Full disclosure: A review copy of Turing Machine was provided by Hachette Boardgames / Scorpion Masqué.
Another game I’ve been looking forward to writing up for a while! It’s a process, and sometimes a review gets written the weekend before launch, and sometimes I kick it months / years into the future. It’s an entire thing, scheduling; I have a spreadsheet and I’ve spent pretty much the entire writing history of this site figuring it out. But, now, if you’re reading this, the moment has finally arrived for me to talk more in-depth about Turing Machine, and I’m hyped to do that. So let’s get into it!
In Turing Machine, players work to crack a code the old-fashioned way, with their very own punch card computers! Naturally, the fastest player wins! So come up with some passcodes, check the Verifiers, and see if you can figure out what tests they’re running. Will you be able to crack the code yourself? Or will another player beat you to it?
This can take a minute. First, set the Machine Tile in the center of the play area:
Then, set up the Punch Card support (and place the Punch Cards in it):
Choose a problem to solve! There are 20 in the rulebook and, like, seven million online at http://turingmachine.info. That will tell you which of the 48 Verifier Cards get placed on which letters:
And which of the many Verification Cards get placed where. Mark the backs so you know which letter the Verification Cards correspond to.
Each player gets a Player Aid / Player Screen:
They also get a note sheet!
You can get more online. You should be ready to start!
Turing Machine is all about solving a puzzle! Your goal is to generate a three-digit code that passes all the tests offered by the Verifiers. There will only be one correct answer. The challenge is that the Verifiers don’t tell you what the right answer is! They don’t even tell you what question they’re asking! You have to use deduction and their Pass / Fail responses to figure things out. A game is played over several rounds! Let’s dive into it.
This one’s easy. Choose any three punch cards so you have a blue triangle, a yellow square, and a purple circle. It’s rare but possible that one won’t be available! If that happens, just wait for it to become available again.
You’re making a proposal for possible solutions, so, try and vary it up! Think about what you’re looking for and trying to solve.
Now, you may question up to three Verifier Cards over the round using one proposal. Use the Verification Card in conjunction with your triple punch card proposal by placing the Verification Card under the punch cards. Each Verification Card tells you if your proposed solution passes (a checkmark) or fails (an x) their test. Using that, you might be able to figure out what the Verifier Cards’ tests are! Make sure you indicate the responses on your player sheet.
You can now take notes and update your deductions on your note sheet, trying to figure out whether your solution is correct or not.
End of Round
After every player has made up to three guesses with their Proposal, players extend a closed fist and count to three. After three, they give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down:
- Thumbs-up: You’re ready to verify your solution!
- Thumbs-down: You’re not ready to verify your solution.
If any player gave a thumbs-up, they use either the rulebook (for the first 20 problems) or the app to verify their solution. If they’re wrong, they’re eliminated. If they’re correct, they win!
If every player gives a thumbs-down or all thumbs-up players get eliminated, continue with another round. Play until one player is correct or all players save one have lost.
End of Game
If a player verifies that their solution is correct, they win! If there’s a tie, the player who asked fewer questions total wins.
If all players except one propose incorrect solutions, the remaining player wins by default! So try not to do that.
So there are two other modes that you can play, if you’re feeling … aggressive, I suppose.
- Extreme Mode: In Extreme Mode, each Verification Card is associated with two different Verifiers. This just increases the range of possible criteria to check your proposal against, and makes the game that much harder.
- Nightmare Mode: Nightmare Mode adds to the challenge by removing the association between Verifier and Verification Card. Good luck with that. Now you’ve just got a stack of Verifier Cards and a stack of Verification Cards. I’m sure you can figure it out.
Player Count Differences
Technically there aren’t many differences at various player counts, since other players’ moves have very little impact on you. I generally adhere to a mild variant (and, as we all know, publishers love when reviewers talk about alternative rulesets in reviews) where the game doesn’t immediately end when one player wins; instead, players are allowed to finish up their deduction so they still get the “solved it!” feeling. I think that’s kind, but that also depends on your group. Some folks may not want to labor away when they obviously cannot win. But, by the standard ruleset, the game ends as soon as one player solves it, so you may find with more players that the game abruptly ends without you having solved the puzzle, which can be dissatisfying. With more players, there’s also the mild annoyance of some congestion? Essentially, you may be waiting in line for certain Verifiers as other players use them, which can slow the pace of the game down, a bit. I generally stick to two players with Turing Machine, but there’s really no major reason that four players wouldn’t work.
There’s also a solo mode! Essentially, your goal is to beat the machine. Generate a challenge at turingmachine.info and then solve it! Once you’ve done so, click “MACHINE” to see how many rounds / questions the Machine took to solve it. If you did as well as the Machine (or better), you win!
- Remember that the Verifiers only know what they’re specifically talking about. If a Verifier checks the value of, say, purple, then it will return the same result no matter what blue number you’re checking as part of that potential code. Keep that in mind. If you get a checkmark, it’s not necessarily saying that your particular number is correct; it’s simply saying that your number, as written, passes whatever test the Verifier is checking.
- Watch for logic traps. I made this mistake once! It mostly deals with logical inversion. If I say “X is not greater than 4″, you might say “ah, so X is less than 4”, and that’s not correct. X, in that case, could be 4, as 4 is not greater than 4. Keep an eye on your logic and make sure that you’re keeping track of how your inferences produce passcodes.
- Use some properties of the game and of math to your advantage. There are certain things that must be true, just because of math. If, for instance, purple is the lowest number, you know that purple cannot be 5, blue and yellow cannot be 1, and purple cannot be the same value as blue or yellow (since it’s the lowest number, not just, say, lower than blue). And who said you’ll never use math in your future?
- The most important thing to remember is this: there is only one correct answer, and it must be inferable from the Verifiers. This is pretty critical, just because, say, if you can narrow the answer down to two possibilities, and there’s no way to, from the given Verifiers, differentiate between them, then you know you’ve done something wrong. There can never be two equally likely answers.. You can use that to get rid of some possibilities, if one potential logical pathway leads to two answers that are indistinguishable, for instance. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s very useful.
- Don’t guess. No benefit from doing so! Also, if you’re wrong, you lose. The only time it works is if you’re positive another player is going to get the correct answer on this turn and you’ve got it reasonably narrowed down. In that case, you might as well guess, since getting it wrong and getting it right much slower than the winner both still evaluate to a loss. Live your best life.
- Also don’t necessarily assume? This one, in particular, caused me to lose a game. I got so caught up with some number potentially being 12, that I never thought that 6 was also a valid option, which completely clowned me. Make sure that you’re consistently checking your assumptions and not just thinking that whatever you’ve guessed is the right answer because it matches up with a few Verifiers. Also don’t assume that Verifiers are in play for a specific reason; sometimes they’re just there to tell you there’s no pattern of that type because the game was randomly generated via the app. There’s not always a deeper meaning to the universe.
- If you’re very focused on winning, try to avoid asking superfluous questions. Instead, focus on what you can deduce in as few questions as possible. I wouldn’t necessarily prioritize this because you may miss out on valuable deductions, but hey, if you want to win, that’s what you gotta do. The player who asks the fewest questions and gets the right passcode in the fewest rounds is the player that wins. This is mostly useful if you find yourself consistently tying other players; see if you can speed things up.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This is one of the best deduction games I’ve played in a while. It’s really smooth and highly configurable, which I really appreciate! I really like the math and logic puzzle of it all, and trying to figure out how all the various pieces of the game fit together. It’s right up my alley, since the deduction also isn’t too complicated (though, with some of the extra difficulty tiers can really ratchet that challenge up, if you’re looking for that kind of thing).
- I love the color choices for the game. It’s very bright! I really like how the green and the white contrast to make the game feel vibrant. I think it’ll photograph really well, but that’s a problem for future Eric, so we’ll see how that goes.
- The punch card aspect of the game completely blows my mind. I don’t really understand how the game was made, but the sheer amount of computational work that must have taken to design something like this that works in so many combinations is distinctly impressive. I try not to think too much about it because the sheer complexity of it all gives me mental anguish, but there are so many cards and punch cards and combinations, and it all just works seamlessly. I kind of love it.
- A pretty quick game, as far as deduction games go. I think it helps that the game starts you at pretty low-difficulty options, but even at the hardest levels, you’re not hitting the range of like, The Search for Planet X or Alchemists. I’d say this is closer to The Shipwreck Arcana in terms of length, which is always a nice place to play. You can play a few rounds in a night if you want.
- I’m impressed by the range and depth of the difficulty options in the game. There are many verifier cards and a lot of different configurations of just the core game, and you can extend the length and challenge of an individual game by moving up to six verifiers (from the standard four). There are also more challenging Verifier Cards that you can use. Once you’ve gotten used to that, you can even make the game more challenging with Extreme and Nightmare Mode, though, I mean, do so at your own risk. I think that’s a lot of opportunity to add depth for interested players, and I’m excited to keep exploring the game.
- Also, having 20 games’ worth of challenges in the rulebook and ~7,000,000 available online seems like a pretty good split. The rulebook does a great job of introducing the game and its features, and if you want to push past that, the app is fantastic. The app also adds the ability to check your answer without seeing the answer, which is excellent if you’d rather not ruin the deduction for yourself just because you were wrong.
- The app is pretty great, to boot. Like I said, but it’s also very easy to use! It’s got a daily challenge, the ability to configure a custom game to your liking, and more! I do kind of wish that it would explain Extreme and Nightmare Mode in the app so I could mostly skip the rulebook entirely, but, only so much you can do, I suppose.
- Delightfully, if you put the box top on the box incorrectly, you get a sad face, and if you put it on correctly, you get a happy face. I just think that’s fun. Plus, I tend to be a bit type-A about having my box lids on correctly, so this is nice.
- Being eliminated for a wrong code is kind of a bummer. We definitely don’t abide by that when we’re using the app (since the app just tells you if you’re right or wrong), but, once you’ve seen the solution in the rulebook, you’re kind of stuck. It’s just unfortunate if you made a mildly incorrect assumption or something.
- Setup is kind of a pain when you’re playing with new players; it gets easier once everyone knows what to look for. Then, you can have one player set up the Verifiers, another player set out the Verification Cards, and then you can work on reading off the app. Coordinating makes the whole thing move faster, since there are a lot of cards to sift through.
- With the basic game, I wish they had put the solutions on a separate sheet in the rulebook; it’s a bit easy to accidentally read an answer if you’re not paying attention, especially if you’re not expecting it. I think the other challenge is that since it’s in a small box in an upside-down corner of the rulebook, it can be tough to just only read your one solution. You don’t want to accidentally read a solution to the next puzzle and ruin the game for yourself, after all. I would have liked something that better obfuscated the answers, both from the players and from the other answers in the rulebook.
- Some folks are going to just hate a mathy game, so, keep an eye out for that. Apparently some people don’t want to just get inundated with math when they’re playing a board game. Weirdos. That said, the math here is mostly addition, subtraction, and some comparison, so, hopefully it’s not too much for your group if you’re a big deduction fan.
Overall: 9.5 / 10
Yeah, so, I love Turing Machine. Until now, there were Three Ideal Deduction Games, for me: Cryptid, The Search for Planet X, and The Shipwreck Arcana. I thought that was sufficient, but I didn’t realize there was something missing from my life and now, here it is: the Fourth. Something about the physicality of the game is just super appealing to me, first off, but more generally, I think the puzzle laid out by the game is extremely satisfying. The punch card system for generating information is genius, and it elevates the game to a fun, tactile experience rather than just a bunch of mathy lookup tables. As a (former) software engineer, myself, I loved it. I think Turing Machine is also a very impressive construction, on its own? I’d love a developer diary or some explanation on how they made the game and generated the Verifier Cards and which ones hit the cutting room floor. This also makes me, inevitably, want more Verifiers! I’d love to see what egregiously-complicated setups they could create with a few more, though I imagine it was painstaking to carve out a set of Verifier Cards that all worked with each other and generated novel solutions. I’d be impressed enough by the game just based on the amount of work that must have gone into making everything work together, but, I mean, the game is also extremely good, to boot. It’s a deduction game with a low barrier to entry, which is really cool! If you’re looking for another excellent deduction game, you love a punch card, or you, like me, believe that Scorpion Masqué just kind of makes rock-solid games, I definitely recommend playing Turing Machine! I absolutely loved it.
If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!