One Zero One: Written Review

One Zero One - Review
Every now and then you find a company that completely catches you by surprise – one that you feel perfectly aligns with you in every way. It’s rare, but when it happens it feels like magic. Recently that happened to me with Grail Games.

I discovered them first with a game called Matcha, a 2-player card game about making and serving tea. (2-player game + card game + tea. See? Right up my alley. Clearly this relationship was meant to be.)

I reached out to David to see about reviewing some of their games because I loved Matcha so much. He was kind enough to send me a copy of One Zero One.


One Zero One is also a 2-player card game, similar to Matcha. In this game, you and your opponent are living in the world of computer programming. It’s an abstract strategy game where you’re battling to collect the most points when the computer program runs.

One Zero One was designed by David Harding and published by Grail Games.


Image Credit: Grail Games

How to Play

The goal of the game in One Zero One is to have the most points when the computer program runs. Points are earned by controlling lines of code.

One player takes on the role of “0” and the other player takes on the role of “1” – your basic binary numbers. Each player gets 16 cards, one set of cards is green and the other is grey. Every card in the deck has a 0 on one side and 1 on the other side. Some of the cards have special words on them such as delete, enter, and save.

You will begin the game with a set-up that looks like this:


Image Credit: Grail Games

The 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 cards indicate the 5 lines of code and the <0 1> cards are used to indicate which player controls that line. Each player shuffles their deck of 16 cards and draws the top three into their hand.

On a player’s turn they will do three things in this order: 1> Input, 2> Execute, 3> Load.

  • Input: Play one of the three cards in your hand. The choice of which card to play is yours, but you’ll have to follow specific rules as to where your card can be played. And, of course, you’ll want to be strategic in where you play it in order to outsmart your opponent.
  • Execute: If the card you played has any words on it, you’ll do what this “command text” says.
  • Load: Refill your hand until you have 3 cards, so you’re ready for the next round.

Rules for Input: Where you place your card must follow the following rules.

1> Your card must be played with your digit (1 or 0) face up.
2> Your card must be placed vertically. Though, you may rotate it in whichever direction you prefer.
3> Your card must be played in the left-most empty space of a program line.
4> Except when playing to the 10 and 20 line, no card may be played into a program line unless every line above it has at least 3 cards currently in it.
5> Once a card is placed into a program line it can never be rotated or moved.
6> Cards cannot be played on top of other cards.
7> Line 50 can only have 3 cards in it. For all other lines, there is no limit to the number of cards that may be played to a program line.

Note: Some card’s commands will allow you to break these rules.

Executing Cards: 10 of the 16 cards have command text on them. When you play these cards, you will execute the command. The card that the command will affect is the card that the words are closest to (the targeted card). The commands do the following things:

DELETE: The targeted card is removed from the program.
ENTER: The targeted card is moved to the first available spot in the line below its current line.
IF… THEN…: The targeted card is immediately flipped to side the command text indicates. (If 0 then 1, would allow you to switch a 0 card to a 1. If 1 then 0, would allow you to switch a 1 to a 0.)
PRINT: If the targeted spot to the print command is empty, you must play a second card into that spot (and follow that card’s execution as well).
SAVE: The targeted card will not be affected in any way by any card going forward.

In addition to these five basic commands, the game comes with five expansion commands:

SYNTAX ERROR: Flip all cards in the direction of the syntax error, including the syntax error itself (all 0s become 1s and all 1s become 0s).
REM: Cards in the direction of the REM do not count when determining which player has control of a line.
IF… THEN… ELSE…: All targeted cards (for this card, that is each card on every side of the card (unless saved)) are flipped if they do not match the digit. If they do match the digit, they are deleted/discarded from the game.
CUT: Remove the targeted card from the program.
PASTE: If the targeted spot is empty, play a card from the discard pile (the number remains the same, but you determine the direction).

(There is also an expansion that came out this year called 101.1… if you’re looking for even more commands.)

