Raid on Taihoku and Infarkt

Raid on Taihoku (台北大空襲)
Designer: Teng Chieh-Ming
Artist: Nuomi
Publisher: Mizo
Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Time: 40-60 minutes
Times Played: 3 times with purchased copy

Infarkt
Designer: Vladimír Brummer
Artist: Karel N. Moravec
Publisher: Czech Board Games, Efko
Players: 2-5
Ages: 10+
Time: 45 minutes
Times Played: 2 time with a friend’s purchased copy

Are black and white opposites?

For most purposes, I don’t think they are. A checkerboard pattern of black and white squares is a sort of ‘opposite’ of both.  As pigments, as light, there are ways they can be, but compared to a mongoose, they are at least both colors. Both solid colors next to some sort of tessellated, fractal, or random pattern.

Zoom out a little and maybe gray is the opposite end of the spectrum from black and white.

In a few months when it becomes year-in-review time, I’ll likely mentally-fail to be able to provide you a list of ‘best of’ or anything similar.  I can’t see a best/worst spectrum. For me, there’s only the spectrum that has black and white and checkerboards and gray… and that 11-dimensional pizza can be cut along so many axes, that I’m speechless when someone at a convention says ‘what’s your favorite thing you’ve played this weekend?’ or when it’s end-of-the-year-list-time.

More to the point here, Raid on Taihoku and Infarkt simultaneously occupy many of the same and many distinct areas of mechanics, tone, and theme. I’m quite delayed in bringing you this review, but I’m here now.

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Raid on Taihoku is a cooperative game where the players are civilians, attempting to survive the US bombing of Taihoku (now Taipei) in May 1945. Victory is each member of your family, the players, surviving the raid. On the other hand, if any of your family dies, the group loses. The raid was conducted by more than 100 B-24s.  

As the introduction for the rules state, the players are in a family facing life and death situations, and there is only one enemy: the cruelty of war. 

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To setup, players will choose from 8 available characters, taking the corresponding character board, and that character’s Entanglement cards.  The characters have different statistics, for instance, the young brother has more health than the grandpa; the Entanglement cards allow each character to take on a new angle from game to game, for instance younger sister may get sad if the family cat is missing, or be afraid of being alone in another.

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Much of the game consists of running from location to location, hoping to avoid that night’s air raid, as each location contains certain items – with some locations specializing in specific types.  As I said before, but maybe it was subtle – there’s nothing you can do to win. Just try to survive. The bombs are coming.

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The deck of medicine cards includes herbal medicine and bandages. The item deck includes bicycles and shovels.  The deck of food cards includes rotten food. And animal carcasses. Just try to survive. (And realize, this is not a light-hearted affair).

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Each round is broken down into a Beginning Phase, a Survival Phase, and an Air Raid phase.

The Beginning Phase begins with each player losing 1 Satiation point due to hunger.  The specific stats of each character are “weight points” (similar to strength), Satiation, Health, Mood, and Stamina.  A player’s Stamina level will determine how many action points they have that turn. If one player ever reaches 0 on Satiation, Health, Mood, or Stamina, the family loses. The bombs win.

After losing Satiation – or you could consider it gaining hunger – an event card is drawn which will affect the rounds: thick fog, epidemic disease, etc.

Next, beginning with a start player, each family member performs a number of actions allowed by their current stamina level.

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For one action, a player can move between two locations along a yellow line.  However, if a location is marked with an air raid token, moving into or out of an air raid location, to or from a non air raid location, requires an extra action.

For one action, a player can explore their current location by drawing the top card. A player’s strength determines their hand limit.

For one action, a player can play a card, and remove it from their hand.  Cards can be used on other players in the same or adjacent locations.

Lastly, for one action, a player can give a card to another player in the same or adjacent locations.

There are also a few options that do not require an action point.  A player may reduce their stamina by 1 to regain 1 action point; use a food card on themselves to regain Satiation; or perform abilities mentioned on their Entanglement card.

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At the end of each player’s Survival phase, check to see if the number of resource cards held by that player is more than their current Weight Points.  If it is, the player must discard cards – removing them from the game. Some locations will then grant a bonus to players who end their turn in that location.

