The Duke. A Number 1!

I’m wondering how many people will get the movie reference in the title while I scratch my head and think about what I can say about The Duke, a game by Catalyst.

In a nutshell, I like it but make up your own mind because what do I know about what you’re going to like or dislike.  But here’s the long answer:

It is an abstract game.  I already like that.  It’s got to paste on a theme because, well, it’s Catalyst and Americans are buying games too.  So yes there are “dragons” and “wizards” but you would have to stretch your imagination to think this is a fantasy game.  It isn’t. the theme couldn’t be any more pasted on if the designers tried.  We’re grown ups, if you’re selling a chess/shogi variant, and that’s what it is, we don’t need elves and dwarves…

That aside, what’s the game like?  I always like a game you can tell is going to be pretty good just from reading the rules.  One, because it tells me the rules have, for the most part, been written well (so rare in this hobby), and two, because it tells me I am dealing with a fairly simple, dare I say, elegant set of rules.  This is a key feature for me when I am looking at abstract games.  I will happily admit that I am tiring of the so-called ameritrash and euro games.  We only ever needed about five of them each and the rest are just iterations.  Yes, that sounds very socialist, but it is mostly true.  I don’t care if I sound smug.  If you need a battalion of carefully painted miniatures and lots of random dice rolling or you require some new cog to put into your collection of clockwork-like euro-samey games to have “fun”, bless you, I wish you well, but that is not my bag and you have come here for my opinion.

So abstracts are where it is at for me.

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The Duke is a well designed, well presented game of wooden tiles, a simple but effective board and a pretty simple rules set.  Each wooden piece includes a diagram of how that piece can move.  A duke is very different to a footman or champion.  Manoeuvrability changes as you move and then must flip the moved piece to reveal a different diagram of available moves and the aim of the game is to capture pieces and eventually the duke (the duke being much like the king in chess, that is to say pretty useless but extremely valuable).  That’s it.

I could waffle on a lot more but I’m not going to because life is short.  If you grow a little tired of the base tiles there are expansions like Robin Hood and King Arthur, a little bit naff but, oh well.

But do I recommend it?  Sure, why not.  It’s a dumbo’s chess and if you’re a dumbo who has no patience and/or respect for the greatest abstract game of all time, go for it.

I think the title might have gotten a little to excited…  But if you like abstracts and want variety, this probably belongs in your collection along with games like Onitama and the quite brilliant Yinsh.

So, y’know, like, do whatever you want.

Twains!

I was never one of these kids who grew up with a fascination with trains.  I liked them, but unlike my 5 year old nephew, I was not clinically obsessed by them.  But after having been around the kid at a few train shows and watching the delight showed for the, admittedly, amazing machines, it kind of rubbed off a little.

How does that relate to my interest in board games about trains? Not much. I am not into these 18xx games and I think Ticket to Ride is just fine for about 5 minutes and then you realise you’re playing a glorified version of gin rummy (a game I like, but I don’t need the extra, plastic frills).  The same can be said for other games in the hobby and that doesn’t make TTR a game I hate but it doesn’t hold my interest.

But I got curious when I heard about Trains and being a fan of things Japanese I bought the sequel Trains Rising Sun and, after reading through a pretty clunky rules set, I was really engaged and interested.

Having played the game with only one other player I speak herein of the 2 player experience.

In Trains Rising Sun the aim is simple: accrue as many victory points as possible by building a deck of cards that will ensure a steady flow of income and options as you work on a traditional board to build rails and connect routes.

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You’re hindered by terrain modifiers (mountains are always more epxensive to build rail on) and a crappy draw.  No matter how many nice cards you buy to put into your deck, you just may not draw them…like…ever.  That puts a crimp in the game but after all, it is a deck builder and that’s just the business.

“Where there are cards, there shall be randomness”

Anonymous.

