- Designer: Richard Champion
- Publisher: Act In Games / Blackrock Distribution
- Players: 1-5
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Times played: 7, with review copy provided by Act In Games
Globe Twister was a game that I knew little about until two weeks prior to SPIEL 2018. I was sent a press release (which I think went to everyone on the SPIEL press list) about the game, and I was intrigued by the idea of a puzzle/programming game which could be played both solitaire as well as competitively.
In this game, each player is given a set of 9 tiles which make up an Inuit landscape. They are mixed up and placed in random order in a 3×3 grid. Each player also gets a player aid which shows the landscape in its correct form. Players can use this picture as a reference during game play, and it is also used as a cover for the tiles when the player is not actively working on the puzzle. For now, once the initial grid is randomized, cover your tiles with the picture so that you can’t get a head start on working on the puzzle in your head. Each player has a thin cardboard frame which they will place action cards in.
Each player then takes the 10 action cards in their color and makes them available on the table in front of them. I prefer to have them all laid out so that I can see them all. There are three different colors of action cards. The three green cards allow you to rotate a picture tile without moving its location in the grid. There are 5 blue cards which let you swap or push tiles around the grid. Finally, two of the cards are red – these are special one use cards – one which allows you to move a tile into its correct location without rotation, and one which allows free movement WITH rotation.
So, all players arrange their available action cards out and then, on a signal, the round begins. All players uncover their grid of tiles, and each chooses action cards to place in their cardboard frame. The spaces within the frame correspond to the nine locations in their tile grid. So, if you place an action card in the upper right corner of your frame, the action shown on that card will happen to the upper right tile in your grid.
As you are planning, remember that you will resolve your actions from left to right in each row, starting with the topmost row and then moving downward. The actions will take place on whichever tile is in the matching position in the grid when it’s that action’s turn to have an effect. In this way, you might be able to affect a single time multiple times in one round…. You could start by first rotating the upper left tile (with your first action of a round), and then it’s position could be swapped into a later location, and then it might be rotated again and then pushed around later.
Once any player feels like they have programmed all the actions they wish to take, they cover their tiles with their picture and flip over the 30 second timer. Everyone else must finish their planning before the sand runs out. When they are done, they also cover their tiles with their picture.
The final phase is the resolution of actions. This can be done simultaneously once everyone is familiar with the different action cards. Going in the proscribed order, you apply the effects of the action cards. Your end goal is to get your nine tiles in the same arrangement as the finished picture seen on your cover. If no one has achieved this at the end of this phase, play another round! If someone has finished the picture – that player wins. If multiple players have done so, ties are broken in favor of the player with the most Red cards left in their hand.
The back side of the tiles offers a different, more difficult, fisheye image. It should also be noted that each of the five sets of tiles has a slightly different image on it (North America, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia) – whereas the Inuit images are all identical. If needed, the game can be handicapped by having more advanced players use the fisheye image. You can also handicap players by not giving them one or both red cards to use.
There are also solo challenges in the rulebook where you are given different tile setup and challenged to solve the puzzle in a certain number of rounds.
My thoughts on the game
Globe Twister is a fun take on the puzzle game. I like the element of programming here as it really does force you to plan far ahead trying to see where tiles will be in the future so you can take the correct action on them. The starting side of the polar landscape is actually quite challenging, though I have found after repeated plays that players who have played before have a significant advantage over players who have not yet played just based on their familiarity with the image and the actions.
There is a small speed element to the game as players have to finish within 30 seconds of the first player to stop. I think that this time limit is long enough to take most, but not all, of the sting out of a speed game situation. In this case, finishing programming first is not always a recipe for success. You might make errors by finishing first, and you lose that extra 30 seconds of time that you could be planning your work.
Each of the 10 actions cards does a unique thing (well, I guess that the red cards actually duplicate actions in a sense) – and you can only use a card once each round. So, one of the biggest efficiencies is trying to make sure that you use your cards as many times as possible in a round – because if you need to rotate three tiles to the right, you’ll need at three rounds to do it with the rotate right card. And if you miss using it one round, that’s another round you have to wait to get your puzzle solved! I often find that I’m using the extra time left to me to figure out how to squeeze one more action in a round. This is often the difference between winning and losing!
The game has a number of built in ways to handicap players, and I also think this is a nice plus for the game. I find that I pretty much have to play with a fisheye image now as I’ve more or less memorized what the polar image looks like, and my planning for that picture is super fast. There is the additional bonus that there are five different fish-eye images, so it will take a much longer time for me to get as used to any of them (probably not before the natural lifespan of this game in my collection). One more handicap rule that I just tried to implement in my last game was to limit myself so that I had to stop programming as soon as any other player finished. That turned out to be far too strong of a handicap, but at least it’s something worth exploring…
The addition of a solo game also has added to my enjoyment of the game – though it probably made it harder for me to play with beginners in the competitive game – as it has given me even more practice with the images and the action cards. But, the puzzles did provide for a pleasant evening one night, and I’m not sad to have played through them all.
For a short but challenging puzzle, Globe Twister is a go-to game for me. The artwork is nice, and the game is easy to teach and learn. The fact that it can be handicapped in so many ways makes the game more replayable than many other puzzle games.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Joe Huber (1 play): Globe Twister is a nicely done speed puzzle game. If you enjoy speed puzzle games, it’s worth checking out. I am not so fond of them; they aren’t bad, but they aren’t games that I specifically suggest playing. This is one of the better examples.
Patrick Brennan: This felt more like a skill assessment when applying for a job rather than a game. As in, what’s the minimum number of rotations and moves required to get these 9 pieces oriented and aligned correctly to re-form the picture. Putting the players on the clock turns into a game of skill I guess, but it’s not a game of fun, more a multi-player solitaire challenge in which to test yourself. It’s kind of interesting in a Robo Rally programming type way, but it’s not a skill I feel the need to prove myself superior or inferior in, and the lack of interactive fun sounded a death knell.
Dan Blum (3 plays): I like this sort of thing and this is a well-done example of it, so I like it. The only thing keeping me from loving it is the bit Dale mentions about the action restrictions; they mean that one player’s board require a minimum of four rounds to complete while someone else’s might only require three, which can be a bit frustrating. This doesn’t hurt the game much since it’s only noticeable once players get really good at it, but I think it does limit replayability after a certain point.
James Nathan (4 plays, though I don’t know what counts as a play): I played this a few times at BGGCON and enjoyed it. The Inuit side is a nice tutorial, but the fisheye pictures provide a good challenge. I am pre-disposed to programming games, puzzle games, geography games, and, well, job skill assessment games :)
That said, I don’t feel any compulsion to play again. I fully enjoyed the games I had, but I’m on to something else.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. Dan Blum, James Nathan
- Neutral. Joe H.
- Not for me… Patrick Brennan