Saturday 31 August 2013

Review - Incursion (First Edition)


Published by Grindhouse Games
Designed by Richard Halliwell (ha ha - not really... It's Jim Bailey)
For 2 players

Looks good, right?

Incursion, or Space Hulk 2.5, is a game with a huge amount of promise. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it fails to deliver on that promise. It's a game that I have been interested in trying for quite some time, but I was never prepared to pay the high asking price to get a copy. I finally got my chance to own it when I was approached by someone on who wanted to trade for my copy of Age of Mythology. I wasn't particularly fond of Age of Mythology, so I was happy to make the trade.

Now, by the time this deal was agreed, I already knew that Incursion was going to get a reboot through Kickstarter, a website that allows artists to get the money they need through crowd-funding. The new edition was all chromed up, with plastic miniatures (and a suitably high price tag), so I saw my trade as a way to try out the game to see if I liked it before dropping serious money.

I have been itching to write this review for a while (not literally, I'm not diseased or anything). However, I have purposefully held off doing so. I was reluctant to post anything negative during the Kickstarter campaign. I didn't want to be accused of trying to sabotage the campaign (not that my opinions are important enough to do that), and I didn't think it would be fair to the publishers or the backers. However, now the campaign is over, I can write the review I wanted to...

I love Space Hulk. I was a huge fan of the first edition of the game, and I now own the super shiny third edition. Sandwiched between those two editions was a version of the game that was pretty terrible. It removed the sand timer element for the marine player (removing all the frantic excitement and sense of urgency that came with it), changed a bunch of rules, and had a horrible flamethrower mechanism that was just fiddly.

While Space Hulk was out of print, the first edition of Incursion came along. It was quite open in what it was trying to do: It wanted to provide a game experience that was akin to Space Hulk; and it wrapped up that idea in a really rather groovy theme with some excellent artwork and background fluff. Unfortunately, some of the core mechanisms of Incursion appear to have been lifted from that second edition of Space Hulk. And that's a problem.

So, what is Incursion?

The basic premise is that World War II is still raging. The Germans have managed to harness dark magic to create an army of zombies. To combat this threat, the Allies have created power suits that their marines can wear. The game covers a campaign by a small group of these armoured marines infiltrating a German base to destroy the zombie-making facilities.

How amazing does that sound?

Okay, okay. Zombies... (snore). But other than that, it's a great idea for a board game, and reminds me of stuff like Hell Boy.

The game is quite compact, shipping in a small box that contains a rulebook, player aid, double-sided game board, tokens, cards, and stand-up card characters.

Yeah, that's right. Cardboard stand-up characters. I have absolutely no problem with this. Miniatures are nice (and you could buy metal ones if you really wanted), but I would rather have a good game with nicely drawn stand-ups than a bad game with tons of plastic in the box. And these stand-ups really are nice, with some great illustrations. It is also very easy to tell which way they are facing, and as facing is important, this makes gameplay smoother.

Other components are a bit more troublesome. The board is nice and study, but it offers only two different map layouts rather than being modular; and the cards have square corners and black borders, which is never good when they need to be shuffled.

But Grindhouse Games is a small company, and the strength of the game was never going to be in the production values (which are actually very good considering), but in the rule set. This is a very lean, streamlined game. The rulebook is just 24 pages, and that includes all the scenarios, background fluff, and unit descriptions. The rules are really only 6 pages (including diagrams and artwork). There is an A4 reference card included in the box, and that contains pretty much every rule on it. You could read the reference card and start playing straight away. That's excellent.

Incursion rules
The rules - beautifully laid out and clear.

Incursion reference card
Reference card.

Of course, the reason the rules are so straight forward is because the game shares a lot of mechanisms with the super-streamlined game of Space Hulk.

The core concept is that both players have units under their control. A unit gets a certain number of action points to do different things. For example, moving one space forwards is an action point, opening a door is an action point, turning around is an action point. More powerful actions cost more action points (throwing a grenade takes two actions). You can supplement your limited action points by using command points from a pool that gets replenished every turn.

