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Review: Slide Blast

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Slide Blast - Box

It’s summertime (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) and it’s time for some fun at the water park to cool off. But what if you don’t live near a water park, or prefer not to get sunburned? That’s okay. You can play Slide Blast in the comfort of your air conditioned home. Enjoy the fun of building and riding your own slide without the sunburn and chlorine up your nose. (Bonus: You don’t have to be seen in public in a swimsuit!)

How It Plays

The object of Slide Blast is to build the longest waterslide for your meeple to slide down. Or, in game terms, to build a slide that covers the most tiles and thus earns you the most victory points.

You’ll build your slide by placing tiles and connecting flumes. This is easy-peasy. You will begin the game with one tile in hand. When it’s your turn, draw a tile from one of the tile decks so that you have two tiles in hand to choose from. Place your chosen tile so that it extends your slide and then move your meeple to the end of your slide. Now it’s the next person’s turn.

There are two main rules for tile placement: First, you can’t place a tile in such a way that it causes your meeple to collide with another meeple. We don’t want to have to call out the rescue squad.

Second, you can’t place a tile in such a way that it makes you return to the start tile. Think of it as being on a real waterslide: You can’t go uphill and back to where you started.

If you extend your slide and, in the process, also extend the slide of another player, you earn bonus tokens which are worth points at the end of the game. It’s nice to help your fellow sliders, after all.

Tunnel tiles, lifeguards, and bonus tokens.

Most of the tiles in the game are basic slide tiles, but there are some special tiles that can help you out if you’re lucky enough to draw them. High speed tiles allow you to immediately play another tile from your hand, giving you two turns instead of one. Attraction tiles are bigger than normal tiles and open up more possibilities on the board. Tunnel tiles allow you to jump to another area on the board without having to actually build your slide to get there.

If you can legally place a tile on your turn, you must do it, even if you’d rather not. If there’s no legal way for you to play one of the two tiles in your hand, you can grab a pair of lifeguard tiles and use them in the same way as tunnel tiles to move yourself to another part of the board.

The game ends once the last slide tile is placed. Meeples are moved back to the starting tile and each player “rides” their slide to the end. Each tile that is part of the slide counts as one point. If you have any bonus tokens, add those points to your slide total. (Bonus tokens are worth more the more you have. For example, one token is worth one point, but four tokens are worth ten points.) The player with the most points wins.

Chutes of Fun, or Flumes of Failure?

When I saw meeples sliding around the board on their butts, I knew I had to try this game. Well, that and the fact that tile laying games are my favorites. Indigo, Tsuro, Lanterns… You name it, if it’s got tiles, I’ll play it. At least once. Add in the fact that Slide Blast was getting some comparisons to Indigo and Tsuro (two favorites of mine) and I knew it was worth a go. So, was it fun?

Yes, it was a lot of fun. It’s a simple little game in a small box that doesn’t take a lot of time, yet delivers a “blast” of fun. It’s easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, and it looks great on the table. So what else is there to know and should you buy it?

Before buying, you should understand where Slide Blast fits in the pantheon of tile laying games. While it does share some similarities with Indigo, Tsuro and the like, it’s also it’s own game. Whether it appeals to you or not will depend on the depth of experience you’re seeking.

Slide Blast isn’t as complex, strategic, or deep as many other tile laying games. All you can really do here is place a tile and extend your slide. Scoring is simple, with each tile in your slide being worth one point. The only bonuses available are those you earn when you connect a tile in such a way that it extends another player’s slide. The “special tiles” don’t complicate things much, only adding ways to expand the board and quickly move to new areas.

Many other tile laying games offer more involved, strategic scoring (or higher stakes). Indigo has you moving gems of varying point values and trying to control where they exit the board. Lanterns adds in set collection in order to gather points. Cable Car has stock management. Isle of Skye has auctions. Tsuro has player elimination. And so on. The point being that Slide Blast is very simple when compared to many tile-layers.

