Bad Maps from Floodgate Games makes programming fun for a whole new group of moderate players. A gap has long existed between complex adult programming games like the classic RoboRally and simple, straightforward programming games that are largely about filling in the blank to achieve a goal. Bad Maps splits the difference, showing a clear goal to be met while introducing randomized elements to keep every player shuffling for good footing.
The scenario in Bad Maps takes a fun direction for programming games. Each player serves as a pirate captain, competing with the other players to direct four crewmembers on their quest to find buried treasure. Of course, pirates are nary trustworthy, and players are truly in it for themselves.
Bad Maps takes place in two rounds. In each round, every player receives Map Cards with directions on them and Objective Cards that describe what will win the player points. Rather than each player pursuing the treasure directly, Objective Cards give victory points for different positions for the pirate minions on the board. Players might seek to have the red minion closest to the treasure but have the blue minion the farthest away. These different directions sets Bad Maps apart as each player will be feeding the “robot” pirates orders that may very well be contradictory, leading to chaos on the board.
With Objectives in hand, players begin filling out slots on each side of the board for the four pirate tokens to move. Orders can be moving ahead or backward by a certain number of squares or to change directions on a compass. The cards are laid one at a time with players taking turns. While many of the cards are played face-up, each round designates several slots to be “blacked out” by being played secretly facedown. A player may only look at one of their opponents’ facedown cards, meaning they will not only have to plan out their own strategy to best accomplish their Objectives but also watch other players to guess what their motives and actions may be.
Once cards are laid, the crew’s orders are completed with their tokens moving around the board. Their actions may be very straightforward, but a sly captain may give a contradictory order, leading to chaotic wandering that could end up with falling in a hole. When the movement is over, players reveal their points from their completed objectives. Player with the most points after the second round wins.
Bad Maps is a programming game for three to five players aged thirteen and up. With only two rounds, games are fairly quick, lasting about a half hour. Thanks to its mix of goal-pursuit and zany chaos, Bad Maps is as fun for young players just starting out their journeys into programming as it is for established gamers who have long been plotting their strategies. To add further complexity for older players, Bad Maps offers an Advanced version features more randomization and a special power for each captain such as keeping cards between phases, maintaining the starting position, or manipulating the facedown play rules. Players will likely find their favorite sneaky captain to meet their dastardly plans.