Command points can also be used in two other ways. First, at the start of each round, players will secretly bid for initiative using command points. The person who bids the most will go first, but will have fewer command points (and therefore actions) on his or her turn. On a turn, players can also play cards that provide tactical advantages, and command points can be discarded in order to "kill" the card before it can take effect.

And that's pretty much it for the rules. The game is scenario based, so in each game both players will be given an objective to complete, then you set up the board, select your units (you get a certain number of points to spend), and start playing.

Technically, the game is more in-depth than Space Hulk, as the use of command points and cards provides additional choices; however, while I really enjoy Space Hulk, I cannot recommend Incursion.

Incursion game board
Detail of the game board.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are lots of reasons to like this game, and I know there are a lot of fans; but for me, this game was a dud. There are simply too many mechanisms that just don't work quite right.

First up, you have the battle cards. Every turn you get to draw a number of cards (based on the scenario). These cards are drawn from a common deck, and not every card works for every unit. Certain cards only work for zombies, certain cards only work for units with ranged weapons, and so on. I have lost track of the number of times I have drawn cards I can't use, while my opponent has drawn incredibly useful cards. I think it would have been better to have two card decks: one for each side in the conflict.

The other problem with the cards is that they are free to play, and you always redraw at the start of the round. You could hold back cards for the right moment, but you are technically denying yourself lots of additional actions by doing so. You are better off using every card you can as soon as you can, so you can cycle through the cards and do more things. It just doesn't feel as strategic as it should.

The next problem is one that is inherited from second edition Space Hulk: There is no time limit for the marines. Adding a time limit adds so much enjoyment and stress. When you are under pressure, you really have to think on your feet, and you are more likely to make a silly mistake just because you don't have the time to sort things out properly. This is so much fun, and there is so much laughter around our table when Space Hulk is being played. You don't get that with Incursion, and it makes the game feel a bit slow and tedious.

Another major problem relates to those command points. While you may sometimes spend a lot of them to ensure you go first in a round, in my experience the best idea is to hold on to as many as possible to "spam" them on your turn. There is no limit to how many command points you can spend on any unit, so you can create some ridiculous results.

For example, in my last game, my opponent had 6 command points. He also had one additional command point from having a sergeant. Furthermore, the sergeant can "give" all his four action points to other units. That's 11 command points to spend. My opponent used all 11 on a single unit (which also had 3 action points of its own). 14 activations in a single turn. Considering the marines are supposed to be slow-moving, the ability to cross the board in a single turn is potentially game-breaking.

Command point spamming is particularly problematic in early rounds (when neither player is prepared to waste points to win initiative), and in the one round per game when the Allies get to choose to go first without needing to bid command points.

The last major problem relates to overwatch. Sorry, I mean reaction fire. In Space Hulk, you could pay action points to set up your marines so they could fire in the enemy turn. In Incursion, you don't need to pay anything. If you can't see an enemy at the end of your turn, you go into reaction fire for free. From then on, if an enemy does something in your line of sight, you get to make a free attack. You can do this every time an action is taken, as long as you don't roll any doubles (as this indicates you have run out of ammo). Oh, and did I mention that some units can do reaction fire using only one dice, meaning they have unlimited ammo?

Incursion Germans
Some of the villains.

Okay, I guess by now you can see I'm not a fan, so I suppose I should sum up.

I really like the theme of this game. I love the artwork. I love the fact you can get the entire rule set on a single A4 card. The ability to be able to learn and teach the game in 10 minutes is fantastic. The card components are of good quality, and the board is very nice (but limited). I like the idea of battle cards and command points to add more tactical options. I can definitely see why some people would like the game, and I guess my suggestion is that you should try before you buy.

Unfortunately, I just don't like the game. The cards and command points make everything too swingy, and I don't get a real sense of tension when playing. However, the simple rule set does mean you could easily make house rules. You could limit command points, you could add a timer, you could remove the battle cards, and you could add a cost for reaction fire.

But then, of course, you're playing Space Hulk.

