- For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
- For 2 players
- Approximately 20 minutes to complete
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Fry your opponent’s supercomputer before they fry yours
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek mixed!
On our planet are two sleeping computer giants. These supercomputers command and control a vast amount of explosive and lethal military might. Their one objective is to keep their country safe. How they go about that is up to the computer, but one thing is for certain. In order to win the war, you have to survive it.
RESISTOR_, designed by Anthony Amato, Nicole Kline, and published by Level 99 Games, is comprised of 60 double-sided cards. The cards are as thick and as sturdy as your standard playing card, but are much larger. Roughly the size of a Tarot card, to be somewhat exact. Each card visually represents a silicon circuit board, meaning the illustrations in the game are pretty gosh darn minimal.
Computer Engineering 101
There are 4 different types of cards in RESISTOR_. Each are summarized here.
Circuit cards represent the many different electronic pathways available on the silicon circuit landscape. They are, in many respects, like highways that allow information and power to runabout. When a circuit connects to another circuit, information flows freely. Each player has a circuit color of their own. One player will have blue and the other player will have red. Circuits will connect to chips, but do not end there. By connecting like-colored circuits, the player creates pathways to keep their own information secure and flowing freely.
Resistors are a special subset of the Circuit cards. Resistors are a more powerful form of general Circuit card and must be immediately resolved when played to ensure it’s powered on and working properly. However, “Resistor” Circuit cards also break the normal rules of play and can force players to rethink their current strategy.
The majority of cards have an arrow icon. These are used to help the players place the cards. Cards should always be held on the end so that the arrow is pointing upwards.
The Mainframe cards represent the player’s supercomputer. Each player needs to protect their own mainframe while simultaneously attempting to destroy their opponents. Each Mainframe card starts at the lowest alert level (DEFCON 1) which will increase in severity until the mainframe is destroyed (DEFCON 4+). Since all attacks originate from the player’s Mainframe card, the player leaves themselves vulnerable to attack by default. However, each player is fully capable of making such an attack from an opponent as difficult as possible.
Action cards serve as a reminder of what action the players will take on their turn.
Lock cards ensure that a Circuit card cannot be altered once played. Which is both a good and a bad thing, depending on which side of the gaming table you are seated. Lock cards are optional.
To set up the game, first separate the Lock, Action, and Mainframe cards. If not using the Lock cards in the game, set them aside for the duration of game play. Place the Action cards to one side of the game playing area.
Second, give 1 player all the blue Mainframe cards and the other player the red Mainframe cards (2 each). These will be the player’s colors for the duration of the game.
Third, holding the Circuit cards sideways, draw and place 7 cards in a column between both players. This is the starting circuit board. Ensure that chips connect while placing the cards. Any Resistors drawn should be placed back in the deck and replaced with a new card. Then shuffle the remaining cards and place them in the card sleeve. Place the sleeve in the game box slot to create the draw deck. Position the draw deck so that one player sees one side and the player’s opponent sees the other.
Fourth, each player now connects their “DEFCON 1” Mainframe card to their end of the circuit board and then draws 2 cards from the draw deck. When drawing cards, make certain that each player only ever sees the side that is facing them from the draw deck. The other side of the card is visible to the player’s opponent. Players are not allowed to view both sides of their drawn cards.
That’s it for game set up. The player with the fewest colored circuits on their cards that match their color goes first. The first player takes the Action cards, flips them over so their color is showing, and the game begins.
RESISTOR_ is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they have 3 possible actions to take (as noted on the Action cards). Each action must be taken once per turn, but the order in which they are taken is up to the player. Each of the actions are summarized here and can be used on the same cards if necessary.
This action allows the player to take any card in play and flip it over in the direction the arrow is currently pointing. This makes the previously hidden face-down side of the card now active.
This action allows the player to take one card from the circuit board and place it in their hand or their opponent’s hand. When placing the card back into a player’s hand, the face-orientation should remain constant, meaning the player who takes the card will only ever see the face of the card. Then the player takes 1 card from the hand they placed the card in and plays it to the circuit board without altering its facing.
Draw and Trash
This action allows the player to draw 1 card from the draw deck and add it to either their hand or their opponent’s hand. Then the player draws 1 card from the hand they gave the new card to and discards it. Both players can review the card that was discarded by looking at both sides. If a “Resistor” is revealed, the player’s opponent must immediately take the “Fip Over” action out of turn, but the circuit board is not shortened.
This action is optional and is not included in the standard game by default. If used, the players have a total of 4 actions in stead of 3. Taking this action allows the player to use a Lock card.
“Resistor” Circuit cards can be used to strategically and tactically manipulate the circuit board, as well as to irritate your opponent. It all comes down to timing, however, as “Resistors” are always resolved when revealed before the game can continue
When the Resistor is first revealed, the game temporarily pauses and several steps are taken.
- Any player connected to the “Resistor” Circuit card from their Mainframe card decreases their DEFCON value by 1 (to a minimum of 1). The player then discards their current hand and draws 2 new cards. Essentially, this is the equivalent to “healing”.
- Starting with the Resistor, flip over every card that is connected to it. Do this for both sides of the “Resistor” Circuit card.
- Remove the “Resistor” Circuit card from the circuit board and the game.
