Break the Cube is quick to play with only a handful of simple rules and is the follow up to iello’s previous 2017 title from Ryohei Kurahashi, Break the Code. Break the Cube is ultimately simpler to play, but uses spatial reasoning and logic rules rather than mathematical ones.
Let’s take a look at what comes in the box
4 Player Shields
8 Foundation Tiles
24 Wooden Blocks
Break the Cube comes in a compact and sturdy box that is fairly stuffed with components. The pieces are nice, although the same size blocks share a colour palette, rather than being completely different. The game is fairly reliant on colour so it may not be particularly colour-blind friendly.
The foundation tiles and shields have a nice blueprint motif and have handy pictorial reminders of the rules on the inside of the shield and a useful reminder of the grid numbers on the foundation tile.
The rules are well laid out, simple to read, understand and teach, they also include a couple of variants for making the game easier or harder.
A Quick Overview
Break the Cube is pretty straightforward. Each player is attempting to work out the shape constructed by the player on their left which is concealed behind their screen. This is done using logic and deduction which means the shape has to conform to some rules.
The shape must be wholly contained within a 3 x 3 x 3 grid. It must contain exactly 1 small, 1 medium and 1 large block. The shape must be at least 2 squares high but no piece can be suspended so that it is not fully supported, i.e. you can’t build a bridge.
Play begins with the first player and proceeds clockwise. On your turn you can take one of three actions. You can ask the player on your left what they see at a number. This is a grid reference, 1-9 and the player views their shape from above and must say what they see at that number.
Instead you can ask what they see at a specific letter, each side of the grid is coded with a letter and the player must look at the shape from the side and state, from bottom up what colours they see in that row or column. However, unlike with the number, when a letter is chosen each player at the table must state what they see, including the player asking the question.
Finally you may attempt to solve the puzzle by arranging blocks on a grid in front of your shield and asking, is this your shape? There is no penalty for a wrong guess but you do not gain any further information, essentially skipping your turn.
When I first read the rules for Break the Cube I thought it was going to be much harder than it ends up being. The game is supplied with a notepad to allow you to take notes, but this is only suggested as an optional rule to make the game easier and we found that actually it isn’t really necessary.
The constraints placed on the construction of your shape really bring the number of possible locations and orientations of the pieces down to something quite manageable and we were finding that after five or six questions you were ready to solve the problem.
And if I have a complaint about Break the Cube it is that. This is a bite sized logic game which is fun, but short. The box says 15 minutes but I would say that even that would be a long game with our games coming in around 10.
There is a longer, more complicated two player variant in the rules however if you want something meatier. With this variant you each take four or even five blocks rather than the standard three, this gives you a greater combination of pieces and makes for a more satisfying game, although probably only a turn or two longer.
While the game is short and simple, the choices presented to you are interesting. Do you play a number, get less information but give your opponent nothing or do you play a letter and hope to maximise the amount of information you get each turn?
In a multiplayer game, however, this tactical play is somewhat stripped away. In two player you can avoid choosing a letter that will give your opponent too much information, but with three or four, you are at the mercy of other players who aren’t even involved in your match. Overall this makes the multiplayer version more chaotic, as not only are you revealing information on other players turns, but you’re also hearing information that isn’t relevant to you, which with very similar coloured blocks can easily cause confusion.
Of course, if you have four players you could also break into two pairs and play head to head instead if you prefer the more controlled and calculated game.
As all players take the same number of turns in the game it is also possible that you can end in a shared victory, or even with all players winning. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your group and how competitive they are.
What did others think?
Dave - "A clever puzzle game that normally runs very close."
Mary - "I thought it was a good workout for the old brain... fun too!!"
If you’re looking for a short, fun deduction game I can easily recommend Break the Cube, it is a satisfying bite sized filler that can be played multiple times in a row, but it won't really scratch your itch if you’re in the market for a more in depth deduction game. And although the game can play with up to four players, but I found it works best with two.
How does it compare to the original Break the Code? I can’t say as I haven't played it, but I enjoyed Break the Cube enough to want to!
A review copy of Break the Cube was provided by Coiled Spring Games