Monday 26 August 2013

Review - Summonaria


Published by Salamander Games
Designed by Josh Fry & Chad Scott
For 2-4 players who have no other games to play

Is it ever right to review a game you have never played?

Technically, I suppose it's not.

You haven't played it. You haven't experience the game "in action." You haven't learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of the design.

So, it probably isn't right to judge a game you have never bothered to punch out the game components for. But for Summonaria, I'm going to make an exception. Why? Because I simply cannot bring myself to waste an evening (or more) playing this game enough times to be in a position where it becomes "fair" for me to pass judgement.

Here it is then. My totally unfair review based on exactly zero plays...

I suppose I should start at the beginning. A while back, I was looking to expand my game collection with some games that were different to the bulk of what I had. I mainly had very theme-heavy dungeon-crawling adventuring sort of games. I was also (as always) looking on eBay for out of production games that I could add to the Vault.

While searching, I found a seller who had some copies of Summonaria that he was offloading for about £5 each including postage. A cool-looking war game, with lots of different magical factions battling across a grid-map, for £5? Count me in.

Unfortunately, as soon as I received the game, I realised the error of my ways. The first clue was the quality of the components.

The box is nice enough, but it is about three times as deep as it needs to be to hold the contents. This isn't a massive issue, but it's annoying for people who don't have a lot of shelf space. However, once the lid was off, it became apparent that the production quality was not great. The rulebook is a horrible stapled thing in black and white that looks like it was run off on a photocopier, and it comes with a double-sided sheet of errata with about nine corrections, plus a bunch of alternative rules

There is also a smaller booklet with a colour cover that describes all the wizards and units in the game. Looked promising until I opened it and found yet more black and white pages.

Summonaria Rules
The rulebook, unit description booklet, and errata sheet

The units in the game are represented by large tokens that each show a full-colour picture of the unit, along with its vital statistics (attack, life points, movement) and the combination of elements required to bring the unit into play. The artwork is very pleasing, and the tokens are large to make the most of that artwork. Unfortunately, the cardstock is incredibly thin. This means the tokens get creased and marked easily, slide around if there is a bit of a breeze, and are difficult to pick up and manipulate. (Of course, I am guessing, as I never even bothered to unpunch the tokens.)

The game also ships with a deck of cards that isn't great either. The cardstock is okay, and the corners are rounded; but the good stuff ends there. The cards show different elements like toadstools and gems that are required to summon units into play, so they don't need to look amazing; but the artwork on them is boring (functional, but boring). The borders are also black, and will clearly start to show signs of wear after just a few uses.

The board is probably the best part of the package. It is thick and nicely illustrated, and speaks of the quality that is definitely lacking elsewhere.

Summonaria Board
The board

The final component in the box really highlights the cheapness of the production. You get three dice. One D6, one D8, and one D10. These are used when units attack. Considering most units roll at least two of the same kind of dice when they attack, and some roll three, you simply don't get the dice you need in the box. I know most gamers have dice, but they shouldn't be expected to add their own to a new game. And they certainly shouldn't be expected to reroll the same dice three or four times for a single attack.

But enough about the components. I suppose you want to know why I am "reviewing" this game without playing it.

The truth is, I read the rules, and it became obvious that the game is just horribly flawed. I knew I was never going to like it, so there really is no point in me playing it.

The game revolves around wizards, who are battling to seize control of towers around an island. The wizards (the players), have access to special resources (cards) that are combined together to summon magical creatures (the units).

So, on his turn, a player will draw two resource cards. He will then use cards to summon a new unit (if possible), which will be placed at the end of his turn. He will then move existing units, and fight enemies.

In principle, that sounds okay. Drawing resources randomly could potentially be annoying (if you never get what you need), but the rules do allow you to make use of resources, even if they don't exactly match your requirements.

For example, a Darkling requires 1 toadstool, 3 gems, and 2 dragon fangs. If you don't have this combination, you can use extra toadstools in place of the gems and fangs. You can also user gems to replace fangs. Basically, each resource can be substituted for any resource that appears to the right of it on the unit token.

