Originally created back in 2013, the original Bomb Squad is a cooperative game where players naturally work together to utilize a bomb disposal robot to disarm bombs and save hostages. The game must have sold pretty well as Tasty Minstrel Games decided the game needed a spinoff/prequel which brings us to today’s game Bomb Squad Academy. Bomb Squad Academy connects to Bomb Squad as somewhat of a prequel as you are training to become part of the bomb disposal unit that you play as in Bomb Squad. If you have both games it is also kind of cool that you are supposed to use Bomb Squad Academy to determine who starts Bomb Squad. Outside of the theme and connected universe, the two games have little in common as Bomb Squad Academy is a press your luck card game. Bomb Squad Academy is an accessible well designed card game that has some good ideas but has some issues as well.
How to Play Bomb Squad Academy
- Sort the cards by color and shuffle each deck separately. Place the shuffled decks of cards face down in the corresponding order (left to right): green, blue, red, yellow.
- Place the trigger tracks left of their corresponding decks.
- Mix up the trigger tiles and randomly place each under the corresponding trigger track.
- Place all of the point discs in a pile so all of the players can reach them.
- Shuffle the tools deck and set it off to the side. Also place the pressure plates to the side.
- Each player gets a set of six action cards of one color. The remaining action cards are returned to the box.
Playing the Game
At the beginning of each round, all of the players will choose one of the cards from their hand to play. When a player has chosen their card, they place it face down on the table on top of the cards they played in previous rounds. When all of the players are ready, the cards are revealed and they are placed on top of the previously played cards. The cards will be resolved in the following order: wait, green wire, blue wire, red wire, yellow wire, chicken.
Wait cards can only be played once per bomb. When a player plays a wait card, they will immediately take three points from the supply.
Each player who plays a wait card can also protect one wire from being cut this round. If multiple players play wait cards on the same turn, they may discuss which wires (one per player who played a wait card) they want to protect this round. All protected wires cannot be cut by any of the players. Any player who played a wire card corresponding to a protected wire will do nothing this round.
All of the wires are handled in the same way. The main difference between the wires is the length of the tracks and the numbers on the cards in the corresponding deck. The green wire is always cut first followed by the blue, red and finally yellow wire.
If no players cut a wire of a given color or the wire color is protected, nothing happens with that color this round.
If a player cuts a wire color by themselves they will flip over the top card from the deck and place it on top of any other cards previously revealed from the deck. The cards are played on top of one another so you can still see the small numbers on each card that has been revealed. First the player will move the marker down the track equal to the card’s main value (the bigger number in the middle of the card). The player will then score points for cutting the wire as long as they didn’t blow up the bomb. They will score points equal to the main value of the top card plus the value in the upper right hand corner for all of the cards of the color that have been revealed.
If more than one player chose the same color, the players will flip over one card of the color for each player who chose the color. The marker is moved down spaces equal to the main value of each of the cards that were flipped over. If the bomb doesn’t explode, the players will score points. The players will add up the main value of the last card revealed along with the top right number on all of the cards revealed. The total is then equally split between all of the players that chose the color. Any remainder is discarded.
The final card that a player can play is a Chicken. The Chicken card does one of two things depending on whether a bomb explodes during the round.
If a bomb explodes during the round, all of the players who played a Chicken card will score five points.
If a bomb doesn’t explode, all of the players who played a Chicken card can choose one of two actions:
- Look at the top card of two of the colored decks without letting the other players see. After looking at the card, the card is returned to the top of the pile face down.
- Look at all three of the trigger tiles at the bottom of one of the colored tracks (without letting the other players see). After looking at the tiles they must be returned to the track in the same order that they were originally placed.
End of Round
After all of the cards have been resolved, the round ends. If the players have three cards in front of them, they take the card that was first played (should be below the other two cards) and add it back to their hand. If the bottom card is your “Wait” card, it is set aside for the next bomb and not returned to your hand.
Eventually the markers on the tracks will approach the tiles at the bottom of the tracks. When a card is revealed that moves one of the markers onto the tiles, each tile that the marker is moved through is revealed. If the tile says “ok” nothing happens and the game continues.
If an explosion is shown, this bomb round ends immediately. Cards that haven’t been resolved yet are ignored. The players who played cards corresponding to the color that exploded, will all lose five points. Anyone who played a Chicken card will gain five points.
If this wasn’t the third bomb, another bomb is set up.
- All of the bomb cards are shuffled and form new draw piles.
- All of the trigger tiles are turned face down and are mixed up under each track. The marker for each track is moved to the top of the track.
- Anyone who played their wait card in the previous round will return the card to their hand. Players will also take back all of their action cards that are on the table.
Additional rules are added to the game for the second and third bomb.
Second and Third Bombs
Starting with the second bomb two additional mechanics are added to the game.
