And if you believe the tales, legend has it that there is a dark and foreboding dwelling, a dark castle casting its menacing shadow across the land, tucked away in a secluded valley where evil resides. Creatures of myth and legend are rumoured to reside here, wreaking their horrific ways upon the peasant-like populous. Poppycock I say…this I have to see for myself. So off to discover the truth behind the stories I go…
(Press play for a background ambience of horror whilst reading…you know you want to)
…Ohhhhhh Noooooooo! It is all true!…
the cheeky buggers!
That’s my castle they speak ill of. And I tell you what. They have only gone and sent word cross the land to call to arms heroes and adventurers to put an end to my tyranny. I have to say I am not impressed at all.
Is there no peace for an innocent Vampire, Lich, Succubus or weird fellow that carries his head around in his hand?
What’s All The Fuss About?
‘Am I the evil bad guy?’ You may well ask…and I think you did ask it well. Yes indeed. This time we are the forces of evil about to meet an end to our monstrous reign of terror…if the revolting peasants have their way (and most of them are pretty revolting, I can tell you)
It’s another giant box full of plastic…I too am a “copious miniature” sceptic. My cynical realism often marvels how well Kickstarter projects fair when reliance is completely on weight of plastic.
Is Village Attacks another one of these flash in the pan jobbies??? Can it (if you will excuse the expression) hold its own against the competition? Is there a real game beneath the layers of figures and lavish art work?
we shall see!
(Disclaimer: Grimlord Games provided me with a copy of the game to preview and coincide with fulfilment to backers…this is not a biased or paid review, but my own gaming experiences)
Immersion or Subversion?
Without a doubt this game looks the part. The Art is wonderful and all components cohere to create a wonderfully dark environment not unlike Hammer Horror setting only with a more contemporary feel to the rendering (just to clarify…I mean it is not as tacky as Hammer, not set in modern times) The multitude of miniatures look the part and are well represented on the player dashboards and associated components but looks are not all that maketh an immersive experience.
I will be totally honest now. When I saw this on Kickstarter I loved the look but was not convinced the game would be entertaining to play. In essence it looked like a tower defence game where the bad guys defended against an ever growing influx of angry peasants.
…well, when I got to play, I was surprisingly wrong. Once I had the rules down I became engrossed in the gameplay. Yes there is a constant array of pointy farm implements but this is an all engaging puzzle to solve. A randomised (and very limited) selection of actions have to be utilised carefully to optimise their effectiveness. It is a real challenge to keep these monstrous beings alive. Yes there are special powers and abilities…and yes we can upgrade or level up but at no point are we ever so powerful the game is a since to play. We are always on the back foot. Disgusting peasants, heroes and special characters are oozing from every crack in our wondrous domain…and they are all hell-bent on destroying the heart of our castle.
So, in not so short, the look of the game sets the scene but the way the game works really keeps us engaged and fully immersed and invested in the survival of our horrific characters.
This really did surprise me..but more on this later
Simply put, we have a minimum of three monsters to control. The game comprises a series of increasingly difficult scenarios, each with its unique castle set up, special room effects and locations for the peasants to breach our defences…or in video game terms “spawn”.
We roll custom dice that allow us to make attacks, move, defend , pick up and set traps or activate special abilities. With only ix of these dice, you can see that we are limited with what we do so every decision is a critical one. A randomised deck of cards tells us what type of peasant, hunter or hero enters the castle and a simple hierarchy of needs dictates which order the AI game moves the villagers, who they attack and (th use of a blind draw) which arch enemies they have (this allows double damage to a nemesis). And that is it. The game itself plays smoothly and is not complex in terms of game round. We use our actions, the game attacks us then moves villagers close to us then new villagers spawn. The individual scenarios influence this, dictating the difficulty level, the volume of invading villagers and a variety of scenario specific ‘win’ conditions make for a varied and entertaining gameplay.
I don’t want to dwell on game specifics but will mention the monster skills bar has the potential, as we gain experience from eliminating villagers, to cash in our experience points to upgrade these skills, giving us opportunity to broaden our epetoire of skills to confront the villagers with.
There is a castle/villager dashboard that tracks the health of the castle, the morale of the villagers ( this we need to bring to zero so the villagers bottle it and run away) and a turn tracker. The dials make it easy to track important stats but more importantly play host to the trap selection and the villager event deck. At certain scenario indicated times this deck is refered to and we need to draw from it. New circumstances then start to affect the game…needless to say little good comes from anything uncovered from this deck of cards.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I have already touched upon the artwork, which is excellent throughout the entire game…on all components. The setting is dark and foreboding but the art is not. Unlike some games of this genre the art is clear and all detail can be picked out well. The map tiles, tokens, player boards and castle/villager tracker are all of thick, sturdy card and the cards similarly are tick, sturdy and linen finished.
