Designer: Martin Nedergaard Anderson
Artist: Odile Sageat, Lucas Guidetti Perez
This Switzerland-based publisher has really flown under the radar until recently when I discovered a few small card games from Reiner Knizia published under their label. I was actually looking to get a copy of Kariba and also Zenmaster, formerly known as Yin Yang or Relationship Tightrope. Surprisingly, another unheralded game caught my attention: Bandido. Helvetiq appears to specialize in small box card games not unlike Oink Games from Japan. In fact, the box size for Bandido is as small if not smaller than games published by Oink. The price point is also quite attractive and the slate of designers published by Helvetiq is quite appealing (I mean, they have at least 3 Knizia designed games on their catalogue). I am intrigued! I I guess I always have a soft spot for small box games and particular more so now since I game with a 7 year old.
In the game, Bandido is in jail and wants to escape. His rectangular-shaped cell is placed in the middle with 5 to 6 paths leading out of his cell. Players take turns to place cards with different path configurations, extending the routes from the jail. The goal is not to help Bandido escape, but rather to place tiles in such a way that all the paths are sealed off in a self-contained network. Since each tile features multiple connections, the paths will continue to cris cross and grow. To seal off all exits, there aren’t enough dead end tiles to cover them all. Hence one of the goals for tile placement is to link paths together and loop them around in a way to reduce the number of actively growing branches.
As you can imagine, this game is a table hog! You really need ample table space as the tunnel network kinda grows organically. The way the tiles come out also mean that some luck is needed to have the right tile at the right time to make the perfect connection. Even with the surprisingly light and luck driven nature of the game, the game still requires some thought and plenty of coordination with other players. While you cannot reveal your hand of three tiles, you can indicate areas of interest where you have a good connection. This communication is vital for getting a shot at winning the game. Even with the communication, it’s not guaranteed that you will have the right combination of cards to seal the exits. While our games with three have been challenging, I could easily imagine the game ending quickly within a couple of hands if the right combo of cards are at hand. So, expect the game to be swingy.
Still, the expectations for Bandido must match the nature of the game. This is a simple, straightforward tile placement co-op that is really a filler or a family game. It is refreshingly different from your standard Euro doodads because these type of connection games don’t come around as often anymore. I think Saboteur, Metro, Indigo, Linie 1 are some of the games that are in the same genre but this is likely the simplest of them all. Even then, the variability from the possible connections in the network makes this game fun with the right group. For us, this means the game is a great family game including my 7 year old.
7 years 1 month: On the surface, Bandido seems almost too simple, but it has all the right elements to be engaging. The first few games were unlucky for us and we ended up losing badly. That took some air out of the little one. Luckily we continued to press forward and eventually found some success. For me, I find the game fun and don’t mind reaching for it during regular play but surprisingly, the game took longer than I expected. The full game lasted for more than 30 minutes. Slightly longer than I liked, but still enough intrigue to keep my kid engaged. I don’t know if this game will have any longevity because she is mildly enthusiastic about it. This is also probably because Bandido and Zombie Kidz arrived at the same time and both are co-ops. However, Bandido clearly has a lot less alpha issues because of the hidden hand.