Cool Mini Or Not
Cool Mini Or Not
Number of Players:
Copy purchased by reviewer
This game will kill you.
I can’t state that clearly and expressly enough: this game is designed so that a streak of bad dice or a wrong choice in your planning will cause ruin and destruction upon you and your friends. You and your friends are, for better or worse, the leaders of this doomed castle, and there is a big chance that things will not end well for you. Like the dramatic music that starts to crescendo during any good fantasy or sci-fi movie, you can anticipate the inevitable death that comes for your characters. Yet, you scream, you rally, you swing your swords, you fight on until the bitter, terrible end.
Just you and your wizard friend, against the hordes...
B-Sieged is a messy game, a complicated game; it is a game that overwhelms you. There are problems with balance, and more often than not, you will lose. It is so, so much fun.
The Basics: Castle Defense For Suckers
The premise of B-Sieged is simple: someone, somewhere awoke an ancient evil from an ancient other land, and now that ancient evil is descending upon your modestly equipped outpost. For one reason or another, the fate of the land now rests squarely on the shoulders of you and your compatriots. I am going to assume that the king/duke/mayor was either on vacation, or decided to ‘take a walk’ before the trouble started. You begin the game’s year long siege by choosing characters from knightly defenders, to ridiculously equipped blacksmiths, to sneaky rogues. Each character has a unique look and feel, and the artwork of the game definitely lends itself to making you feel like badass defenders of the realm… if also a bit desperate.
At the start of every turn, demons manifest onto the board. They come from every direction: while you and your defenders stay inside the center square, the four directional boards around you have the areas where the demons appear. Then, it is your turn as the defenders; during this time, each character has three actions, which can be used in a whole variety of ways. You can go to the various locations inside the castle for spells, supporting characters, and supplies. You can go pray in the cathedral, to either level your character, or get tokens that let you fudge dice rolls at a later time. There’s an insanely powerful catapult in the center of the board that you can direct, or you can do the obvious, and man one of the four walls of the castle and fight directly.
Placement in the castle is key. Deciding where your heroes visit for supplies or defense will decide if you survive the onslaught.
After you have your chance, then it’s time for the demons to respond: those that are still alive advance up the board, or, if they have already gotten where they need to go, they will start to attack, whether it’s with axes, lava spit bombardment, or boulders. If you’ve prepared traps, those go off around this point as well, helping to fend off the advancing hordes. After this point, you advance the season tracker one, you flip over a new event, and now it is time to do it all over again.
How You Can Die, and Die Terribly
Here is the catch, the most important thing about this game: you cannot win through sheer defense. The true objective of the game is to get the messenger – a terrified, scrawny looking fellow – to run out of the castle, escape off the board in one of the four directions, and then come back to your fortress carrying an all-powerful artifact, all without being attacked by the advancing demons.
There are so, so many ways this game can go south on you. First off, you can lose the castle by having enemy basic foot soldiers reach a wall without a defender, and advance in: this results in immediate death of everyone inside. There’s also the chance that the Avatar – no, not the cute kid from the TV series – can spawn in a multitude of ways, and unless you deal 10 hits to it before it reaches your wall, you lose, regardless of whether or not you have someone there defending.
While your heroes do seem pretty resilient, since they can heal through killing foes, they can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of attacks coming at them: this can come from the volleys of lava spit from a distance, to the wall of foot soldiers that will show up at your door later in the game, to the massive Molen throwing boulders which hurt an entire section of castle…including destroying the buildings you need to use to help keep the tide away. As the game goes on, more and more foes show up as you just can’t kill them fast enough, and if you aren’t careful, you are losing resources to use against them.
Just remember, none of this matters if your messenger isn’t defended. You have 12 rounds to the game, and in that time, you have to make sure the messenger leaves the board (moving three times), comes back after a pause (3 more rounds), then survives in the city for one more round before victory is upon you. The messenger won’t move if there are foes in the zone in front of him, and he dies if he’s stuck in the same zone as the attackers. We once had a winning defense going, but realized too late that we hadn’t helped clear a path for our messenger until round 6: it was too late to recover, and the hordes consumed us like the fools we were.
The Good: How Horrible Situations Can Be Horribly Fun
Only in games can assured death and terrible odds be considered a good thing: B-Sieged is at its very best when you are up against a wall, in a desperate situation, and then discover the way out alongside your fellow allies. I, Zoë, Eric, and two friends were still high-fiving, laughing, and celebrating in a game where we had been crushed on the tenth turn; there had been over thirty enemy models on the board all at once by that point, leaving us outnumbered 6 to 1. Eric died on the ramparts, fighting 14 foot soldiers, but we saluted his sacrifice as he took down more than half in the process. Zoë had been crushed to death by boulders, but not before using their last arrow shots to destroy an Avatar that had spawned against us.
The art for this game is fun, and there are character types that feel unique and interesting from each other to play.
