-noun 1. Informal. a hybrid dog resulting from the union of a Boston terrier and a pug.
2. an exceptionally simple multiplayer game of territory acquisition playable at The Casual Collective, an online community based around the games of two-man design team Novel Concepts.
3. a bouncy, lovable puffball of fun that squeaks when you touch it and wants to be fwends wiv yoooooo!
Okay. Why don't we dispense with the dog thing for now and just concentrate on the last two definitions? You can discuss dog breeds in the comments if you want to.
The game of Buggle pits 2 to 4 players against one another to see who can befriend the most buggles (which are sort of like ambulatory cloudberries with faces) over the course of 10 rounds. Each round begins with 60 of the little nippers bouncing around in a rectangular play field. Eventually, they will pause and wait for you to pick a location for your control point, which is your primary means of buggle recruitment.
Once each player has decided on a location (or 30 seconds go by), the buggles pick sides. Any buggle within range of your control point converts to your color. Then buggles close to the converted buggle change colors themselves, and so on. Like rapidly growing trees, your lines of influence spread throughout buggle-kind, while your opponents' lines do the same. This all happens in a heartbeat, except for the occasional stragglers who have to bounce around a bit more before coming into range.
Then everybody gets to add a second control point to the field, and all the buggles choose sides again. The number of buggles you have managed to convert to your own color is added to your score, and whoever has the highest total after 10 rounds, wins.
Analysis: Buggle is a triumph of succinct design. What at first appears to be a luck-based exercise in random clicking gradually reveals itself as a game of intuition and strategy. Like in poker or fencing, you can dominate a game of Buggle by learning your opponent's play style and staying one step ahead. If he goes for the center of the largest cluster of buggles every time, you can reliably cut him off from the rest of the swarm.
Playing against multiple opponents raises the luck factor, but even then you will have a noticeable advantage if you can predict your opponents' moves. If you want a game with more focus, create a game of Super Buggles, in which a Light Buggle and a Dark Buggle will reward you with bonus points or negative points respectively.
But whether you interpret Buggle as a grueling test of will or as a lightweight crap-shoot, it is a whole lot of fun watching a single mouse click spread joy along chains of buggles. It feels organic and direct, like a refined gameplay mechanic should.
There's not a lot of window dressing in Buggle, but the simple brilliance of the concept doesn't need much adornment. There's a rewarding upbeat vibe to the whole thing. The buggles squeak like irresistible chew-toys when you pass your mouse over them, so it's sometimes tempting just to wave your pointer randomly around and pretend you have yourself a little dust bunny choir. If Buggle 2 has them squeaking different notes, it will be almost too cute to stand.