CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (no suggested age from publisher)
  • For 2 to 3 players
  • About 10 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek rejected!
  • Child Geek rejected!
  • Computer Geek ACCEPTED!!!

Overview

CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is one of the newer entries into the ever-growing family of Top Trumps like games. CPU Wars challenges the players to compare processor statistics and attempt to select the value that would win between all the players. Very little is needed in the way of computer science knowledge to play the game. A player can simply guess and hope for the best. While computer geek purist will wrinkle their nose at such behavior, it does make a game that uses very technical stats into a fast game anyone can play.

CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is comprised of 30 playing cards, each representing a different Central Processing Unit (CPU) and lists 8 categories that are used in the game. Also included on each card is the name of the CPU, a picture of the CPU, and a few words describing the CPU. The card design is exceptionally tidy and easy to read.

Before We Go Further, A Quick Lesson

Let me make it absolutely clear that you do not need to know the first thing about CPUs, let alone computers, to play CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops. As previously mentioned, this makes the game accessible to anyone, regardless of their technical background. However, to play the game well, the player really needs to understand what exactly is being listed on the cards. This very short primer should help you get started. For those of you who work in the technical field of computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, or simply know a thing or two more than your average computer user, please excuse the rather short and somewhat crude descriptions that follow.

What is a CPU? In the most simplest of terms, it is the “brain” of the computer. The CPU is where all the math is done and all the decisions are made. Everything else in the computer is dependent on the CPU, one way or another, making it the most important part of a computer. Each CPU playing card lists 8 categories. These categories and a very short explanation of each is listed here.

  • Clock Speed: this measures how fast the CPU can think – the higher the number, the faster the CPU can do calculations
  • Bus Speed: this measures how fast the CPU can pass information and receive information – the higher the number, the faster the CPU can offload one completed task and get another to work on
  • Introduction Year: the year the CPU was introduced
  • Transistor Count: determine digital logic of the CPU – the more transistors, the faster the overall computer processing
  • Data Width: think of it as how big a number a CPU can handle – the larger the data width, the bigger the calculations
  • Manufacturing Process: the process to create integrated circuits – we could go deeper with this but we don’t want to melt your face – let’s just say the lower the value, the better
  • Die Size: refers to the physical size of the “waffer” (what the CPU is built on) – smaller is better because it means it is taking up less space
  • TDP: Thermal Design Power – measures the total amount of power a computer’s cooling system is required to use – the lower the better

Example of 2 of the 30 cards that represent CPUs in the game

Good! Now you probably know more about computers than you ever hoped to in your life. Use this new-found knowledge wisely…

Game Set Up

To set up the game, simply shuffle the cards and deal all the cards out to the players, face-down, making certain that all players get the same number of cards. Once all the cards are dealt, the players pick up their cards and hold them so only the top card, face-up, is visible to them. Put another way, the player is holding their hand like they would a deck of cards. Players should keep their cards hidden from other players at all times and are not allowed to look at their cards other than the one that is face-up and visible.

Randomly decide using geek skills, super powers, or a simple toss of a coin which player should go first.

You are now ready to play.

Playing the Game

On a player’s turn, they select one of the 8 categories listed on the top card, and only card, they can see. Next to each value title is a little arrow that is either pointing up or down. This indicates that the highest value (arrow pointing up) or the lowest value (arrow pointing down) wins. After the player selects a value they think they have the highest or lowest value for that will beat the other player’s cards, they read it out loud and place the card on the table. All the other players now place their card on the table, too. Based on the results, one of possible two things will happen next:

  • Best Value Wins: player who has the required highest or lowest value (as determined by the category selected) wins the cards. They collect all the cards and place them on the bottom of their deck. They now select a new category, read it out-loud, and the game continues.
  • Tied Values: If the cards played all reveal the same value or the winning values are the same, it is a tie and all the cards are thrown into the center of the playing area. The same player now selects another category using their next card in their deck. The winner collects all the cards, including the cards in the middle of the playing area, and places them on the bottom of their hand. The winner now selects a new category, reads it out-loud, and the game continues. Note that there is no limit to the number of times ties can go to the middle of the table.

Winning the Game

The game continues until one player has all the cards.

Game Variant House Rule

If you are looking to play a shorter game, simply have all the players set aside their cards when they win them instead of adding them to their hand. Once all the players have played their cards (15 rounds for a 2-player game, 10 rounds for a 3-player game), have all the players count up their collected cards. The player with the most cards wins!

To learn more about CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops, see the game’s official web site.

Prediction

CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is pretty straight forward in its game play and rules. Pick a value, compare values, pass the cards, rinse and repeat. Some gamers cannot understand why one would play such a game while other gamers cheerfully sit down to play a game or two with friends, finding joy is the game’s simplicity. For my little geeks, the simple game mechanism and rules will greatly appeal to them, but I do not know how much they will enjoy the game itself. The game designer has done an outstanding job of doing research on the CPU statistics and using very specific categories. These categories are, for the most part, completely unknown to the average player. This makes the game immediately somewhat of mystery to players as they have no idea the real value of the categories making it difficult to determine what card trumps another.

Put another way, there is nothing available to a player to suggest where the value on their card sits in the high/low scale of the categories. Is 64-bit too high? Too low? Nothing on the cards suggests it is either and the players are not allowed to look at their other cards in their hand to do a quick compare and contrast. This means the player needs to really understand the values in the categories to play the game well.

Note I say “play the game well” and not “at all”. There is nothing stopping the player from playing the game as it is regardless of their computer background. It’ll take guess-work, but the player’s job can still be done without complication. Simply select a value and compare it with the other players.