Summonaria Cards
The cards. Pretty, aren't they?

Okay. So far, so good. Mitigated randomness. Creating recipes to summon units. Nothing there sounds awful, right?

But wait... I'm getting there...

The biggest problem becomes apparent when you start moving units around. Each unit can move a certain number of spaces (indicated, perfectly logically I'm sure, by a value displayed in a circle on the unit token). If a unit wants to fight, it must have at least one movement point left. Furthermore, fighting finishes that unit's movement.

Now, imagine I have a unit with two movement points, and I am exactly two movement points away from your unit, which also has two movement points.

See the problem?

I can't attack you on my turn, because I would need to move two spaces, leaving me adjacent to you, but with no movement points left to instigate a fight. Of course, you can't attack me on your turn for exactly the same reason. Neither of us can try to move into a better position, because as soon as one of us moves even one space closer, the other player will be able to attack first. So instead, we just stand there and stare at each other.

This inability to strike out to attack your opponent is compounded by the fact that if you attack a unit in their home territory, that unit gets an extra dice to roll in combat. This actively encourages players to "turtle" for long periods of time within their own defensive perimeter.

But I'm just getting started on why combat sucks so badly.

When a unit finally manages to get into an attack position, that unit will roll some dice. The number and type of dice varies, so you may get to roll 1D6, or you may get to roll 2D8, or maybe even 3D10. When you roll, every dice that turns up a 1 is considered a hit. Yeah. You read that right. Only the roll of a 1 is a hit. Those units that roll 1D10 in combat only have a 1 in 10 chance of ever landing a blow.

On the plus side, if you do land at least one hit, you get to roll all of your attack dice again, and then again, and then again, and so on until you roll your dice and fail to land a hit. Of course, the chances of rolling a hit are incredibly low, and because you only get one of each kind of dice in the box, it can take an age to actually finish a combat.

If the defending unit survives the attack, it gets to retaliate in exactly the same way; but I am sure by then your opponent will be too fed up to care.

So that's basically it. You stand around for ages, then you roll lots of dice. The aim is to take control of towers around the board, and if you ever have a majority control, then you win.

Summonaria Tokens
You will note how all the tokens are unpunched. Wonder why...

Controlling towers not only brings you closer to winning, but also makes it incredibly difficult for your opponent to retaliate. This is because units in the tower effectively get an additional hit point, but also because if you own a tower in your opponent's territory, your opponent only gets to draw one resource card per turn, making it tough to generate the reinforcements required to retake the tower.

All in all, I just don't think the game is well thought out. By the time I had finished reading the rules, I had realised I would probably never play it. I put it on the shelf, just in case; and there it has stayed for quite some time.

But now I am sick of looking at that box. It is time to get rid of it.

Monday 19 August 2013

Review - Chaotic: Trading Card Game

Chaotic Starter Decks

Chaotic: Trading Card Game
Designed by... A whole bunch of people
Published by 4Kids Entertainment
For 2 players, aged 8 to adult


Here we go again.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

The other week, I reviewed Huntik, a trading card game that was so slow moving I could feel my beard growing while I played it. I purchased Huntik because I saw a starter set in a store for £1, and I really can't pass up a game (any game) if I can get it for £1.

And that's why I own Chaotic.

I don't like trading card games. I really don't. The starter sets are always weak, giving you crappy cards so you are forced to buy boosters; and then, when you do buy boosters, you just get loads of duplicates of cards you already have. I hate that. I hate that business model.

Hate it.

But I was in my local Poundland, and I saw Chaotic on the shelf. There were two starter sets. One was all shiny and red (the Underworld starter), and one was all shiny and blue (the Overworld starter). And they were £1 each. Of course I bought them.

So what did I get for my £2? I'll tell you... I got two boxes of very nicely illustrated cards with absolutely no game to play with them.

I know how trading card games work. I know that starter sets are designed to give you a taste of the game while still being unsatisfying enough that you are tempted to buy some boosters. But seriously, the starter sets for Chaotic are possibly the worst starter sets I have ever seen for a collectable game. Ever.

