This The LOOP review was made after playing the game over 20 times, with at least four games played at each player count.
What is The LOOP?
The LOOP is a cooperative time-traveling, deck building, strategy game in which you play as agents who are trying to stop an evil scientist from becoming the master of the universe.
The LOOP Rules Overview
Your goal in The LOOP is to have your uniquely skilled agents destroy Dr. Faux’s time machine by completing four missions, plus other win conditions in some scenarios. You’ll do this by using powerful artifacts to gather energy, remove rifts, and defeat Dr. Faux’s clones. You start the game with two missions revealed and will reveal more as the others are completed or turned into vortexes.
Turns have five phases:
This is when Dr. Faux’s clones are added to the board, an Artifact card is added to one of the seven Eras, and a Faux card is resolved.
The Faux card tells you which Era to point the cube tower toward (Dr. Faux’s current Era). You then drop two Rift cubes into the tower, plus one more cube per clone in that Era. The cubes will either go into Dr. Faux’s Era or one of the two adjacent Eras.
If you ever have to add a fourth Rift cube to an Era, a Vortex tile is placed there, replacing the Mission tile if there was one. If you ever have to place a second Vortex tile in the same Era or a fourth Vortex tile anywhere on the board, you immediately lose.
The Faux card deck also acts as the game’s timer. If you cycle through the deck three times, you immediately lose.
The one free action you have each turn is to move to one adjacent Era.
You’ll usually be working with three Artifact cards each turn. You can use your cards to move to another Era, put Energy cubes on the board, push/pull Dr. Faux’s clones (you destroy them by moving them into the Era shown on their tokens), remove Rift cubes, and other cool things.
You can use Energy cubes that are in your current Era. These cubes are mostly used to move or to perform a LOOP. When you do a LOOP, you get to refresh all of the cards of one dimension type and then use those cards again that turn. It costs one cube to do the first LOOP, two to do the second, and so on.
Each agent also has a special ability.
If there are any Artifact cards in your Era at the end of your turn, you can take one and put it on top of your draw pile.
If you finish your turn in an Era with a completed mission, you remove the tile from the board and reveal one of the other missions. If you did complete a mission, everyone gets one free Artifact card.
To end a turn, the current player discards their cards to their discard pile and everyone draws back up to three cards.
This is also when you check to see if the Faux deck gets reshuffled (every seven turns) and put in the next spot on the Cycle track. When that happens, more clones will show up on future turns.
Those are the basic rules for The LOOP. Some of the scenarios add in additional components, rules, and victory conditions. There are also three difficulty levels to choose from for each scenario.
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The LOOP – Pros and Cons
- One of my favorite things about The LOOP is that you don’t know any of your victory conditions until you start a game. And, even then, you only know two of them. That adds an extra layer of excitement that I wish more designers would put in their co-op games.
- I really like the deck building in this game. The artifacts are all useful, but I like that the decision isn’t automatic since you need to think about the dimensions the artifacts are from (for LOOPs) and the abilities themselves. Plus, I always like when a card goes directly on top of your draw pile so you can play it on your next turn (à la Aeon’s End).
- The six starting artifacts and the special abilities are enough to make each agent feel distinct. You have to come up with different ways to win based on the agents you choose, which is what you want from a game like this.
- The LOOP mechanism itself is very cool. It forces you to give each turn more thought because you have to factor in which, if any, cards you’re going to get to play multiple times.
- I also like how quick Dr. Faux’s turns are. Once you’ve played a few rounds, it takes about 10 seconds to get through that phase and then you can get right back to taking actions.
- I always give designers credit when they come up with new themes, especially when those themes shine through during the game, and The LOOP definitely has a unique theme. It’s time travel, but it’s not confusing time travel, and it’s goofy. Good combo.
- There’s so much replayability here! Even the base scenario with the three difficulty levels has good replay value, but you get three other scenarios on top of that.
- The cube tower works well. It has a bunch of little notches in it to send the cubes out more randomly. I tested it out outside of the game and it does pretty well to bounce the cubes a bit before they go through the shutes.
- The game looks great on the table.
- There is some downtime between turns, especially during four-player games. It’s not uncommon for a player (or the team) to get analysis paralysis because you have to factor in how you’re going to use Energy cubes, the order in which you’ll play your cards, and LOOP possibilities. That can make some turns take a while.
- I wish there were more than five agents in the base game. Two or three more would have been great.
- The Eras can get a bit busy with components, making it hard to process everything and to physically keep everything in the correct zones.
The LOOP – Final Thoughts
I’m just now finally getting around to reviewing The LOOP, but I’ve actually been having a blast playing it for years now. I’m a sucker for the time travel theme, so I was already excited about this game before I got it. What makes it a truly special game to me, though, is its simple-but-fun deck building, its very high replayability, and the consistent challenge it presents.
I think The LOOP is a game a lot of co-op fans will enjoy. It’s like a next-step Pandemic game with some deck building, a cool little cube tower, and an awesome time travel theme. If that sounds good to you, definitely give The LOOP a play.
The LOOP was already added to our Best Deck Building Games page!
The LOOP Links
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