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Review: Board Game Aristeia!

“175 Years into the future, humankind has reached the stars. As the hyperpowers vie for influence in the shadows, citizens use their permanent connection to Maya, the Interplanetary Data Network, to revel in a bespoke deluge of thrills. Of course, no form of entertainment is as sought after as ARISTEIA!, the Human Sphere’s favorite extreme bloodsport.”

ARISTEIA!

Aristeia! is a game of futuristic gladiatorial combat set in the universe of Infinity the Game. As far as I’m aware this is the first board game released by Corvus Belli, Infinity the Game’s producer. I was raised by a board game industry thus once in a while, if a miniatures filled board game happens to appear in my collection, I use this opportunity to review it. I decided to share my feel of Aristeia! with you. As with all my reviews this one will be totally subjective, so – you have been warned 🙂

COLLECTOR'S EDITION

The reason I bought the game in the first place – a set of eight metal Aristeia! characters. I knew what to expect from plastic miniatures, thus decided to spend more and get the best quality product. Metal miniatures are standard for Infinity the Game players, but are something totally new for regular board game muggles. To all of you who might not know Infinity the Game quality – these are one of the best miniatures in the market. They require a lot of preparation and must be put together before use, but would reward all the work put into them with great quality of detail.

IN THE BOX

Now, let’s leave awesome miniatures behind and see what’s inside the game…

The ‘Box’,

The box is solid, standard board game quality. Hard paper, smooth with no grating. It is not the quality that some of the most popular board game producing companies (FFG, CMON) spoil us with, but is still acceptably durable. In comparison to Corvus Belli’s usual front designs like Operation Icestorm which literally screams ‘Fuck yeah! So much action inside!’, Aristeia front is kind of dull. There seem to be a lot colours with not much coherency whatsoever, which is further emphasized by white background. My reaction to the box is that it would have difficulty catching my attention in a board game store – but hey – totally subjective.

‘How to Play’ ergo Rules,

A 15 pages long, ‘How to Play’ booklet. This one will lead you through game components and then a pre-setup game with pre-defined rolls and actions. Going through this should make you understand the game’s mechanics and feel comfortable going into your first ‘serious’ game. The booklet is designed to introduce some rules at certain point. If you are a seasoned board game player you would probably get bored in the middle and skip ahead to a real deal game… Seem nice for less experienced players tho.

‘Access Guide to the Human Sphere’ ergo Fluff book,

An interresting addition. Corvus Belli is well known for providing a deep background for their products. Aristeia! is not an exception. With this 14 pages long booklet we get to know the setting and the characters of Aristeia! A really nice way to get a bit more into the game and ‘feel’ the characters. Here’s also where you will find the best graphics of the game in high resolution.

Two-sided Gaming Board,

Made out of hexes and looking like a giant hex is the Hexadome board! Usual board game quality. After setup it lays flat on the table. It is rather clear to understand. I am a bit dissapointed that both sides have identical layout with only difference being the visual design. Hoped for two totally different gaming areas that would provide much more variety and replayability.

2 Control Panels,

When I look at these I want to quote Dutch from Predator poronouncing “What the hell are *you*?” with utter distaste. Supposedly fancy shaped to fit the board at the start of the game – utterly retarded once you realize that instead of helping they do the opposite. On top of that these look like out of entirely different game – they just don’t fit the visual layout of Aristeia! and mess up entire futuristic sci-fi feel of the game.

If you haven’t read the rules of the game – I advise to skip the list of issues below, not to get confused too much.

  • Why there’s only 5 (6) spots on the Movement and Actions counters? Apparently with Tactics invovled – some characters can have more. Why not use tokens to keep track of these instead?
  • Do really both players require a Turn counter? Why not just a single, separate turn counter?
  • Why such a fancy shape? If these were rectangular instead, they would fit the long edges and save space on the gaming table, not to mention being much less susceptible to damage (with no sharp angles).
  • Why are they in the game anyway? Why not use tokens to count Action and Movement Points and keep Initiative Cards before you set up from left to right, Infirmary characters on the left, Bench characters on the right?

Overall Control Panels are a waste of resources, needless gadget – I am trashing my own and adding a ‘Aristeia! Control Panel’ to the list of words that trigger me.

A shitload of Tokens, including Obstacles, Damage, States, Victory Points, Frags, Green/Orange, Blue/Orange, Red/Blue, Red/Green, and Underdog.

