Lightning & Bolt Board Game Review (David Somerville)

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An asymmetrical tile-matching game set in a world of superheroes and robots, Lightning & Bolt is a small box of whimsical fun. Initially intended as a two-player game that a parent could play with their child, Lighting & Bolt hit the three-player stretch goal during its Make 100 campaign. And though it is intended for children, it's also a solid introductory game for those who don't play a lot of games. In Lightning & Bolt, superhero Lightning and her trusty robotic sidekick Bolt are attempting to defend against the Evil Doctor, protecting their friends and family along the way. 

Lightning & Bolt Game Details

Players: 2 to 3

Game Time: 15 Minutes

Age: 3+

Genre: Tile Matching / Strategy

How is Lightning & Bolt Played?

At its core, Lightning & Bolt is a game of "memory." 9 tiles are laid out: 4 matching pairs and 1 Evil Doctor. Your goal is to find the 4 matching pairs, but watch out: the Evil Doctor will shuffle everything around if he's revealed before the end. As you play the game, evil docbots come out -- they must be defeated before the tiles can be revealed. If characters take too much damage, the game is lost.

As Lightning, a player can take three actions in turn: move, fight (or repair Bolt), and reveal. The Lightning player will only ever need to roll a single die. 

As Bolt, a player can take multiple programmed actions, dependent on the dice that they role. Bolt can upgrade, move, attack or defend, download additional upgrades, and reveal cards. 

Lightning has more freedom and mobility than Bolt, and equivalent power -- she hits just as hard. Bolt is more complex to play, but still balanced with Lightning. This is really quite brilliant, because both players are contributing equally even though one player has more to do. 

The Penalties of a Small Print Run

It's hard to rave about this game because, well, if anyone really wants it, they can't get it. As a Make 100 game, there were only 100 copies printed; we have #93. That being said, the idea of these types of small, experimental games is appealing; certainly more appealing than the incredible number of mostly forgettable games being launched one after one into mass production. 

Still, there's a problem with small print runs: the game is really, really badly printed. The game box arrived already fraying, so thin and warped that it can't stand up by itself. Each of the tiles were scraped quite badly, with the finish looking almost water-damaged. It's more a prototype than an actual game.

These are things that are somewhat forgiveable considering the fact that the run was so small. The game itself is extremely fun and has a really intriguing set of mechanics. Asymmetrical games are difficult to do correctly, but because of the initial conceit of the game -- that one player wants to do less work -- it works. 

Lightning & Bolt is a charming game, made all the more special due to its art. It feels like a game that has come from a larger world, which is refreshing in a time when so many games feel so sparse.

Lightning & Bolt Board Game Review
  • PRO: Charming asymmetrical gameplay that keeps both players invested.
  • PRO: Attractive art that captures the superhero aesthetic.
  • CON: A limited print run that led to some major quality issues.