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Connecto - Review

Designer: Oliver Mahy
Publisher: Ultra Pro
Player Count: 1 to 10 Players
Play Time: 20 to 30 Minutes

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Its … hold on, let me flip the board over, it’s … uh. In this review of Connecto, I make the case that puzzle games don’t need to be bold to be enjoyable and should be a part of every solo gamers’ repertoire.

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Connecto box cover and timer

Gameplay: Find, Sketch, Guess

Connecto is a quick puzzly party game featuring very fast, simultaneous gameplay, and simple, easy-to-explain rules. And it is not everyday one comes across a game with these features that also plays solo. The wide ranging—one to ten—player count in this one caught my eye and I am glad that it did.

In Connecto, players are equipped with a dry-erase marker and an identical player board featuring 108 unique items, or symbols. Each round, the top card of a challenge deck is flipped, revealing a sequence of items matching some of those on the player board. The items on the challenge card are connected by open or closed lines.

Players will simultaneously find the items shown on the challenge card on their own player board, and connect them in the correct order matching the order on the challenge card. By connecting the dots in the right sequence, players are sketching a secret image. The object of Connecto is to correctly guess the image before the other players.

Once a player makes a guess, they flip their player board over and the other players have 30 seconds to finish their drawings and also make a guess. The first player is awarded two points if they guessed the secret image correctly and loses one point if they guessed incorrectly, a penalty for pressuring the other players. Other players also score one point if they guessed correctly but are not penalized for incorrect responses. Play proceeds for eight challenges (eight different challenge cards) after which points are tallied and the player with the highest score wins.

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Example Connecto challenge drawn and guessed

Solo: Slow it Down, Take a Guess

Connecto also boasts a cooperative mode in which all players find items and draw for 30 seconds, pass their boards, and repeat before making a group guess. A team mode sees players pair up, one as the guide describing the items on the challenge card and the other as the illustrator finding and connecting them. A third variant supports solitaire play.

The objective of solo Connecto is to successfully guess the secret image from the challenge card with as few items connected on the player board as possible. This challenges the player to interpret their incomplete illustration before they find and connect all the items represented on the card. Instead of racing other players to sketch fast and be the first one to take a guess, solo Connecto is an interpretive puzzle, testing the solo player’s ability to fill-in-the-blanks, extrapolate the remainder of the image based on what they have already drawn.

The player is awarded one point for making a complete guess if they found and connected all items from the challenge card on their player board. In other words, one point is awarded if a complete image was needed to make a correct guess. Two points are awarded if the player makes a correct guess and there were one or two items from the challenge card that were not connected. And for those professional artists, three points are awarded for a correct guess if three or more items from the challenge card were still unconnected. Incorrect answers always remove one point from the player’s total.

After four drawings (instead of eight), the player tallies their score and is considered an Apprentice, Champion, or Master based on their point total.

Connecto player board party game solo game board game review
Connecto player board

Thoughts: An Illustrative Leisure Game

In addition to strategy board games, I often enjoy filling my solitary downtime with casual word and number games like crosswords and sudoku—yes, just like everyone else, I also went through a Wordle phase last year. They fill a play niche for me that is adjacent to board gaming. These are puzzles that can challenge the brain without necessarily needing to consume and process a great deal of new information, mental tests that do not demand the consumption and appreciation of lore, narrative, or theme to be enjoyable. They are simple, with few rules governing how to complete them. Games like word searches, 2048, and even tetris are riddles that can energize and stimulate the mind in the morning or wind it down in the evening; they are quick, low-investment, and can be picked-up and put-down at convenience. Solo Connecto feels like one of these games contained in a box, with the additional upside of an optional party package.

My attention for these types of games often hits in waves. There will be days at a time where I play nothing else, glued to my phone or a notebook deliberating intently over every clue and hint. The next day, my interest wanes and I will move on to something completely different. Last week was Connecto week. I played a few rounds each morning and evening, completing all 183 challenges in the box. This means that I played about 45 or 50 games of Connecto—or more since at one point I shuffled a few completed challenges back into the pile—in just eight days.

Solo Connecto favors patience and careful consideration of what is being drawn in each challenge, over the speedy contest to find, sketch, and solve the challenge in multiplayer competitive gameplay. There is no hourglass in the solo game and no other player against whom to race. Instead, solo play is all about making an interpretation from an incomplete drawing. In this way, the object of the game, the central question the player is solving, transforms from “can you find the dots, connect them, and guess the illustration fastest” to “how much of this sketch do you need to correctly guess the challenge.” Typically, I am critical of solo game variants that drastically transform the core objective of the game, but I actually really enjoy this resultant puzzly brain-teaser.

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Connecto box, cards, and player boards

The Solo Mode section of the rulebook suggests the player “stop drawing as soon as (they) think (they) have found the solution (to the challenge) and write it down.” In some games, I went a step further, closely evaluating my player board after each item I connected. I would have about half the drawing done, and I would be flipping the player board over, turning it around, looking at it from different angles, pondering what the sketch may be. Then, if I did not have a confident guess, I would add another line and repeat. It was a time consuming process but it definitely resulted in significantly higher scores than when I simply connected items until I knew what I was drawing. In those games when I painstakingly analyzed my player board after each line, circle, or curve I drew, I also felt a more whole and full appreciation of the type of mental puzzle Connecto is trying to deliver.

But Connecto is wryly tricky. There are 108 items on the player board ranging from a traffic cone to a green apple. But there are several items that appear identical except for small details. For example, there are two blue dice that are identical except for the number of pipes on their faces. There are also several red and gold crowns. These similarities can easily trip a player up, especially in competitive multiplayer where there is a crunch for time.

I completed the game in a week’s time, but I am sure a gamer with a more healthy pacing of their attention span would get a longer ride out of the 183 challenges that come in the box. But for a sale price of $19.99, a dozen or so hours of solving puzzles over several sit downs of play is well worth the value in the box. Also speaking in terms of value, I was really pleased with the overall production of the game. Dry- and wet-erasable glossed-finish boards that do not leave marker streak or residue are always preferable to paper sheets.

Solo gamers are definitely not the primary audience for Connecto and I am not sure if the designers really imagined that solo game consumers would pick it up entirely for the solo experience. But to the right gamer in search of a new brain-teaser puzzle game, that combines the dexterity of drawing, with the visual challenge of quickly finding matching symbols, I recommend looking at Connecto. There is also great value in a game that can be a party pleaser, an appetizer on game night to warm everyone up for the main event, or a quick little course of puzzle challenges for a solo gamer passing time.

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Connecto box side and player board

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