When it comes to quality, once again this is just a regular board game quality. No grating, regular hard paper stuff. Gameplay wise these are clear to understand and easy to use, except for the pain in the ass tiny  droplets, which really might have been the same size as ‘Damage 3’ tokens. Visually tokens present themeselves poorly. Once again a feature that doesn’t feel right and is far from fitting the supposedly futuristic aspect of the game. Tokens look like from some poor, booring game without theme. Quite dissapointing – and that’s actually strange comming from Corvus Belli, known for caring about visual and theme aspect of their products.

8×8 Stickers, because reasons…

I don’t want to talk about this. I know what they are for. I think they look poor as fck. I get why they are designed in this simple manner. Still look poor as fck.

‘Reference Guide’,

I am used to Reference Tables placed at the back of rules. This one is much more interresting, with 30 pages filled with answers, examples, rules claryfications, Scenarios and a list of about 90 topics and key words. There’s a Quick Reference Sheet at the back of this small size booklet and once you are done with ‘How to Play’ you can switch to ‘Reference Guide’ for life. I find this one to be a really great idea, even if it’s not entirely user friendly and rules redirect us to other rules, which then redirect us to other rules – classic ‘Spanish style’. Fear not! You’ll get used to it at some point.

I would still like to get a proper Rulebook and then use ‘Reference Guide’ as an ingame help.

14 custom D6 Dice,

A set of custom, easy to understand dice. Symbols are concave which transtales to almost infinite lifespan of such dice.

52 Tactics Cards,

Standard size cards with ‘Tactics’ – special actions players can use during the game. This piece is the one that could really use grated paper to provide much more durability. Gameplay friendly, with clear areas and strongly exposed rules section. Visually – I have mixed feelings. A lot is going on in the cards with Aristeia! characters jumping, kicking, shooting, hacking. There’s a comic like expression, suspense and feel to the pictures and yet pastel colours render it a bit silly and flat.

Visuals aside – what I would like to see is a mark in top left corner for all ‘Standard’ Tactics. This would quicken the process of finding Standard Tactics among other cards. Adding two colours distinction between these marks would also make a ‘How to Play’ part of our experience more pleasant, like ‘give orange dot cards to your opponent, take green dot cards yourself – now dig for cards numbered… whatever’.

8 Character Cards,

At first might seem a bit overwhelming, but in truth these are simple and easy to understand. Pretty nice design. Quality of paper is the same as Tactics Cards with an exception of visible cut markings on top. A pack of sleeves would render this irrelevant anyway.

8 Initiative Cards,

These are just awesome looking 42/63mm cards. Visually they present themeselves really cool. I think that adding a textured background and more edges is what makes these graphics outshine the rest.

8 Plastic Miniatures,

Bag’o’miniatures – a set of 8 miniatures, made out of soft ‘board game’ plastic. These come already put together (by some Chinese prisoners) and ready to play. Some have issues and all seem to be improperly glued onto the bases. If not for that then quality is almost the same as in Zombicide or most of FFG’s games. If you hoped for quality and detail simmilar to Infinity the Game – these would be a huge dissapointment, otherwise they are a regular board game miniatures and would serve their purpose perfectly.

Oops! So this is how one of the miniatures came in. It is not uncommon among board games – not a faulty design or production, just an accident in transportation. Complaint placed – will await a replacement.

Thin plastic box organizer,

So, the Organizer is a great thing that I come to appreciate, if delivered properly. This one is clearly made for the purpose of holding a factory issued game untill it get’s unpacked.

  • It lacks space to place Tokens in. Sure these can be packed into zip-bags and placed underneath the organizer, but removing it from the box time and time again would definitely damage soft plastic it is made of.
  • Why not place another niche or two in that huge flat area on the left? I don’t know…
  • Once sleeved, cards barely fit the area designed to hold them so no way to fit more cards once an expansion hits the stores.

Could have been a cool feature, would go to trash instead.

