I could have taken a photo while playing “Two Rooms and a Boom,” but you wouldn’t have seen much.
There’s no board. No pieces or dice or whatever else. In our case, it was just people standing around in small groups in a friend’s basement.
But if I had a transcript of what went on, well, that would be a different story. “Two Rooms” is a game of social deduction, bluffing and hidden roles. Two rooms are set up in a way so that goings-on in one can’t be heard in the other. Players each receive a card face-down, then are split between the rooms.
Once there, players look at their cards and discover the team they’re on, red or blue, and any roles within in that team, if they get one. The most important roles are that of the President (blue) and the Bomber (red).
One by one, players begin showing one another their cards. Revealing to a fellow team member establishes an alliance, while revealing to an opponent gives you information to use against them.
Meanwhile, players in each room jockey for leadership. At the end of the round (timed), the leader chooses one person (a “hostage”) and exchanges him/her with a person from the other room.
Another round ensues (with less time) and players go at it again with a new actor and new knowledge, attempting to figure out a new situation and work it to their advantage. After three rounds, all the players come together. If the President is in a different room than the Bomber, team blue wins. If they’re in the same room, team red wins.
I was completely flummoxed by this game, as I am at most social deduction games. My general strategy was to find someone on my team and back up whatever they did—not a great strategy. But that’s not to say that I didn’t have fun. In fact, I had a blast (no pun intended).
With very little in the way of tactical play, games like this play on a different set of human capabilities than a regular old, run-of-the-mill resource management game. Can you tell when someone is lying? Can you recognize a double-cross? Can you sow a little discord, than use it to your advantage? Can you make someone trust you? Can you math out the alliances and deduce who’s who? Fortunately, no strength at either of these traits ensures victory or failure, as situations are fluid and slightly different each time you play.
In our session of “Two Rooms,” there was a lot of laughter, a lot of bad Russian accents, a lot of ironic roleplay. Prisoners often went from one room to another with their hoodies pulled over their faces. If you just get into character, there’s no way this game can’t be entertaining, win or lose. Games take all of 15-20 minutes, so you lose/win fast, then start up another one. It’s basically a more-involved party game.
If things start to get a bit stale, you can spice them up with other role cards. Some players can’t reveal their role card, for instance, and in some cases your target might not be the President, but the President’s Daughter instead. The new wrinkles (and there are plenty) lend a few legs to a game concept that struggles a bit to find replayability.
There are drawbacks to the game. The big one: “Two Rooms” takes a massive amount of people to get it going. We played with nine players, which was good, but I understand the game takes on a completely different tenor with 12, 15, or even 20 or 30 participants.
Other drawbacks are basically synonymous with the game’s strengths and boil down to taste and your sense of adventure. If you have a gaming group that’s willing to set aside more typical tabletop games, or if you have a social gathering willing to take a chance on something that will draw them out of their comfort zones, then this game is worth a try.