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Battle Lines Review by Jason Mackowiak

I was recently asked to try out a prototype version of the board game unPerfect Heroes: Battle Lines. I offered to play it with various members of my gaming group and also asked my digital arts students to give it a try. The game was met with enthusiasm across the board, but as with all things gaming, there were some complaints from players as well as a few gamers who just did not “feel it.”

Let me begin by describing the groups who tried out the game over the past few weeks. The first group consists of my regular gaming group. A bunch of 30 to 40-year-old guys who get together once a month when our wives decide it is time for a girl’s night out. The other group that played the prototype was about 8 of my digital art and design students at a small state university. In general, my gaming group likes card games such as Smash Up and Sentinels of the Multiverse. We play dice game such as Machi Koro and our newest favorite Cavern Tavern. The students play almost any board game they can get their hands on including classics such as Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Lords of the Waterdeep as well as newer games such as Dark Souls the board game and Star Wars Rebellion. With these player interests in mind, allow me to describe the game and our reactions to you, the reader.

unPerfect Heroes is a card game that requires the roll of dice, or if you prefer, it could be called a dice game that is affected by the stats on certain cards. As the cover says, “cards AND dice. It’s like two games in one!” You begin the game by choosing a scenario. Each scenario consists of the players trying to be the first one in line for something. The prototype came with two scenarios, racing to be the first in line for a buffet, or being the first to use a portable toilet. The gamers who played it a few times began envisioning their own scenarios, such as being the first to safety when running from a zombie horde. The scenarios are window dressing on a theme involving a family of misfits competing to be the first at whatever it is they have chosen to compete at.

The game begins with players choosing a certain character marker to represent their spot on the scenario card. It does not matter where you start on the card as your ultimate goal is to reach the top of the game board. Starting higher on the board leads to a shorter game, but overall the game is fairly quick. We consistently played the game as a two-player game, although it can be played with additional players. In the two-player game, the active player only had the other player to choose as an opponent, and that opponent would choose a bad guy to defend their “spot in line.” The defender plays a Bad Guy card and then the person trying to move forward on the game board would choose a Hero card. The Bad Guy and Hero cards each have various stats on them and special abilities that may affect the outcome of the upcoming dice rolls or bonuses on future turns. Many of these special abilities are triggered against opponents that have a certain trait such as Lazy, Gassy, and Enthusiastic. Both players can then play an assortment of additional random crap cards that also can affect the outcome of the upcoming dice rolls. These effects include things such as adding a die to the Hero’s dice roll or forcing the Hero to move fewer spaces when attacking or bribing. Speaking of attacking and bribing, the main actions that a Hero will attempt to accomplish are attacking the bad guy, bribing them, or running away. These actions are accomplished by rolling dice. Five dice are the standard roll, but the stats and powers on the various cards might increase or decrease the number of dice that the Hero gets to roll. The actual outcome of the dice rolls was a little confusing to those players, especially the digital art students, that did not have an experienced player present to walk them through how the game was played. The rule book was a bit confusing to them, and a few stated that they would have liked more actual examples of how a turn would work step by step using actual cards, sample dice rolls and the results of the player’s actions and why they did an action. Other players found it easy to comprehend, especially when they simply dove into the game and tried it.

Once a Hero rolls the dice, they compare their results to both the Hero and the Bad Guy card to decide which action is best. After the results, both players discard their played cards and any other cards in their hand they no longer want and then draw back up to five cards. Sometimes during our games, a Hero card would end up getting a better movement result by attempting a bribe instead of attacking. The variety of card interaction was a welcome feature as it kept everyone from always trying to attack the Bad Guy. Sometimes the dice would simply not allow for a successful attack. For example, the Hero may need to attack a Bad Guy with a stamina of 14, but the Hero can only count any rolls of 1 or 2 toward his attack strength. With only five dice it would not happen easily. Playing a Random Crap card that added additional dice might have helped until the Bad Guy plays a Random Crap card that took away two of the attackers dice. This constant back and forth is exactly what my gaming group craves, and even my students formed rivalries amongst themselves. Many rematches were initiated due to close game results or losing because of a last second bad roll of the dice.

There is quite a bit of strategy involved once players have played a few gamed and have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t and when to play certain types of cards. The traits that each Hero or Bad Guy have attributed to them adds to the theme, for example, the gym teacher might be strong and the bratty teenager might be gassy. Unfortunately, the traits also made the game grind to a halt. Quite often the players had to look at their opponent cards and try to decipher the small graphic that represented the traits, then they had to look up the trait symbols on the back of the rule book. Some players recognized a few traits after a couple of games were played but overall the constant glancing at each other’s cards and the symbols in the rule book was one of the biggest complaints. Another issue that developed in a few games was the extreme “luck factor” as one player described it. Some games would only take 4 or 5 turns. One game I played, ended with my character barely moving up the scenario board while the other player won by 8 or 9 points. This did not distract from my enjoyment, it simply led to many a rematch. Some other players though were turned off when things did not go their way turn after turn. Luck definitely plays a big part in this game.