Invariably, you will draw the Waste cards you accrue whenever you build a station, rail line or scratch your nose.  You can get rid of them by missing a go, but the game is short and isn’t very forgiving if all you’re doing is trying to manage waste.  That can get frustrating.

There’s some great art on display and the component quality is reasonably high.  Fans will want to sleeve cards as they are not the best quality and honestly shame on AEG and any company making deck builders who do not lavish attention on the quality of the cards.

One other bugbear, and that is to do with the rule book.  Seriously guys, how hard is it to precisely and accurately convey the rules of such a light game and yet they managed to cloud a few issues here and there and hide important information in a seemingly non-pertinent paragraph.  They were, however, quick to respond to questions we had so kudos there.

The reference sheet at the back of the rule book is woeful too and missing some important information.  We hobbyists almost come to expect to decipher oddly written rules but there is a place in the industry for companies that design rules (boffins) to hire people who now how to communicate information effectively (teachers, writers, editors etc.)…

Bugbear in hibernation…

As mentioned, there is randomness in the game. Some people hate that.  I used to.  I don’t mind a bit of randomness after years of looking down my nose at it.  My favourite types of games now are open information, abstract titles like Chess, Yinsh and so on.  For that reason, games that do have randomness better have some way of minimising or mitigating it’s effect if it is to keep my interest.  Trains Rising Sun generally does this okay but the random fact is high…very high…

That said, I have softened towards lighter games and Trains Rising Sun is definitely that: light.  But in fact, light is good.  It is a welcome change of pace from the games I prefer and too many board games have become unfathomably complex for me so much so I am leaning towards light-medium games when I am not playing an abstract.  And it is quick!  I like that too.  I does not outstay its welcome.

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Importantly, it has enough substance and style so that it delivers the feel of building rails and running trains (more than TTR which just delivers some visual cardboard and plastic porn).  Players have reasonably light but engaging decisions to make (when they have a decent draw) like dealing with building an efficiency machine as you design your deck, and the games throws in cards like Protestors and Politicians that actively let you attack other players if that is your thing, so there is a decent level of player interaction.  Not to mention, in a two player game (for which the company has thoughtfully designed boards) real estate is tight and routes are hard to get!  But that keeps the interest level high.

They have also managed to include a good degree of variety in the cards which lends itself to repeat plays.  So well done there AEG!

Whether it has staying power, I am not so sure, but I am keen to play it again and I honestly don’t often feel that way about many board games or card games.

I would recommend trying this one out for a quality deck building experience.

Again, thanks to AEG for the review copy.

 

Review: The Movie Art of Syd Mead Visual Futurist

That title is a doozy and so is the book!  Bit of a spoiler there.

If you are reading this, it’s likely you know who Syd Mead is and if you don’t then you do but you don’t realise it!  He’s the man behind the look of some incredibly influential (and not so influential) science fiction movies in the last and the current decade: Aliens, Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit, Johnny Mnemonic, Star Trek et.al.

Gonna name drop…I had the pleasure of interviewing Syd Mead (and the late Morgan Paull, a.k.a. Holden) in a Blade Runner radio special and Mead was a wonderful interviewee.  In fact, they both were and gave me some wonderful insights into their creative worlds.

Starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (or as my friend Barry calls it, “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture”, and I would have to agree – yawn!) and ending quite abruptly on Blade Runner 2049, this Titan Books production is a must have for any one interested in movie design, set work, colouring and lighting and even perspective.

One of the things that stood out most about this book is the ability to ‘see behind’ Mead’s sketches.  His sketchy structural lines are a lesson in perspective and form.  Its not surprising though given his discipline acquired as a graphic designer.  He started out in advertising and concept design for real world companies and he imbues practically every film he works on with a sense of realism.

No where is this more evident, at least to me, than in Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner. Around 66 pages are devoted to this work alone which I was pleased with being quite the fan of the original.  And to Villeneuve, I can see what you tried to do there ol’ boy but no one holds a candle to Scott’s movie!  Between Scott and Mead, both talented artists, the movie is a workbook on how to make believable, futuristic designs.  How the managed to make a dystopian future so appealing and repelling at the same time, I will never know!

