Control card game review
You’re a time traveler caught in a rupture in spacetime and displaced outside time. And to add to your worries, your time machine has been drained of fuel. So you must refuel your time machine using Fuel Cells to escape the rupture.
Yet only one time traveler will be able to do so.
So if you don’t want to be lost outside time, you better be the one to close the rupture and escape.
Doesn’t that sound like a great theme for a game?
We think so too.
Unfortunately, the intro paragraphs in the rulebook that describe the setting are the only sense of theme you’re going to find in the game.
Fortunately however, the game is still fun to play!
And we’ll tell you why.
How to play Control
Control is a very simple card game to play.
The objective in a game of Control is to close the rupture by reaching a Fuel Cell charge of 21 or more. Players do so by installing Fuel Cells in their time machine that add up to 21 or higher while stopping other players from doing the same.
What this translates to is that players are trying to be the first to lay numbered cards down in front of them that total 21 or higher. Players can also mess with the other players by removing or stealing their cards.
Whichever player reaches 21 first is the winner.
Playing a Round
Players start the game with 5 cards.
On a player’s turn, they can take only 1 of the following actions:
- Draw a Card – Just like it sounds, players can simply draw one card from the top of the draw pile.
- Install a Fuel Cell – A player may place one of the cards (Silver or Bronze) from their hand onto the table in front of them (their time machine). The number on the card counts toward their total Fuel Cell charge. If it’s a Silver card, the ability listed on the card is triggered.
- Burn a Fuel Cell – A player may play a Bronze card from their hand to the discard pile to trigger the ability listed on the card. Once a card is Installed to a player’s time machine it can not be Burned.
- Defuse a Fuel Cell – A player may discard one of the cards from their hand (Silver or Bronze) to force an opponent to discard one of their Installed cards. The number value of the card must be equal to or higher in value than the card to discard.
Since so much that drives the game are the abilities on the cards, here are a few examples:
- Draw a card or destroy a Nova in play.
- Look at the top two cards of the deck. Return one to the top, then play the other however you want.
- Destroy all Bronze Fuel Cells in play (including your own).
- This Fuel Cell is immune to diffusing once installed.
- Force an opponent to discard a random card from their hand, then one of their choice.
Once a player has done their 1 action, play proceeds to the next player.
When a player has Installed cards that total in value of 21 or higher, they win!
End of Game
Because a single game of Control can be very quick to play, players can choose to play a certain number of rounds. The game comes with 5 tokens to track the number of rounds won. In a 2 or 4 player game, the first player/team to claim 3 tokens wins the game. In a 3 player game, a player only needs to claim 2 tokens to win.
Can the whole family enjoy playing Control?
As you can see, learning and playing a game of Control is very straightforward.
As long as players can read, they can play.
Reading is a must in this game because everything comes down to how players choose to use their cards. And the abilities listed on the cards determine what a player has to work with each turn.
For a game with just 4 options to choose from on a turn, there are many more choices to be made.
Do you use the number value by Installing it into your time machine?
Or do you want to use the ability on a Bronze card? Because you’ll have to discard it to do so.
Or is one of your opponents getting too close to winning so you’ll need to discard a high value card to force them to remove a card from their time machine?
Or would it be best to get more cards in your hand to give you better future options to play? Because drawing a card will be your whole turn.
The questions aren’t always easily answered, but they’re quick. And your turn will quickly come again.
And that’s exactly why we’ve enjoyed playing Control many times. The game flows very nicely and quick yet there are still many things to consider each turn.
We also love the player interaction. Because if you don’t pay attention to what other players are doing, the game may end quite sooner than you expect.
You may have a great plan for using the cards in your hand. But what the other players play on their turns may force you to adjust your plans.
And that ebb and flow makes for a fun game.
Theme doesn’t matter
As we mentioned in the beginning, the theme in Control is fairly irrelevant.
Yet we don’t mind at all.
Sure a game about time machines sounds awesome. But a good time machine game would have to involve a lot more than is found in a light card game.
And that’s what Control is — a light card game.
Sure the names on the cards utilize space and time travel terms such as Nova, Wormhole, Antimater, Future Shift, and Rift. And the artwork looks really cool and spacey. But when playing a game, we never get the feeling of fixing a time machine. Instead we’re just focused on the card color, value and ability.
The abilities listed on the cards also use terminology tied to the theme, but again we haven’t ever been caught up in the theme because of them. Instead, we’re just thinking about the outcome of the ability and how they can help us mess with other players.
The high value cards are very tempting to use to get to 21 quickly, but they’re also tempting to use for the abilities. And because those valued cards are all Bronze, using their ability means we can’t play them in front of us to use their numeric value.
We’ve been drawn back to playing Control many times. But it’s not because of the theme.
It’s because we enjoy the crux of choices along the way.
How does Control score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?
Since it’s a small card game, Control is super easy to take with us and play anywhere. But the most compelling reason why it scores well on our “let’s play again” game meter is because it’s engaging to play.
There’s always the luck of the card draw in what cards you’ll be able to play. But the abilities on the cards also give players thoughtful choices about how to turn their cards to their advantage.
So if you’re looking for a card game to replace your family’s worn copy of Uno, we’d suggest you give Control a try.