Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of Assembly from Wren Games.
What is this game about?
Assembly is a short, quick puzzle game set on a spaceship. After a deadly virus kills off most of the crew, you (and potentially one friend) have survived because of your natural immunity. The ship, however, wants to quarantine itself by making sure nothing makes it off the ship alive—and that includes you. There is hope, however! A partially-built ship remains on board, and if you can finish it up in time, you'll be able to escape.
The puzzle of Assembly lies in manipulating module tokens so that you can lock them into place on the correct cards (they will have matching symbols). To do this, you'll play through your deck three times, only using one card at a time to deploy modules, rotate them, swap them, or lock them into place. If you can finish locking the modules by the end of the third cycle through your deck, you win. Otherwise, in space, no one can hear you scream—and you won't have any oxygen to scream with, anyway. In addition to some "malfunctions" in the base game, you can play with an expansion called Glitches, which adds difficulty by messing with your best-laid plans. Even if you win regularly, you can try to challenge yourself further by seeing how many cards you have left over at the end—and there is a score chart to help you determine how well you did.
How does it play solo?
Assembly has both a solo mode and a two-player co-op mode. Solo works very smoothly—you just draw a card, play a card, and reshuffle or manage malfunctions as needed.
I have mixed feelings about Assembly. I'll start by saying that there are definitely a lot of things to appreciate about it. The gameplay is very smooth, the puzzle is fun to complete, and it's a quick game with a small footprint. I genuinely enjoyed my plays of Assembly, and I would absolutely try another game from the same designers. Janice and Stu Turner have worked together to form Wren Games, and I think that Assembly is a very good early outing from a small, independent publisher.
I also feel, however, that Assembly is a little too easy. Once you get used to the basics of solving the puzzle, you will generally win the game unless you get incredibly unlucky. That means that after enthusiastic initial plays, I burned out on the game too quickly. I also found that while you can challenge yourself to reach higher performance levels in the game, your high score will ultimately depend more on luck of the draw than on your skill in the game. A lot of the more difficult in-game achievements depend on a lucky draw or shuffle—something that I didn't find satisfying.
I do suspect that Assembly shines brightest as a two-player cooperative game, rather than as a solo puzzle. The co-op version of this game has some interesting communication restrictions that I think might really give the game some teeth.
Do I recommend it?
If you want a small, quick puzzler from an independent design team, then maybe. Especially if you plan to play the game solo and co-op. Assembly is truly snappy and fun. But it's not one for the ages.
Overall Rating: 3 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.