I’ve got a healthy dose of respect for the people at Button Shy Games and the designers that work with them. Coming up with engaging gameplay using only 18 cards is not easy. And not only that, but Button Shy somehow manages to put out a new game every month! And this is in an age with component creep where they are competing against every flashy, plastic-filled Kickstarter. I own quite a few of these wallet games myself (Sprawlopolis is one of my favorites) and today we get to check out their newest release, ROVE: Result-Oriented Versatile Explorer.
ROVE is a puzzly solo game that will task you with completing 7 missions before you run out of energy. The game starts with 6 module cards laid out in a 2×3 grid. The rest of the cards double as your movement cards and pattern cards.
You’ll always have one active pattern you are working on with the goal being to move your modules into position to match the pattern on the card. To do that, you play a movement card that will give you anywhere between 1-5 points to use to move modules. Each card has two numbers on it and if you match the mini pattern on the movement card, you get the higher movement value.
Each module has a specific way it moves, shown its card. This will range from one space in any direction, to as many spaces as you want orthogonally, to having to jump over a module to move. Each module also has a 1-time use power that will make your life a tad easier.
Whenever you complete the pattern, you immediately draw another one to work and draw a card into your hand (5 card starting hand size). You win when you’ve completed your 7th pattern. You lose if you run out of movement cards to use.
Wow is ROVE a thinky game. You start off the game staring at these six modules trying to figure out just how you are going to get them into the right position. You only have 5 cards in your hand, and you only gain one after you complete a pattern, so action optimization is KEY here. Sure you can spend 3 cards to haphazardly move the modules into position, but that will set you really far back. Ideally, you want to spend only 1 card to get the modules into the right spots, as that will carry you to the next round with no loss of cards. As you have to complete 7 patterns, that means you can only have 3 rounds where you spend more than one movement card! (This accounts for the module power that gives you a free card).
Speaking of the module powers, those were one of my favorite parts of the game. All of them are very useful so it will create a hard decision point of just when to use them. I never want to use them in the first round, because that means I have to go six more rounds without whatever power I just spent. But I also have to be careful not to fall into the “Too Awesome to Use Trope” and hold off for too long that I’ve missed a good opportunity.
I also thought it was clever how all of the modules have slightly different movement styles. The Laser is the best module as it can move as far as it wants in any direction. Which is offset by the super crappy Coil module that, while it can move in any direction, it MUST jump over a module to move. You suck Coil module. I don’t know how many times that card has ruined a perfect plan by requiring a jump to move. 😡
I’ve played a lot of games of ROVE since I got it, I mean it’s solo that only takes 15 minutes, so it’s really easy to bust out for a quick game. That being said, I’m not sure how much of the game is just luck and how much of it is skill. My win rate is probably 25% or so. Do I just suck at the game or is there a portion of it based on getting the right pattern at the right time? I’m sure some computer program could be written to figure out the optimal move to go from each pattern to the next to figure all that out. But for the average gamer, I could definitely see having the right cards at the right time making a difference.
If you enjoy puzzly type games, ROVE: Result-Oriented Versatile Explorer definitely fits the bill. It plays perfectly as a solo game and even works cooperatively if you want to combine brains with a friend. Its minimal table requirements mean you can also play it just about anywhere. I’ve gotten in a game on a TV tray, so you could definitely take this on an airplane or play on a coffee table.
Whether you will enjoy it or not will depend on how much you enjoy a good brain burner. ROVE will challenge you so you probably shouldn’t expect to have a high win %. But if you want to flex those mental muscles on an affordable and portable card game, give ROVE: Result-Oriented Versatile Explorer a look.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A thinky game that will require those mental muscles to be firing on all cylinders if you hope to win.
• Fun and portable gameplay
• Challenging to win, but doesn’t feel “cheap”
• One-time use powers keep things interesting
• Luck will probably play a role in your victories.