Bomb Squad Review - Fire in the Hole

Published: January 10, 2017 11:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Bomb Squad Tasty Minstrel Games

If you ever wanted to add a tense situation into a work of fiction, you can simply add a bomb scene. The hero of your book, movie, or game sits in front of a stack of explosives holding wire cutters and trying to figure out which one to cut as the timer ticks ever closer to zero. A real bomb squad has a bit more to do than just that, and these days they often employ robots to get the job done safely rather than needlessly risk the life of a technician. Enter Bomb Squad (by Tasty Minstrel Games), the product of a successful Kickstarter, where you and your friends race against the clock to defuse an explosive situation.

While many games feature some sort of timer mechanic, Bomb Squad makes use of an actual timer. A companion app (available for both iOS and Android) gives you an interface and timers appropriate to the mission at hand. Many missions will include multiple bombs with different timers. For example, you might have 8 minutes to defuse the red bomb and 15 minutes to defuse the blue bomb. If you can't make it in time, you lose. And even if you win, you might not have won in the most ideal way.

A core element of play in Bomb Squad is the lack of information available to each player. Everyone can see the board. Everyone can see how much power the robot has left. Everyone can see each other's cards, but each player cannot see their own. A rather interesting (and sometimes frustrating) mechanic of the game is that everyone holds their cards facing away from them. You have to communicate to other players what exactly it is they're holding without outright telling them. You can, for instance, let someone know that they have three hostage cards and then let them know that they have two red cards. Which cards are red hostage cards (if any) is up to that player to work out. Managing and remembering your cards (without being able to see them!) is an important part of the game and arguably one of the things that makes it most challenging.

Players can choose from a series of pre-made missions and use a modular board to set out the playing field. Each board will have doors, hostages, and a bomb. Some maps will have multiple bombs (each with their own individual timer). As play progresses, players will put cards down on to the board in sequence hoping to get everything they need to "program" their adorable little bomb-defusing robot correctly. You can't simply spam cards, either - if you overshoot a movement or use an incorrect card, you simply waste the bot's energy. Energy can be recharged by discarding one of your cards and guessing the color and type of card; each correct guess allocates one extra energy to the bot.

Bomb Squad Cards
There are four types of cards in Bomb Squad: Move (the robot), Open (a door), Rescue (a hostage), and Disarm (a bomb). You have to use the right cards in the right way at the right time - all without knowing for sure what's actually in your hand. The game is made slightly easier with the different abilities characters afford to each player, but not by much.

Now, I'm all for a challenging game (be it tabletop or otherwise). I've played Dwarf Fortress, for goodness' sake. You have to put something truly brutal in front of me to get me to tap out if something holds my interest. I can say with confidence that Bomb Squad did indeed hold my interest, but it is an immensely challenging game with a constant pressure. If you're looking for a title to play on a warm summer's evening while relaxing with some of your friends then this is most assuredly not the game for you. It's like taking someone shooting for the first time and having them fire a handcannon - it will only end in tears and possibly some sort of injury. (Thankfully, the only risk of injury in this game is to your pride.)

Bomb Squad requires that players work together and do it quickly. One of the regular members of my tabletop group is a bit spacey and indecisive, and while I love him like a brother I will not hestitate to admit that good people died needlessly partially due to him spending as much time as he does taking a turn. I found myself getting a bit snippy with some of my friends, and they have been gracious in forgiving me for my slights considering the nature of the beast before us.

The combination of blind card play, limited resources, three different colors of card for completing actions, and a constant ticking clock all conspire to make a brutally unforgiving game. That is in no way a complaint on my part. After having spent many sessions planning, doing dry runs, and attempting missions with my tabletop group I can only describe Bomb Squad as challenging beyond my tastes. I can full well understand what it is that Tasty Minstrel Games has set out to do with this particular game, and I think they've accomplished it admirably. It would be trying to go fishing on a jet ski; while it's certainly possible, it wasn't really designed for that use and you'll have suboptimal experience. Ultimately, this game isn't what I'm looking for in a tabletop game personally but I nonetheless appreciate the monster they've created here.

Bomb Squad is, at its heart, a challenging game with ever-increasing pressure for players who are looking to work together and overcome an absolutely insane challenge. We played the training missions and the first few actual missions over multiple sessions across many months. We probably lost four out of five games. I imagine that even if I could assemble a "dream team" of players who are quick on their feet and can take their turns at blinding speed they would still fail at least a quarter of the time. I'll unashamedly admit that we didn't even attempt some of the more difficult missions, nevermind the optional objectives to run them perfectly. The game was simply far, far too challenging for us. We were playing a CR 10 battle with a handful of under-equipped Level 2 characters, so to speak.

Bomb Squad Modular Board
This is one of the earlier, easier missions in Bomb Squad. Players will, at the minimum, have to move the bot to open two different doors and disarm two different bombs of certain colors. Each mission also offers greater optional challenges such as rescuing every hostage on the board.

In terms of materials, the box, board, and pieces were of excellent quality as the stuff put out by Tasty Minstrel Games often is. I'm particularly fond of any game that offers a modular board as Bomb Squad does - it allows for dedicated players to easily create their own scenarios. Somewhere out there in the world is someone who felt that the vanilla game isn't quite demanding enough and they have dedicated some time to creating a truly nightmarish scenario with more ticking bombs than the entire Lethal Weapon and Die Hard filmography combined.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of Bomb Squad for yourself, you can grab it at Amazon [Affiliate Link] for $22.71 or your regional equivalent. If you're thinking about it, I must strongly caution you to consider your purchase carefully; while it is excellently designed, Bomb Squad is not for the casual gamer or faint of heart. If you are looking for an absolutely brutal, unforgiving, and challenging board game experience for your well-oiled tabletop group to overcome then this is the game for you. If you're looking to sit around and chat with some of your friends while rolling some dice, then it would be ill-advised to grab this game.

The Bottom Line:

Bomb Squad is an extraordinarily challenging tabletop game that controls information and challenges your patience in the most devious of ways. If you're out for an incredibly brutal challenge you'll find something that you'll absolutely love. It's a well-designed game that set out to be very difficult and accomplished its mission admirably. If you're out to relax with your friends over a board game, stay far away from this title.

Get This Game If:

  • You like a strong challenge.
  • You work well under pressure.
  • You tend to play your turns quickly.
Avoid This Game If:
  • You're looking for a casual, relaxing experience.
  • You have a poor memory
  • You can't stand losing repeatedly. (You will. A lot.)
The copy of Bomb Squad used for this review was provided by Tasty Minstrel Games.

Does Bomb Squad sound like the sort of challenge your tabletop group would enjoy? Do you like really challenging board games or do you and your tabletop group prefer a less stressful experience? What's the most challenging tabletop game you've ever played? Let us know in the comments below!

Review Summary


Bomb Squad is an extraordinarily challenging tabletop game that controls information and challenges your patience in the most devious of ways. If you're out for an incredibly brutal challenge you'll find something that you'll absolutely love. It's a well-designed game that set out to be very difficult and accomplished its mission admirably.

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One of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I… More about Robert N