Bombers away is a quick (single-round) social deduction game similar to Two Rooms and a Boom where players are physically separated during play. Each player is dealt either a Bystander, a Bomber or a Police role card and two item cards: a Bomb card, a Defuser card or a Gold card (no effect on the game). Bombers win by having an active Bomb in the item deck and not get shot. The Police player and Bystander players (confusingly called the Bystander team) win if there are no active bombs in the item deck or if all the Bombers are shot. A Bomb is active if a Defuser card is not adjacent to it in the item deck. At the end of the round, the Police player chooses a number of players matching the number of Bombers and these players are “shot.” If all Bombers are shot, the Bystander team wins. If at least one Bomber survives, the item deck is inspected; if an active Bomb exists, Bombers win, otherwise Bystanders win.
During their one turn, players choose a Spectator and go to another room (where the item deck is) to perform their action. The actions are as follows:
- Draw: Choose a card from the top of the item deck or discard pile. Without showing any cards, place a card face down on the top or bottom of the item deck or face up on the discard pile. The Bystander team benefits by going through the item deck. There will always be as many cards as players when the game starts which gives the advantage to the Bombers initially.
- Swap: Swap hands with the Spectator. This is useful if you don’t trust the other player but they have a card you need. For example, you’re a Bomber and you know they have a Bomb and you don’t.
- Give: The Spectator gets your turn. This is useful if you trust the other player and they have a Defuser card that needs to be played for instance.
Bombers may reveal themselves to the Spectator (by showing their role card) and choose from these additional actions:
- Steal: Spectator reveals their hand. Choose one card and replace it from your hand. Take a Draw action. Similar to Swap except you get to affect the item deck.
- Interrogate: Spectator reveals their role. If Police is revealed, player may exchange that role with the Disarmed Police card.
- Vandalize: Take the bottom card from the item deck. Place a card onto the discard pile. Take a Draw action.
We played this once with 6 players. I was the last player and I was able to steal a bomb and plant it in the item deck. Both Bombers were shot so Bystanders won. It seems like Bystanders will win if they are able to spend their actions going through the item deck and reporting back. It seems like if Bombers are able to go last or go one after the other there is a greater chance of success. I was not able to convince the group to play again despite the game taking less than 20 minutes to play.
Overall, the game is fun, but it does seem to have issues that as a group we didn’t know how to solve. First, the item deck isn’t that fun. One reason is that it’s not possible to access all the cards in the deck. It makes sense from a game point of view, but it makes player turns a little random. Maybe we were supposed to share more about what we all had in our hands.
The Spectator mechanic is similar to Secret Hitler in that one person has perfect knowledge, another has partial knowledge and other players can calculate the possibility of both players being honest, but it’s not as successful as Secret Hitler. The back and forth during Secret Hitler although very time-consuming and occasionally annoying, does add excitement to the game. Going into another room with one other person makes more than half the players mostly go into pause mode while two players are shifting around a couple cards.