The miniatures are very well sculpted from a detail point of view but some I unpacked were a little distorted from compression during storage (the plastic is a more flexible material than that found in Games Workshop Warhammer figures but it is a simple task to straighten them up…(usually an odd sword or pitchfork)
…my only criticism with the miniatures is in reference to base size. I am a little confused by the disparity in base size. Peasants small bases…fine !…but some hunters are small & some are on large bases. Then some village heroes are small based and there is a mix of base size for our monsters too. None of this actually impacts on gameplay but aesthetically in my mind I would have though the more heroic or important characters would have larger bases if any were to be large. The mix of sizes messes my brain up a little.
I have made some small changes to rectify this in my photos …so base sizes pictured may not be what backers actually receive.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Adam Smith
- Artist: Bjorn Hurri, Felix Bauer-Schlichtegroll, Brian Coughlan, Alex Heath & Henning Ludvigson
- Graphic Design: Aleksandra Bilic & Chris Doughman
- Sculpts: Greebo Games, Victor Hugo, Beholder Factory, Fernando Armentano, Kieran Russell Alex Popovici & Krysa Project
- Game Publisher: Grimlord Games Ltd
- Playtime : 15-90 mins depending on scenario
- Gangs of one: 1-5
- Age of Consent: 14+
- DOB: 2017
So a rather large-scale cooperative game that can be played solo. We soloists will have to play with three monsters as a minimum as the game system is designed around three monsters working together, using their combined strengths of Guardian, Support or Decimator.
There is only health tokens and experience tokens to book keep, so we will never be overwhelmed with their upkeep. Similarly during their activation, each monster works in turn so once we work out our overall plan of attack, defence or whatever, each monster carries out its role before the next.
As a deck of cards controls the influx of villagers, we need make no decisions here and each group of marauding villagers has a simple hierarchy of needs which makes decision making on their behalf simple too. Any joint decisions are always 50/50 so the first player token is tossed for a heads or tails result….thus reducing decision making once more. So, in effect the game controls the villagers. We just move them. Combat is a simple ‘automatic hit’ system when dealing villager damage to our monsters and vice versa (unless room conditions make it a 50:50 chance of success at which point we merely flip a coin) so there is no rolling, no doubt or luck involved. Ultimately we are able to focus predominantly on our monsters and allow ourselves to become immersed in the narrative/story that unfolds in front of us…
…this title actually facilitates a really good solo gaming experience and allows the soloist to experience pretty much an identical experience to the multiplayer cooperative game
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is winable…as we start with simple scenarios (although they can be touch and go at times) but as we progress though the scenarios, the challenge becomes more difficult. Villagers are more frequent, more heroes turn up and we have more complex win conditions. This makes for a very interesting and varied game experience. It is no pushover but one will not need to try a scenario thirty times before achieving success.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rule book is pretty large. Thirty Seven pages large. The language and explanations are, for the most part clear and there are numerous photographs/examples to illustrate game play. Fourteen pages of this are scenarios and thee is also a Rules summery sheet which is helpful during play. I felt there were a couple of ambiguities in and amongst the throng regarding the placement of villagers and the determining which nemesis they were affiliated with. Some thought, trial and error and logical reasoning sorted this out. The game actually comes with coloured clip on bases but I actually found it quicker to use some coloured cubes for the Hunters. Once playing the game, one realises the gameplay is very straight forward, despite the length of rule book. Many sections in the rules make reference to deployment of aspects of the game be it tokens, traps, villagers etc. The scenarios also help as going from 1-3 introduce different, new elements to the game. This helps avoid us having to jump into the deepens of a thick, sludgy pool
- Lucky Buggers: Actions for our monsters are reliant on dice rolling. Rolling six of the custom dice, in fact. So there is an element of luck here but this game is about dealing with adversity in the most productive way we can. Random ordered cards also dictate which type of villager break through our defenses, and consequently storm the castle. This adds to the replay-ability and enhances expectancy as we never know just what is around the next corner. Ultimately it is how we deal with the situation in front of us… how we optimise our resources.
