Tinkerbots Review Killer Croquet!

Killer Croquet is currently on Kickstarter (project ends – Oct 1st) and is looking for $10,000 which is a relatively low amount compared to most other board games on Kickstarter these days. We were sent a review copy and this is what Gino has to say about the game:

Initial Impact

stand
The 3D printed character stands with pointy bits

First impressions are good, it’s certainly a unique theme – a game of croquet with killer consequences – and immediately it was clear that the designer has put a lot of love, fun and enthusiasm into the game. The components, although only being a prototype, have shown good thinking and implementation. For example Mackenzie Bradford Cameron (the designer) has 3D printed (Yay! For those who haven’t met me, I’m a huge fan of 3D printing for prototyping, more on that another time) card holders that let your characters stand up, but he’s included an arrow on the holder so it’s clear which way the character is pointing. A small detail but an important one which shows he’s playtested the game and found a quick way to make things simple for players by using clever components.

Looking good!...and murderous
Looking good!…and murderous

Setup and Rules

Setup takes a matter of minutes as components are limited and there are only 16 cards to the game. This, however, is where we faced the biggest challenge the game has at the moment – the rules. Mackenzie has helpfully provided a video to explain the rules of the game but we decided to try learning the game just by using the written rules as many players won’t watch a video before playing. Immediately we have problems. Unfortunately the rules, though well intentioned and smartly designed, aren’t very clear. It takes some time to find out what you have to do to win (there are multiple paths to victory) and instructions for gameplay aren’t obvious and don’t answer many of the questions we have. We were constantly referring to the rules during the game to find out what to do in certain situations and there aren’t any answers (Watch our 50 second timelapse video of us playing to see us picking up the rules repeatedly). I feel like the rules need an FAQ and more examples of how the game is played, move-by-move.

HOWEVER there is good news! Mackenzie has declared in his kickstarter campaign that he’s going to spend some of the funds to get the rules looked at by experts – “I’d love to have a couple professionals go over it to make the rule book as legible as possible.” It’s very refreshing to see a Kickstarter campaign explain exactly where the money is going to be spent and it’s a relief to see that the rules will be looked at by professionals as this is the only major hurdle with this game.

Gameplay

Players move their characters around the board (a croquet arena) and roll dice to determine how hard they hit their croquet balls. You can either roll one of the two balls or both together, depending on how hard you want to hit it (Softly (Blue): 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3 – Fairly (Red): 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 – Wicked Hard: Both Dice added together)

Balls can be hit at the targets or at other players, when a ball reaches the target players draw an event card to see if you were successful (passing through the target or hitting the target player) and the event card determines which direction the balls continues to move after hitting the target (being deflected off at an angle). Once we’d figured out the rules the gameplay works smoothly and the symbols on the cards are clear and easy to read which makes gameplay quick and simple.

One aspect of the gameplay that I still don’t quite understand is the movement. Players can either choose to move 3 squares on the board or move to wherever their ball currently rests (if they’ve just hit it) but the ball could be up to 11 squares away. How is my character able to move either 11 or only 3 squares? Perhaps I’m missing something but I can’t find it in the rules.

ArtworkKiller Croquet Components

Artwork for the game is cartoon-like and matches the ‘wackiness’ of the feel of the game. I like the concept box art (above) shown on the Kickstarter page and I’d hope to see more of the artwork in that style in the finished product, but the artwork it has now doesn’t detract from the fun of the game.

In Summary

The all-important question – Is it fun? Yes, very much so. Even with the issues with the rules the game is very enjoyable to play and we walked away with stories (“Remember when the ball deflected off the target and smacked you in the head?!”) which is exactly what you want in a game. I’d suggest the game is played with 3 or more players (more players = more pieces on the board = more interaction and fights) and the game needs more event cards to mix things up a bit but these are only minor things that are easily fixed.

Overall it’s a game I’d like to play again and I’d love to see a production version of the game. I really hope the campaign meets its funding target so Mackenzie can get the rules looked over and I’d love to see this in the shops so get over to the campaign and get pledging.

 UPDATE – 28th September

I shared this review with the designer of the game. He’s happy with what was written here and has asked me to let you know that he’s taken feedback and will be re-tooling and re-launching the project in the future.

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