb. Each deck contains cards with different values on them. As these cards are flipped the number on the card will progress the Trigger Track beside each deck. This track shows how close that wire is to possibly setting off the explosion. As you cut these wires you will get the points listed on the card, plus 1 point for each additional previous cut on that wire (by you or another player).
Under each track, 3 Trigger Tiles are shuffled – two of them are blank and one of them actually triggers the bomb. When you get to the end of a Trigger Track, the trigger progresses onto the Trigger Tiles.
On your turn you have to decide which of your cards to play. Will you risk the bomb exploding and cut one of the 4 coloured wires by playing one of your Cutter cards, will you play your Wait card and strategically choose one wire that cannot be cut this turn (collecting 3 points for your prudent and careful bomb defusing strategy), or will you chicken out and get to peek at how close some of the wires are to exploding?
The first round ends when the bomb finally does explode. Relax! It’s just a training bomb! Any player who played their Chicken card this turn is awarded 5 points for correctly predicting when the bomb would go off and impressing their Academy instructors with their careful attention to safety.
The 2nd and 3rd round amps up the excitement with the addition of Pressure Plates that move around from wire to wire and provide additional bonus points for those wires when they are cut, and the introduction of randomly drawn Tools cards that provide a powerful one-time use to help augment your other decisions in the game.
The game is played until 3 bombs explode and the player with most points graduates to the top of the class and wins the game.
The game itself provides a delightful amount of tension.
I should mention that I am a big, BIG fan of Josh Cappel. As a graphic designer, of 20+ years, I spend most of my day looking at the world for good design/layout and examining the effectiveness of art and design in everything from advertisements, restaurant menus, billboard signs - and board game artwork. For a number of years, I’ve been a big fan of Josh’s amazing work on board game titles like Garden Dice, Burrows, Pirates vs Dinosaurs, Kings of Air and Steam, Scoville, and Wasabi. He is my favourite board game artist working in the industry so I was excited to get my hands on this game that he did the artwork for and co-designed. The artwork for Bomb Squad Academy doesn’t disappoint. Josh’s style makes the Tools cards in this game come to life.
The game itself provides a delightful amount of tension. I was surprised by this because during the game, you can always see how many more spaces that a wire must progress on The Trigger Track before it explodes. But the tension comes from not knowing and/or trying to predict what the other players are going to do. If you all decide to cut the same wire, then what seemed like a safe, fool-proof choice, could well… explode in all your faces!
Adding to the tension in the game are the Tools cards. These include things like a bomb shield, a scrambler, bomb blanket or wire crimper. They add quite a bit of excitement into the game as your opponents might play them at any time to mess with your plans.
The game is a lot of fun! I’m thrilled to have it my collection and can’t wait to show it to more and more people! The game is quick and easy to set-up and to learn/teach.
Because each round can be quite different, the game length might change quite a bit from game to game (the box says 20 to 40 minutes and I think that is mostly accurate). One round might inch along as players try to fake eachother out and strategically cut wires, worrying about the bomb exploding. The next round could be over in 1 turn if everyone chooses the same wire to cut. This is part of the fun of Bomb Squad Academy - you just never know what is going to happen!
As with all Tasty Minstrel Games, the components are top quality. This almost goes without saying now when discussing TMG titles.
We’ve not played it with 5 players yet, but I have a feeling that the game may lag a little as players consider all the possibilities of what opponents may or may not do. However, a 5-player game of Bomb Squad Academy still appeals to me for all the added tension and uncertainty that I think it would provide.
My biggest complaint about this game is the size of the box. Normally, I am a fan of the smaller box/micro-games and the efficient use of shelf-space. In this case, as a compulsive card-sleever, when the cards are sleeved there is just no way to get them all back in the box with the other components. I know this can be really annoying for some collectors but it’s just mildly irritating in my opinion. I have put my copy (including the original box) in an old Carcassonne expansion box. One day I will probably scan in the box art and make this box look like the original.
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and about Tasty Minstrel Games on their website.
My Game Rating: 7.9 out of 10