All Is Bomb Is Bomb
Here’s a scenario for you. The Princess slumbers in her bed. Soon she will awake. What will she want for breakfast? Since she’s a bit of a, well, princess, she will neither wait to be served nor accept anything other than what her rumbly tummy desires most. You summon the breakfast prophets to foretell the proper meal. Except they’ve gone missing. A dozen other matters also consume your attention.
Also, everything is a bomb.
That’s the setup behind Blaž Gracar’s All Is Bomb, an 18-card solitaire microgame I’ve been playing a half-dozen times a week for the past month.
At the beginning, you hold a shuffled hand of cards. You place the top three cards on the table. From these, you pick one. This sends you thumbing through your hand, gradually rotating through the entire stack. For example, if the active card’s number is four, you’d shift the top three cards to the back of your hand and put the fourth card on the table in the now-vacant spot left by the previous card. The active card also triggers its special action. Then, depending on its state, something else happens. If it’s passive, you flip it over to its ignited side and dump it into the back of your hand with everything you shifted earlier. If it’s already ignited, it explodes.
You see, “All Is Bomb” is literal. Everything in this kingdom is a bomb. The Princess. Her father the King. The Prophets who foretell her deepest appetites. The pancakes she hopes to consume upon waking. Everything.
When everything is a bomb, you can’t faff about. Cards may linger in your hand or remain equipped in front of you, but they’ll detonate eventually. In some cases, a critical card may explode prematurely. Maybe even the Princess. Don’t fret. There are ways to reclaim those ill-timed blasts. Of course, the cards that un-discard other cards are also bombs, so maybe don’t make a habit of letting important items explode.
How do you win? It’s a bit of a mess. Deliberately a mess. A mess in the best sense of “mess.” You need to have a Prophet foretell which breakfast the Princess wants, ignite both the Princess and her preferred dish, and then have the Princess equip that dish when she’s played. Successfully combining Princess and dish is a matter of precise timing. Or card counting. That’s nearly the same thing in All Is Bomb.
Far from riding on superficial wackiness — although it’s plenty wacky — the real draw of All Is Bomb is the way it blends state-changing powers and careful planning. This is the oddest comparison, but it reminds me of the first edition of Pax Pamir, where victory relied on a range of factors coming together at exactly the right moment. Here, those factors are the card states themselves, the sequence of your deck, and the card actions throwing wrenches into your best-laid plans. It’s rare enough that they’ll align without some serious forethought. Even then, a single missed detail can throw the whole thing into disarray.
But it isn’t until you start adding in some expansions that it starts punching you in the brain. Some of the additions are relatively straightforward, straddled though they be with wrinkles of their own. Take, for example, the mosquitos. These must be discarded before the game can end, but they’re locked in place until your hand has been sufficiently winnowed. Or the gifts. You’ll need to give three of these to the Princess. Problem is, they each come with their own infuriating requirement — like the monkey, who throws away a different gift. Oops. I’m still wrapping my head around some of the expansions, like the Dream Guide’s ability to exchange your hand and discard pile, the All’s terminal countdown on top of the game’s plentiful countdowns, or the conspirators who’ve apparently had enough of the Princess, prompting her to retake her throne by force. For such a small game, there’s a lot to explore. There’s even a campaign mode. Don’t ask me how it works. Every time I’ve tried, I get lost somewhere around the third session. Is that a weakness of the campaign or a nested management game in its own right? Probably the former. It still tickles me that a game about carefully organizing disjointed sets of cards has a campaign mode with a prerequisite asking you to organize disjointed sets of cards.
Really, that’s the best description for the entire thing. All Is Bomb is an extended tickle. Okay, not that extended. About ten minutes. Just right for a tickle.
A complimentary copy was provided.