I love it when education is presented in a fun way, and this fits the bill perfectly.
Designer: Scott Almes
Artist: Heiko Günther, Kwanchai Moriya
Game Type: Programming, press your luck, pattern building
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 10+
Expected Playtime: 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
You and up to three other players are testing the newest piece of technology pioneered by the likes of Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Charles Babbage (proposed the concept of the first computer). The new computing machine runs basic algorithms, and your goal is to run a simple mathematical program through this computer, gaining points along the way.
Every player starts the game by selecting a character to play, which provides them with six Subroutine cards to choose from. Each Subroutine has a number at the bottom that represents a goal that you’re trying to reach in your program. You start the game at the number 55, and using the operations on the game board (each round adds new choices) you program the numbers to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to reach your goal. You’ll also have a set of Patron cards set out each round, which have their own numbers and symbols that you’ll try to snag along the way in your program to add extra points to your final score.
I loved playing Tesla vs. Edison, so when I was able to get an advance copy of Lovelace and Babbage for preview, I was really excited. I enjoy games that take history and education and make them fun. This game features arithmetic and the foundations of programming, which makes it a winner in my book. I haven’t had a chance to play with my ten-year-old yet, but he was begging to be allowed to play while I was setting it up. Sorry, kiddo. Bedtime for you!
Game Build Quality
The cards have a nice feel to them and a linen finish, and feel like they’ll hold up to a lot of repeated play. The cardboard game board is well designed and sturdy as well. I would have liked to see more space on the board for the player order tokens, but that’s not a super important detail. The timer is a bit of cheap plastic, but it does the job and keeps costs down for the game (I mean, who’s going to buy a 24 karat timer??). The chits that represent the operations you can take will definitely handle repeated play too. Also note that I had an advance prototype copy and improvements are likely to be made before production!
The art in this game is just genius. It’s a very distinctive style that pairs 19th and 21st century aesthetics and color schemes in just the right way. It’s plain to see that the people portrayed on the cards were from centuries back, but it’s done in such a modern way that I just can’t stop thumbing through the deck of Patrons and taking a closer look at each one. If you think a game about math and computers is going to look dull, you’ve got another think coming.
I played the game with my husband, and we both felt really relaxed the whole time. We didn’t rush through it, as it was our first time experiencing the game, and I think that helped. Playing with more, and more aggressive players, would definitely make the game of a more competitive nature. We consciously decided to take it easy on ourselves and just enjoy the game for what it is. My husband is a computer programmer by trade, so his ears really perked up when I explained the basic concept of the game. We both had a really good time.
Age Range & Weight
You need to be able to do basic arithmetic to play the game. We used a combination of scratch paper and mental math for our computations. This is totally a game I’d play with adults, but I’m really looking forward to playing it with my ten-year-old to give him a little extra practice with math facts. His teacher would be so proud! And he’s going to have so much fun with it.
All in all, another winner from Artana. I love it when education is presented in a fun way, and this fits the bill perfectly. I’d like it to be known that I’m not a big math person — I’m a poet by trade — and I still managed to really enjoy Lovelace & Babbage, so please don’t let the talk of math and programming put you off. Once you see a few examples, it’s really easy to pick up and run with it.