Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG... These aren't the cards you're looking for! (Sorry!!!)

Star Wars Pocket Model TCG by Wizkids.

Recently there has been much talk about Fantasy Flights X-Wing game and in the run up to picking that up myself I thought I would have a quick reminisce about a prior use of the license. Released by Wizkids in 2007 Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG placed the much loved and often argued about franchise into the constructable strategy game system introduced in 2004 with their Pirates line.


This is essentially a pretty regular trading card game but with the novel twist that your main forces, those used for attack and defense, are plastic slot together miniatures, each with a base showing the regular guff found on a character/unit card you would expect to find in such a game.

The models themselves are pretty faithful to their subject matter for the most part even if the scale is a little wonky sometimes. (a Taunton and rider are shoulder high to an AT-AT!) and the information on the bases is clearly printed and spaced out, I have a lot of these models and one of the positives I can hold up for this is the print quality has always been perfect.

Assembling these models is usually a pretty simple affair, punching them from the plastic frames and slotting them together. Then you get the awkward ones. Some of the really small pieces can be a taxing effort, being a sausage fingered clummox as I am I sometimes had a number of attempts before getting them together but that being said I am a seasoned model maker and I can deal with tiny pieces. The main horror comes when the instructions inform me that in order to get two pieces together they need BENDING! This may be plastic (of sorts) but it does not easily lend itself to bending, especially when the piece to be bent has slots or voids. It is prone to snapping with very little stress needing to be applied and snapping a leg/gun/wing/insert-part is easily done and I have a small fleet of injured ships to attest to this.

Along with those fragile sods there are the cards, used as resources and modifiers for attack and defense along with some special effects. These feature stills from the movies (with an unfortunate majority from the prequel travesties) and the information is plain and easily read, not weighed down by unnecessary fluff and forty-two icons only two of which are actually needed.

The cards are a tad bland. The dark red colour scheme and the usually dark images in the pictures contrast massively with the stark white text boxes and as a result they are not the most appealing cards.
Also, each booster pack, along with the randomly inserted ships, comes with a pair of the worlds smallest and most useless dice and some slot on damage tokens which resemble smoke trails.
Including dice with each booster was a nice touch, meaning that potential players only needed a pack each for a small game, they are useless! Far too small to be used properly and they really shouldn't have bothered.

The components of this game are pretty standard card-wise but the models make up for this fact if by novelty alone.


For a full game each player needs to build a deck of no less than thirty cards and a force of no more than thirty build points of units, the build points are shown with stars on the models base with one star equaling one point.

The game takes place in three zones. Each player has a 'Home Zone' in before them where their forces start and where their objectives are placed. The third zone is the 'Contested Zone' and lay between the home zones and this is where the majority of the combat will take place as both forces have to cross this zone in order to reach the opposing home zone.

The players place the first three cards from the top of their deck into their home zone face down as objectives, the destruction of which is the main aim of your opponent, and also chooses up to twenty build points of units in the home zone, the rest are placed to one side in reserve.
Then each turn consists of two phases in the following order...

1) Play one objective.
    Players may take one objective card from their hand and play it face up, replacing a face down objective, discarding the replaced one, and applying any effects or bonuses the card confers.

2) Take ONE of the following actions.
   a) Move...
       Choose up to five build points of units and move the one zone forwards or backwards.

   b) Combat...
       Choose up to five build points of units and declare an attack on opposing units in the same zone.
Each player may play one card from their hand to boost attack/defense and the attacker then rolls 2D6 and adds the result to the attack score of the unit plus any modifiers, if this score equals or beats the defense score of the target damage is dealt equal to the damage score of the unit and if that reaches or exceeds the shields of the target it is destroyed.

   c) Strike...
       Choose up to five build points of units in your opponents home zone and make an attack against an objective using the figure in the lower right as a defense value. If the attack strength matches or beats the defense, including any modifiers, the objective s destroyed and you are one step closer to victory!

