15/09/2021

Tinderblox: Building bonfire with tweezers [Review]

Camping is never complete without collecting tinder and gathering around the bonfire. Just like in real life, we’re going to light up the wood blocks so big without setting wildfire. We want to grill meat and burn marshmallow, not incinerate the whole camping ground. Well, Rob Sparks (pun intended) the pyromaniac tendency within me already. Burn! Tinderblox belongs to the dexterity game series from Alley Cat Games that got funded through Kickstarter. With consideration of casual gamers in my group, I decided to pledge this at once.

Disclaimer: I am an avid euro gamer and a hardcore Legend of the Five Rings LCG player. I am not a fan of solo game/variant. This statement will give you an overview of what kind of bias I might have while writing.

You may find it hypocrite at worst and puzzling at best that I bought a dexterity game. Well, fella, with my group became more diverse than I expected, I need to have some other games to entertain other target markets. In order to accommodate casual ones, I cannot just stuff something as heavy as Turczi’ and Tascini’s piece, right? Moreover, Tinderblox is tiny enough, so I can save space in my almost-full shelf. Once in a while, a simple game will suffice, too.

“THIS FITS IN MY POCKET!” AND MY OTHER FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON TINDERBLOX

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The components inside the Tinderblox’s small tin box. You get everything you need to start a game up to 6 players.

Just like its sibling, Tinderblox is cased in a small tin box. Quoting once again what I’ve written about the other game from this series, “the conventional corrugated cardboard would have been more lovable” still stands. Once again, this is purely preference from my side. What’s important is the size fits in my pocket, and it helps a lot, especially when I’m travelling.

Following the unboxing, I was rather surprised that the components fit inside the tiny box. The tweezers are enough proof to tell Tinderblox is a dexterity game. This kind of gimmick has been used in another game that needs nimble hands, Tokyo Highway from itten (a Japanese board game company). Some of their games appeared to be capable to entertain. What makes this game different (besides its size) from its predecessor then? Why should this game deserve the time on our table?

GAMING EXPERIENCES WITH THE CASUAL ONES

My offers to play Tinderblox were turned down multiple times by more experienced players. I could understand their insight on this, though. On the bright side, the casual gamers (especially the younger audience) showed more positive attitude towards this little game. They loved it, actually, despite the presence of player elimination in the game. With up to six players in the equation, I initially thought like, “Hell I don’t believe this game lasts only for 15 minutes!” But, hey, I was wrong! With the straight-forward flow, it sure is a short spell.

Tinderblox is like Jenga but in reverse. You have a structure in this game (again just like Jenga), but instead dismantling a piece out of the structure before stacking it on the top, we build the structure from scratch. No taking blocks, we only put it in this game. With the beams…

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The highest structure before it collapsed.

depicting the wood logs and cubes the fires, there are two geometrical shapes to consider.

Your fate hangs by the thread, or wood log…

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The tweezers are a bit slippery, but we managed.

The placement of these elements depends not on one’s freedom but the will of the cards. While trying not to get eliminated because you burn the whole camping site, you pray for your fate not to draw the hardest card to build as well. You think your life is miserable enough with complicated structure? Well, hold my beer! Let’s do it with your non-dominant hand! Hell, how many times have I smashed the campfire tower to the ground? I am not suitable for this kind of game.

When someone knocks down the structure, he/she gets eliminated. The game does not end there! The remaining elements on the structure stay…

…and the knocked down ones come back into the tin box. This aspect helps you to plan how to make the next player gets eliminated by placing your pieces in a very delicate and dangerous position. However, it does not guarantee that you will not be the one who smashes things down, burning them into ashes, too.

Slippery hands? No, the tweezers in Tinderblox are slick!

The tweezers are the main equipment to place the logs and cubes on the existing structure. This one really feels like Tokyo Highway. The only different is you still have to pinch the big wood block in Tinderblox, while in the other game, you are obliged only to use the pincher when placing the smaller piece.

I’m thinking on tampering the tweezers a bit, though. They are a bit slippery despite how strong you hold the piece. The piece often shifts a bit and knocks the structure, leaving you in anguish because you may have survived the turn. Maybe glueing rubbers on the tip can be helpful. Or is it the designer’s approach to make the game more challenging? Hey Rob (and other Alley Cat Games’ crew), if you read this, would you answer my question?

VERDICT

A definite dexterity game, Tinderblox promises a good…

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Overall, I like the experience from playing Tinderblox.

…entertainment when played in suitable gaming groups. This game needs agile hands and a stroke of lucks on your side. No strategy, no tactic, pure skill and contingency. You never know what card will you draw this turn. This is another compact game for bigger party, I guess. Will I play this again? If I need to attract new players, maybe. Also, when the casual ones in my group ask for it, this is my other go-to game. Do I recommend this game? Yes, for you who just want to have fun time with your family, kids and partners, without indulging in demanding decision-making process whatsoever. Do I like the game? Well, I do, but this game may not be as memorable as my favourite ones.

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