You may have noticed a slight change here at CalmDownTom. It’s the table top games. There have been a couple of reviews of some card games, and the Glitch Free Game boys (which includes me) have even organised a regular table top games day where we all geek out over some board or card game. We have even decided to write about some of these in an attempt to share our love of this type of gaming and possibly introduce you to some of the cool games out there. So we thought we’d start off with a game that has captured videogamers attention because it’s based on a video game itself. It is of course Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia.
We were intrigued at the thought of a boardgame based on a videogame; would it translate and, more importantly, where would you plug the controller in? Now, if like us, you are thinking that taking a vast and beautiful world such as Columbia and putting in onto a board would leave you with a simple and shallow affair, you could not be further from the truth. In fact, the game is so ambitious, immersive and complete that it can also be very overwhelming. I shall try to explain.
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is either a two or four player game set on the floating city of Columbia. Players take on the role of one of the battling factions fighting for control of Columbia; The Founders or The Vox Populi. Whilst you are engaging in an epic struggle for control of the city, you may also become entangled in the side story of the escaping Elizabeth and the troublesome Booker Dewitt. Elizabeth and Booker’s story unfolds automatically as the game progresses so even if all players try to avoid them, they may find their airship being hijacked or their Songbird being destroyed by an enraged Booker.
Isaac Vega and Plaid Hat Games have taken every single story, character and piece of ambience of the videogame and lovingly placed them into Siege of Columbia. The gameplay of BI: SoC sees players completing various tasks in a round. Players first participate in a vote of a world event that may or may not be beneficial to your faction. Once the vote has been resolved each player then takes it in turns to generate money, buy units or build structures, move said units around the board (you can even use the sky rails of Columbia which is just as exciting as in the game due to the 3 special dice you roll), attack enemy units and attempt to gain control of various territories. Think of the gameplay as PhD Risk with a bit of the soap opera of Elizabeth and Booker thrown in and you will be close. If this sounds rather confusing, it’s because it can be. This is not the intention of the game. BI: SoC is not meant to be one of those games you pick up and play for ten minutes, this is a game you sink your teeth into. The setup is the biggest clue to this with the process taking a good ten to fifteen minutes. The board, fifty plastic figures, twelve combat dice, three movement dice, thirty six structure tokens, eleven territory tokens, one hundred and twenty action cards (thirty per faction), fifteen world event cards and fifteen victory point cards that have to be set up before play begins. There are other pieces that do not get used straight away but you get the idea.
So we know that this is not a game of Monopoly but what are our thoughts of the game then? The main issue we had whilst playing the game, which also happens to be exactly what we like about it, is that there is so much of it. Once you get around the huge set up and comprehensive set of rules, the game does flow naturally. You find that during your turn you feel comfortable transitioning from resource management to strategic movement to combat. The process and flow has been well thought out but is quite time consuming. Each player during our time with the game seemed to take anywhere between five to ten minutes on their turn which meant that in a four player game, players were waiting for approximately twenty minutes until they got involved in the game again. This can draw you out of the world the game is trying to create and left us to ponder the four player game. BI: SoC does feel like it is meant to be a two player; there are after all only two factions in the game. There are fewer units on the board at the beginning of a two player game and your strategy seems to flow better as you are not always checking with your partner on the best course of action. In the two player games we played things did play out quicker but not as quickly as the makers suggest. The box suggests that a game can last between sixty to ninety minutes. This may be the case once you have played the game a good number of times with the same people but initial plays we had were at least three hours long. This is not a bad thing, just do not expect to be able jump in and out of the boardgame the same way you can with the videogame.
Something else we discovered whilst playing is that we tended to forget some of the many rules and events that should happen throughout the game. An example of this was the upgrade system. Each faction has the ability of upgrading various aspects of their action cards during the game. You may actively purchase these but you also earn them should you be successful in a round of combat. We found ourselves constantly stopping the game to retroactively figure out who should have which upgrades.
