Board Game Review: Smash Up!

Smash Up

Smash Up! is one of my favourite games to come out of GenCon last year.  As a “shufflebuilding” game you take two twenty card decks from two different factions, shuffle them into a forty card deck, then compete to smash more Bases than your opponents.  Each faction brings a different game mechanism into play pirates move cards, zombies bring cards back from the discard pile, dinosaurs have huge power – and every combination of factions brings a different play experience.

This game plays well with between 2 and 4 players.  It’s quite funny to play, but also has an impressive level of strategic depth.  A single game takes about half an hour, but who plays just one game?

Zombie

Let’s talk about some of the specifics.

Each turn a player may play a Minion (example shown to the Right).  Minions have a power level (degree of Smash-y-ness) on the top left of the card.  Abilities on these Minions mostly happen right after they’re played, although some are Ongoing and happen every turn.  Other Minion abilities might trigger when a Minion is killed or may change how, from where, or when the minion may be played.

Minions are the meat and potatoes of this game.  Having your Pirate King sail over to a base right before it scores can make unwary opponents sad.  Likewise, if the Wizard team plays down an Archmage and gets to take an extra Action every turn it can add up to some dangerous plays.

AlienIn addition to playing a Minion every turn, players may take one Action (example to the left).  These Action cards may let you play extra minions, draw cards, destroy other minions, or generally just mess with your opponents’ plans.  Action cards don’t directly have power, so they can’t be used to score on bases, but some may give extra power to Minions.

During play, Base cards (each with their own difficulties and abilities) are in play. You attempt to have the most power on the Base from your minions when the Base is smashed. Sounds easy? How easy is it when an opponent’s Alien-Ninja decides to Beam Up your minions to other Bases – flat out Assassinate them? What about when the Pirate-Dinosaur player Full Sails in and releases King Rex to stomp your minions into the ground, or when the Wizard-Zombies use their Mystic Power to create an Outbreak, suddenly flooding minions onto the Base from the discard pile? Or what if you faced a Zombie-Dinosaur player instead and he created an Outbreak of massive beasts all at once?!?

Library

At the end of each player’s turn you check to see if a Base will be scored (the Minions there equal or exceed the limit, pictured right).  When a Base is smashed, each player in first, second and third place scores points. Fourth place? Sorry, bro – try harder next time.

Typically games are played to 15 points, although you can agree on a higher number or set a time limit and declare a winner based on points at that time.  Be careful not to score a base if it would let the second place player win the game!

Smash Up! is only $29.99.  We sell it both on our online store and in person.  Stop by and try it out.

 

Board Game Review: Eclipse

The galaxy has been a peaceful place for many years. After the ruthless Terran–Hegemony War (30.027–33.364), much effort has been employed by all major spacefaring species to prevent the terrifying events from repeating themselves. The Galactic Council was formed to enforce precious peace, and it has taken many courageous efforts to prevent the escalation of malicious acts. Nevertheless, tension and discord are growing among the seven major species and in the Council itself. Old alliances are shattering, and hasty diplomatic treaties are made in secrecy. A confrontation of the superpowers seems inevitable – only the outcome of the galactic conflict remains to be seen. Which faction will emerge victorious and lead the galaxy under its rule?

A game of Eclipse places you in control of a vast interstellar civilization, competing for success with its rivals.  Players explore new star systems, research technologies, and build spaceships to wage war.  For anyone who’s played Twilight Imperium before, this game owes much to it.  Each player starts out in a home system—an octagonal hex in a largely unexplored galaxy of yet unplaced hexes.  Players, each representing factions of a galactic council, take turns exploring (placing down new tiles), researching technologies, upgrading the blueprints for ships, building new ships, or moving ships.  When a new planetary system is explored a player may also spend an influence tile to take control of it, and then use colony ships to take control of planets in the newly influenced system.

What makes Eclipse particularly clever is the game’s system of resource management.  Each action taken using influence tiles reveals the debt of a growing empire.  When colonizing planets, players remove small wooden cubes from a similar tracker, revealing increased income.  In a style similar to Ticket to Ride, these resources are tracked on the edge of each player’s race-mat.  Because players rarely have to take manual tally of income or expenses, game play is considerably faster than other games of the same scope.

Good, Bad, Ugly, Planta?