You feel like big damn heroes in this game. It’s the attraction that you feel when you watch a movie like Starship Troopers, or that surge of adrenaline you can get when you are defending against a zerg rush in the Starcraft universe: there’s more of them than of you, and while it’s obvious that you are outmanned and outgunned, the rush to survive anyway can be intense. Board games can be abstract, but B-Sieged benefits from being a miniatures game here, because you see the hordes closing in, making you feel penned in. Another point for B-Sieged is that it benefits from being a game by Cool Mini or Not: not only is there a full expansion, available but there’s also a wealth of individual small add-ons to fill out the game, from new tokens to new heroes, and add to the experience.
When your heroes are fighting the good fight and managing to win in a round, B-Sieged is worth every penny. You can manage them to level them up, specializing them for high strength (to take out the big monsters) or for destroying waves of foes all at once, or even for just being better at getting resources. When it comes to the resources, there are cards you can acquire which let you use vats of boiling tar against waves of foes, or employ allies to plan traps in varying zones. Spells are used to save your buildings or strike down foes, and you can find new equipment in the armory. The game feels thematic and dramatic, from start to finish, and when everything lines up your way in terms of luck, this castle defense is some of the most fun I’ve had around a table in a long time.
The Bad: Lady Luck Has No Pity
The problem is that things are not going to line up for you very often in B-Sieged. There are some rounds where, despite perfect planning, your attempt to use the catapult, or fight off the attackers, or even just find new equipment, is going to fail. Attacks are based on dice rolls, which is understandable, but the catapult has the ability to breakdown and fail in its attacks, or simply not budge. There is nothing more disheartening than someone spending 3 of their action points attempting to move the catapult and fire just once because the dice are not in their favor.
It should be noted that the resource cards also have ‘surprises’ in them. Suddenly losing food, rather than gaining it, or taking damage to your buildings, rendering them useless until you spend precious time repairing them. Time is a resource you carefully plan out with your friends, but the best plans are blown apart by a bad roll of the dice. I understand that the game is trying to create a particular mood, but unfortunately, B-Sieged goes a little too far. For a lot of people, feeling your plans get dashed repeatedly isn’t fun It’s just exhausting.
The Avatar is a point of frustration: in a game full of really great miniatures, the Avatar is a cardboard prop (unless you buy the actual miniature separately) which iscreated to destroy your hopes and dreams. Ittakes 10 separate hits to kill, can show up as early as round one, and kills you instantly if it survives 3 turns. While you are spawning monsters at the start of a turn, if you roll the same letter three times in a row, he appears. There’s an event card where he is summoning onto the battlefield, and if you ever run out of regular foes to put on the board, he shows up instead to finish you off. The Avatar is meant to be the end-all monster in the box, and while sometimes it creates climactic moments, it often feels more aggravating than exciting to see it enter the battlefield.
A publisher like Cool Mini or Not is known for great sculpts: seeing a cardboard cut out advancing on your heroes takes a little of the immersion out of a game which has amazing miniatures.
Luck is the main point of aggravation in B-Sieged, and could have been mitigated with just a few small design changes. Making the various resource cards not have traps in them would make digging for resources feel more reliable without taking away the threat of monsters, for example. Another rule they could do away with is the ‘one person per location’ rule: if a character ends their last action point at a particular place, then no one else can use it until that character moves away next turn. It’s a fun management rule in theory for a co-op game, but in light of how much random disaster is coming your way during a game, it feels like one step too far in player limitations.
Death is Not The End Of A Good Time
I’ve found that B-Sieged is not a game for winners. If you are someone who only gets a rush out of success, this is not a game for you. You are going to lose more games than you win, and sometimes, those losses are not going to be fair at all. There is a little bit too much that can go wrong for some in this board game, and so for those that don’t like gambling should steer clear of this one.
However, some of the most fun games - and loudest games - that I’ve played around a table have come from B-Sieged. Individual moments come back to my memory as standing out as do-or-die: There were 5 of us in the castle, and more than 30 foes closing in on us. It was the last few rounds, our last chance to try and survive, and we all saluted Zoë as they took their gallant knight to the western wall, facing down 14 foot soldiers on their own. We prayed, and cried, as my friend Corey tried to fire the catapult at a horde of boulder-throwing Molen and failed. We shouted loud enough to wake someone in the house as the catapult worked the second time.
I don’t remember if we won this particular game – out of the 5 games I’ve played, we have won only one - but I do remember Zoë gallantly slaying 4 of those foes before dying, sacrificing themself for the greater cause. I remember the cheers of triumph as we managed to take down the massive Avatar before it broke through the walls to the south. I remember talking with my friends as we packed up the game, and the consensus was clear: holy crap, this was intense…and we have to, have to play again.
This game isn't for everyone. The point of this game is not to win, but to feel like epic damn heroes against an unrelenting tide. If that is something that sounds up your alley, than this game is certainly one for you. Then, when you finally get that glorious victory, it is something that you treasure long after you’ve packed up the box.