Another weekend, another game night. A friend of mine enjoys hosting board game extravaganzas. He’ll invite everyone he knows to a board game night in hopes of playing DJ at some kind of Mountain Dew fueled rave where everyone’s slinging card-stock and polyhedrals until the wee hours.
At times, he’s drawn crowds big enough he needed to move things to a local game shop. These are the nights of Dixit, Cards Against Humanity and even Dix Against Humanity – party games with rules (or made up rules) that need little explanation.
Other times, we end up with a solid group of geeky-gamer types and break out the boxes with their own custom after-market inserts and clearly labeled ziplock baggies. Games with enough rules that at least one procedural debate ensues. Usually more.
This last game night we managed a good mix of both.
The night started off with Smash Up, a competitive deck game that’s essentially Magic the shuffling. There’s no land or mana to fuss with, but you play creature and action cards from a deck made up of two different factions chosen at the start of the game. Each creature is deployed to “take over” a collection of randomly selected point-scoring bases. Points and rewards are given for winners and runners-up on each base,. The first person to score 15 points wins.
Being new to the game, we grabbed factions mostly at random. I chose Robot + Wizards (not in small part due to my current project, First Song) and quickly found out that the strategic faction choice I had blundered into was a good idea. Turns out, the Wizard faction relied on card draw and spamming actions while the robots spammed minions. All your base belong to us.
Pretty soon, the game became about how to keep the Eldritch Terminators from assimilating the world.
I enjoyed Smash Up and would play it again. It’s a low-learning curve deck game that allows for some advanced strategies and combos. There are definitely faction combinations that synergize and some which don’t but with enough play-through, veteran players should be able to create some interesting match ups.
Next, we switched to Paperback, a deckbuilding version of Scrabble. Starting from a deck that included the Wheel of Fortune common letters (but no Vanna to flip them) and some wild cards, you build words from your hand each round. With these words, you earn money to buy letters and point-scoring “paperback” cards.
Paperback was fun, well-balanced, and had all the typical bonuses and drawbacks of a traditional deck-builder. I’d play again, but it wasn’t my favorite of the night.
And hats off to the winner, Victoria, for managing to spell “Communists” with what should have been a five card hand. All I can say is: M-*-O-TH-*-R -F -* -CK -ER, really? Next time I play, I’m going for swear words only.
We rounded out the night with the adventures of a nympho wookie, a remedial jedi, and their drunken commander as they tried to infiltrate an Imperial base and break shit.
No, Imperial Assault isn’t a Star Wars RPG. It’s like what I imagine playing DnD 4e is like… Except they give you all the minis, cardboard map cutouts, and dice that you need to play the game all in a box you need an AT-AT to carry from place to place.
If you enjoy the tactical side of RPG combat, you will love Imperial Assault. If you don’t, this isn’t your game.
My Wookie and his vibrating axe cleaved and pierced stormtroopers by the boatload while the remedial jedi swung her PVC pipe like a champ (later earning the right to remove her padded helmet). The drunken commander stayed behind for the second mission (hangovers in space can be ROUGH) but his friend, AoE Trooper, joined us and together, we utterly frustrated the DM, errr, the Imperials, as we laid waste to the mission.
While not a true RPG, if you opt to play the campaign, your characters will earn experience, accumulate items and manifest new powers as they complete each mission. But be warned – the Imperial player does the same. However, Imperial Assault can just as easily be played as a tactical miniatures game without all the record-keeping fuss.
Us? We decided, tentatively, to play on and try to make it through the campaign. I’m curious if my wookie will ever be free of his addiction and if that jedi from the short-shuttle can earn something other than a safety lightsaber. Only time will tell.