Saturday, March 9, 2013

Board Game Review - City of Remnants

Plaid Hat Games ought to change their name to Bottled Lightning. They seem to be able to package up a hit every time they print something. For a great example of the Plaid Hat magic, check out City of Remnants.

The first thing to discuss is the story you're playing out. In City of Remnants, players each form a gang and try to rise to the top and squeeze out their criminal competition. But these aren't just Crips versus Bloods. These gangs exist because a nasty alien race called the Yugai has enslaved multiple worlds, and brought all the refugees to this one planet and dumped them there. So you've got four-armed aliens, huge monster aliens, bird aliens, and humans. And they're all fighting over the scraps of resources that their alien overlords see fit to drop on them.

At this point, this game could suck and I would still play it. When I can control a gang of alien thugs who can fight their oppressive conquerors, deal drugs, shoot other gangsters, and turf-war for the best properties, I'll play it, and it doesn't even have to be that good. Throw hookers into this game and you've got Grand Theft Spaceship: The Boardgame.

As an added bonus to this totally awesome starting point, the game is simply amazing. It accommodates a wide range of strategies, from bloodthirsty and F Tha Police to shrewd, calculating businessman. You might grab up buildings that provide great income, so you can buy your way to the top, or you might snatch territories that give you the chance to build huge gangs of gunmen. You could be even save your money for recruitment drives, then steal all the buildings you want from the other players. At gunpoint, of course. Otherwise, why even bother.

Turns happen incredibly fast, too. You'll be amazed as you near the end of the game that more time hasn't passed. Partially because you will have had so much fun that you won't realize how long it's been, but partially because you've had virtually no downtime. You're involved in this game all the time, and you're up to your elbows in contraband and illegal firearms.

One thing that makes City of Remnants so tense and interesting is the limited actions you get every turn. Limited actions aren't a new concept, of course, but so many games give you this feeling that you just wish you could have done more. It can be frustrating to play these games and feel like your turn was over before you really got started, but City of Remnants hits a beautiful balance between frustration and indulgence. You have to scheme and play smart, but you don't feel like you're playing while wearing handcuffs (unless you are wearing handcuffs, in which case maybe you should stop playing games and call your bondsman).

Likewise, in a game that sees players build from fledgling gangs to criminal empires, there's a huge propensity to wind up with a game that ends just as it was getting good. Not City of Remnants, though - this is another factor that has been carefully and impeccably designed. The game lasts just as long as it should. Any less, and you would be bemoaning the things you didn't get to do. Any more, and it would just feel sloppy.

Everything about City of Remnants is tightly designed and beautifully crafted, including the art. Some people may not care for the rough style used for the illustrations, but you would be insane to complain about the awesome sculpts on the gang member figures. Not only are they fully sculpted, but there are four different sculpts for each color - because, as I mentioned before, there are four different aliens in the city. If you're seriously anal-retentive, you could even match the figures to the kinds of thugs you recruit.

There's so much to love about City of Remnants that if I discuss every possible piece of genius, this review will turn into a novella. And it would be a boring novella with no real plotline and horrible character development. So instead of trying to cover every point, I'll just say that this is one finely tuned machine. Everything works perfectly. It's smooth and clean and easy to play, and also incredibly deep and immensely strategic. It looks great all laid out on the table, offers tons of reasons to stretch your brain muscles, and gives you plenty of really good excuses to kill the bejeezus out of some alien law enforcement officers. This marriage of a thrilling backstory and a fantastic game makes City of Remnants another bottle full of lightning from Plaid Hat.


2-4 players

Totally kick-ass theme
Exciting and engaging
Perfectly balanced and tested
Strategically deep and tactically brilliant

Can't think of any off the top of my head

To get your mitts on City of Remnants, or just to read more about it, you can run over to the Plaid Hat site, right here:


Wind Lane said...

Another thing to note is that it plays great with 2, 3, or 4. I've had a blast at all three sizes.

MIK said...

Sounds great, thanks for the heads up and review.