DESIGNER: Lincoln Petersen
PUBLISHER: Petersen Games
AGES: 10 and up
TIME: 20- 60 minutes
TIMES PLAYED: 2, with a review copy I received at no cost
I thought I hated cooperative games after the first few times I played one. Even when no one was being pushy or overbearing or just grabbing my cards and playing them, I still felt like I wasn’t really playing a game and I never enjoyed the experience. One fateful day all that changed. I was invited to sit down to a game of Arkham Horror; I might have said no, but I really wanted to play a game with the particular group of people who had invited me and I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t cool, so I agreed. It turns out I am all about cooperation when we’re battling Cthulhu and his minions. When I was offered the chance to try this game I jumped on it, since it is right up my alley. The game is being offered on Kickstarter as of today.
8 Bit Attack is a cooperative game for 2 -5 players. Each player is playing their own character, working with the rest of the team to fight the evil and save the world. The game takes place over 5 rounds; in the last round you must fight the biggest, baddest boss in order to be victorious. While the game takes place in a sort of Cthulhu/D&D sort of location, knowledge of either isn’t necessary.
To set up the game you divide the decks of cards into separate piles – champions, aliens, cultists, demons and myths – and lay out all of the components, including the round track that helps mark your progress towards your impending doom.
Characters are assigned either at random or by choice; it is up to the players to decide. All characters have a basic and an upgraded side; the basic side lets you roll two battle dice and gives you two abilities, while the upgraded side lets you roll three battle dice and adds at least one additional ability.
Each player starts the game with 4 energy, which let you use your abilities, a healing potion that heals 6 HP and a revival potion that brings you back to life if (or maybe that should be when) you die. You also get 2 battle dice.
At the start of each round players decide which level of champion they would like to fight, from 1 to 7. Level 1 is easier as the champion won’t be too hard to defeat and will have fewer minions, but you only get 1 medal for beating them. Level 7 will be really hard, but you’ll get 7 medals for beating all those nasty creatures. I mean, who doesn’t want to win medals, right? Those medals certainly do come in handy, because they let you buy upgrades and restock your potions (more on that later).
Once you’ve decided on a level you flip over the champion and see what’s about to happen to you, er I mean who you are going to kill! The level tile you chose replaces the monster’s original HP and tells you how many minions you will be adding.
Each monster has to be assigned to a particular player, and players can freely discuss how to do that. Players can fight any monster in play, but monsters will attack the player they are assigned to, so some planning is needed.
Once the monsters have been assigned players roll both their battle dice and one player roles the champion die. The champion die has 3 different colors, which correspond to attacks the bad guys will make if that color is rolled.
Battle dice will provide either a slow hit, a fast hit, a critical hit or an energy token. Players can discuss as a group who should attack which monster, what special abilities could be used, etc. and then the players carry out the attacks in the order of their choosing. Generally hits provide 1 damage, but critical hits provide 2. Both players and monsters may be able to defend against one or more of a particular type of attack. If a monster is killed, it is removed from the game. Players can use potions on their turn to either heal or take 4 energy; if they die they can use a revive potion to come back to life.
After the players attack the bad guys attack. They attack the player they are assigned to, unless indicated otherwise (some may allow players to select one player to be targeted, and some may affect all players). Their card indicates what type of attacks they make and what other effects may happen.
Both heroes and enemies can also be buffed and debuffed, giving either hero or enemy an advantage (increased damage) or a disadvantage (taking extra damage or not being able to use abilities. When you get a buff or debuff you put 2 timer tokens on the card; at the end of each battle a timer comes off and once you have none the card goes away.
This process is repeated until all monsters have been killed. Once that happens medals are awarded based on the levels and players decide how to spend them. One medal will let you buy a set of potions or an upgrade tile that provides you with extra HP, attacks or defense. Two medals will let you upgrade your character to its enlightened side, which will let you roll 3 dice and give you one or two bonus abilities.
Each hero resets to full HP and energy, and the round marker moves up on the track and the process is repeated until all the players have died or until you reach round 5, where you have to fight the final champion/enemy – Set up is essentially the same, except that you don’t choose a level and you just follow the instructions on Cthulhu. Players have hopefully upgraded themselves to the strongest they can be to take on the evil one. If players defeat him, they win. If they die an unspeakable death, well, that’s never a good thing, is it?
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
Let’s start with the components, which are great. All of the bits are sturdy and well-made, and seem like they would hold up well to repeated plays. And the art – well, the art is fantastic. All of the pictures in the game are beautiful, (although one of my fellow players noted it would have to be 16 bit to include some of these colors, but I digress) and part of the fun is looking at the art on both the heroes and the baddies. The box art is really cool. and catches your eye right away. The box is also sturdy, and the inset works well enough for the components. There are player aid cards that detail the steps and include some, but not all, of the icons. Also, the enemy die has numbers as well as colors, which is a nice touch for those who have trouble distinguishing between colors.
The rule book is fairly clear and includes iconography; learning the game from the rules did not present any problems, and it was easy to teach the 2nd time around. There are some ambiguities, mostly related to powers and abilities, but these could easily be addressed with a FAQ, and they didn’t hinder our ability to play; we just decided as a group what we thought we should do and did that. The only major rule confusion we had was that the rules tell you to choose a final boss, but we only had one to choose from – Cthulhu. He’s plenty hard to beat, but variety would be nice, in part because he is so hard to beat. I might like to work up to him, rather than feeling like we’ll never be able to win the game.
The game play itself is pretty fun. Trying to find that balance between earning enough loot to upgrade while staying alive long enough to be able to spend it is really interesting, and since you likely won’t get enough medals to do everything at once you truly have to cooperate with the other players to decide what’s best for the group. You aren’t necessarily rewarded for taking the easy route, and going all out is tough, but not undoable if you roll well, so is it worth it? Maybe
The buffs/debuffs can make the battles more interesting, and the timer mechanism for those is pretty cool. The fact that the enemies have different attacks based on different die rolls makes it harder to plan but also keeps each battle from being repetitive.
My only concern with the game is whether Cthulhu is actually beatable. He gets 25 HP per player to start with, and he gets minions. Each turn he stuns one player, essentially making them unable to do anything except use a potion. So, while you are fighting a super, super hard enemy plus all of his minions each round you have one player who can’t fight at all but who can take damage. Sure, they can spend a potion, but each player can only have one of each type of potion at a time, so that only works for so long. In the 2 games I played one was 2-player and one was 3-player; we did come slightly closer in the 3 player game, but only just. I am curious to see whether it is easier with more players, in which case this game might be best for 4 or 5, or whether we just needed to figure out a better plan. Either way, it was a fun ride to get to the final enemy, despite that battle being frustrating.
I like the game, and look forward to trying it again, although I will be sure to do that with at least 4 players.