- Fill the gap left from the removed Resistor by moving the circuit board cards together. The circuit board (and playing area) is now shortened.
When flipping over cards, if additional Resistors are revealed, they must also be resolved, but after the previous Resistor card.
After the player has completed their 3 actions and all “Resistor” Circuit cards have been resolved, the circuit board is inspected to determine if an attack on an opponent’s mainframe was successful.
- If either player has a at least 1 line matching their color running from their Mainframe card to their opponent’s Mainframe card, they have successfully attacked. The opponent increases their DEFCON value by +1. It’s possible for both players to attack each other simultaneously.
- If the successful connection between a player’s Mainframe card and their opponent’s consists of 2 lines that remain parallel and never once pass through the same connection chip, the opponent suffers a very powerful attack and must increase their DEFCON by +2.
The player’s turn is now over and the next player now takes their turn.
There are three ways RESISTOR_ can end.
- The first player to attack their opponent enough times to increases their opponent’s DEFCON value to 4 or more wins the game.
- If only 1 card remains in the circuit board, the game ends immediately. The player with the lowest DEFCON value wins the game.
- If the draw deck is depleted and a player cannot draw back up to 2 cards, the game ends immediately. The player with the lowest DEFCON value wins the game.
A number of rule variants are provided that subtly change the game. Each are summarized here.
The player with the higher DEFCON value may cancel a “Flip” Action card after it’s resolved.
If each player’s Mainframe is connected during step 1 of game play and a Resistor is part of that connection, the opponent’s DEFCON value is increased and the active player must discard their hand.
If a player is able to reduce their DEFCON value, but their current value is already “1” (the lowest), their DEFCON value is increased to “2”.
The player with the higher DEFCON value may draw a card from the discard pile if they like instead of the draw deck.
To learn more about RESISTOR_, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks understood the game’s basic idea without issue. They have played games in the past where the objective was, essentially, something similar to “connect the dots”. While RESISTOR_ is much more than that, the basic idea is the same. According to one Child Geek, “I totally get this game. I’m supposed to bridge my computer to my opponent’s and send over a spark or a surge. Easy.” Thematically, the Child Geek is correct. Game play wise, Resistor_ is anything but “easy”, and everyone soon discovered why. As one Child Geek put it, “Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have the cards to stop my opponent. Other times I feel like there is no way in the world my opponent can stop me!” While none of the Child Geeks suggested the game was out of balance, they did all mention that having the right cards was the key to victory. Not the order in which you played them. After several games, the Child Geeks were uncertain how to endorse the game. They eventually decided to give it a mixed review, finding some aspects of the game they really liked and others they did not.
The Parent Geeks found RESISTOR_ to be an excellent game full of abstract problem solving and light memorization. Among their own group, they liked it very much. When they played it with their kids, they found a nasty “gotcha”. According to one Parent Geek, “While I do not think the game is overly difficult, I can tell you this. If you play this game with two players who are mismatched when it comes to their skills, it’s a slaughter.” Better put, the Parent Geeks quickly realized that RESISTOR_ was not a game they could play with their younger Child Geeks because it felt very unbalanced. Which it was. As one Parent Geek put it, “I feel like I’m beating up the kids when I play across from them.” While no children were physically harmed during the games, egos were certainly bruised and battered. The Parent Geeks, however, still fully endorsed the game, stating that RESISTOR_ was a good time for those who were ready for it.
The Gamer Geeks found RESISTOR_ to be “OK” at best. As one Gamer Geek put it, “The game play is solid and the rules are easy enough to follow. What I don’t like is the random cards I am drawing.” But that was pretty much it. The Gamer Geeks like how the actions were limited, but the timing of the actions was up to the player. This gave the player a great deal of strategic and tactical control. They also liked how card information was shared and hidden at the same time. This created a new level of depth of play and really got the Gamer Geeks thinking. In the end, what caused the Gamer Geeks to hesitate and fully endorse RESISTOR_ were the playing sessions where nothing really happened for several turns, players couldn’t do anything because they didn’t have the right cards, and the inconsistent speed of the game. The end result was a mixed level of approval from the gaming elitists.
RESISTOR_ is an interesting game of memory and hand management. Players must think logically and attempt to build a sequence of card plays in their head that will allow them to connect to their opponent. This is not an easy thing to do. Random luck of the card draw plays a small, but frustrating part of the game, as the right cards at the right time make all the difference. There were several games were I didn’t feel like I was making any progress due to lack of proper card support.
The game’s biggest flaw is the long stretches of nothing happening other than players playing card after card. Sometimes players just go on the defensive, making each card played and turn completed nothing more than a stalemate. The fastest games were those between players who were at different skill levels. Evenly matched, players will duck and dodge each others’ attempts to score a point, while at the same time being blocked themselves. When a point is finally made (increasing an opponent’s DEFCON value) it feels super good.
As 2-player games go, I think RESISTOR_ is “OK”. It’s not a game I would want to play a lot as I never felt that the time and energy I was putting into it was equal to the fun I was getting out of it. Not the case with other players who really enjoyed themselves. There were also, of course, players who didn’t care for the game whatsoever, but I believe their dislike of RESISTOR_ was based on their frustration of losing instead of the game itself.
In any case, RESISTOR_ is sure to challenge you. Give the game a try to see if it sparks your circuits or leaves you feeling burnt out.
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.