Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Two Rooms and a Boom

During the very first game that I've moderated of Two Rooms and a Boom, I walked between the rooms and as I entered one room, I heard a player earnestly exclaim to the group about one of the other players, "We can't let her leave this room! She knows too much!"

I knew at the moment that a game that could provoke such a sincere declaration from its players was going to be a great game.

Two Rooms and a Boom is a hidden role party-style team game that really takes just a minimal amount to set up and run. The game is played, ideally, with two rooms, though a large enough space where conversations cannot be easily overheard works just as well. 

Each person is given a card at random, which will give them their team affiliation. In the basic game, half of the players will be on the Red Team and half of the players will be on the Blue team. One of the randomly assigned Blue Team cards will be a role card if "The President". The Blue Team will win at the end of the game if the President survives. One of the randomly assigned Red Team cards will be the role of "The Bomber". At the end of the game, the Bomber's bomb detonates and kills everyone in his room. If he is in the same room as the President and kills him, then the Red Team wins.

The players are randomly assigned to go into one of the two rooms so that even numbers of players are in each room. However, when entering a room, you will have no idea what teams the other players in the room are, or who the President or Bomber is.

Each room elects a Leader. The first round is five minutes long. At the end of the first round, the Leaders of each room select a player from their room to be a Hostage. Each room then exchanges Hostages, so Room 1 sends a player from their room who goes to Room 2, and Room 2 sends in a player from their room to join Room 1. However, neither side knows who is being sent over at this time until they receive them.

This continues for a total of five rounds, with a total of five Hostage exchanges. The first round is five minutes, the next is four minutes, then three, two and the final round is only one minute before the exchange is made. At the end of the last exchange, the Bomber blows up and kills everyone in his room. If the President is in his room, the Red Team wins, otherwise, the Blue Team wins.

So, how do people know who the Bomber is and who the President is? Well, that's the game. This is a very social game. You have the identity of your card and you can tell the truth or lie as much as you want about it to everyone. You can shout out who you are or whisper it in the ear of just one player. But, you can also reveal your card to other players. You can make a Private Reveal or Public Reveal and just hold your card up to show just one person or everyone. Or you can make a Co-Reveal, where you show your card to a player and they show their card to you.

By the end of the second round, people will be formulating plans, making alliances and might be trying desperately to find their teammates to get the information they found out to them, or they might be trying to coerce the Leader to either send people away or keep them close at hand.

Even though I was excited by this description of the game, it still does not come anywhere near as close to sounding as fun as the game really is. So far, every time I have introduced the game this is the set up we've used. Through my describing the rules, I can see that players are running a range of hesitation to mild interest knowing that, at least, it is a short game.

With each group I've brought this to, our first game ended with eager excitement to play again and a sudden appreciation of the crazy dynamics that the game can offer.

That said, all I've done is describe the basic game. The game is overwhelmingly customizable from that point.

 First of all, with fewer than 10 players, the game only lasts 3 round with 1 Hostage exchanged during each. With more than 10 players, the game lasts the full 5 rounds and with more players, more Hostages are exchanged each round.

But more than that, other roles can be added. And, with more than 10 players a new type of card reveal is introduced: The Color Reveal. This is where players can show the top of their card to demonstrate their Team Allegiance, but not their role. So you can check that someone is on the Blue Team before showing them that you are the President.

Some of the Red and Blue Team roles include The Shy Guy, who can never reveal his card to anyone. There is the Fool, who can never turn down a request for a co-reveal. The Exhibitionist must Publicly Reveal every round for as quickly or as long as he would like. There is the Hypnotist, who when you Co-reveal with them, they hypnotize you into thinking that you are a completely different role. There are Spies, whose card shows Red or Blue during a Color Reveal, but they are actually on the opposite team. Agents can force a character to Co-Reveal once per Round. There is the Devil, who can only speak in lies. And there is the Angel, who can only tell the truth. There is also the Vampire, who upon a Co-Reveal, gives the player they revealed with the "seduced" condition, meaning that they will agree with anything you say for the rest of the game. There is also the Mad Scientist who, once per game, can force any two players to swap cards and roles.

I am only just scratching the surface of the available team roles.

