Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Mindbug - First Contact


Christian Kudahl, Marvin Hegen, Richard Garfield, Skaff Elias

Nerdlab Games

No. of Players:

G@mebox Star



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

Do you know the Tiger Squirrel or the Bee Bear? No? I just got to know them. Not in a TV feature about the wondrous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, as you might suspect, but in a small cardboard box containing 52 playing cards with Mindbug - First Contact written on them. Not only the two aforementioned hybrid fellows are in the pack. There is also, for example, the Goblin Werewolf or the Gorillion, as well as some other creatures that seem to be quite battle-hungry. Besides, you can also find the eponymous Mindbugs in the pack. These one-eyed, octopus-like creatures are stuck in an operating inverted diving bell and somehow seem to be at peace with themselves.

[Mindbug - First Contact]

Click on image to enlarge!

Mindbug - First Contact, published by NERDLAB GAMES, is a card duel game in which players summon crazy creatures for duels. The goal of the game is to take three life points from the opponent. However, in order to attack the opponent with a card, it must first be brought into your play area by summoning the creature. Hand cards cannot be used immediately for attacks or other actions. There are no specific requirements for playing and summoning them, a player just has to put the card in front of him on his turn and that's it. At least in most cases! But more on that later. Each creature has a specific combat power, assigned traits, or effects that are triggered by specific actions. When a card is in the play area, the player can decide whether to attack the opponent with it or to use his only available action per turn to play another card. If the player decides to attack, he selects one of his creatures in the Play Area and declares the attack with it.

The opponent can now decide whether to block the attack with one of his creatures or accept the loss of a life point. Since each player has only three life points at the beginning of the game, it certainly makes sense in most cases to block the attack. For this, the attacked player chooses a card for the defense. Then, the combat is evaluated simply by comparing the combat strength of the creatures. The creature with the higher strength stays on the field, the weaker one must go to the discard pile of the respective player. In case of a tie, both cards are beaten. At least in most cases! But again more about this later. Up to this point, everything sounds very solid and, to be honest, not particularly tricky or exciting. Play a card, attack, defend and start all over again. But I can promise that the game does not ripple along as one might assume so far.

[Mindbug - First Contact]

Click on image to enlarge!

As mentioned, there are 52 playing cards, four of them are Mindbugs. That means there are 48 cards with creatures, each of them twice in play. However, each player only gets 10 cards for one game, five forming the hand of the player. Whenever a card is played, the player draws a new card. After all of the 10 cards are used up, there is no further replenishment. On the one hand, this means that a game lasts only 15 to 25 minutes. On the other hand, it also means that no one can tell for sure which creatures are in play, since 28 creature cards are always out of the game. Perhaps you'll say that this doesn't matter at all, since you're just comparing two cards with the stronger card deciding the fight.

Here comes a first "later" that gives the game its charm. Nearly all cards have certain triggers or keywords that strongly influence the course and outcome of the battle. Triggers relate directly to what happens to a card. For example, if you play Axolotl Healer into the play area, you gain two life points for the trigger "play". If a player attacks with the Turbo Bug, the opponent loses all but one life point, as this is activated by the card text behind the trigger "attack". But also the keywords Frenzy, Hunter, Poisonous, Sneaky and Tough change the gameplay significantly. For example, the attacker can decide which card of the opponent he attacks when he fights with the Goblin Werewolf, because it has the keyword Hunter. He should avoid attacking a card that is Poisonous, because even if the attacker has more strength than the opponent, the attacking creature will be poisoned and must also go to the discard pile. However, Spider Owl is particularly devious. Since it is Sneaky, the opponent can only defend it with a Sneaky card of his own. If he doesn't have one, he loses a life point, even though he may have stronger creatures in his play area. Also, since the Spider Owl is Poisonous, he loses his defending creature in any case.

[Mindbug - First Contact]

Click on image to enlarge!

With these triggers and keywords the game is already much more interesting! But it gets even more exciting with the other "later". These are the mindbugs. Each player posesses two of them and can use each once in the game at the moment the opponent plays a card into the play area. The played card then goes into the play area of the player who played the Mindbug, and possible play effects can be used by him! This powerful possibility changes everything, because you have to think hard when to use these mindbugs. On the other hand, you have to decide very well at which moment you should use your strong cards, without becoming a victim of the effects yourself in case your opponent uses a mindbug. It's really interesting how much the game changes once you really understand how strong the mindbugs can be! A cool, fast paced card game turns into a cool, fast paced addictive psycho card game.

Mindbug - First Contact is a little game, but a big highlight of SPIEL '21 for me! By chance I discovered the small booth of NERDLAB GAMES behind a bunch of interested visitors, and I was immediately impressed by the great idea and the creative artwork of the game. Of course, I wondered how well the idea with the mindbugs would work, and how the replayability of the game would be, since it has quite a limited amount of cards. In other games of this kind, you often have a lot more cards available (or have to buy them). However, having now played the game with a wide variety of opponents (ranging from my 10-year-old son to some much older gamers), I have to say that I am absolutely blown away by the variability of the game. The different cards always interlock in different ways. It's real puzzle work to play the cards at the right time to get the most out of their advantages. In addition, due to the limited cards, a card may seem almost unbalancedly strong in the first moment, while in the next turn it turnes to be a toothless tiger with almost no effect at all. I often thought I was on the winning track, only to suffer a bitter defeat because I wasn't paying attention. Sometimes it was the other way around. In any case, it was always a lot of fun to go into battle with the Tiger Squirrel and the Bee Bear and see how the opponent reacted. Mindbug - First Contact has already given me so much pleasure so far that I can't help but award this small but fine card game the Gameboxstar from Kulkmann's G@mebox! A little tip from me. On 11/23/2021, a campaign for Mindbug - First Contact will be launched on Kickstarter. I'll definitely take a closer look! Maybe you should do the same.

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