RULES & GAMEPLAY

Aristeia! has a well designed engine, that offers a lot of options to competitive players. Most of the time it made me think about which option to choose from rather than how rules work. Alternate character activation, Tactics Cards and special ‘Switch’ activated effects kept me occupied throughout the round, all the while rotating Scoring Zones and planning my characters Activation sequence pleasantly stimulated my brain cells. I appreciate that Aristeia! has some elements of deck and team building, providing options to construct a deck of Tactics Cards and a team of selected characters. This is yet another feature that competitive players might find interresting. Once I got to know the key words and rules mechanisms of the game seem simple and enjoyable. I especially appreciate a fast and not complicated end phase of every round, which does not disturb action.

The way in which rules are served is a bit of a downside. Some things that are meant to be intuitive ended up being confusing and entire process of being led hand in hand with a pre-designed turn from ‘How to Play’ was exhausting and not very pleasant. In the other hand everything is there in the booklet and many in-game situations are covered so once through it – I quickly knew how to proceed.

Some crunchy mechanics are:

  • Line of Fire rules described in a confusing and overly complicated way. In some situations is not clear on the gaming board. A hard paper ruler in the box, so that players could use it to check the exact Line of Fire would do the job of easing gameplay. Still I am certain that with more experience this one would stop to be an issue.
  • Adding Attack/Skill results in your head, instead of on the board. This one is a bit problematic. There are no Dice, nor Tokends destined to be used as markers for all the ‘additional’ Damage / Shields / Special that are added to the Attack / Defence roll. Let’s say I roll three dice and scored: Damage, Damage, Shield, Special. My opponent clearly sees the result. Then I add a misterious one Damage from my character ability, then use a Switch to exchange one Special from the roll for another one Damage… but there’s no way to indicate this on the board. In a competitive game this might lead to some bad blood situations and in a friendly game this is just very confusing. I would gladly see an additional set of WHITE dice with Damage / Damage / Shield / Shield / Special / Special symbols to use them as markers for any additionl results added to the roll so that my opponent and I myself can see the exact total of the Attack, before we apply any Switches.

 

IS ARISTEIA! FOR CASUALS?

If you hope to bring this game to a friendly meeting and just start playing with your Settlers of Catan friends – I strongly recommend not to. Corvus Belli did a fine job of introducing symbols and intuitive elements, but the game is still full of key words, special skills, triggered mechanisms that might confuse board game muggles. This game is a fine piece for two seasoned players who would like to clash against one another and win eternal glory in the Hexadome!

IS IT SIMILAR TO ANY OTHER GAME?

In my opinion gameplay-wise Aristeia! is very similar to World of Warcraft Miniatures Game, which at some point I enjoyed a  crazy lot! This makes me look at Aristeia! from a friendly perspective and I have some hopes for the future of the game.

IS ARISTEIA! BALLANCED?

In a straight out of a box ‘How to Play’ way – nope. Some ballance comes with Experience but you won’t be able to achieve perfect ballance untill you and your opponent both have a box of your own. Once there, you will be able to build a Team and Tactics Deck from among all available components and the game would become ballanced. For less competitive ‘one box’ play I see potential in drafting heroes or just switching teams with gaming buddy from time to time, so that no one would end up feeling like his team is underpowered in certain aspects.

IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUALITY OF METAL AND PLASTIC ARISTEIA! MINIATURES?

Yes and it is a gargantuan, Pacific Rim sized difference. Just take a look at the pictures and see for yourself…

ARISTEIA'S FUTURE

From what I am aware there are some big plans for Aristeia! Organized Play. We already know what to expect from the first expansion ‘Soldiers of Fortune’, and these are meant to be introduced every seazon. Seasonal expansions would make for good replayability and should keep players interrested. In my opinion Aristeia! has some potential and is certainly much more suitable for competitive play than Infinity the Game. Would it become as popular as X-Wing? I hope not, cause this would mean cancerous individuals soiling community built and cared for by Corvus Belli. Still I keep my fingers crossed for CB’s success, even tho they seem to diverse some of their attention from my favorite game.

