What a title right? But perfectly fitting for a game from the Portal universe. We’ve got our hand on another game, and this time it’s not co-operative as we try to survive tests in Aperture labs, get cake and kill test subjects.
- Players: 2 – 4
- Age: 15+
- Game Length: 30 – 45 Minutes
- Price: £40
- Available from Amazon and other online retailers
So as mentioned Portal is not co-operative. Far from it. The intent of the game is to be greedy and earn as much cake as you can for yourself and ensure other players don’t get more cake than you. The game is played out on an ever changing board. The board is made up of labs which are incinerated 1 by 1 at the end of each players go. The incinerated lab’s then get recycled to the front / start of the board. As these labs are being incinerated each go, players test subjects and cake pieces if they’ve got any will move closer and closer to incineration too. You need to keep test subjects alive to keep the game going and need to activate labs specific actions each go to get cake pieces and other rewards. If you’re not paying attention other players on their go can incinerate the labs or activate labs that your subjects or cake could be in and really stuff your chances of winning the game up.
You have an option before your movement to play any Aperature cards you may possess. These can give you added bonuses like move all your test subjects towards the end of the play grid, activate the turret or companion cube. Each thing has different consequences and needs to be played correctly for the best results. It’s another instance where as a player watching this happen you need to be paying attention in order to make sure you can get anything out of the result on your go, or if your screwed on your next go. The Turret is as it would suggest, a turret which can be dropped in any lab that the player chooses. A good way to end the game if you’re winning with the most cake pieces and want to take out a room with a group of test subjects. The Companion Cube when deployed distracts any test subjects in that room so they cannot activate any specific lads to earn rewards. Another useful thing to do if you’re opposition are in a lab where they could activate a multiple cake drop. Aperature cards are earned when moving a test subject. If you move one test subject in your round you can pick up either one Aperature card or another test subject. You can only hold a maximum of 3 Aperature cards though so eventually you’ll be just getting test subjects each go unless you opt to move more than one test subject per turn which gives no rewards out.
Once an Aperature card has been used they are put in a discard pile, but turned face down so a character card is revealed. This adds a new rule to the round that all players are affected by and will remain in place until a new Aperature card is discarded. The other wild card that a player can use on their turn is the Portal Gun. This is played instead of an Aperature card on the players turn. I’ll assume you’re all familiar with how the Portal gun works from the video game, the mechanics are the same in the board game. You open a Portal from the lab you’re in and can open up the other side of the Portal to which ever lab you want. Quite useful for transporting the ever important cake slices to safety if they are edging their way to incineration.
So the game itself is a tad confusing at first as we weren’t entirely sure if we could activate any lab our test subjects were in, or if it could only be one of the end labs that got incinerated as the rulebook contradicted itself a little bit and on some of the play through videos I watched prior they were all playing different rules. But we got there eventually, and once we were convinced we were playing it correctly it picked up.
It is a little bit of a slow starter as you’ll be earning test subjects each go if you only move one, and the lab incinerations were happening very quickly as not much strategy or thinking was needed in the first rounds. As the cake pieces start coming to play and the shape of the board changes with the recycling of labs this is when it kicked into gear.
There were a few instances when one of us was one move away from winning the game, but we were so tied up into ensuring our cake pieces didn’t get incinerated we didn’t catch the opportunity to take out other players test subjects which would have given us the victory. Of course the player that was sweating that they could lose their test subjects would inform us of our mistake in a gloating fashion. As the next turn comes round that situation is resolved so you then have to work another way to win the game.
It’s meant to take between 30 and 45 minutes per go, and I think on our first attempt we were just on the 45 minute button after a slow start and a few glances back at the instructions book.
I eventually picked up a victory which seemed incredibly unlikely earlier in the game. But my win came at the expense of Will making the wrong moves and not noticing that I had a piece of cake nestled up by 2 of his cake slices. As soon as he saw this the groan of disappointment came out as he realised he’d taken out all of Mikes test subjects with me having one more piece of cake on the board than him.
After a slow start the game really grew on all of us. It produced a lot of laughs and a genuine rivalry against each other as all we had on our minds was eliminating oppositions cake in anyway shape of form. Alliances were formed on occasion when one player with more cake was at the focus of the other 2 players. But those alliances would be gone as soon as the next round started. As mentioned above the contradictory statements in the rulebook did leave us scratching our heads a little bit to begin and perhaps could have been explained a little more clear, but then again the game has been created with humour and a serious rule book would detract from the humour of the game.
The pieces to game are all very detailed. The companion cube and Turret look great. It’s also good to see the cake isn’t a lie… or is it? The major complaint I’ve seen and read from many other reviews is the game board itself. It’s very fiddly each round removing a lab piece and reconnecting it at the other end of the board. They’re meant to slot together nice and snug, but that doesn’t seem to be the case really. It’s something you can look past though when playing.
We’ve yet to play another round of Portal, but it’s not that we don’t want to. In fact I’m looking forward to giving it another spin. Hopefully next time we’ll have learnt our lessons to pay attention to everything players do in their rounds. I’d definitely recommend checking out a few play through videos first to get the activate / incinerate rules 100%, as this did prolong our eventual start to the game and to fully enjoy it.