Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MK Kickstarted: LAST STAND

MK Kickstarted: LAST STAND

Welcome to this edition on MK Tabletop Talk! 

You may have noticed in the title, today we are doing an in depth review of a game that has just begun to hit the table. It was officially funded through Kickstarter on April 11th, 2016 and arrived in peoples homes beginning in late July. 124 backers pledged just over $5,500 to support the creation of this game. Considering the low initial goal of just $4,000 most people would consider this a decently successful campaign.

The concept of the game? You and the rest of the players are part of a team that arrives to handle a big threat, One of three Generals. Turns out it was an ambush! You are surrounded and minions begin to pour out from every exit. It is time for one LAST STAND! You have only one goal, survival. If you can make it through the waves of minions that have been lightly peppered with Lieutenants until the main boss arrives, and take him down before you run out of time, the troops will scatter and you can make your evacuation. I am a sucker for co-op games and I do like the premise, so I was happy to get this one onto my Tabletop.

 It is my personal belief that a bit of rule polishing, and few upgrades/adjustments to the game material can make this one a huge hit! As it stands it is a pretty fun game! I did have to play through it twice. The first time I had made a few mistakes in the rules. I hadn't quite read everything correctly.

Play Through 1
For this first game we had three players at the table. One quick look through the rule book and we were off! We had The Brawler, The Combat Medic and The Demolitionist in the fight. We decided to go with the games suggestion and started off against the General known as Firestarter.

Set up was fast and easy. I always appreciate this in a game. It doesn't matter if it is the best game ever invented, if it takes too long to set up, half the room has lost interest before the first turn is taken. I have had groups stop mid set up and decide to change the game solely based on the difficulty or length of the set up.

The first real question we came upon had to do with the "out of position" minions. It seemed odd to us that after using a skill like the Combat Medic: Blowback ability that moves a Front line minion out of position into a ranged space, why wouldn't that minion step back up to hit you? It wasn't as much of an issue with the ranged attacks as they could be pulled forward and still do damage, but the Grunt that can only hit you if he is standing next to you just hanging out in the back waiting to be picked off? The Brute has an ability called Charge that lets him step up to the front again, but he is the only Front line minion I noticed that could do that. I understand the mechanic, I just don't think it makes any thematic sense. I like my games to tell a story. It is hard to stay in the story of a game if there are rules that contradict the overall thematic reality.

The next slight hiccup landed when the first Sniper minion hit the board. The rules state quite clearly that all attacks in the game, ranged or otherwise, happen in a straight line. So a range of 3 allows a person to attack anyone within three spaces in a straight line. The Sniper has no listed range, instead it says this minion attacks the player on the board with the lowest hit points. So ...does this mean in a straight line as dictated by the rules, or should we follow the one sentence in the rule book that says in any rule dispute, the card text overrules the book? Again, assumptions upon the games intent can be made, but so could arguments in another direction. 

One last thing that was pointed out that could have been helpful was found in the Reinforcement Track. It clearly shows every space where a Lt. is released into the fray. In the picture you can see the large letter L. If you read in the rules it will tell you that the General arrives in the space directly following the third Lt. So why not put a large letter G there? A small but useful addition.

We also misread the rules for Firestarter and only released one fire token for every Lt. on the board, not every one for every Lt. that had been on the board. These small errors made for an easy victory without even using a single life token. Instead of feeling like an intense stand off where every moment could mean our demise, it felt a bit more like Rambo with a huge gun mowing down the opposition. We all walked away feeling less than impressed. I remember having the distinct thought "How much was this game? Is it really worth it?"

...Luckily I had a chance to give it another go before I wrote this.

Play Through 2
With only two of us this time, the rules (re-read with more detail) stated we each play two Heroes. I instantly thought it would be a cake-walk with an extra body in the mix. We stuck with playing against Firestarter so I could see how he worked when played properly. Again we had the Combat Medic, the Brawler and the Demolitionist, but we added in the Femme Fatal

It was when the Lt. Sawbones hit the board that we found another problem. Printed there on the Sawbones card was this, "Add 1 minion to the reinforcements pile." You see, all other Lt., or other cards for that matter, I had encountered read things like "When ___ enters play" or similar verbiage. This lead us to wonder, is this only when he hits the board, or the entire time he is on it? We decided to run with continually, because it didn't have the qualifiers for one turn only. This proved to be a bigger issue than thought. When the next and final Lt. hit the board, the Leader, he had "Add 2 minions to the reinforcement pile". We now had three extra minions charging at us every round! The math on this one added up quick and with the Overrun damage, all three fire tokens keeping our movement limited and the arrival of Firestarter himself, our entire party dropped in the same round! Two rounds later, only one turn away from actually defeating Firestarter, two more party members dropped handing the game to the villains ...this time.

The only noticeable difference from the start was the number of minions drawn due to the number of Heroes on the board. The later game definitely showed its savage jaws! Even though we found a few more issues with clarity in the rules, after some more sifting through the book we both agreed that the main problem was not in the lack of rules (although there were a few unanswered questions), it was in the poor layout and lack of cross referencing that all the confusion spawned.

Here is an example of the type of unanswered questions we had:

Brute has an ability that keeps any target behind him from taking damage. Demolitionist  has an ability that allows him to "choose any target in an adjacent quadrant" and do area damage to the rest of the targets in the area. Could the Demolitionist target an enemy behind the Brute? Even if he can't, does the target behind the Brute take the area damage, or is he immune because of the Brutes ability? The Sharpshooter has an ability called Long Shot that allows him to "Target any enemy". Could he target an enemy behind the Brute? The same question arrives again with the Heavy Support and his Chain Gun ability that gives him spray damage in the same line as his target.

As we could not find any rulings and it was in fact the cards that were contradicting each other, we ruled in all of these cases that due to the Brute and his ability, the targets behind him could not be targeted, but they were effected by the secondary damage as it landed in a zone instead of being aimed directly at them.

Another suggestion we had for the basic graphics on the Hero cards. There are two icons, like in the picture, cross-hairs with a number that gives you the range of the attack, and a blue fist with a number that tells you the power of the attack. These icons are on every enemy in the game. Dropping smaller versions of these exact images into the skill descriptions of the Heroes abilities would help with the "at a glance" ease of play. There are other minor changes that could help make reading the rules go a touch smoother, but that would be better discussed with the folks who are producing the game rather than chatting about layout alterations during a blog with potential players.

The Wrap Up

I have to admit again that I am thoroughly glad I had a chance to play this game more than once! I was at first inclined not to recommend the game. It was hard to justify the $40 price (plus shipping) for a game that seemed unpolished. It was my second time sitting down to the game (with correct rule play) that gave me a much better view of it. 
I had said it was like mowing down minions? It turned into us getting mowed down like goons. It truly did achieve that "I am going to die" feeling after a short minute into game two. This was in part due to following the rules as written, and one part how we decided to interpret the rules when clarification was not present.

I stand by my statement that the game felt unpolished and not quite ready for mainstream production. I will also stand by my belief that LAST STAND, after some minor touch-ups, will be an amazing addition to any Tabletop Enthusiasts collection. For what you get right out of the box, a solid Three Star game. 

There you have it. 
Until next time ...Game On!