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Mead’s wonderful yet deceptively simple approach to colouring and lighting is also evident throughout.  Large swathes of neon and contrasting colours inform a great deal of his concept design and that clearly went from page to screen wonderfully in Scott’s movie.

The section on Aliens is also a great read.  The Sulaco ship design is a masterclass in stripping back a design.  But it also shows the lines and three dimensionality that artists could learn much from.

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His work on Tron give us an insight on what the world would have looked like if Mead had influenced the director even more and it would have been the better for it.

But, perhaps because of his level of involvement or design directives, some chapters are far less engaging.  At least in this reviewers opinion, and that’s what I am here to give.

The work on the Jetsons and Elysium isn’t all that inspired or inspiring and the book tends to lose energy towards the final pages with a weak puff of air given to Blade Runner 2049.  It would seem in that case, Mead was only involved with the design of the irradiated Las Vegas sequences, which were pretty incredible.  Apparently, Villeneuve compliments Mead with design of the cityscapes too but scant details are given in the book, just a miserly six pages!

On the positive, there’s more written detail here than in your usual movie art book which was a welcome surprise and gave great insights into the man and his art.

All in all, the production quality and the quality of the images is up to. the typically high standards that Titan Books seems to achieve with its movie books.  Again, if you like movie design, this really is one of the essential tomes to acquire.

Thanks to Titan Books for the review copy.

Book Review: The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 has only just finished in movie theatres in my local area. I happened to go and see it twice having been a big fan of the original.

Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner left quite an impression on me at around the age of 12 back in 1985, 3 years after the movie was released.

And so it was with some trepidation I stepped into Denis Villeneuve’s sequel.  After all, what’s a Blade Runner movie without Scott and the sardonic somewhat eccentric Rutger Hauer as Batty?

The movie takes place 30 years after the original ( hence the rather imaginative title) and the sad world we saw in 2019 has just gotten worse. Leviathan-like synthetic farms cover great swaths of the landscape. There’s no lush tomato plants or mangoes growing in these greenhouses. Just grubs and algae! Outside of Los Angeles, the rest of this corner of the United States looks like a gigantic rubbish tip with a few scavenger settlements here and there. The city itself has become, if you can imagine it, even more dense, even more dark and more oppressive.

Sadly, it wouldn’t be too far fetched thinking that in another 50 or so years our world might look similar to the world Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve have created.

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How about that! K9 makes an appearance!

Twice I finished the movie undecided as to what I really thought. The second time I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 a great deal more and I got a lot more out of it and having read the book The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049, I understood more clearly why this was the case. As Michael Green the screenwriter articulates, “the first film was about quantity of life. How much do I have left? This film is about quality of life. How do I live my life? How do I make it meaningful?” Well put and spot on Mike.

And so, for nearly 3 hours (really guys it could have used some editing), Ryan Gosling as the replicant known as K struggles with his existence and the burden of his work which involves taking out earlier generation replicants.

The story is a little too convoluted in some respects but it manages to be more or less a very worthwhile sequel and that is high praise indeed given the almost flawless masterpiece that is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

But what is the book like? Like many movie art books it’s a little thin on information but one expects that. It is after all an art book not a Making Of. But given that, there are some wonderful insights to be learnt within it’s impressive hardback cover.

I particularly liked the page dedicated to the process known as a Baseline that Ryan Gosling’s character has to go through seemingly at the end of each day of operations. Using scrambled text from Nabokov’s book Pale Fire, the company responsible for reconditioning replicants dictates some weird and slightly unsettling prose in an effort to assess and control the emotional quality of their new generation, thus far obedient replicants.