When I pitched the game to my wife and oldest little geek, they were happy to give it a try. After they saw the cards and didn’t understand one bit of what the card was displaying, they started to lose interest. When I explained the rules and how the game was played, my 7-year-old felt better about it, but my wife (being an adult and a gamer) immediately saw the problems. She asked me how she could possibly know if one value was better than another. When I told her there wasn’t a way other than me telling her, she became even less interested.

It took me longer to keep the players interested in the game then it took me to explain it. After a brief explanation and a few demonstrations, we were ready to play the game. Before I did so, I asked the player’s their thoughts on the game so far.

“Easy game, but I have no idea what these card numbers mean.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“You already have a big advantage over us because you know about computers, Dear.” ~ Wife

Good points. Let’s play the game and see how it goes.

Final Word

This game comes with an inherent flaw that cannot be overcome by anything other than knowledge of computer processors. Your average child or even adult will not know the first thing about computer processors other than they are “that thing that is in a computer”. This is a problem as it stops the player from being able to reasonably determine where a value may or may not be on a high or low scale. The saving grace that does allow the game to be played is the helpful arrows next to the values that show which value would win – the highest or the lowest. Given this bit of knowledge, the player can make a guess, but a guess only gets you so far and quickly looses its charm. The game becomes nothing more than a random value selection process, wherein the player is awarded or not awarded a card. Not much of a game, but no less so than the classic card game of War, where players draw a card, place it down, and the highest value wins.

My little geek was not impressed with the game for two reasons. First, he had no real idea what he was selecting and why. The arrows helped him to some degree to determine if he had a chance of winning a card, but not enough to give him any sense of real empowerment over his choices. Second, the game’s theme was nothing that interested him. Computers are cool as they can be associated with video games, but the “guts” of a computer did not capture his imagination anymore than knowing how a toaster worked.

Parent Geeks didn’t care much for the game either for the same reasons as the little geeks. Further more, they were disappointed that there was nothing in the game to help them make better choices by way of education. Several parents suggested the game could be greatly improved if it came with a quick description of each of the 8 categories. I completely agree and is one of the reasons why I went through the trouble of explaining them in the Overview section of this review.

Gamer Geeks were not at all impressed by this game. Random selection of a value and then seeing if anyone could beat it was not a game they wanted to play. I got a number of them to at least try it, but they groaned most of the time and pretty much focused on simply ending the game as fast as they could so they could move on to something else. When I discussed the possibility of tactics or strategy that could be used during the game, the Gamer Geeks could think of nothing other than having more computer knowledge and tolerance for the game than the other players.

None of the groups wanted to play another game once it was completed. Too random and the categories were too obscure. To quote my 7-year-old, “I like War better because at least you know what the values mean.”

Playing a 3-player game was fast, but we really didn't know what we were selecting or why - still, we had fun playing as a family!

Gamer Geeks, CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is not at all a game worthy of your game table. It is entirely too simplistic and shallow. At most, you will be able to enjoy the recess your brain can take while playing the game. Any level of strategy or tactics can be broken down to two simple questions: do I have a value that I think is lower than any other card and do the other players have a value lower than mine? That’s it. You cannot do anything sneaky or take any action to give yourself an advantage. You can only select a value and hope for the best.

Parent Geeks, while the game mechanisms are easy to use and fast, the level of computer technology related to play the game well is beyond anyone who is not a computer geek. Sadly, there is nothing included in the game to help educate the players about the categories. It’s all guess-work an d there isn’t much fun in that. There is a slight benefit from comparing number values to determine which is higher or lower, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Child Geeks, this is nothing more than a guessing game for you. You will most likely be frustrated more than charmed by this game. The only advise I can give is to pay close attention to the arrows next to each category. If the arrow is pointing upwards, make sure the value that is next to it is a big one. Likewise, if the arrow is pointing downwards, make sure the value is a low one. You’ll have 8 categories to choose from. Select a value and hope for the best.

All three test groups rejected this game and I was a bit displeased with the lack of interest from any of them. I was bound and determined to find someone for whom this game was made. After all, this game was overfunded by 507% on Kickstarter with contributions from 746 backers. Surely, over 700 individuals could not be so terribly mislead by the game that they blindly threw their money at it. No, I refused to believe that and so I went looking and found a new test group.  This group was the Computer Geeks; a seldomly discussed but very active collection of intelligent men and women who get geeky about anything that is computer technology related.

I didn’t have to look for very long. Working for an international technology company has its perks and one of them is the ability to fall blindly backwards at any moment and land on at least 10 individuals who know how to build a computer from scratch. When I pitched the game to them, they were all smiles and liked the concept very much. They actually spent less time playing the game and more time debating the pros and cons of the processors. It was a fascinating conversation to listen in on and a hard one to understand at times. Two individuals actually became rather heated in a debate over two processors and argued the finer points of overclocking (the process of making a computer run faster than it was originally specified). Eventually, they agreed to disagree and got back to the game. They finished the first, then the second, and then a third. In fact, they finished no less than 8 games and had a wonderful, wonderful time. Two of the Computer Geeks offered to buy the game from me right then and there.

Clearly, CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is a “niche game” with a specific audience in mind. This makes it highly attractive, but only to a small group of individuals. Your everyday Gamer, Parent, and Child geek will not be interested in this game, but the Computer Geeks will be most pleased with it. If you are a Computer Geek or have a Computer Geek in your circle of friend or family, then CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops is most certainly a game you should look into!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to CPU Wars Volume 1.0: The Battle of the Desktops Game Review

Leave a Reply