Slide Blast - Attractions
Attraction tiles.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. The simplicity makes it great for families. Young kids can understand this one. It’s so fast to set up and play that you can play several games in an hour. Slide Blast also makes a great introduction to the tile laying genre, as all you’re really mastering here is the tile-laying portion. You’re learning how to line up tiles and obey the rules about not going to back to the start, or crashing into other players. Games with extra scoring options and strategic considerations will be easier to understand after playing Slide Blast.

There’s also virtually no downtime as there isn’t a whole lot to consider here. You have two tiles and have to place one. There’s no agonizing over choices and since the board changes a lot between turns (especially with more players), there’s not a lot of worry over setting yourself up for some future mega-move. (You can further reduce the downtime by drawing your new tile at the end of your turn, rather than at the beginning. This allows you to ponder your choices, in full, while others are playing. That’s not an official rule, just something we’ve found speeds up the game a bit.)

That’s not to say that Slide Blast offers no decisions. They’re mostly reactive, though, rather than strategic. When your turn comes around, you’ll have to place your tile where the rules dictate, and that may not be where you wanted to go. Other people may have blocked you off or forced you to go in a direction you’d rather not. The two player game is slightly more strategic, however. Without as many people to get in your way and alter the board state between turns, you have a better chance of pulling off a longer-term strategy.

Placing a tile so that it extends another player’s slide is the biggest strategic consideration. You’ll get bonus points for doing so, but you can also use it as a way to move another player away from where they’re trying to go. If you can see that they’re setting up to create a loop that will give them lots of points, for example, you can send them shooting off somewhere else. Sometimes it’s beneficial to extend someone else’s slide as well as yours, even if it’s not the optimal move for you.

Slide Blast - Characters
Meeples and character cards. (The cards just serve to remind you of your color.)

The rules state that you play with both tiles hidden from other players, but if you want to make the game easier or thinkier, you can steal some rules from other tile layers. You can play open-handed so that everyone can see everyone else’s tiles. This might help younger players. You can also play where one tile is visible and the other is secret. This gives you a bit more to think about as you can see what one possible play is, but you don’t know the other. It also helps to mitigate the feeling that you have zero control.

Speaking of control, there’s plenty of randomness here. Like many tile layers, you’re at the mercy of the tile draw. You have two in hand to choose from so you’re not as limited as you could be, but if neither is a great option, you’re kind of stuck. You’ll have to make the best of it. You can only trade tiles when you have no legal placement option for the tiles in your hand. (And that doesn’t happen often.) You can’t trade just because you don’t want to place the tiles you have.

With so few options for bonuses or special actions, there’s very little you can do to mitigate the randomness. Fortunately, the game is so short and light that the randomness isn’t terribly bothersome.

The downside to all this simplicity and randomness, of course, is that it may be too light for some. If you’re seeking something to challenge your brain, head for another tile-layer. Slide Blast is designed to be a quick romp, much like an actual water slide. Zoom, you’re done. The game is structured so that there’s not a lot of thinking involved and it’s fair for young and old.

Gamers likely won’t find much here besides a filler. Some won’t even find that much value in it, preferring to use a more strategic tile-layer as their filler. For people who play with kids, non-gamers, families, or larger groups (it plays up to six), however, it’s a great little game. You can use it as a filler, a kid’s game, or an introduction to tile laying for new gamers. It’s easy-breezy fun, just like summer. And with the theme of waterslide building, it’s perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. Or a winter’s day when you’re wishing for summer.

iSlaytheDragon.com thanks FoxMind for giving us a review copy of Slide Blast

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Summary

Pros

Fast setup, learning, and playtime.
Theme is different.
Thick tiles and fun meeples.
Special tiles and rewards for helping others add extra considerations.
Plays more strategically with two.
Plays up to six, good for bigger groups.

Cons

Random tile draw means some games just don't go your way.
Far simpler than some other tile layers like Indigo or Carcassonne.

8.0 Very Good

I like games with tiles/modular boards that set up and play differently each time. I'm also one of "those people" who likes dice and revels in randomness.

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