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is an impressive piece of work. The production values are of the highest quality and the game when set up looks fantastic. The level of detail in the miniatures is amazing and the artwork on the action cards brings a smile to your face when you see a familiar character. I consider myself a semi-experienced board gamer and still I struggled to initially come to terms with the game. The makers do acknowledge that the game can be a handful to get to grips with and have created a very good instructional video which goes through setting up the game and going over the order of play. Using this in tandem with the rules the game comes with does help in getting started quicker. We really like the look and feel of BI: SoC, and although we think it is best suited for more experienced board gamers, we still think you should check it out. We’ve even thought about it and come up with some handy tips which we will post here soon, so you can experience this awesome addition to a fascinating world. It is also important to note that there are a lot of neat little touches to the game that we haven’t mentioned in this feature as we think if would detract from the amazement you will feel when you discover how much has been crammed in to that square box with the Bioshock logo on it.
We Took Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia to one of our fortnightly table top games days to let people have a wee play and to see their opinions. Our game days tend to attract table top gamers of all levels of experience so we managed to get a varied mix as you can see below:
The Novice Gamer
Favourite table top game: Gloom
Favourite Videogame: N/A
What did you like about BI: SoC? “The board is beautifully done & the characters well thought out. The basic premise of the game is interesting & has the potential to really stretch you; there are logistics, strategies & chance to take into account with every turn.”
What didn’t you like about BI: SoC? “I found it confusing at first. There’s an awful lot going on at any time especially as Booker & Elizabeth are essentially a third/forth player. It also seems quite a slow game as each player needs to take a whole series of actions before their turn is done. I found myself getting bored & losing interest by the time my turn came around again.”
What would you change about BI: SoC? “I’m not sure how, but I would like to speed up the gameplay up a little. Perhaps have each player in turn do their Produce Phase, then go back around for the other phases; or have the option to remove Booker & Elizabeth from the game for simplified game play.”
Favourite table top game: Zombies
Favourite videogame: Persona 4 Golden
What did you like about BI: SoC? ”The gameplay is fun once you get used to the rules. I like the risk-reward approach to using the sky rails. The constantly updating victory requirements also stop the game becoming stale. The rule voting round adds a nice extra layer of strategy in the game e.g. do I use a card to make sure I win the vote or am I better off keeping the card but risk losing the vote.”
What didn’t you like about BI: SoC? “It takes too long to set up. The 2vs2 player co-op seems forced and slows the game down too much. There are also not a lot of soldier pieces for each side. “
Anything Else? “Overall I enjoyed the game after getting used to the rules. If they simplified setting it up and kept the game to one versus one the game would be a lot better. I wouldn’t pay the current price for it but would consider buying it.”
The Experienced Board-Gamer
Favourite table top game: Twilight Struggle or Die Macher
Favourite videogame: Ico
What did you like about BI: SoC? “The board looks lovely with each territory and location beautifully rendered, the plastic figures are of good quality but they could have easily used cardboard chits and reduced the cost of the game. The game does feels like it is set in the Bioshock Infinite universe and while both factions are fighting for control of Columbia, Booker and Elizabeth are making their way through Columbia disrupting the battle. This is another hook which links back to the videogame as you are now seeing the story of Booker and Elizabeth’s journey through the eyes of the two factions. The system for resources is a nice touch, each time you make a bid or exchange cards for money you have to decide if you may need the card later for battle which calls for some tough decisions to be made”
What didn’t you like about BI: SoC? “It’s really a two player game, splitting the factions into two teams feels forced. It also adds downtime to the game because players need to decide on a strategy between them. The cost is on the expensive side, probably about £10 to £15 more expensive than it should be; the price bracket puts it in the same range as Fantasy Flight Epics like Twilight Imperium or Rune Wars.”
Anything Else? “The game might be a bit too heavy for new board gamers; I would suggest that this game may suit more experienced gamers.”