Rock Paper Switch: A Simpler Gambit

Rock Paper Switch game
Rock Paper Switch game

Rock Paper Switch, designed by Robert Coleman, combines chess with rock-paper-scissors. Two to four players can duke it out until only one remains.

Mindware publishes Rock Paper Switch and recommends it for ages 8+. A game takes around 30 minutes to play.

How to Play

Set up for two players on opposite corners of the board. for three or four players, set up all four colors in the four corners of the board.

Orange and yellow players set up in opposite corners for Rock Paper Switch
Ready for a two-player game

On your turn, you’ll move one of your pieces. Rocks can move up to three spaces in a straight line in any direction (something like a cross between chess king and queen). Paper moves any number of spaces while staying in the same row or column (like a rook). And scissors move diagonally like a bishop.

Capturing works exactly as you’d expect. Rocks can only capture scissors, scissors can only capture paper, paper can only capture rock.

But the switch spaces are also important – land your piece on a switch space, and you may immediately swap it with any of your other pieces on the board.

Eliminate a player by capturing their last rock, last paper, or last scissors.

When a player is eliminated from a three or four player game, all their remaining pieces become wild (anyone can use them) while the game continues between the remaining players. In a three player game, the fourth color of pieces are wild from the very beginning.

Be the last player who has at least one rock, one paper, and one scissors on the board to win.

Blue pieces sitting next to the board in Rock Paper Switch
Blue has been eliminated from the game.

Impressions

From the first time we saw Rock Paper Switch, we thought it would lie somewhere in between checkers and chess in difficulty.

It certainly is more straightforward than chess, but playing with more than two players requires a different attention – especially at three players, when the fourth color is ALWAYS wild. Players can scheme and temporarily team up using these wild pieces to bring down their common opponent.

Use switch spaces to help you outwit your opponent and get the piece(s) you need into position. We especially like them to get scissors out onto the board early in the game.

Swapping a rock and a scissors piece on the switch space
Swapping a rock for a scissors on “switch”

Art

Minimalistic art characterizes Rock Paper Switch. The board is a simple blue-on-blue checkerboard, with only the four “switch” spaces to set it apart.

The pieces use an unusual color scheme, however. The choice of yellow, light orange, white, and dark blue should be easy for anyone to distinguish from each other.

The squishy molded plastic invites you to pick up the pawns and play with them. Thankfully they’re squishy enough that no one is going to poke an eye out with these scissors!

Plastic rock pawns on fingertips of a hand
And our kids always use the Rock pawns for finger hats…

Difficulties

Rock Paper Switch is a straightforward game, without any surprises. We did have trouble remembering the setup (three sets of 5 fit awkwardly into a corner starting space), but we didn’t have any other problems.

Unfortunately, other than the squishy pieces, Rock Paper Switch didn’t hold our kids’ interest for long. Although we played it several times, they tired of it quickly. Even with the simpler gameplay, it’s hard to fight against the universal recognition of a game like chess.

It’s also possible our kids are used to substantially more thematic games. The fact is, we try a lot of games at The Family Gamers HQ, and our kids aren’t always good at slowing down the pace to play a more deliberate abstract game like this (or chess).

We found that our kids had a slight advantage over the adults in one aspect; we tended to think in chess terms, setting up for captures without regard for the type of piece. Children who aren’t yet steeped in chess may find it easier to remember the rock-beats-scissors-beats-paper-beats-rock cycle and apply it to the game.

A four player game of Rock Paper Switch
A four player game

We’d recommend Rock Paper Switch as a simpler, kid-friendly alternative to chess. With only three types of pieces, it’s easier to learn and remember. But at the same time, allowing for three or four players feels crowded and hectic, since the starting layout of 60 pieces takes up more than half the board.

If your family isn’t digging into the latest heavily themed game, and you prefer classic abstract games like Chess, Checkers, or Mancala, Rock Paper Switch might be just the ticket to add a little bit of a twist to your gaming collection.

Find Rock Paper Switch on Amazon or at your local toy and game store.


The Family Gamers received a copy of Rock Paper Switch from Mindware for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Rock Paper Switch
  • 7/10
    Art - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10
7/10

Summary

Age Range: 8+

Number of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 30-45 minutes

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