25 July 2011

Board Game Review: Anima

A friend picked up the game Anima: Shadow of Omega recently, and I was able to try it out with him. It reminds me a bit of Arcadia: the Wyld Hunt, if you combine it with team-based RPG video games like Chrono Trigger. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start with the ratings:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 4
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Pretty.
Expected Length of Game Play: An hour.
The Anima game (which is actually a card game rather than a board game) consists of several types of cards: Character, Mission, Advantage, Encounter, and Area. In a nutshell, you have a team of up to four characters, trying to complete mission cards by moving to specific areas and using your advantages to defeat the encounter cards.

Turns work in phases: each player goes through the reset phase (resetting your party from the previous turn, but there are certain effects that can occur at this time) in order of their party's Speed rating, then each player goes through the movement phase (choosing which area to visit) in the same order, then the encounter phase (fighting or trading with other players, or facing monsters) in that order, then the explore phase (reap the benefits of your encounter; if you weren't defeated by the monsters in the encounter phase, you get to choose one of the rewards listed on the card. The most common rewards are recruiting a new character to your team, drawing one or more advantage cards, or attempting one of your missions).

Once you've completed at least one of your missions, you can attempt the 'Final Mission.' Whichever player first completes the Final Mission wins the game. However, there is a time limit: if no one completes the Final Mission within a specified number of rounds, then the 'Crisis' occurs. Everyone must roll to try to survive the mission, the first one to succeed wins. If no one succeeds, then the game ends without a winner.

My biggest complaint with this game is that it favours strong characters over fast ones. I had a party of characters with high speed scores, but low strength scores. Despite the fact that I drew the one Final Mission card that requires a Speed test instead of a Strength test, I was obligated to remain in a specific area for at least two turns. I was completely unable to do that because each turn I attempted the mission, another player came in with his low speed/high strength party, attacked my team, and evicted them from the area. We've since discovered a house rule that allows you to add the difference in the parties' Speed scores to your combat value, rending Speed as a more worthwhile trait to have.

But overall, it's not a bad game. It certainly is likely to appeal to people who want a short-form dungeon crawl-style adventure game to get in that D&D fix when time is limited or they don't have their normal group to play with. So don't think I'm telling you not to try this game; you absolutely should! So have fun playing, and until next time,

Game on!

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