I posted recently about a list of games published this decade excellent for children, including those in elementary school. Tabletop gaming is the perfect way to spend time with children and teach them many cognitive skills.
Given that my article was posted in September, it only makes sense that something new would come out in the months afterward. We still have some time before the holidays, so if you’re looking for gift ideas, I know I’ll discover more.
Quirky Circuits is a cooperative game of card-playing strategy, where you work together to help a robot perform its tasks. The cards act as a “program,” directing the automaton in movement and action.
Two problems: players aren’t allowed to communicate, and the robot must complete their tasks before its battery runs out.
This game is a challenge of thinking in advance, trusting in your fellow players, and sheer luck. It can be frustrating or thrilling but watching the machine move around the board results in fun (and hilarious) outcomes.
Will your robot complete their tasks on time? Or will they end up running in circles or making a bigger mess?
Like several Plaid Hat Games, Quirky Circuits uses a Scenario Book that doubles as the game board. Unlike Stuffed Fables or Comanauts, there is no story tying the scenarios together; each session is for one of four robots, merely growing in difficulty.
Players choose a scenario, setting up the robot’s figurine, their specific deck of cards, and any additional materials (like tokens). Each player reads the goals and special rules, cards are dealt, and play begins.
Each round consists of three phases: Program, Execute, and Reset.
The Program phase is when players put down command cards, setting up a series of movements or actions. All players must play at least one card, and at least five cards (in total) must be in the chain.
Players may place cards at any time, interrupting each other in the process. They can play any number at once, and they can continue to put things down after other players.
Also, no communication is allowed, including what anyone has, what their intent is, or what’s been played. The only hints are the backs of the cards, which indicate whether one is a movement, a turn, or an action.
The point is to create a “programmed” sequence, using only guesses and trust, that hopefully causes the robot to perform its duties or reach its goal.
The Execution phase is when the players learn if their “program” works. Each command card is turned over, one by one, and the robot performs the movement or action.
If your group made good guesses and worked well, the robot will move around the board and perform essential tasks. Otherwise, you might find the automaton running around in circles, or even knocking things over and making messes.
After Execution, the Reset phase prepares everyone for the next round. All the used command cards are shuffled back together and placed at the bottom of the deck.
Everyone’s hands are dealt back up to maximum, but more importantly, the battery marker is moved down one slot. Each scenario has a limited amount of rounds (battery) before the players lose.
Quirky Circuits has 24 different scenarios spread divided between four different robots. Scenes focus on the general type of robot, from a Roomba to a food server, and increase in difficulty through more tasks, tougher maps, and additional command cards.
Also, each robot has a unique command deck and rules that affect the scenario.
For example, the Roomba is mostly direct movement or turns and will turn upon bumping into an obstacle. The server robot hands out items in a specific direction, and mainly uses turns and service actions.
Like many Plaid Hat Games, once you’re done with the 24 scenarios, you may find some loss of replayability. Still, there’s enough enjoyment that changes in who’s playing and how many can make previous scenarios fun.
I’ve loved other Plaid Hat Games products, but what spoke to me about Quirky Circuits was how well it worked playing with my son. Designed for eight and older, it draws elementary school kids in with its theme and zany antics.
Don’t be fooled by the silliness, as the game also teaches critical skills to younger players. Teamwork, planning, and a rudimentary form of “programming” are all aspects of the game that children can carry over into real life.
The game even provides an “easy mode” for younger players, where the command cards are played face-up during the Program phase. Although this seems like “cheating,” it helps kids think forward, as they look at the cards, predict where the robot will be, and decide what they might place next.
Quirky Circuits is easy to learn, has a fun theme and components, and is excellent as a family game or for kids. That doesn’t mean that adults won’t find enjoyment, as the scenarios can be quite a challenge even for experienced gamers.
My main critique is, as always, the lack of additional materials. If any Plaid Hat Game could benefit from further support, it’s this one, and an expansion with new robots and challenges might be warranted.
Either way, I recommend this as an excellent gateway and family game and think it might make a good gift in the coming holidays.
Quirky Circuits is on shelves now. 2-4 players, 15-30 minutes, Ages 8+.
I give Quirky Circuits a zany 4 Roomba-riding cats out of 5.
(We’d like to thank Gamers-Corps in Ellicott City for providing us the space to playtest and demo this game!)