2+ player games:
1. Bandits: I think that any good casual game night has a need for a social deception game, so I was unbelievably excited when Bandits was released, and couldn’t wait to get it into my own hands. Because of covid, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to experience this game with more than two players (my wife and I), which is sad because even though this game CAN be played with 2 players, I think it really needs 3 or more players to shine. The risk/reward balance is amazing, and allowing “stealing” from a previously scored blink makes “who is winning” much less predictable, keeping interest high even if you’re behind. In addition, allowing one player to “steal” from another player introduces just enough competition and indirect conflict to bring out a higher level of emotional investment while still keeping the mood light and fun.
I will make the concession that this game is one that might be the most limited by the 12 blink restriction, since I don’t think 12 blinks is enough to have a 4th player, and even with 3 players, games will be cut shorter than if there were 18 blinks just by virtue of having less pieces of the board to build out, but I’m still forming my opinion on if this restriction is enough to bump it out of my “perfect 12” list. I really wanted to include this one because it has a unique spot in the 12 as the on only betting/bluffing game I’ve included. While there are other betting/bluffing type games in the Blinks system (tip-toe volcano specifically comes to mind), it will take me feeling significantly restricted by the limited blink count in future playtesting for me to consider dropping this game from the list just because the gameplay is so good!
2. Bomb Brigade: This was one of the first games that came to mind when originally thinking up this list. Not only is the gameplay quick, easy to understand, and very repeatable, but it is unique among the 12 in that it is not limited to a specific number of players by either the inherent programming rules nor the 12-blink limitation. In fact, this game can reasonably be “cloned” and run in 2 parallel games fairly optimally within the limit of only 12 blinks! In my mind, this mixture of attributes makes Bomb Brigade an ideal game to choose when attempting to get as many interested parties to jump into the action as possible, as soon as possible. I would start introductions to the game system with a single-player game like Wham first, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to break out Bomb Brigade as a 2nd game once everybody seemed comfortable with the idea and interface of the game system.
3. Darkball: In my experience, this game is a great one to pull out early in the introduction phase to new players because the interface is so easy and because there is no “strategy” element, preventing alienation of players who might not be as interested in either appearing foolish in front of others or who just plain aren’t looking for that kind of “thoughtful” gameplay experience. On the flipside, I’ve encountered a set of player personalities who are timid about reaction-based games, but I feel like the multiple hitpoints design and relatively quick games inherent to Darkball mitigate this hesitancy to a degree. While the 12-blink restriction puts limits on the number of players, especially if you want to create a more complicated pathway, I think that the overall experience is only slightly limited when only playing with 12 blinks, making it a solid inclusion in this list. I think the 2 player experience is good, the 3 player experience is great, but 4 players is pushing it with this setup. Finally, I’ve found that Darkball, as compared to Reactor, is a game that gets more fun (and more loud) after a few adult beverages have entered the equation, so it can be a particularly good game to pull out (or to revisit) later in the evening.
4. Reactor: Even though it parallels Darkball in many ways, and part of this 12-blink restriction exercise is to include as many unique experiences as possible, I eventually concluded that Reactor’s gameplay was unique enough and brought enough to the table to be included in this list. Of the two, I have a hard time choosing a favorite between Reactor and Darkball, and I think it is because Reactor introduces a few more advanced interactions and rules complications that make it a good “next step” for players who show a higher level of interest and aptitude with the Blinks Game System.
This game is just so much more DESIGNED than Darkball (no offense to that game) when it comes to balance, comeback mechanisms, and allowing players to feel smart. Even though both games reward quick reflexes, Reactor is able to draw in players who also have pattern recognition skills, and make them feel rewarded for their abilities. The game also rewards people who can split their attention because of the brilliant addition of the “unstable blinks” element, which keeps players invested even if they are on the path to losing, and especially if playing a 3 player game where one player is “eliminated” but still has an opportunity to get back in the action if they grab an unstable blink. Even though each game is relatively short, “player elimination” is an undesirable element inherent to many multiplayer games, and by giving the “eliminated” player a way back into the game, it keeps everybody invested and having fun until the ultimate winner is decided. Even better, by requiring the players still in the game to split their attention between the central blink and the unstable blink, while allowing the “eliminated player” to ONLY need to focus on the unstable blink, that player’s chances of rejoining are improved. This dynamic is not present if playing with the “pay-up” rules alteration which makes this variant less appealing to me personally, but since this is a totally optional and separate way to play the game, the variety allowed only benefits the game as a whole. Finally, I can’t give enough praise to the designer for adding travel time between the player input and the central blink. With this subtle design decision, not only is there an added level of visual intrigue, but there is a built-in rubberbanding mechanism that slowly gives the advantage to the player(s) who is/are closest to being eliminated from the game. All of this is accomplished without adding a single iota of mental or mechanical burden to the players, nor complicating or altering the original design of the game.
As one final note, I wanted to point out that the rulebook and the instructional video actually leave out one very important detail when playing Reactor… one that you, the reader, might not possibly know about either! Both the video tutorial and the rulebook say that players can “buzz in” when 2 same-color patterns are shown in a row; however, what they don’t tell you is that you can ALSO buzz in when 2 different-color but same NUMBER patterns are displayed in a row. This means that a 1-pip yellow flash followed by a 1-pip magenta flash (even if not in the same directional orientation) is a valid combo to “buzz-in” for. I’m not sure if this rule was added after the instructional materials were already finalized, or if it was simply overlooked, but I figured it was worth talking about!
5. Heist: Last but not least is the single sliding/dexterity game representative of this 12-game set. Not only do I like Heist on its own merits, but I felt that omitting a game that utilizes the sliding/flicking possibility built into the unique interaction possibilities that the Blinks Game System offers would be a major disservice. Even though other games, specifically FlicFlop and Crownfall, also demonstrate this gameplay element, I felt that the ease of play (compared to Crownfall) and minimal required blinks for multiple players (compared to FlicFlop) made Heist the best choice to represent this gameplay style to people new to the Blinks Game System.
Gameplay of Heist is fairly straight-forward, and the flexibility of allowing players to share a single blink and change team colors between players makes it ideal for the 12-blink limitation of this exercise. In my mind, the ideal minimum vault size is 5 blinks, and by allowing up to 4 players to share the same flicking blink, this means that 2 instances of the game can be run in parallel to allow up to 8 players to join in on the fun at once! Also, compared to the other flicking games, I believe that Heist is playable when restricted to a relatively small play area, which makes the game viable even if you find yourself without an expansive flat play area option in whatever social gathering situation you might encounter. Even though I don’t feel Heist is as attention grabbing and/or replayable as many other choices on this list, I couldn’t NOT include it just for the fact that it demonstrates a unique playstyle that might help new players better understand what makes the Blinks Game System so compelling and unique.