Here is an example: a blood black nothingness began to spin began to spin let’s move onto system system feel that in your body the system have they let you feel heartbreak interlinked within cells interlinked did you buy a present for the person you love within cells interlinked why don’t you say that three times within cells interlinked…

Sinister corporation indeed!

It’s bizarre and unsettling and even as the viewer I felt uncomfortable watching poor K having to go through this. As the movie goes on, one really does empathize with his predicament.

Ryan Gosling seems to go from one completely different movie to another with seemingly no regard  to whether or not the film will have any box office success. I respect that. I also see now that he is quite intelligent in the way he approaches his roles. In the few paragraphs devoted to the process of the Baseline, Ryan Gosling eloquently summarises how this scene helped him to understand his character and beyond that,  in RG’s own articulate words,  “it also provided insight into the state of mind of those who would force this burden upon him.”

Interesting insight into the character indeed.

Beyond character development, the book also does a very adequate job of presenting the design elements of this impressive movie. From urban to natural, although heavily tortured, landscapes, the book gives a wonderful overview of the detail involved in building the world of Blade Runner 2049.

To Villeneuve’s credit, much of the world seems to have been created in real life using stunning physical models and real world locations such as the Inota power plant in Budapest. And then there’s wonderfully crafted locations like an irradiated Las Vegas courtesy of the incredible Syd Mead who was responsible for the futurist design of the original movie.

There is a largish chapter on Wallace’s office building and the quite stunning lighting therein, some nice side notes on the old Blade Runner blaster, a double page devoted to the hologram advertisements that cover the cityscape and of course incredible concept artwork.

For any fan of the movie or movie making in general, this book is a real gem.

One of our favourite parts of the book explains a small device known as the Memory Orb, which was inspired by old analogue cameras and looks like a chunky lens with several different styles. The quarantined and enigmatic Doctor Stelline uses this contraption to create the wonderful memories that comfort the replicants in their brutal existence.

There’s a great deal more to go into and we really enjoyed Mariette’s costume designing as it harkens back to one of our favourite replicants Pris, in fact the costuming in general was top notch, but we won’t spoil everything by giving up the entire contents of this wonderful art book. Denis Villeneuve has done an outstanding job of crafting and styling the movie, the characters, and the world they inhabit and the book does credit to showing the enormity of the project he, his crew and cast undertook.

Was the movie as stylistic as the original? In some ways it surpasses it, particularly in the grandness of the scale in Blade Runner 2049. This is seen nowhere more fully than when K find the belaguered Rick Deckard, now a hermit, living in an abandoned and irradiated Las Vegas.

One has to keep in mind too that this is a world 30 years in the future and things change. Ridley Scott’s vision feels rightly antiquated but also slightly more stylized with a great deal more emphasis on detail. For example, there is a major difference in stylistic detail one can see in Deckard’s original apartment compared to K’s more spartan apartment. I wish they spent a bit of time on his apartment in the art book, oh well!

But then we see this dystopic future becomes more and more brutal, less stylistic and more functional ( I mean everyone’s eating grubs and algae for heaven’s sake! So much for noodles!). So we can see the impact upon the way people must live in their environment and it ain’t pretty or stylish!

We are still going to tip our hats in favour of Ridley Scott’s original, but Blade Runner 2049 is an exceptional sequel and The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 is a very worthy keepsake!

If you’re a fan of the movie, get yourself a copy today. Thanks to Titan Books for a review copy.

Burgle Bros Review

Since the introduction of games like Pandemic, the cooperative game has become more popular amongst tabletop hobbyists. They provide a chance for teamwork, productive and funny table conversations and sometimes it’s nice to change gears from your typically competitive games night.

Well, another cooperative board game has hit the shelves and this time it’s by Tim Fowers and it’s called Burgle Bros. In a nutshell, it encapsulates the heist movie genre almost perfectly!

