Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sort of Miniatures Game Review - Frontiers


Usually, my reviews are funny (or I like to think so, but I may just be conceited. I mean, I know I'm conceited, but maybe I'm not that funny. But I don't care, and I like pretending I'm funny, so I'm not going to quit). Sometimes I mix in a semi-angry rant, but I still make jokes (usually at the expense of people I don't know). But today, I'm going to go a different direction. Today, I'm just going to be a little pissed off.

The game I'm reviewing - Frontiers, by Asmodee US - is not the reason I'm pissed. The game is awesome. I love it, and I'll tell you all about it and do my best to persuade you to buy a copy, because it's one of the coolest games I've played in a while.

I'm pissed today, and have been for a while, because I'm disgusted with Americans who feel a need to insult the French. The entire anti-French sentiment comes out of a political ploy perpetrated against the American people by the people who led us into what has become a mired mess of a war effort, and that national hatred was started because the French refused to stand idly by and allow what many people feel is an illegal war. The French stood up to the greatest military power in the world and said, 'no, that's not right, and it's a bad idea, to boot,' and in return, we renamed all our food. Freedom Fries? Who is the dumb sack of cow droppings who came up with that idea? I wouldn't mind punching that guy right in the testicles.

This is relevant to the game review, I swear. On the surface, Frontiers is a military simulation tactical game - basically, it's a miniatures game with no miniatures. But the theme is a lot deeper than that. It tells the story of an arrogant military force that invades a planet to harvest its natural resources, and is made more poignant by the way that the invaders (the Legion) paint the aliens (the Zirls) as peace-hating terrorists, and justify their aggression by hiding behind a maxim that 'all these enemies hate freedom and want you dead'. Sound familiar?

And it's more relevant because the creators of Frontiers are French. It is pretty easy to see that the creators of the game have a beef with anyone who would invade a country... er, planet for its resources and kill the people who lived there to grab whatever they want.

So right off the bat, I've lost half of you. You're not going to support anything that doesn't wave a big red, white and blue flag and shout, 'hurrah for the conquering heroes (as long as those heroes are Americans)!' And you know what? I can do without you. You laugh right along with me when I make fun of retarded people, philanderers, foreigners and pimps. You chortle and giggle at the poop jokes, the fart jokes, and the copious references to drugs and hookers. But it strikes a little too close to home when I point out that we made a huge mistake in starting the war that we're all suffering through now, and Heaven itself strike me dead if I suggest that the government officials who wanted this war were less than honest in presenting the facts to the American people.

And that's why we make jokes about French surrender monkeys. We point out that they surrendered to Hitler in World War II, but conveniently ignore the fact that the Allies in that war nearly ended up with our asses in a bag ourselves. The Germans beat the crap out of us more than once. And the French Resistance saved hundreds of soldiers during that time, and were some of the bravest soldiers in the entire war.

Well, the French aren't a lot more fond of us than we are of them, and if you ask me, they're a great deal more justified in their righteous indignation. The Legion (the invaders in Frontiers) are a seriously powerful military force taking whatever they want at gunpoint, and the Zirl are fierce freedom-fighter alien insurgents. That should make Americans uncomfortable, because it's not a point of view we like to consider. We're the heroes, right? They're the bad guys, right? It's that easy, right? We have to kill them all, or they'll follow us home, right?

Happily for those of you who still worship at the altar of Bill O'Reilly, Frontiers is a wicked cool game with or without the admittedly obvious political bone-picking. It's essentially a miniatures game, but instead of miniatures, the units are printed on cardstock discs. The tanks are big ovals, and all the infantry units are smaller circles, and there are buildings and craters and bombed-out ruins. You measure your movement with the little rulers that come in the box, and you roll attacks with the die that comes in the box.

Most of the infantry units drop dead the first time you wound them, but a lot of them are double-sided, and when they take a hit, you flip them over. The back side of the bulk of the infantry units has either a weaker unit (like one guy where there were three) or special abilities (like activated energy shields or transformed attack modes). The game requires no unit cards, no pen-and-paper accounting, and is really easy to learn, especially for a miniatures game.

The turn order mechanic is brilliant. At the beginning of every round, you each have a number of order markers based on the composition of your army - leaders grant extra markers, and you lose them when they die. You reveal simultaneously, so two units shooting at each other could both be destroyed. The game moves very quickly once you get the hang of it, and it's an absolute blast.

And it looks great. No, it doesn't cover a table with little plastic people and HO-scale bombed ruins, but the art on all the pieces is painstakingly illustrated and flat-out awesome. The graphic designers who did the card and the rules should earn an award. Even the rulers are incredibly cool. Any nerd worth his underarm body odor would be delighted at the skill with which the science-fiction battle is rendered.

