ROVE is a game with only 18 cards. It is a solo game. Rove is an exploration robot which has just crash landed on an unknown planet. Your job is to help it get to safety to await rescue.
This is how a game is set up. The 6 cards in the centre represent the 6 modules of our robot. You have 5 action cards in hand. Your mission is at the top left. Action cards and mission cards come from the same deck, at the bottom left. One side of the cards is the action card side, and the other side is the mission card side.
To complete a mission, you need to rearrange the 6 modules into the formation as specified by the mission card. The position of one particular module will be specified, and the other 5 modules must be arranged in a certain pattern around it. To win the game, you must complete 7 missions before running out of actions. Every module has its own movement capabilities. They can move in specific directions, some orthogonally, some diagonally, some both. One module must jump over another when moving. One module pushes other modules when moving.
Whenever you complete a mission, you get a new one from the draw deck. If you have fewer than 5 cards, you draw a card before continuing.
The number at the top left of the action card tells you how many actions you get when playing the card. You spend actions activating modules to move. The pattern at the centre is a bonus criteria. If the modules specified by the criteria are arranged in the configuration shown, you get more actions when you play the card – that number at the bottom right. Thus you are not only trying to arrange the modules according to the mission cards, you are also constantly evaluating whether you should make these patterns on the action cards.
Every module has a single-use power, which is quite strong, e.g. swapping two modules. Once you use a power, you flip the card over.
The configuration shown at the top right of the mission card is what you need to achieve.
This is a challenging game. Your cards are your resources, and your job is to complete 7 missions before you run out of resources. You are under pressure to conserve resources and use them wisely. This is a logic puzzle. Information is mostly open. You need to work out a most efficient way of using your cards. The only unknown is future missions. The next mission is known and you can plan for it, but if there are more after the next, they are still in the draw deck and you don’t know yet what they will be. There are many factors to consider and it’s tricky to find an optimal move. Since there is some uncertainly you can’t work out the perfect sequence of actions. You want to make use of the higher action values, but it is not always feasible. Sometimes you need to sacrifice the opportunity.
There is no time limit, so you can think for as long as you like. There is no opponent impatiently telling you to hurry up. When I played I didn’t try to be exhaustive. I played in a relaxed manner. I did take my time to find a good move, but I did not calculate every possible path. I barely managed to complete the 7th mission. I suspect I might have made some mistakes which gave me an advantage. I might have drawn more cards than I was supposed to. Oops.
Game in progress. I place used cards on the right.
Once the single-use power of a module is used, the card is flipped over and the power is now in red.
When you line up all the completed missions, they form a nice story.
ROVE is a lovely little puzzle. It is small and convenient, and thus a good travel game. Also good for when you are waiting for your date.