The Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu: Review of 3 Laws of Robotics

3 Laws of Robotics

Floodgate Games have always been one of my favorite small game companies.  I always make sure that I make time to talk to them at Origins, and their releases such as Sagrada, Legacy: Gears of Time, and Epic Resort have been caught my eye in the past.  This year, Bosk and 3 Laws of Robotics were new to me, and both sounded great after a short demo at the stand.

3 Laws of Robotics is a deduction game with the twist where you know all the information… except your own!  In the game, your goal in each round is to figure out which faction you are a part of and what your rank is in that faction.

To start the game, you first set up a faction deck – with the appointed number of factions and number of ranks per faction as designated in the rules.  The Law cards and Victory point card decks are formed separately. A supply of Enforcement tokens equal to the number of players plus 2 is also made.

The game is played over four rounds, with each working the same way except for the number of law cards revealed at the start of the round (equal to the round number minus one).  Once the round starts – the laws on the table will be in effect. Each law card has a simple rule which all players must follow. It may be that players cannot use pronouns, or they may not be able to point at any other player, or all queries must be 5 words or less.  More annoyingly, it may require you to use a robotic voice to speak or force you to say “data received” each time that you get a card. 

some law cards

Before the round can start, each player is given a Security key; this will be used later in the round.  Then, each player is dealt a face down Faction card from the deck. When everyone is ready, the players hold their cards up so that they do not see what it on the card but so that all other players can see it.  Once the faction cards are revealed, the Law cards are now in effect until the round ends.

Now, beginning with the current Start Player, each player gets to ask a single query. There are really no restrictions to what you can ask, but players should be careful not to give away information they don’t want to while asking their question.  The question must be directed at a specific player, and that player must give an answer. Of course, that player doesn’t have to truthfully answer. The goal of the question is to help the asker determine which faction he belongs to and his rank within that faction.   Play goes around the table until each player has had a chance to ask a question. 

During the round, if any player breaks one of the Laws which is face up on the table, any other player can declare “Error” and point out the error. If a mistake was made, the accuser will get an Enforcement token from the supply.  If a mistake was not made, any other player can call “Error” and take the Enforcement token.

The next phase uses the Security key cards. Again beginning with the Start Player, each player decides to offer their Security Key to another player or they can choose to keep their Key card.  The goal here is to get the Security keys to the highest ranked player in your faction. (Thus, if you think you’re the highest ranked player in your faction, you’d keep your key.) The receiving player can choose to refuse the transfer, and if so, the offering player keeps his Security key card.

When all players have had a chance to transfer a Security key card, then the faction cards are revealed to the table so the players can now learn their own identity.  At this time, the round is scored, and the Laws are no longer in effect. Players draw a card from the victory point deck (worth 1, 2 or 3 points) for various feats:

some faction cards

If you belong to a faction whose leader (highest ranked player) is the only player of that Faction to have Security keys, all players of that faction draw a card.

If you are the only member of a faction, and you have more than 1 Security key card, draw 2 cards.

In a 5+ player game, if your faction has more Security keys than any other faction, all members of your faction draw an extra card.

If you have at least one Enforcement token, draw a Victory point card.

If you have the most Enforcement tokens, or are tied for the most, draw an extra Victory point card.

The values of the Victory point cards are kept secret until the end of the game.

victory point cards

At the end of the round, the Law cards in play are discarded.  The Faction cards in the current round are collected, placed back in the deck, and that deck is shuffled.  A new round is played – and the new Start player is the player with the most Victory point cards. 

From the rules in the setup, play continues until the end of the fourth round.  However, the rules abruptly end. There is actually not a section that goes over the Game End.  From my experience in playing other games, I assume that players reveal their Victory cards, and the player with the most points is the winner. There is no tiebreaker rule (in fact, there isn’t even a clear statement in the rules that the player with the most points wins), but I would think it would be sensible to say that there isn’t a tiebreaker or to consider giving the win to whoever has the most Victory point cards.

My Thoughts on the Game

This is a fun little game where you have to come up with inventive questions to figure out which team you’re on, who else is on your team, and then, which of you is ranked higher. It’s hard to do when you only get one question per round – so there are a few times you’re just making your best educated guess at things!

If you’re the kind of gamer that doesn’t like this sort of uncertainty, this one may not be for you. Also, if you don’t like silly arbitrary rules – such as having to answer all questions in a monotone robotic voice, this one may not be for you either. For us, while some of the rules were admittedly a bit silly, it had us laughing all the way thru, and we were always paying attention to what people were saying – not only for the information to be gleaned from the questions and answers but also to catch people out when they went against one of the rules. I think the game had a fairly mixed reception here based on the caveats above.

Overall, I found it to be a nice light game – not too much social deduction going on here. People aren’t really roleplaying or trying to negotiate their way thru the game; it’s more a matter on posing the right questions or answering the questions posed to you. The scoring is a bit on the random side as a player who only drew three cards, but all 3 pointers, could beat someone who managed to get 8. one point cards. For some that would be hard to swallow. This is the sort of game that I think cannot be taken too seriously.

The components are OK. The box is small, and I like that. The cards themselves are thin and feel plastic-y or plastic coated. This causes them to stick together, and I found myself always having to check that I had only picked one card up.

3 Laws of Robotics can make a nice filler/opener/closer. It’s a light game, and one that allows everyone to participate, and due to the random draw of point cards; a game that gives almost everyone a chance to win the game in the end.

Fraser: As somebody who grew up reading Isaac Asimov I feel that, based on the above, this game should be called some along the lines of Robotic Laws, it has nothing to do with the Three Laws of Robotics.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers