A Review of Sync or Swim

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Sync or Swim is a lightweight, cooperative, realtime, card game from Bezier Games. I ordered this on Kickstarter back in February 2022 and it just arrived at my door this last week (July 23rd, 2022 or so): that’s a pretty quick turn around for a Kickstarter!

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You might be wondering why I have two copies of this game! The theme: Synchronized Swimming. Yes, that’s what I said … Synchronized Swimming!! It turns out Synchronized Swimming is a very popular high school sport in Minnesota (seriously, I am not making this up). Surprisingly popular! Both of my nieces have both done quite well in the sport. To celebrate them, I picked up one copy for myself and one copy for the girls!

Unboxing

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This is a fairly small box, larger than (say) UNO but smaller than (say) Codenames. I used those games on purpose as comparison … we’ll see why later …

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Each player (3-6 players) will get a cardboard platform (see above) to “swim” on: see above. The theme here is that each player is a swimmer on the Synchronized Swimming team.

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At its core, this is a card game. There are quite a number of cards in the box.

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The analogy to UNO is even more apt, as there are a bunch of colored cards numbered from 1-10. You’ll also notice that the cards have hands and feet on them .. these will come into play later … (see above and below). These cards are called SYNC cards: players play them from their hand to their platform.

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Finally, there are some ELEMENT cards: these set the challenging moves the swimmers will be performing:

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That’s kind of it! 

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The game is professional produced and looks good enough. It’s not especially thematic or pretty, but it’s very usable.

Rulebook

The rulebook has big text and is fairly easy to read and inviting.

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… but the first few pages say it all: GET THE FREE APP. This is a game controlled by the APP, so you absolutely have to have the APP to play.

The APP does a really good job of shepherding you through the rules and scenarios.

Solo Game

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In no way does this game support a solo mode! This is a big group game like Codenames! It’s for a Synchronized Swimming team trying to perform together!! I don’t really blame Sync or Swim for not having a solo mode. It doesn’t make sense thematically or from a gameplay perspective.

Nevertheless, I tried to play the game solo to learn the rules: See above and below.

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I played as if it were a 3-Player game: see above. Each player gets a platform and 2 SYNC cards to start (more cards come out as the routines get harder). Swimmers can only look at their cards at the start of the timer. That’s right: this is a timed game!

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During the timed phase, players can look at their cards, talk openly about what they have, and pass cards back-and-forth face down. The game is also a hidden info game: you aren’t allowed to show your cards, but you can talk openly about everything you have. This might seem a silly distinction, but in the heat of the moment of a real-time game, this is a big deal! You may not have time to tell everyone everything you have!

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Each “level” will have a Swim Objective. The example above requires all swimmers to put the same number of their platform, but different colors. And this is the flavor of most trials in the game: all players must place cards face-up on their platform matching some performance criteria. (Matching colors, matching hands, feet, numbers, mismatching, etc).

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You can see my solo game above with the first two platforms filled!

The game gets harder and harder as you have to fill the first platform, then 2, then 3, then 4, then finally all 5! It’s chaotic as player pass cards back and forth trying to meet all the criteria!

Ya. This doesn’t work at all as a solo game. But that’s okay. I learned it that way!

Cooperative Play

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But of course, the real way to play this is cooperative.  My niece (above) won state last year at Synchronized Swimming, so the game has to pass muster with her!

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This is a silly, chaotic, cooperative game.  When players “finish” their goals, they put their hands over their heads like they are diving.  Very serious game…

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The cooperative game gets harder and harder until you perform 5 of the ELEMENTS: see use with a winning game above!

Cooperatively, this was pretty fun.  And silly.  We passed cards, yelled, and had a good time.

Was it like Synchronized Swimming?  Surprisingly yes! According to the expert in our group, the coach talks about the routines before they even get in the water, the routines are learned piecemeal (a little bit at a time), and when we messed up playing (because you will), it’s just like practice in real life!  “Oh, I didn’t get that the first time.  Okay, let’s do it again!”

You end up doing the synchronized swimming routines at least a few times until you get it.  It was a light silly game, about 20-25 minutes long.  We had fun.

The APP

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So, this game requires an APP.  That may be a turn off for some of you, but I found that it did a very good job of walking us through the game.  You could easily click on things in the APP for further elaboration. And it was colorful!   And it applauded for us after our routines!  It really did enhance the game!

I asked my niece: “Could you teach this game your friends?”  And she said yes: I think partly because the APP made is pretty easy.  

Conclusion

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Sync or Swim  is a lightweight cooperative party card game. It’s somewhere around UNO and Escape: Curse of the Hidden Temple  in complexity, but it’s still fairly straightforward.  The lightweight card play reminds me of UNO (especially with the colored, numbered cards), but the sharing and chaos reminds me a little of Escape: Curse of the Hidden Temple (from our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games).

The game requires an APP on your phone, which may be a turn-off for some people, but the APP does a great job shepherding players through the game.  It’s also a realtime game, which may also turn some people off.  Sync or Swim doesn’t evoke that much theme at first: it’s a colored card game, but it does get some points for embracing the theme (mostly because of the APP) as much as it can for a colored/numbered cards game.

It doesn’t sound like I love this game, and I don’t.  But I like it: I’d much rather play the cooperative game of Sync or Swim than UNO.  The next time someone pulls out UNO, maybe Ill pull this out in instead and see if it works better.  It was silly fun for me and my groups.

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