Once either player has no more objectives or no more units in any zones they are out of the game (which is usually me because, as per usual, my fiancee has a knack for aggressive play and destroys me)

Star Wars Pocketmodels TCG made a refreshing change to the usual card games at the time if only for the novelty of the 3D model cards, unfortunately the fragility of the models means that unless you have a stable, permanent storage space and intend to never transport them, unless swathed in foam, they WILL break and sadly some of the better models are the more at risk, I have a poor three legged AT-AT as proof!

The gameplay is a little on the standard side as TCGs go and the fragility issues mean I would usually give this game 6/10 but for one serious point...

...there is a 'shiny Jar Jar Binks' card! -1 for life


Damn you Binks. Damn you to Heck.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Army of Frogs..... mad as a bag of..... wait...!

Army of Frogs by John Yianni

First of all I will start with an apology of sorts for my lengthy hiatus, suffering with a lack of creative juice I retreated into my beard and sought solace in the buttony arms of my classic video game collection! But NO MORE!!! Regular cardboardy service shall be resumed forthwith.

So... Army of Frogs... What's all that about eh?

Designed by John Yianni, creator of multi award winning and nominee Hive (I don't have it yet, look it up, looks great!) Army of Frogs is a two to four player strategy game in which players place and move their coloured 'Frog Stones' into a winning position by leaping over others while simultaneously placing others to block the other players potential moves.


The box, and the art thereon, is a pretty plain affair and I wasn't really taken with it at first glance, but at the insistance of the gaffer (otherwise known as my Fiancee) I picked it up, for the reasonable price of £5 from the Works, and carted it home, noticing at once the weight as for a reasonable small package it weighs in at just under 1Kg.

Upon opening the box my opinion changed substantially. Held withing the box are the playing pieces, the 'Frog Stones'. Made from a Bakelite-esque material they are hex shaped tiles with a raised frog design on them whose back forms a handle of sorts for ease of handling mid game. They have a brilliant tactile quality to them and the sound they make, clacking together when you are rummaging in the bag for a new piece, is really good. The player colour tokens are made from the same material and are simple discs a little smaller than the frogs.

The bag i mentioned is a hefty black drawstring sack emblazoned with the game logo, and while the bag feels sturdy and of good quality, with a plastic base insert to give a flat bottom, the logo isn't that great. It looks a little washed out colour wise and seems like it will wear thin with repeated handling.
Other than the box art and logo on the bag I am quite impressed with the quality of the contents so far.


First impression? Easy to grasp.

setting up each player takes a coloured player token and places it before them then draws two random frog stones from the bag and, likewise, placed these before them too to form a 'hand', then the first player places one of their frog stones on the table, draws a new one from the bag and play takes turns, moving clockwise around the table as follows...

During a players turn you take actions in the following order...

1) Move one of your coloured Frog Stones if possible.
    This is done by leaping over other frogs, or rows of frogs, and landing in any empty space other than the one you started from. Players may make multiple jumps in sequence during this phase to reach their desired spot before moving on. If you have no frogs of your colour at this point simply move on to the next phase.

2) Place a Frog Stone.
    Players take one of the Frog Stones from their hand and place it on the playing field, the only main rule to obey here is that you may not place one of you own coloured stones into contact with another, this must be done by leaping. You can put anyone else's anywhere you wish.

3) Draw another Frog Stone.
    To end the turn rummage in the bag and draw a new stone to replace the one you just played, put it by you player marker and pass on to the next player.

Play continues until one player manages to move all of their frogs currently in the play area into one group of seven or more, all in contact with each other. This is where putting other players coloured pieces down instead of your own becomes useful. If you see someone is within spitting distance of a win, putting one of their pieces down in an awkward place forces them to take more time to get it into contact with the rest and can buy you enough turns to play for a win yourself.

During the first half of our first game my group were playing quite cavalier, not getting too serious, laughing and joking. This didn't last!!! This game can quickly evolve into a strategic battle of wits between players with bluffs and power plays a plenty and watching the other players eyes frantically darting to and fro as they plan their next few moves is surprisingly amusing.

A word of caution also, Keep an eye on the quiet players. We took our attention away from one of our group, Ryan (he asked for a name drop!) and out of nowhere he stole the game. We never saw it coming!