First the players will add the pressure plates to the game. For bomb two they will be turned to the II side and for bomb three they will be turned to the III side. The pressure plates are randomly placed above two of the wire colors. These pressure plates will add points to the wire that they are on top of. When a player(s) cut the associated wire, the number on the pressure plate will be added to their score. If the wire is cut by two or more players, they will share the points on the pressure plate. If both plates are on the same color, both will be added to that color’s points. When one or more players claim the bonus points, the pressure plate will follow its arrow and move to the next color for the next round.
For the second and third bombs the players will also get access to one tool card. The players will deal face up a number of tool cards equal to the number of players plus one. Starting with the player with the least points (ties go to the younger player), each player gets to take one tool card. The tool card that is not chosen is discarded.
Each tool card can only be used once. The player follows the text on the card to determine when the card can be played and what affect it has on the game. After the full affect of the card is applied, the tool card is discarded. If multiple players want to use their cards at the same time, they are resolved in the order that the players declare that they want to use them.
For the third bomb the same process is followed. If a player doesn’t use their tool card before the second bomb explodes, they can use both of their tools on the third bomb.
End of Game
The game ends after all three bombs have exploded. Players tally how many points they scored during the game. The player who scored the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, all tied players share the victory.
My Thoughts on Bomb Squad Academy
I would say that the best way to describe Bomb Squad Academy is to say that it is a card game that combines press your luck mechanics with reading your opponents. Basically in each round all of the players choose one of their action cards to play. These action cards determine what action each player will do during the round. The goal is to cut wires on the bombs to score points but not to cut too far and blow up the bomb. Players also want to avoid choosing the same action as another player as they will likely score more points if they choose an action by themself.
While there are a lot of press you luck card games, I enjoyed my time with Bomb Squad Academy. I wouldn’t say that the game is highly original but it has good ideas that it turns into an entertaining experience. There are some interesting strategic decisions and the game is really easy to play. The game has a recommended age of 10+ but I think children a little younger shouldn’t have any trouble playing the game. There are different actions to take in the game but they are quite straightforward where you can learn how to play the game in just a couple minutes. I think Bomb Squad Academy could work really well as a bridge to more complicated games for people who don’t play a lot of card games.
The premise behind Bomb Squad Academy seems quite basic at first. All you do is play cards which allow you to take different actions. This doesn’t sound all that interesting but it works well for a couple reasons.
First the game has a good press your luck mechanic. The ultimate goal in the game is to avoid making one of the bombs explode since you will then lose points. You want to be careful to avoid detonating the bomb but you can’t play passively either. It pays to take chances as that is how you score a lot of points in the game. The closer a bomb is to exploding, the more points it will be worth as more cards will count towards the color’s value. If you are able to cut a wire on a bomb right before it explodes, you can score a lot of points.
The press your luck mechanics become more interesting the closer you get towards a bomb exploding. For the first couple rounds, there really is no danger as several cards can be revealed for each color before you are in any real danger. That begins to change as the rounds progress though. As you don’t know exactly which tile explodes the bomb or what is on the next cards, you never know how many more cards can be drawn for each color. At least one player has to eventually detonate the bomb. Towards the end of each bomb you are in danger no matter which card you choose. You need to weigh the different risks and rewards to determine which is the best bet.
Adding to all of this is the fact that you can only use each card every three rounds. At first this isn’t that big of hindrance as you have plenty of safe options to choose from. When you get close to a bomb exploding though, the decision of which card to play becomes much more interesting. At this point you need to start managing the cards that you still have in your hand. You don’t want to play all of the safe cards right away leaving you nothing to play when the bomb is even closer to exploding. Sometimes you need to choose a riskier option which will put you in a better position for the next round. Card management can be really important because otherwise you could be left with cards that basically guarantee that you will detonate the bomb.
While the press your luck mechanics are important in Bomb Squad Academy, I think the ability to read the other players might be even more important. Being able to figure out what cards the other players are going to play can have a big impact on the game. Reading the other players is important because it can save you from detonating the bomb. It can also help you score more points. It usually benefits you to be the only player to play a specific card especially if it is one of the color cards. If you are the only player to play a color, you won’t have to split the points with other players. This means that you will be able to score at least two times as many points than if you chose the same color as another player. These points add up over the game. The player that is best at picking a color by themself is going to have a huge advantage in the game.
Outside of the first two rounds of each bomb, you aren’t flying completely blind though when trying to figure out what cards the other players are going to play. You can see what cards each player has played the last two rounds which gives you some information. You know players won’t be able to play either of these cards. If everyone has a card in front of them except for you, unless someone plays a wait card you will get the full benefit from playing that card. Seeing the previous cards played by the other players doesn’t guarantee what they will play this round but it allows you to make some educated guesses.
