03 July 2022
Huey Lewis and the News might change their tune after playing The Cube
An alien ship has crashed in the desert and government agencies are hard at trying to reconstruct it. In The Cube: Area 51 you’ll assume the roles of the heads of various agency departments as you compete to fix the alien tech and take control of the AI it houses, no doubt guaranteeing your funding for years to come.
Sadly once you put the rule book down, this rather fun theme all but vanishes. Instead, you’re left with a rather dry and number-crunching experience. Players take it in turns to place rhombus-shaped tiles into the titular Cube. Each tile placed then scores points depending on the tiles around it, either looking at all the tiles in the face of the cube it’s in or its row. Bonus points are awarded when full rows are completed. Then whoever controls the row gets to score every one of their tiles in it again; control largely being determined by whoever had the most tiles in a row.
The Cube is a never-ending cascade of points to be tracked. By the end of the game, the majority of each turn will be taken up totting up points. If you really enjoy writing up tallies, then perhaps there’s something here for you, otherwise far too much of the game is simply devoted to tedious accounting.
It’s the sort of scoring system I’d expect of an app game. I can imagine dropping a tile into place and seeing the screen light up as a stream of numbers pop up celebrating your mega-bonus score. Instead, if you’re the person who’s been stuck with the pen and notepad, you’re going to stumble each of your turns having had no time to think about what you’re going to do.
I might be more forgiving of the constant points calculation if the minute or two of tabulation was the result of a carefully planned turn. The problem is, that the game places a hard limit on your ability to plan ahead. With a hand size of one, you simply draw a tile and then think how it can best score or block your opponent in the current moment. Not only doesn’t this eliminate any chance of a planned tile combo but it means that there probably is a best move to be made if you just take the time to crunch the numbers. Taking the time to think out the best move slows the game down even further. What’s more, the draw and play nature of the tiles, it feels like the order in which you draw them has just as much influence on the score as you do.
The only obvious scope for strategy in The Cube are the special scoring tiles. At the start of the game each player draws a character that gives them access to a set of three unique tiles that bring some asymmetry to the game. You have more control over when these are played, enabling you to set up big points combos (and even longer tally sessions). Trying to play these at the right time is as close as the game gets to interesting. Unfortunately the special tiles are also let down by some unclear rules, a problem that plagues the whole rulebook.
PLAY IT? NO
The Cube treats its players to 45 minutes of crunching numbers and tallying scores making for a game that is at best bland and at worst frustrating.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… Azul
Try Azul for a much tastier outing for tile laying fans.
Designer: Daniel Solis & Drew Hicks
Publisher: Greater Than Games, LLC
Time: 25 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Double-joined game pad
- 2 Pencils
- 52 Object cards
- 102 Question cards
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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