Last Tuesday, I had the honor of participating in the first ever fresh-off-the-presses production playthrough of BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia. (Actually, I think Rodney of Watch it Played was playing simultaneously. So it was the first American playthrough. I'm like the John Glenn of BioShock!)
As you can see from the above image, the game is beautiful on the table. Minis everywhere! The board is smaller than I expected, which is nice for fitting it on the table, especially with four players.
Speaking of four players, that's how we played: Isaac (the game's designer) and me (a humble Doug) versus Colby (Plaid Hat Games founder) and the mysterious "Kevin." This is a legit four player game that feels different from a two player game. There is an added strategic layer due to the fact that both players can move the airship and Songbird, so that those minis can move up to four spaces before a player's turn if you get the turn order right. There is much to discuss and therefore I imagine the two player game to be shorter.
Isaac and I got our butts kicked. I made some strategic errors early on that opened up my stronghold to Colby, who swooped right in. Yet I never felt we were out of it until the end.
You have to train yourself to remember to upgrade your cards. You get upgrades for all kinds of things: winning battles, paying money, bidding the highest during the event phase, and winning a victory point card. Those upgrades happen constantly really let you tailor your strategy however you want. Video gamers will feel right at home here.
A lot of the hardest choices revolve around where to spend your cards: on influencing the events, on buying units/structures, or on battles. You get five cards per turn, period, no tricks with the cards, so it's pretty tight.
The red battle dice really outclass the other battle dice, so leaders are important. Once again, this means another layer of tactics in the four player game since, if you leave your leader with just one other unit, if both opponents battle you in that space and win, they can destroy that leader. Yet, if you lose one, it's not the end of the world as they only cost $6 (just twice the cost of common units) to bring back. You can cause destruction, but you can climb your way out of it, too.
Movement using the sky-line is a lot of fun. There are thumbs on 2 of the 6 dice sides, and you have to roll at least one thumb on 3 rolls in order to move successfully (or else pay cards to stay alive, which is VERY pricey). That means a 70% chance of moving safely for each space, although I saw Colby fail three times in a row. (And laughed in his face.) It adds a great uncertainty and risk to where units can get. It's not a lock like in other games of this nature.
The money tokens are fun. The giant first player coin is fun. The board art and the oversized victory point pieces are fun. The miniatures are awesome. (It took me a while to realize the leaders had stars as bases, which goes a long way in helping to distinguishing them from common units.) These are top of the line components.
I can't wait to try the two-player game, which I'm guessing will be my most common mode of play. Overall, my very high expectations were exceeded and people who are looking for the next evolution of dudes on a map with a deep and rich theme are gonna have a blast with this BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia. Fans of the video game will be in love.
This is not Risk. The outcome depends on your choices and on your long term strategy, which is balanced between, money, influence, battle, movement, upgrades, and more. Thanks to Colby, Isaac, and the mysterious "Kevin" for letting me play!