End/Winning the Game: The game ends immediately when a third card is played into the fifth row of the program OR when a player needs to Load (refill) their hand and has no cards to do so.

During the game players will be taking “control” of a line of code, determined by who has majority of their number present in the line (with a minimum of 3 cards per line to determine majority). It will feel like a tug of war, going back and forth between winning and losing control of a particular line.

When the game ends, players add up the amounts indicated on the lines they control (10, 20, 30, 40, 50) and the player with the most points wins the game.

In this example, player 1 won the game, controlling lines 40 and 50 for a total of 90 points vs. player 0 who controlled lines 10 and 30 for a total of 40 points (no player controlled line 20 since they were tied).


Image Credit: Grail Games

What did I think of the game?

While I’m not a computer engineer/scientist, I’m a pretty big nerd at heart, so this game instantly caught my attention. I also love the simplicity of the design (both mechanically and visually), so this game is getting a solid 3.5/4 corners from me.

Art 4.0

I love, love, love the art in this game.

It does a fantastic job of incorporating the design principle of economy (less is more). It also incorporates harmony (sameness) and balance, so all in all the game is very pleasing to look at.

The game also does a great job of pulling together the theme of computer programing with the block-y typography. I really do feel like I’m adding to lines of code in a program.

Rules 4.0

This game is pretty simple in terms of rules, but that’s where the true power of the game comes into play – outsmarting your opponent.

Since each player plays with only 16 cards, it’s easy to deduce what your opponent might play next based on which cards they have already played as well as paying attention to the cards they are picking up from their deck (each card is printed with the command text on both the front and back).

Learning 3.5

The rulebook was fairly straight-forward and once you play through the game once or twice you know exactly what is going on.

They also provide a helpful reference card to remind you how to execute each command. Which is always a win in my book.

Theme 3.0

I really do love the theme of this game. It’s not one you see very often, which makes it unique and stand out from the crowd.

David and his team a Grail Games have done a great job incorporating the theme both visually and mechanically into the game.

Note: The theme is loosely applied in terms of actual programming. If you’re looking for this game to be 1:1 with how actual programming works, you might be disappointed. The theme is used as inspiration more than technical accuracy for the mechanics. 

Replayability 4.0

Ever since I opened the box, I can’t seem to put this game down.

Because it’s so quick to play (each game lasts maybe 10 mins), if you lose, you really want to play again to redeem yourself. It’s easy to play best 2/3 or 3/5. Or even add up your points from game to game.

It also has a long-term replayability in that there is enough strategy to make each game different, especially when you start playing with the advanced/expansion cards.

Uptime 3.0

Players take turns playing cards and it is somewhat difficult to plan your next move until your opponent has taken their turn.

But, because players are only playing one card at a time, the turns go back and forth pretty quickly. Sometimes you’ll get stumped and it will take you a second to figure out your best move given the current situation of the cards. However, since you only hold 3 cards in your hand to choose from, things move fairly quickly.

Planning out your best move in order to outsmart your opponent is where this game shines, so the minimal downtime between turns is worth it, in my opinion.


The likes…

  • The simplicity of the game, both visually and mechanically.
  • The great artwork that matches the theme.
  • The advanced cards and rule variants to mix things up.

And dislikes…

  • I love the reference card, but I wish that it came with 2 reference cards, one for each player.

Grail Games is currently 2 for 2 in my book. I loved Matcha and now I love One Zero One. If you’re into 2-player card games with great artwork, don’t skip over this one. It’s is a real winner and I can’t imagine my collection without it.

And if all of this wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s what my friend Silas had to say about the game after the first time he played it:

I think I’m going to be buying this game. I’m digging it. You’ve converted me.

Silas Alden
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One thought on “One Zero One: Written Review

  1. Hey, nice blog ! thanks for the awesome post :D seriously, i wasn’t familiar with board games but i think if i read this whole blog i might be hahahaha :P

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