But beyond the huge variety of team roles, there are also Grey Roles. Grey Roles, for the most part, do not care if the Red or Blue Team wins or loses. They have their own victory and loss conditions, which means, during the course of Red and Blue trying to orchestrate the positions of the President and Bomber, numerous other games are going on simultaneously. But perhaps you are the President and you find a Grey Player. You might have information useful to him and maybe you can make a trade if he finds out which player is the Bomber for you.

Grey Roles include combinations such as Moby and Ahab. Moby wins if Ahab gets the "dead" condition and he does not. Ahab wins if Moby gets the "dead" condition and he does not. If they both live, neither wins and if they both die, neither wins. There is the Wife and the Mistress. If the Wife ends the game in the same room as the President and the Mistress is in the other room, she wins. The inverse is the condition for the Mistress. There is the Intern who wins if he is in the same room as the President at the end of the game, and the Rival who wins if he is in the room without the President. Even these Grey Roles get crazy as well. There is the Frotteur who wins if he touches every other player before the end of the game. However, he is included with the Prude and also loses if the Prude grabs his wrist by the end of the game. The Prude wins if he grabs the Frotteur's wrist, but is only allowed to grab one wrist during the game. There is the Sniper, the Target and the Decoy as well. At the end of the last round, before the bomb goes off, the Sniper declares who he shoots (in either room). If he shoots the Target, he wins. The Target wins if he does not get shot. And the Decoy wins if he gets shot by the Sniper. This could also lead to situations where Moby tries to convince the Sniper that Ahab is the Target in hopes of getting him killed this way instead of by the bomber. There is also the Hot Potato. Whoever has the Hot Potato at the end of the game automatically loses. However, if the Hot Potato Co-reveals with someone, they trade cards. That player is not the Hot Potato and you are now whatever they were.

The amount that this game is customizable is staggering and I have found that after a couple of rounds, people want to try the more complex roles. And, truly, they only make the games so much more fun and interesting.

The game plays anywhere from 6 players to probably 40 or so and it is engaging and easy enough that you can muster non-gamers to join in with their begrudging consent when you tell them that the game only lasts 15 minutes. After their first game, you will have won them over.

I've played with six players and, while you lose a lot of the complex roles, the game still works perfectly fine. It is really amazing how well the game scales. I've moderated the game and once we've gotten a group familiar with the game, I've joined in and we've played without a moderator. Actually, I've liked both experiences equally. It is a fun and funny game to watch, so I really did not feel left out moderating.

The game is also extremely resilient. There are a couple of roles that can cause confusion when included with others, but the game still seems to work itself out regardless.

But, honestly, my favorite bits of the game are the moments.

Hearing the player yell out, "We can't let her leave this room! She knows too much!"

Having a Hostage exchange come over playing the Wife and storming into the room and shouting out, in character, "Isaac is the President in the other room. I don't care if you blow him up, but he's over there with that hussy Mistress in front of OUR daughter!"

Watching as the Frotteur pats someone on the back as he crosses to the other room during a Hostage exchange, knowing that was probably his only chance to touch that character.

Ending a round with all of the Blue team members in one room and all of the Red Team members in the other room and having one last exchange and hearing a shout from the other room of "Inconceivable!" as both teams have to figure out what the other team will do and if they should send over the Bomber or President as they don't know who the other team will send over.

Co-revealing with another generic Blue team member and having her check everyone else's papers for me to feign myself as the President to throw off the Red Team until we can find the Bomber.

Or, as the President, deciding to co-reveal with someone and finding out that he is the Bomber and realizing that I have just stumbled onto my biggest "Oh shit" moment in a long time.

These are moments in the game that issue laughs and wild discussions afterward as people try to determine why the hell someone did something that they did and who revealed to who.This is a great game that is accessible to games and non-gamers alike and all it takes is a deck of cards and a couple of rooms. 

I used to keep a copy of Ultimate Werewolf in my car so that I would always have a large group game handy if I were to go to a party or anywhere else where is seemed like we could spontaneously get a bunch of people together. At this point, I will be replacing it with Two Rooms and a Boom as my go to group game. It is more accessible and scales smoother to smaller numbers than Ultimate Werewolf. I highly suggest grabbing a copy of this.

Two Rooms and a Boom is currently running a Kickstarter campaign here. Check it out and if you do back it, let them know where the support came from.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, I think I've read this twice now. Wish the game was out already!