Each box technically contains everything you need to play, as long as what you want to play is a strategy-free, painfully slow game of Top Trumps crossed with... with... I don't know... the Devil, I think.

You get a 48 card pre-constructed deck (pre-constructed to be dull as ditch water), 4 "highly collectable" foil cards (kill me now), a rule book (surprisingly large and clearly written), and a paper playing mat (that sound was my soul dying).

Chaotic rule book
The Chaotic rule book

(Have I ever mentioned I hate paper playing mats? Oh yeah, in that Huntik review.)

The playing mat in each box only gives you "your" half of the board, so your opponent has to have a playing mat as well. The two mats are then placed side by side. The reason you need a mat at all is because this is yet another card game where movement and positioning is important.

Chaotic player mat
The Chaotic player mat (from the Underworld starter box)

The premise is simple. You have six monsters, and your opponent has six monsters. Your monsters move from space to space, and try to kill the enemy monsters. If you kill all your opponent's monsters, you win. It couldn't be a simpler concept: Beat up the other guys. But how do you achieve this?

(Caveat: I am now going to talk about the "advanced" game. There is a basic game, but there really is no point playing it. There's no point playing the game at all, but... you know... if you have to, just play the "advanced" game. If you have to. Like, if there's no way you can avoid it.)

As well as six monsters, each player also has in his hand six "mugic" cards. These are basically spells. They are called "mugic" because they are cast by playing music (see, music and magic make "mugic"). You also have six item cards, which are placed face down on the mat (one under each of your monsters). You have a deck of 10 location cards, and a deck of 20 attack cards.

On your turn, you draw a location card. This will be where the fight will happen. A location will usually have a special instruction (like, you can't play "mugic" here). It will also have an initiative symbol. The initiative symbol will match one of four traits that each monster has (courage, power, wisdom, or speed). This is where Top Trumps comes into the equation. You see, the monster that fights first is the monster with the highest value in the trait that matches the initiative symbol on the current location.

So, you and your opponent basically take it in turns to start a fight in a new location. You move one of your monsters onto a space containing an enemy monster, you reveal any item cards the monsters had face down under them, you compare the trait that is keyed to the initiative symbol on the location card, and then the monster who wins initiative attacks first.

You attack by drawing the top card off your attack deck. As you start the game with two cards in hand (plus all your "mugic" cards), you will have three attack cards to choose from.

You play an attack card, and then you and your opponent can take turns playing additional abilities, "mugic" cards (which are cast by taking "mugic" tokens off of monsters in your team, and those tokens are very limited), and stuff like that. At the end of this, the monsters take damage. And this is where the problem with the starter sets becomes evident: damage.

An attack card normally has some base damage, and perhaps a special ability. There might also be additional elemental damage that will be inflicted if the monster you are using has that particularly elemental symbol on his card. For example, if you play "Vine Snare" you do five points of damage. If your monster also has the elemental symbol for earth, you do an additional five points of damage. That's ten points total.

After damage has been taken, damage is marked on a damage track, and then your opponent gets to retaliate by going through the attack process again. This continues until one of the monsters dies.

Most of the monsters have at least 50 hit points.

Chaotic character cards
At least the art is nice

From that description, the problem should be obvious. Fights take ages. And ages. And ages. This is because (a) the attack cards in the starter decks are all very weak (normally doing a base damage of zero or five points), and (b) most of the attack cards key into elemental symbols that are not on the monsters in the pre-constructed decks.

Chaotic character cards
Two characters with no element symbols between them

The argument, of course, is that there will be more powerful attack cards in the booster packs; and once you have a few more monsters and attack cards, you can construct more powerful decks that are full of action cards that work better with the monsters you choose.

My counter-argument is that the starter decks should have been properly constructed so the game is playable right out of those starter boxes. You shouldn't feel like you need to buy more cards right away.