I'll give Army of Frogs 7/10. The pieces are brilliant, the rules concise and the gameplay is wonderfully fun and strategic, but is let down slightly by the box art and the poor logo print on the bag. Minor quibbles only for a great game and if you like strategy games this is certainly worth a punt.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Walking Dead Card Game... Not that cheap and certainly not cheerful!

Walking Dead the Card Game by Cryptozoic Entertainment

As I’m not the greatest fan of the T.V show The Walking Dead I was unaware of this game but on my recent jaunt to town for Free Comic Book Day I spotted this on a shelf, and wanting to buy at least something on my visit, thought I’d give it a whirl.

The box art is what you would expect from a media tie in game, a generic shot of the hero looking, in this case, moody and determined with his revolver while standing in an apparently grey world devoid colour. I know the show isn’t a riotous colour-fest but this game could be easily overlooked with the drab box.
The blurb on the reverse reveals that the game is based on a game called ‘6 nimmt!’ by Wolfgang Kramer, winner of a fistful of awards including the Spiel des jahres (Game of the year), one of the most prestigious accolades in board/card gaming.

The rules are presented simply and are easily understood, the book itself is a simple four page affair explaining the two game modes, Survivor and Hero.

The cards are where this game falls flat on its brain munching face!
They feel good, that’s at least one good point, they shuffle well and feel as though they will stand up to a decent amount of play but that is where the praise ends.
The card art just looks like basic DVD rear cover screen grabs of various zombies. Of the 104 zombie cards, numbered from 1 – 104, there are only five different images. This being a 6 nimmt clone that is understandable as it is one of the game mechanics but the pictures chosen are awful! The one you see the most of (76 of them to be exact) is of a rotting woman’s face and it’s far from the most appealing card considering it is the most common. The other four are of larger groups of shufflers and are equally drab, but not as bad.

You'll see a lot of that face on the number 42 card!

The 6 hero cards are, again, effortless screen captures from the show with the exception of Rick, the main protagonist of the show for those not in the know. Ricks card is the laziest piece of crap I have seen in a game for a long while. It features the self same image that is on the box cover, the rule book and the card backs! Yes, the card backs. This means that the card has the same bloody image on both sides! LAZY!
Considering the quality of Cryptozoics other efforts, games the likes of the DC Deck Building game, Food Fight, the World of Warcraft trading card game and Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’lyeh, this game seems like a poorly put together, phoned in effort. It may be a slightly modified version of an existing game system but they could have put a little more thought into the look of the damn thing! It plays well but the lazy copy and paste approach to the appearance damages it.


In stark contrast to the previously stated ‘Google Image Search’ approach to the art the gameplay is really good! Especially the more players you have!

Hero Mode
Each player has a hand of 15 ‘Walker’ cards and one hero card and the aim of the game is to have the highest value of walker cards when the players are all out of cards.
In the centre of the table four walkers are placed in a vertical row to serve as your starting cards and each turn players play either one or two walker cards onto one of these four rows. The cards played must have a higher numerical value than the card before it in the row unless you do not have a card higher than any on the table, in which case you must play a lower value one onto the current highest value card.
The hero cards are used to allow you to place a card at the beginning of a row once per game instead of the end
Once a row would have the sixth card played onto it, the player takes the five existing cards and puts them to one side (these will be used for scoring at the end of the game) and the sixth card becomes the first in a new, replacement line, so on and so on until all players have no cards left, at which point the players count the bullets on their captured/killed cards and the highest wins! Simple yes?....No! The game has a remarkably simple concept but has a tactical element that will have some thinking multiple moves ahead!

That bland its like a holiday in a retirement home laundry room!
Survival mode
This is the closest the game comes to the original 6 nimmt. Each player has a 10 card hand and the cards are played in the same manner as before but his time the aim is to take as few of the cards as possible, or at least the lowest scoring cards possible ad the hero cards are not used.
Once all 10 cards have been played by each player the bullets are counted and the fewest wins.

