It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any board games because it’s been a while since I’ve bought any new board games. When you own as many games as I do, there comes a point where something has to really jump out at you. If it doesn’t grab my attention, intrigue me, and, hopefully, fill a spot on my gaming shelf to make it worth my while, it probably is going to have a hard time getting me to buy it.
But, like any addiction, I can’t always stop myself, even though I really could probably go my whole life without buying another game and still have more than enough games to keep from getting bored. So I recently purchased two games, and here’s my thoughts.
First up, INCURSION by Grindhouse Games. (www.incursiongame.com)
Incursion is of the alternate history genre. Of course those wacky Nazis are at it again, employing the standard fantasy-horror elements of S&M themed villainess, mutants, zombies, and werewolves. On the side of the Allies are (unsurprisingly) American G.I.s in power armor because . . . well, why the hell not?
This is, sad to say, pretty standard stuff. It’s strange to say that occult Nazis and techno-Americans is familiar territory at this point. I’m waiting for someone to mix that trope up. How about an alternate WW2 where the Axis powers are the techno guys and the Allies are the ones using zombies? I know that Nazis are the classic bad guys, and only bad guys use the walking dead, but still, it’s just getting silly at this point, isn’t it?
Okay, so who cares? The theme of the game is less important than the game itself. And Incursion, despite its worn formula, is actually a pretty fun little game. It’s an extremely fast, extremely simple firefight in a maze kind of thing. I immediately thought of Tannhauser, another game with the exact same theme. But where Tannhauser is excessivly complicated and burdened with an extremely silly line-of-sight system (the so-called Pathfinder system. The less said about it, the better), Incursion operates on a far more intuitive level.
The game comes with a handy reference sheet that contains all the rules. While there’s also a rulebook, it really isn’t necessary, although it does contain the scenarios. Still, the game works so simply and the reference sheet is so user friendly that this is a very accessible game.
There is one unique element to the game (at least to me). It’s the Command Card rules. Players draw command cards that can be used to give advantages or disadvantages. Every Command Card can be “killed” by spending Command Points. Those Command Points can also be used to give your characters extra actions per turn and also determine who goes first most rounds via blind bidding. This is really where most the decision making is found in the game. If your opponent plays a “Low Ammo” card on one of your soldiers, do you spend those precious Command Points to get rid of it, or do you tough it out? You can always kill any card, just as long as you’re willing to lose the points. The points are replenished every turn, but you never really have enough.
Incursion is a nice introduction to squad-themed combat. There’s nothing complicated here. You don’t have to worry about tracking ammo, and you can pick up and play within half-an-hour. The components are nice. Pieces are all cardboard, inculding cardboard standees for the soldiers, and reference cards for each of the units in play makes everything simple. Heck, I’ll admit that even the worn out theme appeals to me because who doesn’t like a good ol-fashioned Nazi zombie with a landmine strapped to its chest?
The only problem I see with the game is that it only comes with one double-sided board which limits replayability. One of the things I look for in a game like this is the ability to spice things up and switch things up. You can’t really do that with this game. You can throw a few doors in different places, but that’s about it. The scenarios do a good job of offering a variety of missions with a variety of objectives, but I can see this game getting predictable eventually. Despite this flaw, it’s a fun game with a good presentation and clear, accessible rules.
As games like this go, you could do a lot worse. I give it a pass. Not a must buy, but a worthwhile one if you decide to give it a shot.
Next up, THOSE PESKY HUMANS by Minion Games. (www.miniongames.com) In many ways, this game is a lot like Incursion. It’s by a company I’ve never heard of, and it’s about a battle in an underground lair. The presentation is even similar because all the figures are represented by surprisingly colorful cardboard stand ups.
Those Pesky Humans is a dungeon crawl-themed game. Yes, I already have several of these type games. Most notably, Decent by Fantasy Flight Games, which is an excellent game but complex and time consuming and not without its flaws. I initially bought Those Pesky Humans hoping it would be a lighter version of Decent, like Munchkin but without being so damned annoying.
Unfortunately, despite a nice presentation and some cool ideas, Those Pesky Humans feels like a game that should’ve spent more time in the development. It’s not a bad game, but it just seems . . . unfinished.
The object for the humans is to raid the dungeon, grab the three legendary gems, and escape. The object for the monster player is to stop them. Some unusual choices seem to get in the way of the making the game truly enjoyable. In most games like this, you can’t walk through enemy figures, but the monsters don’t get in the humans’ way. So there’s no real reason for the humans to try and fight them. The adventurers are just better off dashing and grabbing.
The problem is that the monster player has a virtual unlimited supply of monsters. All he’s required to do is play cards to summon them onto the board. Every minion requires at least 2 hits to kill, and since in most circumstances, 1 hit is all an attack can do, the players will end up wasting a lot of time killing monsters that just respawn almost immediately. It’s a losing fight, which might be the intention, but it’s such an obvious losing proposition that most human players will immediately see the pointlessness in it.
The monster player also gets to place the chests that contain the gems. Only three of the ten chests containt he gems. The rest contain traps, and I admit I find it annoying that the humans are discouraged from opening chests. The various rooms of the lair all contain different treasures and some have special rules that can effect the humans or the monsters. Yet even these rules seem tacked on and rather insignificant.
Every human and the ogre master fo the dungeon each get three special ability cards that can be used once per game. The problem is that these abilities just aren’t that useful for the most part. Furthermore, aside from a small customization, none of the human characters feel all that different. It seems strange to me that the wizard character must be adjacent to attack monsters just like the paladin. Or that the thief can bypass doors but not trapped chests. Ultimately, the only thing that really distinguishes the different human characters are their three basic stats, but those are just numbers and lack personality.
And that’s where I think Those Pesky Humans comes up short. It’s well-presented. Especially fun is the art, which is cartoony and colorful in a Sergio Argones style. But the game itself isn’t quite equal to it. It’s a good idea but a deeply flawed execution.
Also, one final problem I have is that the Ogre who runs the dungeon is pretty tough, and if the humans manage to kill him, they get one turn where he can’t play cards on them . . . and that’s it. Any monsters in the dungeon still get to attack. And he comes back on the next turn. It hardly seems a pressing penalty to the monster player, and once again makes me ask why the humans would bother fighting the ogre when they can just outrun him?
Oh, and while I’m not usually the kind of guy to nitpick on this stuff, I have to say the card quality is a little bit iffy. The cardstock is thin and some of my cards were already a bit worn right out of the box.
Is it a terrible game? No. Is it worth purchasing? I’d probably say not, although if you’re a light gamer looking for something simple and don’t mind a few ambigious rules here and there, it could probably entertain you for a while. So in the final verdict, I have to give Those Pesky Humans a rating of Pass On It.
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