But regardless of whether the game is great or not, I am sure there will be some people who won't buy it because of the political overtones. Too many people still want to mock the French and call them cowards. I'm flat-out sick of it, and the next time you want to say, 'ha, the French are chickens', I'll point out to you that without the French backing our play against the British, there would be no United States. The French were, at one point in time, the greatest military power in the world, and they have had more than a thousand years more history than we have in order to figure out that just because you can shoot something doesn't mean you can own it. Being hesitant to enter in the quagmire that costs us billions of dollars every year does not make them cowards. It makes them smarter than us.

And one more thing - Rush Limbaugh fanboys who hate me for not hating the French can kiss my fat ass.

Summary

Pros:
Great art
Slick miniatures rules that work great
Tons of cool special abilities
Kick-ass body count with bodies everywhere
Provocative theme

Cons:
Provocative theme

If you're not too disgusted with my political ranting, go here and get a copy of this game. It's awesome. You should own it:
http://www.asmodee-us.com/games/strategy/frontiers.php

10 comments:

Wind Lane said...

Let me be the first Rush fan to politely decline. :-)

I would like to clear the air on one thing. Just because I don't agree with some of the things you said doesn't mean I don't like you or find you any less intelligent. I enjoyed your review, thought the game sounded like a cross between something very well designed and a political statement, and will still continue to read and enjoy your reviews.

Will I buy the game? Probably not. Is it because of the political slant? Not at all. It's just not the type of game I typically enjoy. It's one of those games where I'll play, but it'll probably be somebody else's copy.

And again, although I don't agree with you, I admire your passion and hope you let it push and pull you in your persuit of excellence.

Matt Drake said...

Thanks, man. I appreciate that.

zorg said...

Great review. After reading this, I'd buy this game even if it was a piece of crap!

LilNewbie said...

While I enjoy most political satire, I found the unsubtle story the writers of the game tried to present just 'meh' (a little subtlety would have gone a long way, imo). BUT the game is a blast and the back story can be easily overlooked. Heck, it's got robots and cool walkers in it!!

I highly recommend the game when you want to play miniatures without having the hastle of playing miniatures (hauling out and setting up the terrain, cleaning off the dinner table only to hear Mom tell you that dinner is in an hour, finding all the missing miniatures that your little sister decided needed a tea break with Barbie, etc.) :D

Newb.

Anonymous said...

Hi Drake (is that your name, or as a stupid french, i didn't get the joke ?)
I'm clem, from Yann & clem games, one of the two game designer of Frontiers.
First, thank you for liking our game, second thank you for beeing tolerant with my poor english, and third, thank you for your action on "loving french people isn't a traitor act, instead of a patriot act" (see ? i'm quiet aware about some aspect of american politics...
).
I don't know on what point, Wind Lane doesn't agree with you, i hope it's just about the war (sorry for "just", it's a HUGE disagreement) and not because he doesn't like Frenchies. We, when our president decided to not taking weapon against a sovereign (?) country, were very pleased of that decision, and quiet well informed about the real reasons of this war. So when a part of american people started to hate us, moking us about surendering, changing names like french kiss or french fries (fries wich are belgian at first)...we felt very surprise and very upset. We were friends, and friend could have differnt point of view without losing friendhip. I could desagree my friends and continue to love them... And they do the same (i hope...). So, hearing your opinions (and i know you're not alone) is a good point for me... And the fact that you LOVE our game.
Thank you again, Drake, and, now it's time for a small advertising pause :
Go there :
http://www.yc-games.com/
and you'll have a lot of thingss to download, print and play that make Frontiers even better...
And sorry again for my french, sorry, for my english...
CLEM

Matt Drake said...

Clem, I've been to the site and downloaded everything. Any chance you'll be translating the additional scenarios? I have the English version of all the additional units and terrain, but my French is very rusty, and I'm having trouble wading through the scenarios. My son and I really would love to play all of them.

Pete Miller said...

Matt

Thanks for saying something that I have also felt about the French. I have no reason to hate, and much to admire. I will consider this game - not because of the politics, but because it looks cool. In fact I tried to win a copy in a contest on Tabletop Gaming News.

It is just the kind of game I like. Move around a map and blow stuff up. Next time I place a big shipping free order, I'll have to consider it.

Anonymous said...

we have the translation for the scenario, but we have to work on it... It will be online this week. So, you and your son will have a good game, i hope.
And new stuffs will arrive soon to.
Clem

LilNewbie said...

Thanks for the update, Clem!

Tao said...

Hi Matt,

Sounds like you had a blast with the game. Since I'm Canadian, I won't get into the entire political rant. It wouldn't be polite ;)

I'd had this game seated on my pile for a while, just haven't had a chance to play it but I think this weekend, I'll have to make sure I do. It certainly sounds fun.