I am aware I may not have explained how well the game plays as it is a very simple game but it is quite enjoyable, just let down brutally by the appallingly lazy aesthetic choices made, hence I’m giving this game 4/10. I would happily give it 6 or even 7 but the appearance is so lame that I can’t even justify a 5. A good example of a lazy tie in, if you see it for a couple of pounds (or currency of your choice!) pick it up but don’t pay full retail value, it just isn’t worth it, buy 6 Nimmt instead, at least that won an award!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

ThunderRoad... Mad Maxing it all over the tabletop!

Thunder Road

Published by Milton Bradley games in 1986, Thunder Road is a car combat game with a unique twist, a never ending board (in a sense!)

The box art, the European release in this case, the U.S. version has a much more colourful cover, is reminiscent of Mad Max (the game thankfully features no Mel Gibson!) showing a dusty brown landscape picture of automotive carnage occurring behind a steel jawed, goggle wearing, stubbly racer, staring coldly into the foreground as people are quite possibly dying in horrendous ways in his rear view mirrors, probably caused by his aggressive driving!

Under the lid we find the two part board that forms the never ending racetrack. Two boards with interlocking ends with a desert road down the centre and bare wasteland on either side. The staring positions are clearly marked with the colour coded spaces for the vehicles and spots marked out for the wrecks which form obstacles for the racers.

The cars come in four classes. Class 4’s are dune buggies, Class 5’s are racers (clearly modeled on Mad Max’s Ford XB Falcon hardtop) and the class 6’s are large six wheeled tank like vehicles and are the  go to vehicle for taking out your opponents. Each team also has a helicopter to use as extra attackers. They are two or three part plastic miniatures/playing pieces and they are quite light but sturdy enough to withstand repeated play. They aren’t amazingly detailed but this game was aimed primarily at kids when first released so this is to be expected.
The wrecks, oddly my favourite part, are black plastic burnouts on their roofs and are used to block movement on the road.
The dice are the usual old MB wooden dice found in all of their games at the time, they feel okay but have almost no perceptible weight to them at all! There are three yellow D6 used for movement, you roll all three and choose which vehicle you apply each result to. A black die with scores of 1 – 4 which is rolled if you have any vehicles on the tarmac which adds bonus movement, and then two red D6 used for combat. The dice are possibly the only thing I dislike about the game but for the time they were produced they were some of the better dice included in a game of this kind.


Each turn the players roll the three yellow movement dice, plus the black dice if they have cars on the tarmac, and apply the values rolled to their cars in any order they wish and move ever forward (literally too, reverse movement is against the rules. It is a race after all!)
You cannot move through active vehicles at all, and to move through a wreck you must roll 4.5 or 6 on a battle die or become wrecked yourself.

You can attack your opponents three ways. Moving into the same square allows you to make a Ram attack, you each roll one red battle die and add the cars class to the result, if the attackers score matches or is greater than the defenders the attack is successful and the defenders car is wrecked, any other result is a miss.
Moving to a space directly behind an enemy a shooting attack can be made by rolling a single red die. If the result matches or beats the class of the attacked vehicle then the shot is good and the car is wrecked.
Finally, once per turn, you may call in your attack chopper to make a single shooting attack against an enemy. The bonus of the chopper attacks is that they do not cause obstruction so if you fail a shot with a car you can always try again with a chopper!

Once a cars movement takes it beyond the edge of the second board the track moves on, leaving behind any wrecks and slow racers! The first board is removed, losing any vehicles still on it, and placed at the front to form a new stretch of road. The only thing to stay are the black wrecks which are placed on their marks to make new obstacles.

The race is won when one player is the only one with active cars on the board.

For a children’s game, and a relatively simple one at that, this game is a immense amount of fun! My group can never have just one race as there are almost always scores to be settled from the last one and vendettas seem to carry over from game to game regardless of the days between!

For those wanting more than a simple game there are a few homebrew advanced rules to be found online. My favourite so far is ‘ThunderRace’. which can be found on, and it adds rules for armour, chopper to chopper combat, dropped weapons such as firebombs and other hazards. It adds a lot to an already enjoyable game.

For the price a good condition copy of ThunderRoad goes for online I would say that anyone whose interest is peaked by this, or any other review, should give it a go. It is a good game and would make a nice, different, addition to many a collection. I give it 7.9/10. It would score higher were it not for the old components, but it’s damn close!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Smash Up... Team ups and mash ups ahoy!

