Strategy, and randomness. Robotek app review

Robotek caught me eye because it had robots, art was nice, and it looked fun. It delivers on the robots and the art excellently, but the amount of fun is up for debate. The game is set in a post-robot uprising era. You, however, control a powerful robot, and are going to take back the land. You play on a map which has various nodes to retake for humanity. If you retake one, you gain the energy of the node. If you fail the attack, you lose the energy. You can try again, though. You can buy energy if you get too low and are afraid of losing (I assume at 0 energy you’ve lost the game.) The battles have an element of strategy, with a hefty hand of randomness. There is a slot machine of sorts to choose your moves. There are three sets of dials to spin. Each set has 3 possible outcomes on each wheel. The first set is summoning robots that shoot at the bad guys and take hits before your main robot. The second set is some defensive abilities, like shields or stealing an enemy robot. The third is direct attacks, like microwave beams (microwaves bounce of metal, so not sure how they hurt robots, but oh well), and laser attacks. Getting more than one of a results makes it more effective. You decide what set is best for the current turn, then spin. You can almost always pick the first result, but the other two are random. So if you want a shield because you need a fast defense, you can get one up, but how powerful it is is determined by the other two wheels. You might only get one shield and 2 of something else, or you might get 3 shields, and get the best shield. 3 of a kind also has it’s own ability. When you spin a 3 of a kind, the result is extra powerful, and you get another turn. This is kinda neat when you are in a fix, and you get that heavy shield, or that extra powerful laser blast and decimate the enemy. The downside is, not only can this make the game easy if you manage it a few times in a row, but the enemy has the same ability. As great as it is to do a powerful move, it is equally disheartening to see yourself get ruined by chance when the enemy gets 3 of a kind. And of course, you instantly wonder if the computer is cheating. Where was that triple when I needed it, now the computer gets one soon as it is starting to lose? Even if we assume the game has a decent random number generator and the computer doesn’t cheat, it really puts a damper on the fun when randomness just obliterates all your progress. Of course, if randomness is your thing, it might not be an issue. But as a strategy fan, it weakens the game for me. I imagine that if the extra turn aspect was removed, it might swing things back into balance. On the plus, the game runs well, looks nice, and does indeed have some strategy elements, so it is certainly worth a try.

Game Review – Castles of Burgundy

My wife got the game The Castles Of Burgundy to review, which I was pretty excited about.

Castles of Burgundy is a German game by Ravensburger. It has the feel of other similar games, and like most German games while competitive, there is not any attacking other players. This game is fact is free of any war elements of all kinds. The theme of the game is 15th century Burgundy, where you play as a prince devoting your effort to building your estate via trading and building. While thematic, no knowledge of actual history is needed to play, and I don’t think playing the game will teach you any history, but it will develop planning and decision making skills. The game board is small, but organized sensibly and isn’t cluttered. The setup is quick if you keep the pieces organized in the box as mostly it just involves just shuffling some tiles. It can be played by all 4 players on a small IKEA 4 place table (A table that barely fit even the main board, never mind the cards, of Arkham Horror.) There is a player board for each player that is also small and well organized. All play happens on the main board and on the player boards, with a supply of tiles to the side. The standard player boards are all the same, but there are 8 other ones that are different, for advanced play. They are sturdy, but you could laminate them if you felt the need, so long as they would still fit in the box when you got done. The rulebook is only twelve pages and is written clearly with only one small rule that is translated poorly. As with any board game, I verified the rule by going to Board Game Geek. The rules have a sidebar alongside all the rules with a summery for easier lookup of rules as you learn. The two sections you will need open the most (what Building tiles do, and what the Knowledge tiles do) are right near the end and are easy to turn back to. There is also a summery of the building tile effects on the player boards. To learn the game, I highly recommend just setting up the game and going through a couple turns. Some of the rules make more sense when you can see the board and the different tiles. The game is divided into 5 phases, and each phase contains 5 rounds. Every one of them plays the same. There’s setup at the start of the phase. Every round involves all players rolling their dice (and you can plan while the other players are going) and making an action with each of them. If for whatever reason you can’t do an action, or don’t want to, with one or more dice in a given round, an option is taking worker tiles. This is one of my favorite mechanics of the game. Worker tiles allow you to adjust the dice up or down, so you aren’t a slave to the dice like you are in games like The Settlers of Catan (I use an option rule when playing Catan to combat that.) While each round is the same, the choices available are constantly fluctuating, keeping you on your toes. The main point is to move tiles from the game board to the player board, then from the player board convert the tiles to victory points. Some things give you points right away, but a large portion of your points come from the Knowledge tiles you take which give you points at the end game. I’ve only played it two-players, but it appears that the scoring scales nicely for more players, awarding more points for actions because they are harder to do with other people vying for the same limited resources. The board is also set up to scale from 2 to 4 players without any additional setup, just fill in the spots with a number lass than or equal to the number of players, and leave the other spots empty. Both games I played (even though one we played wrong due to my own error) ended with scores less than 10 apart. Scores can be as high as 299, as far as the score track goes. I don’t know that there is a hard limit. As the game ends at the end of the last phase, thus always at the same time, and the fact that the rounds go very fast, it’s a fast paced game, and can actually easily stopped at the end of a round and is easy to pick up again. Your long term strategies should be fairly obvious at any point of the game, so your not likely to forget what you were doing. This is good when you have two kids under the age of 4 who might at any time wake up or start assaulting their sibling. Castles of Burgundy is a fantastic game, and will get as much play as possible. It’s fast setup, and fast game play, means there is more of a chance to work it into our frequently interrupted life. Of course, when the kids are old enough, we’ll be playing it with them.