Each race in the game comes with a handful unique advantage, from rapidly expanding plant people to wealthy oligarchs.  For a simpler starting experience, every player has the option of flipping over the race-mat and playing as a faction of the splintered Terran forces (humans).  Terran races have advantages of their own, but are a little more straightforward.

During the course of the game, it is likely you will encounter each other.  While ship combat takes place using D6s at the end of each round, you’re always welcome to offer a potential opponent a trade agreement.  Trade agreements grant both players an ambassador token, worth a victory point at the end of the game and a resource during the game.  Later in the game if either trade partner wants to break the agreement that player may; that player gains the traitor card (worth minus 2 victory points), and both players lose ambassador tokens.  This creates an interesting sort of subtle diplomacy.  I’ve seen players get wiped almost off the board for refusing a trade agreement, and I’ve watched a player assume a trade agreement kept them safe, only for a sudden (but inevitable?) betrayal.

Upgrading ships is another fun mini-game within Eclipse.  Adding extra hull points to ships will let them take more hits, adding stronger weapons will either let you roll more dice, or let your hits inflict more damage, and adding targeting computers will let those hits inflict more damage, but you must always ensure you stay within the power limitations of your ships’ generator.  Some of these upgrades are available to all players, some must be researched first.  Some races even come with differently configured ships.

Tim plays games. Rawr!At the end of the game victory points are tallied up.  Players gain points for colonized systems, certain advancements, major military victories, or focused technological development.  Eclipse plays in roughly two hours with an experienced group, although your first game can take longer.  I’d recommend it for anyone over the age of 14, and for 2 – 6 players.

New Miniatures Range: Pulp City

We have brought in a brand new miniature game range to Black Knight Games: Pulp City.  Pulp City is a skirmish game with miniatures that you paint, with a similar initial investment to games like Malifaux, Infinity or Dystopian Wars.  In it you build your own hero or villain super-team.  The game has a feel of early pulp-serials and comics.

To really explain what drew me to bring in Pulp City I want to tell you about my first experience playing it:

I was at GenCon, and had decided to try out as many miniature games as I could, especially those that didn’t immediately appeal to me, because it was a good opportunity to see what else there was out there.  I have never collected comics, so the idea of a superhero-themed game definitely never appealed to me, but I wanted to see what Pulp City was all about anyway.  I ended up arriving late, but the guys running the demo had a spot left and let me jump in, “you will be playing as the monkeys” they said.  SOLD!  I love monkeys!  Turned out I was in charge of Apebot & Virus, a super-intelligent chimp that controls a massive robot gorilla.  So on my first turn they asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I wanted to go beat-up this fancy looking caped hero.  So I began to move my massive ape towards him, then the demo-guy said, “Wait!  On your way past that lamppost would you like to pick it up?”  “Of course I do!” I exclaimed.  So my robo-ape ripped the lamppost out of the ground and threw it at Mr. Fancy Cape.  The result?  Critical strike and one dead superhero.  After that I was sold, and proceeded to spend the rest of the game picking up cars and mailboxes and using them to smash other heroes to bits.

All in all Pulp City runs like a pretty standard skirmish miniatures game.  However the fun theme, and details like scenery-manipulation make it fairly unique.  So for those reasons we have brought this great new game to Black Knight Games.  So make sure to check it out when you come in next!

If you would like to see more on Pulp City you can see all of the products on our webstore, and look around on the Pulp City website as well!

~The Black Knight

 

 

Webstore Now Online!

We are very happy and proud to announce that after an extremely long process, filled with tweaks, adjustments, overhauls, re-dos, last-minute changes, delays and postponements the Black Knight Games Online Store is now operational!

The address is: shop.blackknightgames.ca

You can find the online store by clicking the Online Store tab at the top of the page, and once on the online store you can re-access this website (the local website) by clicking on the Local Store tab at the top of that page.

Our online store will sell nearly everything we sell in our store, over 3000 items in total!  The prices online will match those of our retail location too, so you will usually get the same deal either way.  Shipping costs on our store are very competitive as well, with a $4.99 flat shipping cost within Ontario, and only $6.99 Canada-wide!

You will be able to see what is in stock on the online store as well, and you can pre-order upcoming releases too!

So check out Black Knight Games Online, and get a special welcome discount!