A few years ago I clicked onto the BoardGameGeek website, as I often do purely out of habit. Instead of being immediately drawn to the latest 'Hotness' list, I stumbled upon a live stream of the 2015 GenCon event. Upon expanding the video I was introduced to a simple looking, relatively minimalist kind of card/dice game, which made use of an app as an elaborate timer. The game was Fuse. And I wanted it.
Its simple premise of matching dice up with cards in an effort to defuse numerous bombs aboard a space ship seemed so eloquently represented. Simple but bold graphic design paired with chunky and bright dice, and a frantic but satisfying gameplay flow. It bared similarities to other games I had seen before, namely Roll for It, but Fuse’s furious dice matching required more than merely rolling numbers, colours were involved too, as well as stacking!
It took a long time before Fuse hit retail over in the UK, but I soon clasped my hands around this deceptively volatile small box game, naively unaware of the forthcoming stress, panic, and excitement it would bring me. Now, let me share its explosive charm with you.
So, What’s Fuse About?
Fuse is a sci-fi themed scene from a disaster movie in a box. Designed by Kane Klenko, the genius behind games such as Flip Ships, and Fuse successor Flatline, and released by Renegade Games, Fuse pits you and up to three other friends against a multitude of ticking time bombs aboard an extremely unlucky space shuttle.
Boarded by mysterious intruders and destined to be blown apart in the vastness of space unless you and your elite Bomb Defusal Team step in, your space ship is depending on you to possess the luck, intelligence, and dexterity to defuse all the bombs within a measly 10 minutes. There are lives depending on you. But do you have what it takes?
How Does it Play?
Frantically. I don’t think I’ve encountered a more tense and involved real-time game as Fuse, but there’s order in its chaos. Games begin with each player being dealt two bomb cards and five more being placed face up in the middle of the table.
Depending on the number of players and the difficulty level chosen, there can be between 16 and 29 bomb cards in the deck. Once this is sorted simply tap play on the app or use your own 10-minute timer!
Each turn will involve one of your team grabbing a number of dice equal to the number of players (this differs in two player or solitaire games) from the particularly nice included bag, and rolling them. Think of these as cuboid representations of your crew’s know-how, alongside the physical tools and components needed to defuse the bombs.
Each player must take one die and place it on one of their bomb cards, keeping in mind that card’s particular requirements. As soon as a bomb card receives its final die. the dice are removed, the card is flipped, and a new one is chosen from the replenishing central display.
Bomb cards have several spaces for dice to be placed. Some spaces may just require a certain number or colour, or maybe both. Subsequent spaces on bomb cards might demand a higher or lower number, or require a matching colour. More complex cards present simple math sums, with certain dice used needing to be preceded by dice which add up that number.
To make things even more challenging, placement is not always linear, with several cards requiring players to construct specific pyramid configurations or towering stacks. All of this adds up to a huge amount of variability between bomb cards, with some being simpler than others. Conveniently, their difficulty is rated at the top right of each card allowing you to mix and match which cards to use in any particular game.
If at any time a dice cannot be used, it must be re-rolled with the ensuing result determining which matching dice (colour or number) already placed on bomb cards, each player must return to the bag. Similarly, cruel are the six Fuse cards planted in the deck each depicting a die colour or number. When drawn they work similarly to unused dice, with each player begrudgingly surrendering one of their matching dice.
Once all bomb cards are cleared from the central display the game is over, and if completed within the 10-minute time frame you’ve won! Any cards remaining in front of players are thematically considered duds and do not need defusing. Points are then added up, with 10 points being received if you won and bonus points for every full 10 seconds left on the clock, alongside the total points shown on the defused bomb cards and two points for every completed Fuse card.
Why Should I Play it?
Well, your spaceship will blow up if you don’t! And it comes with an embroidered cloth bag! Joking aside, Fuse offers a great deal of edge of your seat fun in a small and well presented package. Component quality is great and whilst the art is relatively simple and repetitive it is nonetheless evocative.
Gameplay is blazingly fast-paced and simple to pick up whilst undoubtedly presenting an immense challenge. You will likely fail on your first few attempts, but persevere and you and your team’s almost subconscious understandings of how best to deal with each dice roll will astound you.
The dialogue your team of top bomb defusal experts will spout every turn will rarely, if ever, slip from the game at hand, rendering Fuse highly thematic in its depiction of stressful situations.
Whilst the breakneck pace and panic might often detract from any detailed musings on the game’s theme or setting, the accompanying app certainly helps generate a tense lingering background atmosphere. You’ll often find yourself cursing the unhelpful and somewhat sassy comments from the ship’s computer bleating out of your phone or tablet, and it’s all part of the fun.
Final Thoughts on Fuse
If you're looking for a quick filler game that strays from the usual laid back offerings available, then Fuse is well worth a shot. Busting it out at the beginning of game night is sure to jolt your guests into a state of alertness and enthusiasm, ready for whatever games the night brings, or perhaps even repeat plays. The Renegade Game Studios Fuse companion app keeps track of previous scores as well as providing the game’s timer and atmosphere, so climbing back aboard to beat your best is enticing and easily traceable.
As well as being an excellent gateway, group or party game, Fuse’s relative simplicity lends itself to playing with younger gamers. The light maths elements involved in the game could add some excitement for kids brushing up on their maths skills, helped by Fuse’s colourful presentation and tactile dice placement.
Clever, cruel, and compelling, Fuse should keep luring you back on board its doomed vessel for years to come. But, are you up to the challenge?