by Acebloke
Strategic Board game where sacrifice is key to winning
Keywords: review
Based on an old computer game, Acebloke's Exploder has various goals involving territory ownership, but the turn sequences are deceptively simple. Each turn, players place a piece of their color on a grid. Pieces may be piled on top of pieces of the same color. When the number of pieces on a tile reaches 5, the tile explodes and sends four of its pieces into the four cardinal directions. Those pieces can then pile on top of whatever pieces are already there and change their color to that of the explosion.

What makes the game exciting is the multiple chain reactions can be formed when those exploding pieces land on another 4. Pieces are added each turn and never removed. The board is always changing. Players can own most of the board during one turn and have their pieces completely taken away the next.

There are also a lot of nifty tactics to learn. Sure, anybody can click a 4 next to another 4 to make both explode. However, how about exploding a 3 by clicking a corner of three 4s? After a few games, players will start seeing ways of exploding low-numbered tiles that never would have occurred to them when they first started.

The sounds and graphics during a match do their job. Colors, numbers, size differences, and space differences convey the current game situation rather well. Explosions can emit a barrage of pops and each piece placement has a satisfying click.

Unfortunately, the HUD looks like you're on the bridge of a ship from the original Star Trek. Players, if they are even aware of the status bar, will spend a lot of time staring at the bottom of the screen while hovering over arcane pictures. In my experience, the room switching button seems to be the most problematic as players sometimes leave when they can't see the running games.

Exploder was one of the early gems in BYOND Strategy. IainPeregrine and I reviewed it privately back when the main guilds did not double as game directories. It became a favorite during the short-lived guild events. Acebloke saw the interest, provided a few updates, and started holding tournaments. As of this writing, that interest has died down a bit, but it is still played occasionally and is free to host for those looking for a fun, "easy to play, harder to master" strategy game.
Thanks for the review! It does indeed need a little moving about so the hud isn't so difficult and frigid.

Oh, and Wargames 2 should be getting an update, soon :p