- Highs and Lows: This has a horror theme that, from an image point of view, is serious. The theme is us, the soloist, playing a monster who has continually forced its will on the world, which is an interesting angle to take, but all that aside, this is really an intense game of survival. The theme is not depressing, despite its horror nature and gaming experience is …or at least for me…has been very positive. It leaves me always wanting more
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: Very much dependant on the scenario chosen, the mapping of the castle can be modest to monstrous. With all the many tokens, miniatures in the wings, the player boards, the castle and well all the many, many components, you will require quite a large playing area. I have managed to fit most things in to a metre by metre space but still have bits and pieces left in the game box. Unless you have an enormous coffee table, this is at least a dining table experience (I am not fortunate to own one of those new-fangled posh gaming tables with built-in drink holders and nickel-plated brass ash trays)
- Build It Up Just To Knock It Down: Set up time is dependant on scenario, sorting through which tiles are required to make up the castle. These are well labeled and each scenario has both a picture and the ID letters for each corresponding tile. Hero boards, decks of cards require placing (no special shuffling or sorting) so all that remains are the figures. only the Evil beings start on the board and as all other figures come in a storage tray, they can be dragged on to the game surface kicking and screaming as and when the game calls for them. So to this end set up (especially if in possession of the foresight to bag up tokens, is little more than ten minutes…depending on how long we take to digest any special rules pertaining to a specific scenario. Teardown is equally quick. If you, like I, have each deck of cards in a ziplock bag and the same for tokens, packing away shouldn’t be more than ten minutes or so. As a big game goes, it is a pretty straight forward affaire to dive right in to the action.
Me, Myself and I:
Well! What a blast. The scenarios (certainly the first three or so) break us in gently to the gaming system gently… or as gentle as a sledgehammer can be, with each subsequent scenario introducing new game concepts… like village moral, village events, traps and so on. I was unsure how this would play, having in my mind the idea that this was just a basic tower defence style of game. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that although there are many elements of that here, as the villagers are relentless in their pursuit of our destruction, there is a significant layering of mechanics and details just under the surface. And once the rules are down, the game plays quickly and easily.
I and myself were quite surprised at how many decisions were required. As for me, well…this was a brilliant gaming experience, not having anything of this nature in the BSoMT collection. It was a nice surprise to discover just how challenging it was and how engaging/invested I became in my monsters. The bad guys are the good guys in this game. I found myself playing the first three scenarios in just one sitting, each time eager to jump in to the next.
This is not an adventure, exploration or dungeon crawl game. It is simply a fight for survival against an onslaught of villagers armed with farming utensils, the sneaky beggers.If you are looking for an adventure exploration roleplay experience this will not be for you but if you want to be engrossed in a fight for survival, have a real puzzle solving session and fancy being the bad guy for a change, I am confident you will love this.
It is nice to have characters that despite special powers or abilities are still woefully prepared for the enormity of the task ahead. Always being on the back foot generates a tension the game right from the off. There is some “luck” in the die rolling but the “intelligent” part of the experience is how we use what we have in front of us. Optimising resources/actions is imperative because there is no resting or down time until we die or the villagers moral breaks and they all run away.
Yay or Nay?
There is no getting away from the fact that we are almost inevitably going to be over run…and as such the ever agitated villagers fork and poke their way to a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7.5)….so long as you see the game for what it is, I think it delivers a great gaming experience. Gameplay is not complex, brains will not overheat or go into melt down, so running a game is simple. The rules make play straight forward, simple combat without huge quantities of modifiers or tables and charts and easy to understand AI procedures. This game is about the immersive experience of survival in almost unprecedented poor odds, and as such, Grimlord Games have done a sterling job. This is one that will see a lot of (both sides of my) table time. If backers are half as chuffed as I have been with the gamplay, they are in for a real treat, that’s for sure!
Now, if you don’t mind I have to go and sharpen my plastic dentures and re-dye my hair (curse this grey…so unbecoming of a vampire of my pedigree) I have some jumped up alchemist, who really fancies himself, to deal with. Jumped up villager. Who’s he think he is? Twoo hundred years old me!…and this whippasnappa comes around shouting the odds…just got to wait for the sun to set and we’re in business. I’ll just put the kettle on for a cuppa…
…now where did I put that pitchfork spike repellant cream?
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
- Grimlord Games Website: https://grimlordgames.com
- Grimlord Games on Twitter:
- Village Attacks on BGG:
- Sulker How To Play
- Playthrough of Village Attacks:
- Boardgame Knight plays..