Smash Up

Released in 2012 by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) Smash up is a 2-4 player ‘Shufflebuilding’ game featuring a host of stereotypically geeky factions from aliens and robots to the often conflicted ninjas and pirates.
The artwork on the box, which itself feels nice and sturdy with a vinyl-esque finish to it, is really good. Featuring an all out brawl between the contained factions and a very comic book styled title banner. This caught my eye the first time I saw it.
The rule book bears the same image as well as the games sub title ‘The Shufflebuilding game of total Awesomeness!’ and the rules are some of the most concise, simple and well written I’ve come across yet! They get the rules across with none of the usual messing around and unnecessary fluff that others are bogged down with. Some games, don’t misunderstand me here, benefit greatly from all of the added blurb that the writers put in but it isn’t always implemented in the best way, and this can make a slightly complex game into a sodding mystery when you have to sift a rule books pages for the one little box of text you need and find it hidden on a page that, at first glance, contains nothing important or related to gameplay. As I said, with Smash Up there is none of this, the rules are straight forward and uncomplicated and most of what you need to know is written on the cards themselves!
Inside the box was a treat too. The inside has a compartmentalized plastic insert, allowing you to keep your different factions separated when not in play and with enough spaces to accommodate future expansions, the first of which is out already.

The cards are very nice. Not the best I’ve held but better than the average for sure. They shuffle very well, in fact out of the box they are probably the best shuffling cards to date (and considering the main theme of the game is ‘shufflebuilding’ this is a good thing!), and the artwork and finish is really good.

The cards are divided up into eight different 20 card faction decks and one 16 card Base deck.
The factions are Pirates, Ninjas, Aliens, Zombies, Wizards, Tricksters, Dinosaurs and Robots. Each one has different strengths and abilities and is divided into Minions and Action cards. Minions are used to score points and the actions are pretty self explanatory really, they let you do stuff!
At the start of a game the players chose two of these faction decks and ‘shuffle’ them together to form one deck, this is the ‘Shufflebuilding’ element. This creates the chances for many combinations and many random conflicts.

Based purely on the look and feel of the contents, and the rule book, I would give Smash Up 9/10 so far. Really well made, good looking and fun, and that’s before the first game!


Awesome Sauce!
This game is so simple to play and so fun! Each turn players get to play one Minion and one Action card, or just one of either. Some cards allow you to play extra minions or actions and even return cards from the discard pile (which for the Zombie faction is one of the main points!) and play said cards onto the base cards, of which there are one per player +1 (so a three player game there are four bases).

Each base card has a ‘threshold number’ printed on it and when the total strength of the minions currently on it exceeds this threshold the base is destroyed and points are awarded to the players in order of their total strength there i.e. the player with the greatest strength will usually get the most points and the second and third less and less. Each base also has an effect which is triggered when destroyed, such as allowing the winner to place one of the minions back into his/her hand instead of the discard pile (as this is what happens to any minions when a base is destroyed) or allowing the runner up to keep a minion there when the next base replaces the defeated one!

The game is a race to 15 points and this relatively low figure makes the game keep a great pace and stops the game from dragging at all! There is a mechanic that whenever one of the players 40 card decks runs out the discard pile is simply shuffled and restarted but in the games we have had so far, the game is usually well over by this point.

Smash Up is a brilliant, frantic, fast and funny game with the right balance of tactics, timing and last minute backstabbing to steal the high points. I stand by the 9/10 and would recommend this as an essential for any gaming group as an ideal quick game for any audience and skill level. Pick it up if you can, you’ll love it!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Talisman Prologue... Digital board gaming for the bored.

Talisman Prologue by Nomad Games (for Windows, iPad, iPhone and Android devices)

I really can’t make my bloody mind up about this one! This game appeals to one part of me but repels another! The price, theme and gameplay are all good but there is just something……..unknown about it!

Based on the Games Workshop property published by Fantasy Flight Games, Talisman Prologue is a single player, mission oriented take on the board game set to tide over the digital board gamers until later this year when the full multi player version is released.

