BEEP! BOOP! Robots are taking over the world. Luckily, they are here to make things easier. A cat-riding vacuum clearer, a Sushi-making chef, and others make up the wonderful world of Quirky Circuits. You and your fellow players will be programming these robots to complete various scenarios before the robots need to go back to be recharged.
Quirky Circuits includes two dozen different scenarios for 2-4 players to tackle. Each scenario can be played in about 20 minutes.
The scenarios in Quirky Circuits are laid out in a wire-bound book—similar to Mice and Mystics and Stuffed Fables. Each scenario will present the goal and any special setup on the left-hand page. The opposite page is the map that you’ll place the game tokens and miniatures on.
You’ll start by controlling Gizmo, the robot vacuum cleaner. Or maybe Gizmo is the name of the cat riding the vacuum, the lore isn’t exactly clear. Regardless, you’ll be trying to zoom around the map cleaning up the dust bunnies that litter your home and make it back to the charging station.
The vacuum is programmed each round by the players choosing cards from their hand to add to the queue. Each card will move Gizmo forward (1-3 spaces), backward one space, or turn it. When you choose to play a card, it is added to the queue face down. The back of the card will show if the card is turning the robot or moving it in a straight line, but doesn’t reveal the direction or number of spaces. And of course, you can’t communicate that information to the other players at the table.
All players must play at least one card to the queue, but you can play as many as you’d like. Once everyone is done adding cards, the queue executes in order and your robot is off!—hopefully hitting dust bunnies and not running recklessly into walls.
As you progress through the game you’ll have more rules added to the scenarios. The other robots also give you some different actions. Twirl, the bumblebee-looking helicopter can pick up and drop off seed packages as they attempt to help you plant your garden. Rover, the dog, had an uncanny ability to leap forward, allowing him to retrieve items and move them around despite steep inclines. And Lefty, the sushi chef, can pick up food with both arms simultaneously, allowing you to, hopefully, be very efficient in serving up some raw fish to the hungry cats.
It’s easy to draw similarities between Quirky Circuits and The Mind—another immensely successful game in recent memory—that drew on a mechanism of limited communication between players. In this case, it is somehow crossbred with Robo Rally to make a big box game that seems like a more complete experience than just a deck of cards numbered 1-100.
It feels like a good teaching tool for not only the logic and programming aspects, but also how to play cards into the queue in a way that it communicates something to the rest of the team. The cartoony art style and wonderfully detailed miniatures will certainly capture the attention of the younger members of your family.
That said, the game itself didn’t often feel rewarding. The early scenarios your robots have themselves in are generally pretty easy to solve, the only problem is playing the cards in the right order. And doing that successfully seems to come down to getting pretty lucky or just having a mutual understanding with the rest of your team on how to do things. With Gizmo, you almost never want to use the 2-3 forward cards. The 1-movement cards are more prevalent so your teammates will likely always assume the card you played is just moving the vacuum one space. If everyone kind of agrees to that dynamic, the game becomes much easier, but much less fun.
The later robots add a bit more complexity that ramps up the interest a bit, but it unfortunately just starts feeling like more and more of a crapshoot. Random movements of the sushi-laden conveyer belt can ruin any planning you tried to put in place.
That said, not every experience has to be a strategic one. When you are done adding cards to the queue and you start moving the robot, it can be hilarious to see it bouncing off walls, turning right when you thought you played a left turn, and generally just going haywire. If you can get behind enjoying the chaos—which seemed to go over well with my family, Quirky Circuits can definitely be enjoyable.
Quirky Circuits is not the most enjoyable game for a group of gamers. There is just too often not enough information available to make wise decisions for your robot programming. It’s more of play cards, watch the robots react, and repeat.
For kids in the 8-12 year old range, it has been a huge success though. And I think they learn a little bit from the chaos in the process. So if you have a family of gamers in that age range that might be interested in robotics, programming, or watching cats on Roombas… Quirky Circuits is worth checking out.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars — Fun to embrace the chaos and watch your cartoon robots make a mess of things.
• Not enough strategy for gamers to sink their teeth into.
• Random events interrupting your program can be frustrating.
• The miniatures can be a bit fragile, my poor Twirl lost his helicopter blades.