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Fuse

Reviewed by: Herb Levy

(Mucke Spiele, 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, 15 minutes, €14.90)

fuse1There is a segment of the gaming world consisting of games requiring you to think fast because time is running out. It’s almost as if there was a bomb in the room and you need to get things done before the bomb explodes! In Fuse (aka Lunte in its German edition), that is exactly what is happening!

Fuse is a 144 card card game designed by Bruce Whitehill. All players are given 2 bomb cards (all identical), 3 defuse cards (which come in three varieties) and 5 fuse cards (randomly shuffled and dealt to the players) with the rest forming a fuse card deck. Additional defuse cards are added to the fuse card deck (a number equal to the number of players) and the red “time bomb” card is randomly shuffled into the bottom 30 cards. With the “match” card placed in the center of the play area, the game begins.

On a turn, a player may play either a fuse card, a defuse card or a bomb from his hand. Fuse cards are added to the match card (or a played fuse card) increasing the length of the fuse. Fuse cards have number values, from 3 to 15. As the fuse lengthens, the value of the cards along the way, of course, increases – which forces you to make a decision.

You can, of course, play a fuse card, adding to the length and value of the fuse. If you choose to play a defuse card instead, ALL fuse cards on the table are REMOVED from play with only the match card and the played defuse card remaining. Subsequently played fuse cards begin the process all over again. If you choose to play a bomb card, that player COLLECTS all the fuse cards on the table (and any defuse cards left from previous plays) and places them in his scoring pile. When a fuse or defuse card is played, a player ends his turn by drawing a new card from the draw deck.

The game continues but ends immediately if either ALL players have played their two bomb cards OR the time bomb card appears. Then points are totaled.

fuse2Players count all the cards collected through play of their bomb cards. As mentioned, there are three types of defuse cards, specifically scissors, water and boot (all designed to put out the burning fuse) and although they all work exactly the same, they are supposed to have different point values (4, 5 and 6 respectively). But that’s not all. Cards remaining in your hand are worth NEGATIVE points. The player with the highest final total wins!

The graphics of Fuse are a mixed bag. The “mad bomber” icon is charming and cute and the depiction of fuses, short fuses worth small amounts of points, longer fuses more points, is a nice visual cue to help you get a feel for the potential value of a round. Card quality is fine too. But several errors (or, at least, questionable decisions) appear in this printing.

First of all, the three defuse cards are supposed to carry point values – but NONE of them show ANY numbers! When we played, we just considered all of them worth 5 points and didn’t worry about which type was used. (Sybille Whitehill, the wife of the designer, has suggested giving players a bonus of 5 points if they manage to collect three of the same type of defuse card. That’s an interesting idea which gives another slant to the play of those defuse cards.) Second, there is a surprisingly lack of color here. Virtually ALL of the cards (the exceptions are the time bomb and the bomb cards) are pea soup green, which is great for soup but not the most attractive color here. And why isn’t the match card red? (It too is green.) Red is the color of danger; exploding bombs certainly seem dangerous, so red as the main color motif might have been a better choice. And different colors for the defuse cards would make the different types more easily identifiable. Third, the rules include instructions for two special cards – but these cards are NOT in the game! These were special promotions released at Essen and, although they may be obtained directly from the publisher, you would never know it from the rules. If they wanted to include this in the game, it should have been as a separate one-sheet.

In spite of these readily fixable glitches, Fuse succeeds as a light, push-your-luck game in the genre of It’s Mine (by Knizia) and others. But that doesn’t mean you have no decisions to make, you do. You need to balance your desire to get rid of high cards (which count against you at the end of the game) with your reluctance to add points to the fuse, making playing a bomb – for the other players – more attractive. You have to consider when to defuse (and eliminate a potentially valuable windfall of points) instead of using your bomb and when to use your bomb at the best time to gather up points. But be aware that this game is very dependent on the players.

When we first tackled this, the analysis impulses by some of our “over-thinkers” undermined the game. As cards were added to the fuse (the longer the fuse, the more points it is worth), some players were counting points as we played. WRONG! You are supposed to ESTIMATE the value by how long the fuse is. For this reason (and for the fun of playing your bomb card to make things go BOOM!), Fuse is probably best suited to light family play and children who can get into the frantic and frenetic pace. After all, play is supposed to be fast, not calculating, and played in the right spirit, this can be an exciting, explosive experience.


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