 

SUMMARY

Even tho I spent almost half of my life in a Hobby Store Aristeia! is a conundrum to me. In one hand it is clearly an interresting game and I enjoyed the gameplay. Aristeia’s mechanisms aren’t anything that I haven’t seen before, but the way they work with each other translates to a really thinked through set of rules. On top of that the game has a lot of potential both in competitive and hobby aspects. In the other hand some components are just fucking ugly and it hurts my eyes to look at them. Taking Metal Miniatures out of the equation, for me Aristeia! is totally gameplay over looks. Would I purchase this game if not for trust Corvus Belli earned from me? Nope. Would I purchase this game if not for Limited Collector’s Edition miniatures I want to add to my Infinity the Game collection? Nope. Yet this is due to my prefferences, not the game itself and once I actually got Aristeia! I must say it is a nice game. Price also seem legit and I bet that with 59,9€ starting price there will be ways to get the basic set for less than 50€ – and that is not bad for a game set enabling you to participate in Organized Play. On a scale where 10 is awesome, 8 is good, 6 is ok, 5 is mediocre, 3 is bad and I don’t want to even mention 1 I would say Aristeia! is somewhere between 6 and 7, and that’s only because of some ugly components that drag the note down.

If you don’t care about the looks of Tokens and ‘Trigger Word’, if you like illustrations on the cards and feel like going through a bit spanish’ish rules – you should totally give this game a try. If my expectations for visual aspect of the game were met I would totally rate this game an 8. Im sure that Aristeia! will reward you with a fine and interresting gameplay, so long as you approach it with a proper mindset.

 

Agree/Disagree? There’s a comment section below where you can stand for your opinion 😉

Store.CorvusBelli.com,

Nazroth

Review: Board Game AVP The Hunt Begins

Hey guys! Some of you may find this interresting. Recently I bought a hot stuff: AVP The Hunt Begins boardgame and what I found inside the box forced me to write this review.

About Aliens vs Predator franchise: I personally love AVP. The retro futuristic setting and it’s owerwhelming dark mood keeps my heart burning with desire for more and more AVP stuff to buy. In AVP universe human is reduced to the role of prey. Even tho Colonial Marines are tough bastards equipped with deadly Smartguns and Pulse Rifles they still fall to Alien predation and are no match against masters of the hunt, the Predators. Hunted for sport or means of breeding they must cooperate to survive the inevitable doom.What I find the most important in all AVP products is for them to be based on Aliens (2nd movie) and Predator (1st movie). So we have some armed to the teeth Colonial Marines, being thrown between an angered Aliens hive and dreadful Predator hunters. They try to survive, while their number dwindles slowly. All the time the terror is multiplied, but still badass Marines cheer up the mood with good, oldschool oneliners. This is how I see it. That’s the way I love it.

So when I found out about AVP board/miniature game being released I was extatic! I jumped right onto Kickstarted and was taken aback by the information of who releases it: Prodos Games. After seeing the difference between Prodos’ Warzone Kickstarter and Warzone final products I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend some cash in advance. I’d held my hand and awaited KS campaign results. After it came to an end Prodos surprised me with an option to buy the game via their site. That was unexpected and bothered me a little so once more I held my hand and didn’t made the purchase. Finally the AVP The Hunt Begins hit the stores and this time, being sure that I will get my copy, I made the purchase.

The box looks amazing and weights a lot so once you will hold it in your hands, you’ll probably buy it 🙂

packed avp
THE BOX: The way with which game elements are packed is mediocre. Cards packed in small paper boxes. Miniatures packed in zip bags. All zip bags packed into a medium cardboard box. A huge foam square glued still to the innards of the box (what the fuck?! Why have you damaged my beautifull box Prodos?). Regardless of the foam my Rulebook was already damaged so this sole fact halted some of my enthusiasm. It was balanced with an easy but clever move with which Prodos prepared Cardboard Sprues to be taken out of the box. A small hole big enough for a finger was cut in the sprues. (Why haven’t I seen anything familiar in other board games – I don’t know, but it’s a nice idea).

packed all

figurka packed total

figurka packed

packed gąbka

wnętrze pudła

packed instrukcja

packed wypraski
MINIATURES: Miniatures are amazingly detailed and kept to the scale. Look at these Colonial Marines. These look amazing!

figurka sm
Still some molding solutions are just idiotic. Take a look at this Alien miniature. It has mold cannals inside it’s hands! I work with miniatures for more than fifteen years now and i’ve rarely seen such stupid way of placing the mold cannals. Some of the hobbysts may have a real problem dealing with these.

figurka alien
And now the worst thing. My Disc Predator was a miscast and looked like this. Yeah Chineese – you fucked up my Predator Miniature and then packed it into my copy of the game. What do you think I feel like right now? This miniature is trash. Instead of painting it and playing the game I placed a complaint to my local store and await a new miniature.

figurka predator
I thought that Prodos Games evolved a bit after Warzone. A lot of mistakes in production process there. As it stands I was wrong – Prodos seems not to learn fast enough.