After the first bomb is detonated, two additional mechanics are added to the game. I have some mixed feelings about these mechanics.
The pressure plates are basically used to add bonus points to the game. As they reward bonus points for choosing a specific color, they tend to guide players to choose colors that they otherwise might not choose. It is hard to pass up getting bonus points added to your score. As the other players see the same opportunity though, it increases the odds that you will have to share the points from the color or even might detonate the bomb. This introduces a little meta game to the pressure plates as everyone wants to choose those colors, but they don’t know if the other players will also choose them. When you add in the chance of a wait card being played preventing everyone from cutting the wire, there is some interesting back and forth in deciding whether you want to go after them. The pressure plates add add quite a bit of luck to the game though as you try to guess what the other players are going to do. Players that can time the pressure plates well can score quite a few additional points.
The other addition for the second and third bomb are the tool cards. In general I like the tool cards as they give each player a special ability. These abilities allow you to avoid setting off the bomb, score additional points, change which wires you or other players cut, or give you other flexibility in the game. I almost always like when games add special abilities as it gives players more opportunities to use strategy to improve their odds in the game. The tool cards are also pretty balanced as they give you a boost but don’t give you too much help as they can only be used once. I will say that some tools feel considerably more powerful than others though. The good news is that the game lets the player in last get first choice which feels like a fair way to add a catch up mechanic to the game.
I had fun playing Bomb Squad Academy as it is a good blend between accessibility and strategy. The game is never going to be confused for a really strategic game, but it feels like your decisions have an impact on the game. I think the game works really well as a filler game. You can quickly play a game within 15-20 minutes and then either play another game or move onto something else. I don’t see Bomb Squad Academy being a game that I would play over and over again. I do see it as a game that I would bring out every so often though.
I liked a lot about Bomb Squad Academy but it does have a couple issues.
I would say that the biggest issue with the game is that it still relies on quite a bit of luck. You have some insight on what cards the other players are going to play but there is no way to know for sure. You have to guess to some degree. If you guess right you will do well in the round. If you guess wrong, you are going to do quite a bit worse. There is some skill in being able to figure out what the other players are going to do. The game still has an element of luck though as you will never know for sure what the other players will do. Players who guess well are going to beat players who guess poorly no matter how well they do in the rest of the game.
Bomb Squad Academy could also have found a better way to handle scoring. I found scoring in the game to be kind of annoying. The scoring is handled by using different valued point tokens. As all of the tokens are double sided you have to make sure that they never get accidentally turned over. As the game doesn’t have a lot of tokens, you have to regularly upgrade lower valued tokens into higher valued tokens. This takes quite a bit of time and is prone to mistakes. I am usually not a fan of adding a gameboard to card games but I think it would have worked for Bomb Squad Academy. Players could have moved a token around the board to keep track of their score. This would have allowed players to easily adjust their score while also knowing how many points each player currently has.
The final problem with Bomb Squad Academy is that it is not that original. Bomb Squad Academy adds some interesting twists to the formula, but there are other games that have a similar concept. There are other press your luck games where you have to predict what the other players are going to do. I would say that Bomb Squad Academy is better than most of these similar games, but it is not so original that it is a must purchase game. If you already own a similar game, Bomb Squad Academy is not a must buy unless you can get a really good deal on it. If you don’t already own a game of this type though, Bomb Squad Academy is a good choice.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the game’s components. I already mentioned that I wasn’t a huge fan of the point tokens. Otherwise I thought the component quality for Bomb Squad Academy was quite good. The game comes with a lot of cards and they are of a high quality. The cards are pretty thick and I like the artwork. The cards are well designed where you can easily find whatever information you need. The game also deserves credit for using a small box that perfectly fits the components.
Should You Buy Bomb Squad Academy?
Overall I enjoyed my time with Bomb Squad Academy. Bomb Squad Academy is basically a card game that blends press your luck mechanics with the ability to read your opponents. The game is quite accessible where you shouldn’t have much trouble teaching it to people that don’t play a lot of board games. The game still has a decent amount of strategy though. The game has a good press your luck mechanic where you are rewarded for taking risks, but you don’t want to push it too far and lose points. Bomb Squad Academy even gives you some idea of what the other players are going to do each turn. This is important as being able to predict what the other players are going to do is key to doing well in the game. The game does have a couple problems though. It relies on quite a bit of luck and dealing with the point tokens is kind of a hassle. The biggest problem though is that there are quite a few other games that are pretty similar to Bomb Squad Academy.
If you don’t really like the theme, card games in general, or press your luck games where you have to read the other players; Bomb Squad Academy is not going to be for you. If you already have a similar game that you already like, I don’t know if Bomb Squad Academy is unique enough to warrant a purchase. If you don’t already have a similar game though or can get a good deal on the game, I would recommend picking up Bomb Squad Academy.