Saturday 29 March 2014

Fireteam Zero: Inane Ramblings about Kickstarter

Okay, I don't normally do this sort of thing, but it's Saturday evening, my wife is about to head off to work, and I am bored, so screw it... I'm going to talk about a game I'm backing on Kickstarter. This is not a review, it's just some directionless ramblings about a game I liked the look of and threw some money at. Hell, the game isn't even out yet, and won't be for some time.

(If you don't know how Kickstarter works, it is basically a crowdfunding website: You give someone money, they use the money to make something, and then they usually send you a copy of that something. Or they run off with your money.)

(Oh, and fair warning: Everything that follows is my opinion based only on what I have seen on the Kickstarter campaign. I am not privy to any "behind the scenes" stuff. I may be wrong about everything. Caveat emptor. And so on.)

The game in question is Fireteam Zero, which is based on a series of books. The premise is simple: In World War II, an undercover team of badass soldiers takes on supernatural entities in a series of gruelling close-combat scenarios. The soldiers co-operate to achieve a mission, while grotesque, nightmarish monsters swarm towards them in never-ending waves. It's like being in a pressure cooker.

With teeth.

That right there is a hook to swing on.

So, the theme initially sold me on the game. Alternative history stuff is always interesting, and this game does some interesting things with it. I mean, the box art depicts the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, except the soldiers are driving that flag into a squirming mass of barely identifiable tentacled things.

However, there are two things I really like about the theme. I'm going to list them. Course I am...

1. It's not Lovecraft. At least, not as far as I am concerned.

I absolutely love the work of H. P. Lovecraft, but I feel his work has been used too often as a source for board games. While some people are comparing Fireteam Zero to Lovecraft, the themes are quite different. Fireteam's theme is a fusion of body horror and the supernatural. Having a few creatures with tentacles does not mean the theme is Lovecraftian. Or, at least, I don't think it does.

2. It's schlocky.

I am a big fan of horror movies, and when I look at the creatures in Fireteam, I see many things that remind me of cool, schlock-horror films I love. I see references to The Thing, Slither, The Devil's Chair, Blood Beach, Night of the Scarecrow, Infestation, Blood Glacier, and many other films. And that's just cool.

So, I was already hooked on the theme, and then I saw the gameplay. One of my favourite board games is Gears of War, which is a co-operative game in which a small group of marines work together against a horde of aliens. It is a superb game that allows you to act on an ally's turn by playing cards from your hand that have different "support" benefits. Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games never really ran with it, and apart from a small expansion, the game was pretty much neglected. Furthermore, the game is not without its problems: Namely, an ungodly setup time.

I always felt that someone could take the bare mechanisms from Gears of War and turn the dial up to 11, and I really feel that is was the designers of Fireteam have done.

The game also feels incredibly customisable, offering a wealth of replayability. As an example, consider the first mission:

The mission requires the team to search 12 spots for parts to fix a ferry. All the time, they will be harried by eight corrupted animal minions. Minions respawn every time they die, so the horde is endless. The twist is, over time, the enemies mutate. New abilities are drawn randomly from a deck of cards, and the mutations stack. So, you play the mission once, and you might be facing corrupted animals that spit poison, and swarm together in packs. You play the same mission again, but this time, you are facing corrupted animals that sprout extra legs, bleed acid, and swim. (Note: I just made all those abilities up. I have no idea what the real abilities are.)

Same creatures, different rules, different tactics.

But then you can mix things up, by playing the same mission, but swapping out minions for different types of minions.

And did I mention the non-player characters? You get to take two with you, and anyone who kickstarts the project gets a total of four to choose from. These NPCs provide special abilities, but you have to keep them safe from the enemy.

Basically, the combination of choice of heroes, choice of hero special abilities, choice of NPCs, choice of minions, and the random allocation of mutations throughout the mission mean each game should be quite different.

The last thing to mention is the pledge amount. For $85, you get the base game, an exclusive NPC character (a cute doggy), and all the stretch goals. Sure, there are not as many stretch goals as there are with campaigns from bigger companies, but there are still some nice extra plastic miniatures, and some new twist and hero power cards. Enough to make that $85 pledge look like a very nice deal as far as I am concerned.

In fact, people who care about miniatures should be quite pleased with the plastic loadout for this game. There are 52 plastic figures in total, including five heroes, four NPCs, three "families" of monsters, and some bonus beasties. There are 21 unique sculpts, including three massive boss monsters that tower over everything else. I believe they are all sculpted by someone who used to make miniatures for Heroscape, but don't quote me on that.

The company is actually so proud of the miniatures, they are offering a pledge level that just gets the miniatures.

Frankly, I don't care about that. I want the game.

And that's an important point to stress: I want the game. I am very excited about the game. And that's why this whole post sounds like an infomercial. My enthusiasm is going to have crept into every word, so take those words with a good pinch of salt. Go on. Salt makes everything taste better anyway. Stick some bacon on there too.

But, in the sake of being fair and even-handed, I'm going to mention a list of things that concern me about the project:

First of all, one of the stretch goals is a CD. I couldn't be less thrilled with the prospect of a CD to listen to while I play a board game if I tried. If they swapped that CD out for a copy of the first book in the series, I'd do a little Snoopy dance.

It seems like you only get four dice in the box. There should be six, because it is possible for some attacks to involve rolling six dice. I am not opposed to rerolling sometimes, but with four dice, it seems like rerolling will be required for most attacks. Seriously, put six dice in the box, and six dice in a paid add-on. Hell, put six in as stretch goal. Instead of that damned CD.

And then there is delivery time. The Kickstarter claims the game will be available in October. That's a pretty close deadline. I would like to know if that is at all feasible. Most Kickstarters slide a bit, but this is a smaller project than some others. I would at least like to know if it is realistic to expect the game before Christmas.

And there you have it. That's why I'm backing Fireteam Zero.

Thank you for indulging me. I promise I'll review something soon. Probably Dark Darker Darkest, which is another game I got through Kickstarter...

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