WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-4
Published by: IELLO
Designed by: Ryohei Kurahashi
Break the Cube is a follow up to the 2017 Break the Code, and a reimplementation of Yomen, also released in 2017. It's a classic puzzle game where you are looking to figure out what pattern your opponent has made through a series of simple questions. Eliminating incorrect options, one by one. Anyone who played Mastermind through the 70's and 80s will be very familiar with this process, as well as the satisfaction when you figure it out. Does Break the Cube keep this charm? Let's get it to the table to find out.
Each player will take a screen and two small, two medium, and two large blocks of the same colour and place one of each behind their screen. Take two foundation tiles and place one behind your screen and one in front. Give the other three blocks to the other player, and take their three unused pieces placing them on your foundation tile in front of your screen. Then, with the three blocks behind your screen, create a shape. You must have no overlapping pieces, at least one piece on a second height level, in a 3x3x3 max layout.
How to Play
Now, taking it in turns, each player needs to try and guess what the other player has built using the three pieces in front of their screen. These pieces will match the three pieces behind the other person screen and you need to try to arrange them into the same shape as they have. You can do this by asking one of three questions in turn with the other player.
Question 1. What can you see at a certain letter? This will give you information about the view from a certain letter for the other persons shape. For example, in the picture above from letter H, the near side player can see purple, white, blank. One purple cube with a white one on top, and then nothing in the third possible space. From F, they can see, purple, purple, purple. From E they can see blue, white, blank. Now of course, in the case of H an F, what you are seeing is right in front of you, whereas with E, what you are seeing is positioned one space back. However, the other person will not know this information, and needs to work this out through other questions. You are working in three dimensions, but getting clues in two.
Question 2. What can you see at a certain number? This will give you top down information in terms of what can be seen when looking directly down on the shape. So in the case of the shape above, when looking at nine, the space on the bottom right of the grid, you would simply see purple. With this view, you never see more than one colour, but can sometimes see blank. Such as if you looked at six, you would see blank. Which would help piece together information from above after seeing what was viewable from E. Starting to make sense?
The final question you can ask is 3. Does the shape I've built perfectly match your shape? Or more commonly, "Have I done it!?" If the answer to this is yes, then you have won. The other player will have one more turn to try and also win if you were the first player, otherwise that is game over. Multiple players can share the victory if you both get it on the same turn. But ultimately, this is a race game. Who can figure out their opponents pattern first.
There is an element of memory to this as well, trying to remember all the pieces of information you have learnt as you play the game. However, if you don't enjoy that, you can use the below score pad to record your notes as you ask each question. I found this to be a lot easier, but much less of a challenge. Try both, see what works for you.
To make it more difficult, you could also try playing with shapes made from four or five blocks instead of three. And this is a good way to even up a game between players of different ages or abilities. Trying to figure out a shape made of four or five blocks may initially seem quite daunting. But after a few plays, you will start to work out clever ways to learn the information more efficiently. You will get there. The most useful thing I learnt as I played this game, was not to set anything in stone too early. Always try to get at least two pieces of information for each space before you make an assumption. Ideally, you want to check both the X and Y axis before guessing where something is. Although of course, you cannot dally to much! This is a race game after all.
Is It Fun?
Playing Break the Cube moves very quickly from intriguing, to frustrating, to confusing, to incredibly satisfying. Starting off the game, you want to find out what shape your opponent has made. There are so many possibilities. But you know the players are in the same position, so don't feel too worried. But you want to find it out. You will then make some progress, maybe even thinking you have solved part of the puzzle, only to then be told something that utterly baffles you. How can B be blank if 2 is orange? You will spend a turn or two assessing all the possibilities, before something clicks, and you work out the solution. At which point, your brain will reward you with some lovely juicy Dopamine and you will feel on top of the world! It's a nice little journey.
There is a pure joy from working out little puzzles like this. Each game will last between 5-10 minutes. I have found that the losing player is usually only a turn or so away from figuring out the puzzle as well. So, as much as they may be frustrated at not winning when they were so close, they won't feel out of it, and reluctant to play again. In fact, starting a "quick game" of Break the Cube, often results in me playing this over and over. It is just so darn additive!
This game will appeal to those of us who enjoyed playing Mastermind in our youth. This game definitely harps back to that game. Those simple pleasures of slowly getting closer to the solution. The time pressure of trying to solve it before you ran out of turns. The satisfaction when you get it correct. The advantage though with Break the Cube is that both players are doing this at the same time. In Mastermind, you obviously have to take it in turns to guess. Whilst the other player essentially acts as a facilitator to your game. Here, both of you are playing and facilitating at the same time. A perfect example about how modern board gaming can take a classic idea and develop it to something a little better.
I would recommend this game to families, and couples who enjoy a quiet little puzzler. It works up to four, but really has a sweet spot at two. There is a simple pleasure from games like this. Two people. Sharing a peaceful moment together. In light-hearted competition with one another. Both racing for the satisfaction of solving the puzzle first. When you loose, it is frustrating. But not so much that you don't want to play again. More so, enough that you do want to play again. You will always want to end with a win. Which makes this game run and run in a delightful way.