Review – The LOOP

pic6034093

 

Designer Maxime Rambourg, Théo Rivière

Artist Simon Caruso

Publisher Pandasaurus Games

Category Cooperative Game

Length 60 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 1-4

The LOOP is a cooperative game in which players are Time Agents chasing the evil Dr. Faux, a time-travelling mad scientist. As Dr. Faux jumps between different eras of spacetime, players use their cards to complete missions and sabotage his nefarious machine. How does this game stack up to other cooperative titles on the market? Let’s find out.

Review

The LOOP combines several things I really like: cooperative play, a fun sci-fi theme, stylized art, and a cube tower mechanism. Right out of the gate, it was enough to catch my interest.

This game is played on a heptagonal board, each section of which represents a different era in time. In the center of the board is Dr. Faux’s machine, a 3D plastic cube tower which can eject cubes from 3 different chutes.

The goal of the game is to complete 4 missions; doing so destroys the machine. Players lose if any of the following conditions occur:

  • They have to place a second vortex in any single time period (more on vortexes later)
  • They have to place a fourth vortex anywhere
  • The game timer runs out

Each player begins with a deck of 6 cards, from which they draw a starting hand of 3.

The green player’s 6 starting cards.

At the start of each turn, Dr. Faux acts. The current player draws a number of “clone” tokens from a bag and places each one on its indicated era. The more clones an era contains, the more damage Dr. Faux can do there.

A card is then revealed, which determines the era Dr. Faux travels to. Players rotate the machine so that the central chute faces this era. Then, they drop a number of red “rift cubes” into the machine (2 + 1 per clone in Dr. Faux’s space). Wherever the cubes fall out, that is the era where they are placed. This means rifts can occur in Dr. Faux’s current space, or in the space to the left or right of it.

3 cubes ejected = 3 more rifts for players to worry about.

Each era can hold a limited number of rift cubes. If a rift is added to an era, but there is no room for it, that era turns into a vortex. This moves players closer to defeat.

This space already had 3 rift cubes, the maximum it can hold. Now, a 4th cube is being added, so the mission tile is discarded and replaced with a vortex tile.

The card that was drawn for Dr. Faux is then placed next to the deck on the “HQ board,” a supplemental tableau that helps control the game flow. Eventually, the deck will run out, and the discard pile will be reshuffled to form a new deck, now on the next space of the board. This acts as the game timer—if the deck is exhausted for the third time, the game ends and players lose!

The game progress is tracked on a control board. The Dr. Faux deck acts as the game timer; 3 times through the deck and players lose!

After Dr. Faux has acted, the current player takes their turn. Players get 1 free move each turn and can take as many actions as they wish from the 3 available. The actions are:

  1. MOVE: The player spends a green energy cube from their current era to move to an adjacent era.
  2. USE AN ARTIFACT: The player exhausts a card in their hand to use its ability.
  3. DO A LOOP: The player spends cubes from their current era to un-exhaust cards. This becomes progressively more expensive if done multiple times in a single turn.

As players play cards, they may be able to move clone tokens around the board. Each clone shows a specific “paradox era,” and if the token enters this era, it will be removed.

Each era has a mission tile attached to it which lists the objective for that era. Objectives might be, for example, “Destroy 4 clones on Dr. Faux’s era” or “Do a loop action on 6 different eras.” Whenever a player makes a step toward completing a mission (e.g. removes a clone on Dr. Faux’s tile), they add a cube to the mission to mark it. At the end of the turn, if the current player is on an era with a full mission, they may choose to complete it; 4 complete missions and the players win!


The LOOP is a great entry in Pandasaurus Games’ catalog. In some respects, it feels like a standard co-op game—bad stuff happens, players do good stuff, more bad stuff happens, etc.—but it has aspects that make it feel fresh. For one thing, the ability to use and reuse cards is interesting. Card abilities are powerful and necessary for victory but using them repeatedly is expensive. For another thing, the competing objectives make for interesting decisions. Players need to keep clones at bay, watch the number of rift cubes on the board, and work toward missions.

Also, the cube tower machine is just really, really cool.

Cztwyzzek is my favorite character. Just don’t ask me to pronounce his name.

The production quality of The LOOP is high. The stylized art really helps the zany time-travel theme to come through strongly. Admittedly, the different eras do not feel unique from one to another—functionally, they are just different zones of the board—but players’ imagination helps to put context around them. The rulebook is well-organized and contains lots of self-aware sidebar humor. All in all, The LOOP feels like a quality product.

As someone who typically enjoys co-op games, I really like this one. Mechanically sound and aesthetically weird, it is a standout game from 2021. Highly recommended.

A review copy was provided by Pandasaurus Games.

The Bottom Line

The LOOP builds on other cooperative games, but distinguishes itself with a clever card system and a super-cool cube tower. Combining a fun theme and a bizarre aesthetic, it is a strong family-plus offering.

 

8.0

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.