The game designers tried to be clever. They designed a game where the collectable aspect is intrinsic to how well the game plays. You need to buy lots of booster packs, because you need locations that have initiative symbols that play to the traits of your monsters, and you need attack cards that play to the elemental symbols on those same monsters, and you need items that play to the strengths of those same monsters, and you need "mugic" cards that key in to the traits and elements of your monsters. All the cards interlink, and I dread to think how many cards you would need to buy to have a good, functioning, powerful deck. And if you don't have a good deck, you have what the starter boxes provide: a boring deck.

The game is a soulless cash grab, with game mechanics geared around you buying more and more cards. The intention was clearly to encourage people to buy more boosters to get the benefits of deck generation. But all the designers did was encourage me to get rid of this game as quickly as possible.

Monday 12 August 2013

Review - Huntik: Trading Card Game


Huntik: Trading Card Game
Published by Upper Deck Entertainment
Designed by Big Bocca, Brian Hacker, and David Smith
For 1 or 2 players

If there is one particular grouping of words that is guaranteed to set off my Spidey sense, it is "trading card game." I don't have a problem with any of the words on an individual basis, but stick them all together, and in that order, and it's just a recipe for disaster.

You see, the problem with a trading card game is you have to enter into it knowing that any starter set you buy isn't going to give you the full experience. Indeed, if you want to know everything this game has to offer you are going to have to buy lots of blind-packaged cards. That means a serious amount of time and investment. And for a game to demand that level of commitment, it has to be really good.

I used to play Magic: The Gathering. That's a good game. That's a game that went "Yeah, you want more cards. I know you do. You aren't going to be happy unless you spend lots of money." And it was right. I spent an incredible amount of money, and spent countless hours creating themed decks to destroy my best friend in casual magic-flinging frenzies.

But I don't really have time to deck build any more; and frankly, I no longer see the appeal in buying a little foil wrapper that might contain cards I have already paid good money for in the past.

Huntik boosters
Huntik booster packs. Hmm... Shiny.

If that's the case, why the hell did I buy Huntik? After all, it isn't disguising what it is. It says "trading card game" right there on the box.

The truth is, I found this game in a discount store called The Works. They were selling starter boxes for £1. This seemed like a pretty good deal considering the starter pack contained two pre-constructed 30-card decks, a deck of mission cards, a mission map, and a DVD. Of course, I knew it was a trading card game, and therefore no starter set was going to give me the "full" experience, but I thought it might be a mildly diverting entertainment.

I subsequently went into one of the many stores in my area that sell everything for £1, and I happened to spot a very attractive metal tin among the toys. Turns out it was a special booster pack for Huntik, which contained four booster packs and a limited edition rare card. I liked the tin, so I thought I might as well drop another £1 to expand the game. After all, you shouldn't really review a trading card game based only on your experience with starter sets, as you really are only getting a very streamlined version of the game. Everyone knows that most of the fun comes from building your decks.

Huntik booster tin
Huntik booster tin. Hmm... Tinny.

However, having said that, I haven't done any deck-building with this game, and I don't intend to. I was so bored with what I experienced in the starter box, that I have no desire to put myself through any further torture just to be "fair" to the game. So yeah, I'm reviewing just what came in the starter box: two 30-card pre-constructed decks.

I have to be honest, when I first opened the box, I was far from impressed. The game is based on a pretty awful cartoon which just reminded me of Pokémon. That means the card art is lifted straight from the show, and is pretty flat and uninteresting.

Huntik cards
Huntik card art. Hmm... Shitty.

The game is played out on a paper mat, and I really hate paper mats. I realise there is no real way around the use of paper mats without adding a lot of expense to a game, but I really just can't stand them. I have a sheet of Plexiglas (like you might use for framing a poster) and I use it as an overlay for paper mats to stop them moving around and puckering along the creases. It helps, but it's not ideal.

My biggest issue when opening the box was the lack of a proper rulebook. You get a small pamphlet with the basic instructions, and a DVD that is supposed to have the full rules. That is so annoying. But it's not quite as annoying as putting the DVD in a DVD player and then being told you need to run it on a computer. And then running it on a computer and being told you need to go to a website.