Tim Fowers is what you might call a boutique game maker. He’s not particularly large-scale to my knowledge but his output so far seems of very high quality. One might call him a board game artisan. We also had the opportunity of playing Paperback, which is another of his titles, and were also impressed. That review will come shortly…

We don’t bore you or ourselves with lengthy rules explanations on this site, but to give you a brief idea: this game plays out with a modular board made up of tiles that build levels of a skyscraper you have to stealthily work your way through whilst avoiding the ever-present guards. On those tiles, which are generally kept hidden from the players until they enter the room, you will find an assortment of rooms with puzzles to crack and solve and traps to avoid. From safe rooms to frustrating keypad rooms and boring old foyers, there are chambers designed to equally frustrate and delight you.  There is plenty going on here, including the genre-specific laser room! Just think of a svelte Catherine Zeta Jones in the movie The Entrapment… Give me a minute…

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I bet she doesn’t know that laser stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

Right then!

Though this game can be played solo, which will be a chief criticism shortly, it’s a lot more fun working with other mischievous thieves to find the loot and escape the building. It’s a wonderfully modular game that accommodates short or long play times and enables players to setup 1, 2 or 3 building levels in the skyrise your burglars will navigate their way through. We will say that with 4 players on three levels it did outstay its welcome a little bit but only with some of us.

The artwork, as with Tim Fowers’ games generally, is absolutely fantastic. It looks like 1950s or ’60s cartoons.  It’s a little bit Mad Men and a lot of Hanna Barbera and the quality throughout is fantastic!

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There were some rules that were a little clunky here and there (but write to Tim and you will actually get a response, which is very impressive. Tried getting a response from Fantasy Flight Games? Then you know what I am talking about!) But for the most part, the rulebook is super clear and I had a couple of novice board game players up and running in no time. This is novice and family friendly indeed without becoming a soon-to-bore-you, one hit wonder.

Now on to our chief concern… This isn’t a peculiarity to this game but it is to the cooperative genre. Like any cooperative game, you are meant to work as a team. However, there is always someone who has more knowledge than the others or, as is sadly sometimes the case, an alpha player who insists on making all the decisions for everyone. We did not experience the latter but there was no doubt that I had more knowledge of the game than the other players and it was, on occasion, difficult not to dictate the best course of action. But that’s where the player must imbue a sense of patience and team spirit. Who cares if the decision by a less experienced player spells capture and a lengthy jail sentence for everyone!

But for people who take their games seriously (yawn!), a word of caution is advised. Generally speaking if I see a game that calls itself cooperative that can be played by one player I’m always a little hesitant. If it can be played well solo is it truly a team game? That is to say, are other players’ involvement vital to the success of a game? In this case it’s not and in the case of most cooperative games it is not. For that very reason, I am not really a fan of cooperative gaming. But this is one game that is light enough to not bother me in that area so much.

It’s a keeper. Bunyip Kingdom thoroughly recommends trying this game out!

We were kindly supplied a review copy by Tim Fowers. But spare him not from criticism shall we!

The Art of the Ghost in the Shell Book Review

The Ghost in the Shell…the cyberpunk soaked storyline that has captivated it’s audience for nearly 30 years. It has moved from manga to anime to the big screen. It’s a creative property that most of the fan base are quite rabid over.

Understandably so. In its earliest form it was part science-fiction part philosophical text. It questioned what it was to be human,  very much like it’s progenitor Blade Runner and The Matrix that followed.

In an age of recent and burgeoning A.I. hysteria The Ghost in the Shell is even more topical now.

The movie became its own thing and faced its own set of contentions, weathering claims of white washing (possibly deserved) and not doing justice to the property.

We disagree with the latter at least. At 1 hour and 47 minutes it was really never going to scratch the byzantine surface of this remarkable cyberpunk world but it did a damn good job in trying and we enjoyed the film greatly. But what is the art book like?

We’ve opened the covers, had a good look and we share our thoughts here.

Initially the impression is outstanding. This is a Titan Books production and it is quality throughout. The cover is a wonderfully bold detailed image of a cyber geisha as seen in the movie.

