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Circuit Breaker Kickstarter Preview


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Designer: Peter Mariutto
Artist: Peter Mariutto
Publisher: Freshwater Game Company

Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Circuit Breaker. All components and rules are subject to change. The Circuit Breaker campaign starts on Kickstarter on October 16, 2018.

From the publisher: 
Circuit Breaker is a casual strategy game that can be played solo or with up to two other friends. All players attempt to successfully re-wire their own houses in time for a hastily scheduled house party, and they score points by connecting a variety of quirky electrical doodads to their home circuits. Resource management and a crafty rodent will be put to use in a fun and cheeky race to be the most "happening" place on the block.

***

TL;DR - Sometimes less is more, and I believe that is certainly the case with Circuit Breaker. The game has been streamlined and simplified since I reviewed the initial version of the game, and all for the better. I commend Freshwater Game Company for making some changes and launching with a much better version of the game.

***

As a reviewer with Everything Board Games, I have been afforded opportunities to participate in various aspects of the game development process. I have been a playtester, a design consultant, a game design judge, a YouTube contributor, a Kickstarter strategist, and obviously a reviewer of a final product. But in each of the differing roles, I rarely get to see a game in more than one of these stages. Either I help at the beginning or review at the end, so I see usually only see one version of any given game. 

Back in June of 2018, I had the opportunity to preview the original Circuit Breaker, and there was a lot to that version of the game. There was dice placement, set collection, tile laying, hand management, and card drafting. At the time, I described it as, "one of those appetizer sampler plates that you order when you can't decide if you want six spring rolls, egg rolls, or dumplings, so you get two of each."

Between that preview and now, Freshwater Game Company revisited their design and made some changes to the game - changes that made this a much stronger (and much better) game. It is a unique opportunity for me to review the earlier iteration of Circuit Breakers, as well as an updated version of the same game. I would like to thank Freshwater Game Company for the opportunity to re-review the game.

Of the changes, these are the ones that stood out the most:
1. Circuit Breaker clarified some thematic elements: I want to be clear and say that the theme itself is much the same as it was in the first version - you're still throwing a party and trying to rewire a house to hook up some party-related appliances, but they made some changes that made the theme make more sense. Gone is the shoe polisher and toothbrush appliances, and what is left are things you could reasonably expect to see at a party: karaoke machines, bubble makers, party lights, pizza ovens, jukeboxes. In my original review, I said that I had to "imagine what type of party would require a tape deck, shoe polisher, waffle iron, and a gumball machine." While the suspension of disbelief led to some pretty creative theories on my part, having items that are more likely to be at a party solidifies the theme.

Another small change that bolstered the thematic element of the game is the mouse. The mouse still serves the same purpose (saving and retrieving cards for players), but gone is the mouse trap and is replaced with friendlier cheese cubes that can keep the mouse from claiming a tile. Though the mouse tile and cheese cubes serve mostly the same purpose as they did in the previous version, they seem like a more integral part of the game, and again help solidify the theme.

Players can use their mouse token (red prototype token) to block their opponents and reserve tiles for future use.

2. Circuit Breaker simplified the rule book: The rule book I reviewed with this version is much clearer than what was included in the original. The time from reading the rule book to playing the game has been greatly reduced. The game also includes some player action cards that contain the available actions in a concise format.

Player action cards: actions on one side, end-game scoring on the other.

Again, not huge changes, but they seemed to have a great impact. The amount of questions from players seemed greatly reduced, and playtime compared to the original went much faster and smoother. This is partly because of the rule book, but most likely due to the fact that...

3. Circuit Breaker streamlined game play: This is by far the biggest (and best) change to the game. In the earlier iteration, I described Circuit Breaker as having "several (mechanisms) employed during play, including point allowance via dice rolling, drafting, set collection, tile placement, hand management, and take-that." Simply put, the original Circuit Breaker may have been trying to do too much. 

The revised Circuit Breaker is now a much more streamlined, simpler game, which in turn makes it a much deeper and more strategic game. The biggest difference is the removal of the dice. There are no more dice and thus no more dice-point allowance. The party favors that served as end-game scoring have also been removed (replaced by a much simpler, and thematically relevant, cheese cube). They also included a revamped round-counting system that makes play easier to track and provides bonuses to the players as they progress through the game.

After those changes, what is left is a better set collection, tile placement game with just a touch of take-that. And with players focusing on these mechanisms rather than trying to manage their dice - and trading, and different party favors, and mouse traps, and etc. - they can instead dive deeper into the strategy of a set collection game and enjoy a more singular strategic focus. 

