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FUSE Countdown Review

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Review of: FUSE Countdown
Board Game Review by::
Marcus E. Burchers
Price:
$35

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On May 3, 2023
Last modified:May 3, 2023

Summary:

We review Fuse: Countdown, a real time, cooperative board game published by Renenage Games. In Fuse: Countdown, players are working together to roll dice and disarm bombs that are on their ship.

Fuse: CountdownDice are fun. Everyone loves rolling dice. Yes, we complain about randomness and blame our losses on the randomness of dice, but we all really love dice. It is why we all have dozens! (I’m not the only one, right???) FUSE taps into our inherent love of dice. You get to roll dice for 10 minutes straight! It is a blast.

FUSE Countdown is a standalone expansion and is a cooperative game for 1-4 players designed by Kane Klenko. Each game takes 10 minutes to play. It is equally viable at all four player counts.

Gameplay Overview:

This is a fast-paced game. Thematically, bombs have been placed on your ship, and you have exactly ten minutes (in real-time) to defuse them before the ship explodes. As you proceed through each turn, the clock does not stop for any reason, and your decisions all have to be made in your alloted ten minutes. All the while, if you use the optional app countdown, the ship’s A.I. is reminding you of the impending danger. This is a sequel/expansion to the original FUSE. if you play it as an exampnsion, it introduces a few new mechanics and concepts, but it is also totally fine to play on its own.

Fuse: Countdown Dice
The ship is in danger. There are bombs everywhere! We have 10 minutes to live if we don’t disarm them. Grab your. . . dice bag?

In FUSE, you have 25 colored dice—5 each of red, yellow, blue, black, and red. You take turns drawing and rolling these dice and splitting them with your fellow players. Your needs will each be different, as each player has separate bomb cards that they must complete. Each of these bomb cards has a different formula based on color, number, math, and more. To complete the bombs, you have to place the dice that match these formulas onto the card. Once you defuse a bomb, you take another card from the communal pool. Defuse enough bombs from the deck and you win!

There are, of course, some caveats to this. Firstly, as I mentioned, you are on the clock. It might seem like a lot of time, but those ten minutes go very quickly. You are under a time crunch, so to get done in time you do have to rush a little bit. Secondly, there are a few strict rules to make sure you don’t take too much time to consider. For example, once you take a die from a roll, you cannot change your mind or give it to someone else. Lastly, if the die you took does not match any of the slots on your current bomb cards, you have to take a spark card, which is a mini bomb that also needs dice to be defused.

Fuse: Countdown Gameplay
Each bomb is a puzzle. A colorful, hectic puzzle. Shouldn’t defusing bombs be something you don’t rush?

Game Experience:

As this is technically an expansion, there are a few things that spice up the basic gameplay compared to the original game. The 25 dice here are a bit spicier than the ones in the original set. You have four of each color, and five additional “split dice” that display a second color and can function as both colors. This can make it slightly easier, but the new bomb cards take this into account by including slots in formulas that require split dice specifically, which is one of the trickier requirements to meet if you just don’t draw any split dice.

Fuse: Countdown Cards
Each role card has a unique way to manipulate your dice on your turn. Choose wisely. Or just choose the Disposal Expert for being most adorable.

There are a couple of additional card types beyond the bombs as well. The aforementioned spark cards are actually a new feature here. They are a little less punishing than the original’s system for unused dice (originally, you might have to remove dice from your bombs in that circumstance), but they do give you more to do and slow you down a little. It is a double-edged sword. Additionally, there are character cards that give each player a special ability to manipulate the dice on the turn that they roll them (e.g., extra dice, rerolls, the ability to convert numbers, etc.). It is a nice feature that lets everyone feel like they can contribute something unique.

The gameplay here is very quick by necessity. It is one of the game’s strengths. Nothing can take too long or get too bogged down in overly long decision-making. You have to be quick and decisive. You’ll need to be willing to live with the mistakes you are inevitably going to make. If you did not have the timer, I think the game could end up a little mundane, as taking your time to figure out the perfect way to do each formula would sap the inherent excitement. The fact that the game comes with more bomb cards you need in any one game also helps to keep the game fresh.

Fuse: Countdown Pyramid
Depending on player count and difficulty, you may have to defuse dozens of bombs in 10 minutes, some of which can get a little complex like the pyramid bombs.

There’s also a degree of manual dexterity involved in a game, enhanced by the inherent pressure from the timer. There are some more difficult bomb cards to complete featuring stacks or pyramids. They are very on-point with their names. Stacks are just a column of dice stacked on top of each other. Pyramids are a base of two or four dice with one more on top. In both cases, you have to place all of the dice on the current level before placing any dice on higher levels. If you knock it over in your haste, you have to clear off all the dice from the card and try again on the next turn! While these are my favorite bomb cards, this stacking could be an aspect of the game that some do not enjoy.  Because there are extra cards to aid in replay value, the pyramids and stacks can be removed if it is not something you enjoy.

Any a cooperative game needs some challenges, and this game does not disappoint in that regard. It is pretty challenging, even on the lowest difficulty setup (you can increase the size of the bomb deck for a greater inherent challenge). FUSE Countdown introduces some levers of difficulty that were not present in the original in order to fine-tune it even more. You can choose whether to use the player ability cards . You can also choose whether to use fuse cards as a part of the bomb deck (these special cards do nothing but bad things for you when they come up!). It just has a lot of options in a small package.

Final Thoughts:

Fuse: Countdown stack
Some bombs require you to have very steady hands.

The real strength of FUSE Countdown is its fast play time. Prior to playtesting a print-and-play version of this in 2021, I had never played this style of timed game before, so I was not sure what to expect. It went over very well. Typically when we play it, we will reset it and play it again several times. The setup is quick and easy, and the potential game time can never be longer than 10 minutes (and will be quicker if you are successful). It is enjoyable enough that you want to play again and again. Having more bomb cards than you actually use in a given game contributes a significant amount of variety. If you also have the original game, the bomb cards from both sets can be seamlessly combined to increase the variety even more.

The inherent randomness of a game focused on rolling 25 dice repeatedly could be a potential turn off, but here it feels like another strength, keeping the gameplay interesting and spicy. There are strategic decisions about how to place your dice once they are rolled, so you aren’t entirely at the mercy of the draw and dice, but decisions need to be made quickly and without second-guessing. At the same time, since you can’t plan very far in advance, there’s always some uncertainty and a high degree of variability over what can and does happen next.

I would highly recommend using the timer app Renegade provides, even though any sort of ten-minute timer will do. I love thematics, and the A.I. voice-over adds to the atmosphere of the game so much. Any timer will put on pressure, but the commentary from the voice-over adds to the atmosphere. Some find it annoying, but I won’t play without it!

Final Score: 4 Stars – FUSE Countdown is a fun, and engaging real-time puzzle. It is very easy to learn and fast to play. The randomness and different options make for a highly replayable (and challenging) cooperative game.

4 StarsHits:
• Easy to set up and play several times in the space of a single play of most other games.
• The puzzle-solving on each bomb card is engaging.
• The variety in the bomb cards and randomness of the gameplay means you will never play the same game twice.
• The optional thematic countdown app is great.

Misses:
• The game uses dice… a lot of dice. If you do not like dice games, just walk away.
• Occasionally frustrating when you just don’t draw the right colors of dice many turns in a row
• The optional thematic countdown app is annoying. It can be both!

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t like apps in my cardboard, period. If I wanted to play a video game then that’s what I would buy – video game, not a board game.

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