I must have declared that the next round of Bombergrounds was "for all the marbles" at least five times last Saturday before actually closing it and going to bed. I didn't need to win before calling it, but if one of our three-person crew died in the first 10 seconds of the game, that was a redo, and if one of us almost won but blew themselves up, that had to be a redo, and if we accidentally killed each other, you know that was a redo.
While you can join Bombergrounds matches in groups of three, you aren't actually participating as a squad—there's only one winner in this bomb-based battle royale game. But you can unofficially work together, even if you'll probably kill each other anyway because 'working together' is only a theoretical construct in a game about smacking bombs around with baseball bats.
The easiest way to learn how to play Bombergrounds is to jump in and start getting blown up, but here are the basic rules in text form. If you've played any of the Bomberman games (even the terrible Bomberman: Act Zero), you'll get the basics:
- 25 players appear on a grid dotted with impassable stone cubes and trees, as well as breakable crates which can contain power-ups.
- Players can hold three bombs at a time, and the slots automatically refill over time, so you can drop an infinite number of bombs.
- Regular bombs explode in a + shape, killing any player caught within the blast.
- Explosions stop if they hit stone cubes, trees, or break a crate.
- Players also have baseball bats which they can use to hit bombs in a cardinal direction (either to save themselves or to surprise another player).
- Hitting another player with the bat stuns them, and hitting them with a fully-charged swing insta-kills them.
- After a certain amount of time, the arena will begin to shrink, eventually stopping when it's so small that conflict is unavoidable.
- As players collect stars (which crates and dead players drop) they get bigger. That makes them slower, but gives their explosions and bat swings increased range, and lets them power up insta-kill swings faster.
- Last player standing wins.
That's a lot of words to say that you run around dropping bombs and swinging a bat while trying not to die. Part of the stupid, chaotic fun comes from how quickly you can win, die, or try again—a full match is usually no more than a couple minutes long, and it typically takes under 30 seconds to get into a game. Bombergrounds is the popcorn of battle royale games: You just want to keep snacking on double-kills and near misses and dramatic finishes.
Below is the end of a match that I won by accident. What happens at the very end, if it isn't clear, is that my opponent was killed by their own bomb, because it was set off prematurely by my bomb. That's what Bombergrounds is all about.
Bombergrounds: Battle Royale is free-to-play and is currently in Early Access on Steam. There are some issues. For instance, while it supports controllers, I have to switch to my mouse in the menu, which is annoying. Matchmaking also stalled out on us a couple of times, forcing us to sit and wait for it to officially fail so we could re-queue.
Otherwise, though, Bombergrounds is a well-polished 152MB nugget of bomb-based entertainment. Playing it with friends isn't mandatory, but I highly recommend it—having at least one other person laughing at your stupid deaths in Discord adds a lot.