Seriously? Really? You need to make learning the game this convoluted? This game has the sub-title Secrets and Seekers, and my efforts to even find the rules made it clear why.

The DVD contains an episode of the show. Hmm... cartoony.

Having finally located the rules and learned how to play, my opinion started to change slightly. I realised there were some interesting things about this game. First of all, its scenario based. The starter box includes a special deck of mission cards. This deck is further broken down into grouped cards that are used for particular missions. A set of mission cards might include an instruction card, a special boss monster to fight, several items to collect, or a location you need to reach.

For example, the training mission "Retrieve the Ring of Arc" uses just two cards. The first card has the instructions for how to play and win. The second card is the "Ring of Arc." You place the ring on the play mat in zone four. During the game, you need to reach zone four, pick up the ring, and bring it back to your starting zone. Your opponent is the defender and needs to stop you.

Huntik mission cards
Mission cards. Er... Missiony.

Even more interesting, some of the missions are for competitive play, some are for solo play, and some are for co-operative play.

Really wasn't expecting that.

I also discovered that the game involves movement. You actually bring your characters into play, and then move them around on the mat. Movement and positioning are quite important, and this lends a nice touch of strategy above and beyond choosing which card to play.

Unfortunately, this movement mechanism is also part of the biggest fault of the game.

You see, the game is divided into rounds, and each round is divided into turns. On your turn, you can do ONE thing. You can play a character from your hand onto your starting zone on the game mat, you can use a special action card (or a special action on a character in play), or you can move one character one or two spaces. That's it. That's all you can do. Then your opponent gets to do one thing. Then you get to do one thing. And so on.

Eventually, you will pass, because you don't have anything you want to do. If your opponent also passes, you both draw TWO cards (not a full hand), and a new round begins. Then it's back to that I-go-u-go system of performing one action at a time.

A good friend of mine who I was playing this with summed it up perfectly in one word: "sedentary."

The game is just so, so, so, so, so, so, so slow.

In our first round, my friend only had major heroes in his hand, and you can only play one major hero in a round. Furthermore, he played a hero who comes into play exhausted (you know, "tapped" like in Magic) and therefore can't do anything. So, the sum total of my friend's actions in the first round was to summon a character who he couldn't then do anything with anyway.

And almost everything exhausts your character. Moving (even just one space), or using a special power, will result in that character being unusable again until the next round. It really does make the game move incredibly slowly.

The first time I played this, everything seemed to take forever. It's hard to explain unless you have played the game, but only being able to do one thing every turn (and then having that one thing exhaust your character) means that even the most basic operations feel like a mammoth effort. Just advancing one character into your opponent's zone will take a minimum of three rounds.

It wouldn't be so bad if the combat part of the game was more interesting, but it isn't. If you trudge into a space containing an enemy character you must stop. Then you can choose to start a fight. Each character has an attack and defence. If your attack is higher than your opponent's defence, then you kill that opponent. However, you might be killed in the process if your opponent's attack is higher than your defence. If more than two characters are involved, then combat values are combined, and it is possible for multiple characters to be knocked out.

Some characters have special powers, and you may be lucky enough to have a combat card that will give you some kind of boost if you play it; but generally speaking, combat is just a case of comparing two values and removing the loser. Its very deterministic, and as you can see your opponent approaching a mile off (as he staggers along, lies down exhausted, gets up again, lies down exhausted, and then finally charges at you) you will have plenty of time to prepare. There really are very few ways to launch surprise attacks in this game.

Huntik tin - open
Another shot of that tin. Hmm... Lovely.

All in all, I think there are some interesting mechanisms in this game. Including movement and positioning could have worked really well, the mission cards are inventive, and including solo and co-op rules was a very good idea. Sadly, the core rules around which the game operates are all designed to create a game that plods along at a snail's pace. You don't get to do enough on your turns, and as you only get two cards each round, you will often find it difficult to put together any kind of meaningful combos or tactics.

There is a lot of missed potential. Which I guess is why you can buy Huntik for £1.

Those booster packs did come in a very nice tin though...