4. Circuit Breaker kept what worked: When discussing changes between versions, I feel it equally important to discuss what didn't change. Circuit Breaker is still a party-themed game, and there is still a mouse that is trying to prohibit player actions. Players are still laying wire tiles with 1, 2, or 3 connections and attempting to connect appliances - I was really happy to see that they kept the pattern recognition component (e.g. the requirement for the connections to match 1-to-1, 2-to-2, etc.). The appliances are not as obscure, but still fun. The art is still clever, and I liked the return of the original color palette. Players still have hidden objectives for the appliances that add bonuses in end-game scoring and can sway the game in their favor. After playing both versions, I feel that they kept the best parts of the original Circuit Breaker, cut the weaker elements, and made the game much better. 

Example of tile laying game play: pictured player has party lights, a television, and karaoke machine connected to their breaker box.

Overall, players should have a much better experience with the new Circuit Breaker. I applaud all the updates from the original version, as well as the elements of the game that didn't change.   


***

Review:

Game Play:
In Circuit Breaker, players are attempting to score the most points by connecting appliances to their breaker box. On a player's turn, they take the following actions:
  • Move mouse and collect a card - a player's mouse returns to them at the beginning of each turn (after the first turn of the first round) carrying the card that it was located on. Players can place their mouse on any card except those with cheese cubes and any previously connected wire tiles.
  • Place up to two tiles - Players take up to two tiles from their hand (either wire or appliance) and connect them to their breaker box or previously played tiles. The tiles must match the connection conditions of the breaker box or any previously played tiles (1-to-1, 2-to-2, 3-to-3).
  • Discard a card from hand to collect cheese cubes - this is the only way to collect cheese cubes, and cheese cubes are the only way to block your opponents' mice, so this step should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Also, any unused cheese cubes are worth 1 point for every two still in hand at game's end.
Play continues for four rounds, and after the last player has taken their turn, the secret scoring objectives are revealed and scores tallied. The player with the most points wins.

Example of the hidden objective cards.
Mechanisms:
Primarily tile laying and set collection, though there is also pattern recognition and a touch of take-that (but not much).
    Artwork and Components:
    The art and components are all prototype and subject to change, but I will say that I enjoy the artwork as presented and would not be disappointed if it was the final version. I especially enjoy the flavor text on the appliances (brand names, track lists on the music) and the inclusion of small details like the mouse tracks by the pizza maker.

    Game Setup with available appliances on top and cheese cubes (bottom row, far left) and wiring tiles.

    The Good:
    Overall, this a much better game than its predecessor. The gameplay is much simpler and smoother. After the game was trimmed down, we were left with a set collection, tile laying game that requires much more strategic focus and is a much better addition to the genre. The real differentiator to me is the inclusion of the hidden objective cards and the mouse. It keeps the game from being too simple and requires players to employ a deeper level of foresight than other pick-a-card, play-a-card games within the genre.

    I really like the new round tracker (prototype). The token is moved left/right on each turn and when it reaches the end of the row, it is dropped down one one row. When the token falls on one of the wire or appliance icons, the players get one of those tiles.

    The Bad:
    The only complaint I had about the previous version was that there was a lot stuff going on - the dice, and party favors, and mouse traps, and trading, etc. - and the new version of Circuit Breakers got rid of the things that that diluted the original.


    Final Thoughts:
    The changes may seem small between the versions I reviewed, but they make a great deal of difference. Circuit Breaker is now cleaner and more straightforward, allowing players to take a deeper dive into a set collection, tile laying game they can enjoy, rather than simply skimming the surface of several different mechanisms.

    At this point, I think you either like set collection/tile laying games, or you don't. If you don't like those type of games, you probably didn't make it this far in the review. But, if you do, then the inclusion of the mouse and cheese cubes is a nice twist that helps differentiate it from similar titles in the genre, and you should take a look at the Kickstarter campaign.


    Players Who Like: Tsuro, Kingdomino, and other tile laying games.


    Check out Circuit Breaker on:
     
    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/231223/visitor-blackwood-grove   https://resonym.com/game/visitor/   https://www.facebook.com/resonym/   https://twitter.com/resonym  https://www.instagram.com/theresonym/  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_nFagYZztjNyish6Cq21g   https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/87707751/circuit-breaker-board-game  

    About the Author:
    Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing on Twitter at @ndshipley
    Circuit Breaker Kickstarter Preview Circuit Breaker Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nicholas Shipley on October 29, 2018 Rating: 5

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