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After each player has completed the Survival phase, the Air Raid phase begins.  Here, the top card is revealed from a prepared deck. For most of these cards, five locations will be bombed, and each family member at one of these locations loses 2 health.  There are also a few special Air Raid cards – one in which each location is bombed and all locations lose their end-of-Survival benefit; another in which Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, catches the bomb; and one causing the game to end.

If the game has not ended, begin a new round; if the players survive, they’ll receive a score based upon the sum of their remaining stats.

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Before I go on for a while below, I want to note that Mizo’s production is outstanding – the art work, the graphic design, the components – It is always a pleasure to play one of their productions.  They have a certain style all their own.

It is interesting to play a game with such a strong war theme as the civilians. I have some experience with wargames along the lines of Combat Commander and the Commands & Colors series, but in those cases, you can fight back. You also represent a military power.  In both cases, the view is from a callous distance; I’ve never noticed the violence.

Here, the emotion is stark, and there’s nothing you can do but wait out the air raid. A wargame where you can’t fight back. You’re playing a civilian family: trying to scrounge enough food (and food that isn’t rotten); keep your energy; and stay positive.  Avoid rampant malaria and sorrow.

Mizo makes emotional games. So much so, that I think the games should be taught with a preface: that what you’ll experience is, well…that.  It’s more of an experience and maybe less of a strategic endeavor. To me, Mizo is setting out to cause some discomfort in the players, and in that I think they succeed.  

There are moments of laughter, and I must say embarrassingly so, as certain item cards are drawn or event cards are revealed.  I’ve tried to be careful not to spoil these, but sometimes you think you know what’s going to happen. And there times when you don’t. I fall back on the cause of laughter being when unexpected things happen, but laughter is antithetical to the tone the game has carefully laid out, and the situations that arise are not humorous in the least, yet, here we are.

Which is what brings us to Infarkt: the opposite, and yet not opposite, of Raid on Taihoku.  In a sense, Infarkt is also a game of (modern) survival- with tracks for depression, cancer, and obesity. For most of your tracks, if it reaches the end, you die, and lose.

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In Infarkt there are cards for events (e.g. winning the lottery, refrigerator breakdown), medicine (e.g. chemotherapy), and consumables (e.g. whole wheat bread, mineral water, spoiled wine, cigarettes).  With most things bringing you closer to an inevitable death.

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Much of the game is worker placement with the players simultaneously placing out three workers.  You can go to work to make money- but then your stress increases. You can go to the gym to lower your stress, but that costs money. Your neighbor may throw a party, but as with donuts at the office, our communal consumption steers the party towards flat beer and cigars, and your cancer track and obesity track increase.

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If a player dies, and you can’t donate a dollar to the funeral, your depression goes up.  If they died at your party, it also goes up.

You can try to eat something, but some “health” food will increase your depression, and others will do nothing.

They are the same game. And they’re opposite. There’s a certain nihilistic despair to both and a pinch of black humor.

I went to a nearby Air Force museum to look at B-24s. It’s one of my favorite museums, as I like the engineering, the design, and the audacity of the planes on display. This time it was a more somber visit, as I viewed the plane through the lens of the Raid on Taihoku.

The gentleman next to me, in contrast, was there to view the same plane, but in the context of a plane that his father had flown, and through a lens of pride, reverence, and nostalgia.

Opposites and the same.

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Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum: I played Infarkt once, which was more than enough. I have no objection to games trying to invoke a mood or make a point, but there are better and worse ways to do those things and Infarkt chooses one of the worse ways, namely hitting you in the face with every aspect of the game. Once you’ve learned the rules and looked at the cards you’ve got the point and there’s no reason to actually play the game, which is not very interesting in terms of actual gameplay.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

Raid on Taihoku
I love it!
I like it.
Neutral. James Nathan
Not for me…

Infarkt
I love it!
I like it.
Neutral. James Nathan
Not for me… Dan Blum

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2 Responses to Raid on Taihoku and Infarkt

  1. @mangozoid says:

    I like Raid on Taihoku, although it is rather sombre and sets a depressing overtone, which makes it difficult to get to the table — “Hi, come play this co-op survival game in which you’re part of the same family spending every turn trying to avoid getting bombed!”
    I’m not so much a fan of the randomness (a run of bad events/bombings can end the game very quickly) and tbere are a couple of printing issues with some cards, but this game still has a hold over me… and I’d play in a heartbeat if anyone else wants a game.

  2. Pingback: Dare to Love (敢愛就來) | The Opinionated Gamers

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