Featuring Ten of the Fourteen characters found in the board game (Warrior, Troll, Druid, Wizard, Monk, Assassin, Elf, Dwarf, Priest and Prophetess, missing are the Ghoul, sorceress, thief and Minstrel) each character has five themed missions, on which up to three talismans can be earned depending on how many moves the mission took to complete. Each character has certain skills to aid them in their missions, such as the Warrior being able to roll two dice in combat and choose the best or the Druid replenishing his spell count when landing on the woods, and each characters missions are themed to suit them, adding a narrative to a universe that has, so far, been a simple roll and move affair with no story.
Character selection screen
Close up on a space
This point I quite like as the lack of story sometimes leaves me wanting a little more from an otherwise enjoyable game.

The interface is clear and easily understood, even for someone not familiar with the system. The tutorial gets its job done quickly and without prattling on for days! 90% of what you need to know is dealt with in the first mission for whichever adventurer you choose first and each of their special abilities are explained just as quickly and painlessly, leaving you free to roll your digital dice and get on ignoring the world again!

The artwork is essentially a digital duplicate of the standard board (and why not? The board is beautiful!) and when you roll your movement dice the board lights up each space you can choose from, from here you can tap on each one and see what effect the space has, if any, and make your choice of destination. Your playing piece is also, simply, a digital representation of the grey plastic miniatures provided by Fantasy Flight.
Ye Olde battle screen
The gameplay itself is really what you would expect from a single player, roll and move board game experience, that being not for everybody! It isn’t an action packed romp through a lushly animated fantasy land, more a screen tapping version of Talisman for those who can’t persuade their friends to play more often! For fans of the original I can see the appeal of this game, I myself really enjoy it but I can also see the other side of the coin and see how some would find this boring. Compared to other dgital board game experiences, such as Carcassonne(I’ll try and stop mentioning that game some day!) and Settlers of Catan, where the game provides CPU opponents and the option for pass and play multiplayer for you and your friends, Talisman Prologue could seem to some to be a bit of a cop out or cash cow! When, later this year, the full Talisman Digital Edition hits the virtual shelves with its online four player options as well as CPU players, for when social interaction is neither possible or wanted, I can see this game being forgotten for the most part but for now, with its low price tag (£2.99 on the android Play Store and iPhone/iPad) it’s a good little distraction.

I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone, if you are a hardcore Talisman fan or a fan of solo board/card gaming then this is worth a try, especially for the price, but if you like action or multiplayer, be they real or virtual, then I would say give this game a miss.
For me alone I would give this a 6/10, it’s a decent filler until the full game is released but I wouldn’t have paid any more for it!


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Oregon... Blazing a trail... In a wagon!!!


Published by Rio Grande Games and designed by Henrik and Ase Berg, Oregon was a random purchase from a discount store that quickly found itself becoming a regular feature on our table.

Having the pioneer era of American history as a setting initially drew an emphatic ‘meh’ from me but the art on the box is really nice, featuring a wagon train overlooking a rolling vista of unsettled America and bearing the legend ‘Oregon – The way the west was won…’. The quality of the box is equal to that of Carcassonne. It feels very sturdy and the inside of the box comes with an insert that divides the internal cavity into four sections for a less jumbled storage area.

The board is a great size and features a segmented board with four different types of space, grasslands, railroads, mountains and water. Across the top and left side of the board are symbols that work as coordinates (more on this in a few) these symbols are a wagon, a buffalo, some settlers, an eagle and a campfire. Finally around the outer edge there is the regular euro game style score tracker that goes from 1 – 100.

The cards are half sized, with a nice vinyl coating, and come in two flavours. Location cards have the same symbols as the coordinates on the board and the building cards which represent the buildings and structure tiles.

The structure tiles are made from good quality card and show the building on them and a point value for each. The buildings are a mall, a port, a store, a church/chapel, a train station, a post office, and two mines, gold and coal, which do not have point values but reward the player with a random value token, lower value for coal and higher for gold. The tokens are really good, printed centrally and punched very well, in fact I actually shook half of them lose without punching them out, such was the quality of the cutting done for boxing.

