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 boardgamegeek.com, 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!