The introduction by WETA workshop founder Richard Taylor is promising for what lies ahead. He and his crew clearly have a great deal of love for TGITS universe.

The image quality is astounding throughout with very little exception.  It is wonderful to see the development of Kusanagi and the world she inhabits and the book does justice to how much work and effort occurred behind the scenes.

There are fascinating insights on location scouting. The final location for the majority filming was Wellington, NZ or as it is called in the book Wellingkong. It seems the budget couldn’t afford London or Berlin and so more power to the Kiwis who’s show not just great creativity in the cinematic arts but fantastic entrepreneurship!

There is nothing new about the ‘sologram’ or so called solid hologram that the movie uses to adorn it’s cityscapes but nevertheless that is also an interesting chapter.

What we absolutely loved in the book is the way it details the integration of old school physical modelling, coupled with modern computer imagery. It’s nice to see that the director in his own words prefers ‘shooting amid the textures and details of real streets.’ This artistic philosophy carries through on every part of this movie and in this book. We can see a beautiful integration of prosthetics models and CG which is very welcome in a movie market saturated with almost solely computer generated over-the-top affairs with very little substance.

The concept art is also wonderful. It is excellent to see the evolution of the robot geisha, one of our favourite things about the movie. In particular, we were delighted at the attention to detail in their costumes. But not only costumes designed for the robot geisha but for the citizens of the so-called Wellingkong.

Hats off to Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller. It seems to be getting particularily rare to see such imaginative costuming. But Swanson and Mueller put their flare on display with every thread and stitch.

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Does this look like David Bowie to you?

 

The book covers characters, constructing the future, locations, cinematography, action sequences and is capped off with a thoughtful conclusion.

Our one and only criticism,  common to books of this type, is that we would like to have seen some more detailed writing backing up the subject matter, though text is not as scarce as in so many similar books.

We thoroughly recommend you purchase The Art of the Ghost in the Shell by Titan Books. It goes beyond a meer coffee table book towards something fans of science fiction will truly appreciate for years to come!

Stay tuned over the next couple of months as we look at more titles from Titan Books including the new Blade Runner 2049 art book!

Coming Soon! Blade Runner Special!

We are more than just about games! Soon we will be taking a look at the new Blade Runner movie, including a review of a number of related books and how this seminal piece of work has influenced so many films, books and games! Massive thanks to Titan books in advance!

All these moments coming to you soon…

Ripper Roller Coasters!

Roller coasters are great fun! I remember enjoying my fair share of them as a younger fellow. The fear of riding the demon at Wonderland, the joy of the wooden roller coaster at Luna Park, cannot be beat!

I always marvelled at their design and wondered what it would be like to build my own…

Well, wonder no more! Having purchased K’Nex Double Doom, I excitedly dived into the world of K’Nex for the first time and enjoyed every moment of this build.

Instructions are for the most part very clear and the pieces of very high quality with the majority of this product being manufactured in the United States of America. The unit was so good I purchased Electric Inferno and will be posting that shortly.

The system allows for great adaptation and I look forward to eventually designing my own roller coasters. Not since Technic Lego have I enjoyed a toy this much!

K’nex also has a superb customer service system whereby in the unlikely event that your set is missing a part you simply contact them and they send the missing part out.

These sets can be purchased in Australia but also very easily from Amazon.

We at Bunyip Kingdom thoroughly recommend the Doubke Doom roller coaster and stay tuned for more on K’Nex Thrill Rides!

Captain Sonar Review

I’m a bit of a jaded gamer. I look at a lot of games and I have been playing games since the nineteen eighties and usually I’m seeing a game with similar mechanics to hundreds of other games just with a different coat of paint.  If you’ve been a tabletop gamer for awhile,  you’ll know what I mean.

