Bandido is a maze game with a card-based twist •

For ages I have been looking for a card game that meets very specific requirements. It should be small enough to fit in a pocket – no extra pieces or anything, which means I can blow it out when and where. It must have the ability to play single player. And finally, it has to be obscure or stylish enough to ensure that when I play it, I feel like I’m in on some big complacent secret. I understand that this last point is not endearing.

Either way, Bandido! Sweet Bandido! Bandido is a nice compact card game from Helvetiq that I discovered over halfway. It fits in a very small box and can be played with elegant cards, all of which are slightly thinner than normal playing cards. Hold them in your hand, and it’s a bit like holding a small cardboard box – perfect, it turns out, for such a claustrophobic treat.

Bandido is about stopping a bandit from escaping from prison. You place the bandit card in the center of the table. This is the bandit’s cell, with a series of potential tunnels leading away from it. Once in place, you take turns playing cards that slowly build a tunnel network from that cell. Each player has three cards and picks up another one after playing one. It is collaborative, which means it works beautifully with a single player.

Yes, you build tunnels, but your goal is ultimately to cover each of them – to place a flashlight card that creates an end point for the tunnel, meaning the bandit cannot use it to escape. The problem is simple: When you place your cards, randomly dealt from the deck, you often end up opening new tunnels and creating new paths that the bandit can use. The game ends when all possible tunnels have been closed or when there are no more maps. If there are, so to speak, tunnels without cover on the final map, the bandit has escaped and you lose.

A few observations. First of all, Bandido is one of the games I love – a game where you create something while playing. The cards can spread and form very intricate shapes, all wonderfully game-like in their maziness. I can not play a game of Bandido without taking a picture of the layout afterwards. These are amazing creative things.

Second, Bandido makes me think of costs and opportunities in a jubilantly difficult way. I have to play my cards and I have to create paths through the cards that are in line, but I also do not want to play cards that create more problems than they solve – a path doubled back on itself, great, but with two several potential avenues to now worry about. The cards you have are ripe with dangers, but you are also at the mercy of the board you have created. I have already started to hate the look of certain cards on my hand and I have already started to avoid creating certain shapes on the board because they again create such problems for later.

Thirdly, Bandido is so simple and direct that I suppose for a certain kind of player it will be an invitation to design itself. One thing I have noticed, for example, is that even though the cards are compact, you end up needing a fairly large playing area because the cards create such resilient shapes. Would there be a way to hack the rules to make the board smaller, perhaps by creating scenarios where cards can be removed or replaced? And while it’s a great collaborative game, do the cards you have at your disposal allow anyone to invent a competitive version – one playing as the bandit, another as the police trying to keep the bandit in jail?

I love all of this, though I would like to admit that I am not a game designer. What it all gives me is a compact, slightly strange card game that I can play alone or with others, and that I can also spend time playing in my head – thinking about the way it works, they choices it allows. , and the forms it can describe – even when I do other things.

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