The player pieces are essentially cowboy meeple (dubbed cowboy-ples by our group!), they are little wooden fellas molded as silhouettes of people with apparently massive Stetson hats on their little wooden heads, and these come in four flavours, red, blue, yellow and green.
The players also have two extra tokens each to use, one is a joker token, which can be used instead of a location card if you need a specific one but don’t have one, and an extra turn token which the player can use to immediately take another go. These can only be used once per turn and can only be replenished by scoring on specific buildings.

The pieces and components for this game are simple but brilliant at the same time, much like Carcassonne part of the appeal is in the stripped down, simple presentation. It isn’t bogged down by a box full of gubbins and fluff like a lot of games, particularly American games.


To begin the game each player is furnished with a handful of meeple, one of which is kept aside to act as a score tracker on the board, and four cards, three location cards and one building cards.

Each turn players play two of their cards to place pieces on the board. Playing two location cards allows the player to place a meeple, usually in proximity to a building or mine in order to score. Playing a location and a building card allows the player to place a building on the board anywhere along the corresponding location. Placing a building next to meeple gives the owning player points so placement on a crowded board can become very tactical.

Scoring on mines gives the player a random token instead of an instant score. These are kept secret until the end of the game and many times our games have been won by someone revealing a stack of high scoring tokens at the end and storming into the lead from the back. I just wish once or twice that it could have been me! I’m not the luckiest Oregon player at our table.

It isn’t the longest of games, usually clocking in at around the 45 minute mark for the average game, adding 10 – 15 for teaching any new players as the rules are easy enough to grasp mid game with only the briefest of pre game run-throughs.
The pieces are good but not astounding and I had a little problem with a small amount of board warping, but this is more indicative of the storage by the aforementioned discount store and not the manufacturers.
I will give Oregon 7/10. It fits well with a full group of four but it loses something when you play with less. I couldn’t say that I would have paid full price for it but as a random find for less than £10 it is a great game to break up a day of more in depth, story driven games.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Relic.... Roll and move... in the DARK FUTURE *tremble*

Relic – by Fantasy Flight Games

Before I start I should point out that there will be a lot of comparisons between this and Talisman seeing as this game is based on the Talisman game system and there are a lot of elements which haven’t changed much, or at all! A lot of the reviews I’ve read so far have avoided this but I think that a comparison is needed to see where this game came from and where improvement has been made.

When this game was announced in the misty past of last year I was so excited I could have happily skipped to the shops to pre order a copy! Talisman is one of my favourite fantasy board games and although I’m not the biggest fan of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, (I personally prefer a fantasy setting) the prospect of them being put together to form some form of hybrid game was an exciting one.
I decided to wait until the game was released, and I could get a play test of it, before I bought a copy. Coincidentally, not too long after release one of my gaming group picked the game up and brought it round for a game and a thorough rummage through the gubbins! (He even left the tokens unpunched for me to punch out as he knows I derive some form of childish enjoyment from it! Ta muchly Rich!!!).

The box is the same size as that of Talisman, featuring your regular 40k style artwork depicting an Ultramarines Space Marine on the box lid and the back has the usual fare of game and contents guff found on all Fantasy Flight Games.

Inside the box the board the board is very similar in arrangement to the Talisman board but this is to be expected but I have a slight issue with the colours. It’s a little dark! The cards are easily overlooked as the artwork on the board is very ‘busy’. There is a lot going on all over the board, as though the artists were getting paid on commission and wanted a new car. The quality of the work is fantastic, don’t get me wrong here, but they could have reined it in a little. The Talisman board had a good balance of detailed pictures and panoramic views with a great balance of colours, and I know that this is the ‘Dark Future’ but I think the brief was read a little too literally.

Power cards, Corruption cards, Wargear cards, Relic cards and Mission cards.

Threat cards, in strength, Willpower and Cunning flavours respectively!

