December 15, 2015
Compared to the frenzy of Anomia, our third game, Alpha Bandits (from Wiggity Bang Games), is downright sedate. But beware of sedate games. Just as with people, it’s always the quiet games that you have to watch out for -- behind the placid surface lies a downright diabolical diversion.
Alpha Bandits is beautifully designed, with attention to every detail. Each player grabs seven double-sided tiles, with letters on both sides (one red and one blue). You place all seven behind a small screen to keep them away from the prying eyes of your opponents. After you assemble three-letter or longer words utilizing as many tiles as possible, you place them in front of your screen in the playing area. When all players are satisfied with what they’ve played, the round ends. Unlike most games, the tiles remain in play during subsequent rounds. You can add letters to make longer words and create new words alongside the “oldies.”
Sounds easy, right? Alas, there are many flies in the ointment -- in the form of Bandit Tiles -- which allow the possessor to wreak havoc on the opponents. For example, one tile allows you to steal one tile from an opponent to use as your own; another allows you to flip over any one tile in the playing area; and one even allows you to stop a round as soon as it is played. You score points for every letter used in a word, but you also are docked with negative points for any tiles in the playing area that aren’t part of words. Players who hold destructive tiles often go after those with the highest scores or the longest words in the playing area, so the bandit tiles help even out the game, adding to the excitement. Players at Mohonk enjoyed employing one of the “advanced” optional rules -- you double your score if all the tiles in one word either alternate colors or all are of the same color.
Although Alpha Bandits involves assembling words with letter tiles, the words tend to be shorter
than in most games, so you needn’t be a walking thesaurus to succeed. Folks at Words Weekend who stayed with the game enjoyed Alpha Bandits tremendously, but several tables found the rules confusing and some gave up, which is a shame. The charming linked video from two of the game’s inventors shows how easy and fun the game play of Alpha Bandits really is.
[For 2-4 players, suitable for ages 9+, available directly from the publisher, at Amazon and the usual suspects].