CARDS: In my opinion Cards are the biggest dissapointment in the whole product. The material with which they are made is bad. Boardgame Cards where made this way like ten years ago. The differences between Prodos Cards and Fantasy Flight Games’s ones are huge. The quality is light years away. Still that’s not the worst thing. The cards lack all the climate that makes AVP what it is. For example: there are not quotes from the movies, no oneliners that built the Alien and Predator franchises. Not a single ‘theme’ motives on the objective cards, even card backs are devoid of thought through theme. These looks like if Prodos Games forced the product at speed and without taking theme and AVP mood into consideration. “Just print the rules”. Here, take a look:

[This looks ok,]

karty all

[These are faction cards and they look ok,]

karty avp przód
These are faction cards backs and I can’t help myself not to wander – where the Fuck are Colonial Marines cards? Was it so difficult to make them look more like card fronts?

karty avp tył
These are Enviromental Cards. Wow Prodos Games – so much climate, so strong AVP theme… How have you planned to build the atmosphere of the game without a plot/story/setting motive?

[Predator and Alien stat cards look nice.]

karty enviroment

karty postacie
And now the worst shit ever: Colonial Marines stat cards look ALL THE SAME! Hey grunts, which one of you is an awesome Smartgunner? Anyone called for a Medic? Really? Couldn’t these be done differently? It’s not that there’s plenty of graphics in the game with not more then a dozen in the Rulebook and half a dozen on the stat cards…

karty sm postacie
And where did all the Marines went gone? I’ve looked through the Rules and there is only a single Colonial Marines picture (well not exactly as it depicts a Weyland Yutani commando) and like two or three  pictures with a Colonial Marine being a background. Prodos seems to forgot about Human species being the epicentre of the AVP theme. Sure I like feel the call of the hunt as a Predator or stalk the dark corridors as the Alien but as a human the faction I feel the most related to is Colonial Marines.

grafika pred 1

grafika avp

grafika alien 3

grafika alien 2

grafika alien 1
grafika sm
CARDBOARD TOKENS: I have mixed feeling about these. The cardboard material is bad still the visual aspect is quite nice. Take a look at this:

wypraska
Looks good doesn’t it? And now let’s do the things Prodos style, with as much minimalism as one may have. Sentry, Hidden, Activated tokens all look like shit. Devoid of climate and pathetic in design. Other tokens look ok but not awe worthy.

żetony małe
[I just can’t understand the reasoning behind designing Acid Damage token to be one sided. It was childishly easy to copy/paste the same graphic to the other side.]

żetony duże

żetony duże tył
THE RULES: The final part of this Revew – the Rules are BAD. I’ve played a lot of games both miniature and boardgames in the past years. I love Space Hulk for it’s simplicity, Rune Wars for many strategies and easy to learn rules, Zombicide, Catwallon: City of Thieves, Super Dungeon Explore, Warhammer 40,000, Infinity, Mordheim and more. All these games are more than playable and rewarding. I find AVP The Hunt Begins rules rather easy but written in such a way that I was forced to jump between the pages and search for some rules all the while these were formed in a way that my Wargaming hardened mind couldn’t comprehend. I understand when Corvus Belli write down Infinity rules like eight years old’s but they are from Spain for fuck’s sake! AVP rules are just unreadable, full of missing letters, idiotic key words and above all – they are totally devoid of flavor. Prodos Guys – just see to Zombicide rulebook and you will know what I mean by climate!

So in the end I give this game a 5 out of 10 and am very, very disapointed in the product I have awaited for so long. If nothing changes in the way Prodos Games design their products I will reconsider not spending my cash on their products anymore. If not for the miniatures – this game would’ve been a stain on the AVP franchise as big as PC Aliens – Colonial Marines was.

And Prodos – this is a 10 out of 10 and it’s a fucking mascot. You we’re owned by a Facehugger mascot! Let it be a warning for you – that purchasing a copyright to a franchise does not mean you can blew all the rest up. You should’ve made sure that your rules and game components would stand to the great AVP franchise and you have failed in that. Shame!

faCEHUGGER
Agree/Disagree? There’s a comment section below where you can stand for your opinion 😉

Nazroth
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