Then along comes a game like Captain Sonar that blows me out of the water!  See what I did there?…

It is the odd occasion I walk away from a game and think about it for days afterwards. It’s also quite rare for me to be immersed in the atmosphere of a game usually being taken out of the experience because of components, clunky rulesets, or something else. Not since Twilight Struggle have I felt so ‘in the moment’ during a game.  So it was to my great surprise how immersed and reflective I was upon playing Captain Sonar by Matagot games. I’ve never heard of this company before, but man what a surprise!

Captain Sonar is an intense, competitive experience where two teams face off against one another in unstable, prototype submarines. The flavour text tells you something about militarised corporations fighting over rare earth materials, blah blah.

The rulebook itself is a little bit of a strange beast. At first I looked at it and thought this isn’t very linear. It seems I have to learn four games in one. The role of the radio operator, engineer, first mate and of course the captain. Additionally, I’ll have the dreaded responsibility of having to teach others but then I read the rulebook and realised it was one of the best written and illustrated rule books I’ve come across in a long time.

I don’t do lengthy rules explanations. I like to get to the point and that’s what this rulebook does. You will quickly find out that there are four roles for you to play as above and that you can play either in turn order or real time, both having their pros and cons.

The captain really does have to know all the roles and carefully co-ordinate with his or her crew. The radio operator has the rather tense task of finding where the enemy submarine is on the map. The first mate has to record systems as they come online and are used and has some autonomy to engage drones and sonar, which are vital to finding your enemy submarine. And of course there is the beleaguered engineer. A funny thing about this particular title is that they have chosen to model damage in these prototype submarines by having the engineer pick which system he will take out and then which system he will try to get back online. He does this by coordinating with the captain and advising him what direction the submarine should go in.

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It’s a little clunky and counter-intuitive but on the scale of it all it is only a minor criticism. It does the job of representing an unstable prototype submarine quite well. You are not just taking damage from the enemy submarine you are battling with a new computer, weapons and engine system. Likely the submarine was built by a company that also came well under the required budget and I would say that is not too much of a stretch given that the world you are fighting in seems to have been taken over by capitalists.

Boring ideology aside, this game shines in so many ways. It is an over-simplification to call it ‘battleships on steroids’ but in so many ways it is. Yes there are a lot more bells and whistles and yes there are a lot more things to learn about. But it is worth it and it develops such a deep competitive game that I’m longing to get it back on the table already. That’s actually quite rare. At least for this jaded seadog!

I will also have to say that as it is a team game played with up to 8 people, the fun factor will also be determined by the quality of the players. In fact, it is possible to play this game without having a traditionally good time.  It could be rewarding enough for you to have a quiet intense battle of  minds: one captain versus another! Can anyone say Das Boot?!

In our first game we saw people who had never played a board game before struggle with some of the new ideas and struggle with the idea of having to work as a team. The rule book itself does not talk about protocols that clearly and we were struggling for a little while about who gets to do what and when particularly during a real-time game. It would take very little to clarify this with some basic house rules. Essentially a little bit of submarine etiquette would have gone a long way in the rules book.

People like structure. They can also feel a bit stupid when they have to pump their fist in the air to call the stop even though they secret and desperately want to get into their role. It’s just the nature of humans particularly wallflowers and we did play with people who weren’t that extroverted, which presented some communication challenges. But that is the beauty of team games. Just as in a submarine (I’m guessing!) the captain is dealing with varied crew members and he or she must be able to balance their performance in an effort to identify the location of and destroy the enemy

And atmosphere!  Did I happen to mention the atmosphere of this game! We ramped things up to 11! We played with some wonderful submarine sounds off YouTube that just added to a game that already drips with atmosphere.

Few games will grip your attention and immerse you so fully in their universe. As I mentioned, Twilight Struggle was certainly such a game but they are far and few between.

We can not give a better recommendation for you to go out and buy this game. As long as you are prepared for the dynamics of team gaming we have very little doubt that you will enjoy this title.

Well done Matagot!