Friday 29 June 2012

Review - Battle Boarding

Battle Boarding - the box
Battle Boarding
Published by Condor
Designed by... oh, it doesn't say. I wonder why...
For 2 players, if they can figure out what the hell they are supposed to be doing

When I see the name Battle Boarding, I am reminded of that awesome Simpsons arcade game where Bart went around battering the big Jesus out of everyone with his skateboard. Unfortunately, this game is not that much fun.

Actually, I'll be honest. I have no idea if this game is fun or not, because I've never played it. Only once before have I reviewed a game I've never played (Jurassic Dinosaurs), and it's not something I want to get into the habit of doing; but in this case, I have no choice. I can't play the game, because I don't know how to.

Let me explain...

The game of Battle Boarding comprises a vacuum-formed plastic tray with a cardboard overlay forming the board, a bunch of plastic balls, and two special custom dice with a * symbol instead of a number six. The board is nicely illustrated (in a 70s kind of way), depicting two galleons in the middle of a sea battle. Circles joined by lines form a series of interconnected paths that link the two ships, and the aim of the game is to move six balls of your colour across the board and into your opponent's ship. This is made more difficult as there is a rotating disc built into the board (which, rather delightfully, is called the "Discomatic"), and when this is turned, certain circles on the paths open up, causing the balls on those spaces to fall into gullies in the plastic tray beneath. These gullies will lead to the "hold" of one of the two ships. If you are lucky, the balls roll into your "hold." You can insert your own jokes here.

Battle Boarding by Condor
The board - including the awesome Discomatic.

So far, so good. I know how the board works, and I know the aim of the game. So why can't I play? Well, I'll include a picture of the rules sheet, and you can see for yourself. Zoom in and have a good read:

Battle Boarding - the rules sheet
The rules - if you can figure them out, let me know!

Yes. That's right. The rules make not a single jot of sense. I have spent a long time reading them and trying to figure it all out, and once I thought I had got to the bottom of it; but no. No.

The rules mean nothing.

I can't really say much about the quality of this game other than to say, I have no idea if it's any good. But that would make this post really short, and I've got time to kill. So, let's review the bits we can figure out.

The board itself is quite nicely constructed. All the circles on the paths are slightly indented so the balls don't roll around, and the Discomatic (ha ha) spins smoothly, causing circles to open and close. If a ball falls through a hole, it rolls out as intended. It all functions rather well. However, there is a major design flaw: Not every circle will open or close when the disc turns, and just from looking at the board, it is possible to tell which circles are safe and which ones aren't.

Being able to tell which spaces are safe would actually be the death of the game if it wasn't for the fact that the chances of losing a piece through the Discomatic (he he) are incredibly remote anyway. You see, the Discomatic (I just can't stop saying it!) is only activated when you roll a double * on the custom dice, and as there is only one such symbol on each dice, you are effectively only going to activate the Discomatic (okay, I'm over it now) by rolling a double-six. You can imagine how many times that happens over the course of a game.

Battle Boarding - custom dice
I like custom dice... Not these dice... Other dice.

Without any real risk from the Discomatic (sorry, couldn't help myself), the game comes down to who can move their pieces most strategically. Here we have two problems: First, the number of spaces you can move is dictated by dice roll, so any strategy can be screwed through dumb luck; and second, I can't figure out the bloody rules to know how to move the pieces.

And that's what we're left with: A curiosity from the 1970s that has a special mechanical board without a real function, a set of rules that really don't make any sense at all, and a theme that is so pasted on you can smell the adhesive.

Could this be a good game? I don't know. Possibly. The amount of randomness seems to suggest it isn't going to be any fun for lovers of deep strategy, while the limited use of the special disc inlay for the board seems to suggest it isn't going to appeal to those people who like a quick, dumb game of luck either.

I think it's just a poorly designed game with no real merit.

My wife picked up Battle Boarding for me at a car boot sale, paying the princely sum of 50p. I'm not sure she got value for money. At the moment I am keeping hold of it, just because I don't think there are many in existence and I like weird rare stuff. However, as soon as The Vault starts to get a bit full, I can see this being one of the first games I cull.

If anyone thinks they have figured out the rules, do feel free to post below. Maybe, one day, with your help, I will get to play...

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