Moving on from this, before I lose any more readers, the cards are brilliant. In a different approach than Talisman took each space has one of three coloured icons on it, representing Strength, Willpower and Cunning (Red, blue and yellow respectively). These three different icons have separate decks of encounter cards, making a large improvement on Talismans single enor-frickin’-mous pile of encounter cards which made shuffling a feat of endurance. Each colour has a balanced mix of events, which can have many random effects on the game and players, Places, which stay on the board and offer new ways to progress and move, random pieces of equipment and then enemies which must be defeated to progress further. There are also mission cards which must be taken by the players and completed to gain access to the eponymous relics, artifacts and weapons of a bygone era giving you fantastic power ups and allowing you to progress into the inner region of the board and go for the win. Certain enemies and events will force players to take Corruption cards, which can have positive or negative effects for the player but too many will kill you deader than disco. Equipment cards containing basic weapons and armour to aid you in battle. Finally we have the power cards, these are similar to magic found in Talisman but they have a value as well as an effect and can be used instead of a dice roll, for example if you have to roll a five to win a fight and have a power card with a value of five, you can use that instead. This, in my opinion, is better than the fate system from Talisman as that just gives you re-rolls, leaving the outcome just as random as the initial roll. This allows more control over certain events and gives you more of a chance.

The tokens are good, they have the usual vinyl effect to them so they feel sturdy, there are skulls in each of the four player colours, used for various purposes throughout the game. Charge tokens, for abilities and areas with limited uses and Influence tokens. These are basically your currency and I think they missed a trick here. In Talisman the gold coins are plastic molded coins, which add a really nice tactile element to the game. Here they are just little cardboard triangles bearing the Imperial Aquila. They could easily have done some imperial credits or some other currency unit and made some equally nice pieces but it’s nothing worth marking them down for!

The player reference material comes in two parts in this game. First you have the character cards which show any special traits they character has, starting strength, willpower, cunning and health values and a character portrait, which are a marked improvement on those found in Talisman, they are really good here.
The second part is a new addition to the system and a bloody good one. It is a level tracker. Each time you trade in 6 points worth of enemies (based on the threat values on the enemy cards) you progress to the next level and gain two bonuses, usually an increase in one of your skills and then your characters bonus which can range from extra influence tokens, power cards extra increases to stats and even completed mission bonuses. The stats are tracked with four dials numbered one to twelve (which gives the skills an upper limit this time) and this makes a great improvement to the countless plastic cones used in Talisman.

Finally we get to the playing pieces themselves, which was one of the main selling points for many people. They are incredibly well sculpted busts of the characters which can be affixed to one of the four coloured player bases. They are fantastic! The level of detail is very high and they fit the theme very well, and on top of that they look great on the table. Some people will hanker for miniatures as opposed to busts but these make a refreshing change to the regular slew of miniatures packaged with games these days, and if you want to have a dabble with some brushy business they look great painted, as a quick Google browse will show.


In terms of gameplay there isn’t much of a difference between this and Talisman, the core mechanic of roll a d6, move and do what the board or cards tell you to do, rinse and repeat remains but the changes make it stand apart. The leveling up adds more control to your progression and getting killed in combat no longer means getting lumbered with a new, weak character, you simply lose some of your gathered gubbins, influence and unspent enemy points etc. and simply move to a safe spot and carry on. The only way to lose a character is to reach your corruption threshold, which for most is 6 corruption cards.
Unlike the vanilla Talisman game, Relic comes with five different scenarios out of the box, making for more play options while waiting for the inevitable expansions and the changes to character progression means that the game runs considerably quicker than its predecessor which in turn means that a game of Relic can be fitted into a standard gaming day instead of being the sole event. This also works well as a two player game as it runs quicker and easier.

After playing Relic and looking back to my review of Talisman in which I gave it 7/10 I would say that Relic deserves 8/10. The improvements and changes to the system all work well and make for a great gaming experience. It would never replace Talisman but it makes for a quicker alternative and a different choice for those with a penchant for some sci-fi or just 40k fans. I’m not so sure that hardcore GW fanboys will take to this as fanboys of any material are hard to please, especially with seeing said material in a new format, but I would implore them to take a chance on this game as all of the lore and feeling of the grim future is present, along with many well known, famous and infamous, characters and beasts from the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and FFG have done a stellar job.