Despite these issues, I felt the game is truly enjoyable with the right gaming group. A group with a good sense of humor is important. Some of the characters specials were truly unique, such as the gym teacher. When played the gym teacher made the defending player roll five dice instead and if the result was less than 20, the gym teacher automatically moved two spaces. The special ability was called “Drop ‘n Gimme 20!” and brought a smile to my face when I was able to play it for the first time. The character cards are one of the standout features of unPerfect Heros. One of the first things that the art students did, upon being asked to play the game, was to dig through the cards. They looked at the artwork while announcing the character names, and phrases, such as the waitress “it’s hard to resist her pretty face. just stay away from her breath.” Gamers who would enjoy this game need to be thick-skinned. There was an incredible amount of trash talking during the various gaming sessions. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a quick game that involves both dice and cards. Keep in mind that unPerfect Heros might be considered a “filler” by some gamers, but get ready to play multiple games in a row in order to settle rivalries that are sure to develop!

Quick Play Rule Cards

I just wanted to post a quick little thing to show the rule card that will be included in the game. I just realized I did something dumb though. I ordered five decks of cards from Print Play Games and instead of making one card with rules on the front and back, I made two separate cards.  Grr. I could have used that 54th card as a memorial to me or something.

Anyway, this is what the rule card (singular) will look like, front and back. The icons reference those on the other cards in the deck.

unPerfect Heroes Battle Lines Rule Cards

Combat – Melee and Range

Combat in WAPLE worlds is chucking up to 10 6-sided dice based on each character’s strengths or weaknesses. Please keep in mind that this is a prototype and may change. The cards will look better later.

I’ve included two different examples here: Wally “Walla” Wapleburger, the giant manager of wrestler Biff Waple, and Spiff Waplespunk, the teenage son of Spanky, the Waple’s marketing guru. These graphics are WAPLE “HERO” CARDS

You can consider Wally to be somewhat like an ogre or troll. He’s big and slow, has a huge defense and a slow but strong swing. The first stat, in red, is his BASHING skill, which is for MELEE attacks. At level 0 it is a five, which is the highest you can start with. The one below that is DUMB LUCK, sort of like dexterity in other games, and is used for RANGED ATTACKS. You’ll notice his is only a 1, the lowest you can have. The third, in blue, is DEFENSE, and again he has a five.  The next two are ESCAPE and MOVE but that’s for another day.

Each of these stats can be leveled up to modify your Waple. The white boxes show where Wally can put extra points to increase the base stats. The grey boxes show that he can’t go any higher. So Wally can get up to 10 in bashing or defense but can only have a maximum escape of two.

Waples start at level 0, so let’s assume that for now. If Wally wants to hit an opponent, he will start with five dice, Unless otherwise noted, Waples always roll at least five dice for BASHING and RANGE. You can roll up to three times and freeze the numbers you want to hold.

Looking at the dice chart on the bottom in red you can see that Wally, if in melee range, needs to roll fives. The first row is how many need to be rolled for the initial hit, followed by the points of damage that hit does. Since Wally swings his two-pound turkey leg slow but hard he has to roll three fives and has three rolls to get it. If he doesn’t get three then he misses. If he does get three he does 15 points of damage to his opponent. If he gets any fives beyond the first that are required, he will do more damage. A total of four fives means 15 for the initial hit and then 10 more damage for the fourth five that was rolled. He then gets five more points of damage for any fives beyond that.

Let’s assume Wally is level five and has put all his points into BASHING so that all of the white spaces in the BASHING row are filled. He can now roll 10 dice. You always roll five dice for an attack but then add one more for each space you fill in for that stat. Rolling the initial three fives is now much easier, as is the next five and any thereafter.

The last die shown in his attack is a red six which is an exploding die. Each time Wally rolls a six he does an additional five points of damage and it can be rolled again. You can freeze sixes and add their damage and re-roll but remember that they don’t count at all if the initial hit, in his case the three fives, isn’t made, so be careful when you freeze these.

When in ranged position, further back from melee, Wally can try to roll three ones. Again, he has three tries to do this. If he gets the three ones he will temporarily blind the bad guy, who will have to roll two less dice on his next turn.

Now let’s look at another Waple, Spiff. He’s younger, weaker and faster than Wally so he has completely different rolls to make.  You can see his melee BASHING stat can only go up two more times, allowing him to roll seven dice, but his dumb luck can go to five which, when added to his default roll of five, means he can roll up to 10 dice, if he chooses.

Looking at his BASHING rolls he needs ones and twos. The first row shows what he needs to make the initial hit with his rubber sword: a one and a two. If he gets just that he will do two damage. After the first one and two are frozen, any additional ones and twos are added up to show additional damage. Therefore, if he rolls 1,1,2,2,4 you could reorder them like |1,2| for the first hit of two, then another |1,2| that sums to another three. The four doesn’t count. If he added two to his BASHING level and rolled seven dice, he could potentially roll 1,2,2,2,2,2,2 which would be |1,2| two for the initial hit and |2,2,2,2,2| summed up to another ten for a total of 12 damage.

Additionally, if he rolls any sixes he can freeze them until after the third roll, at which point he adds three more damage and re-rolls that six to see if he can get another one or two to add to the total, or another exploding six to add three and re-roll again.

If Spiff doesn’t want to get into melee range, he can stand a little further back and try throwing his plastic ax at the bad guy. In this case he needs to roll two threes for the initial attack and then each additional three adds three more damage. If he loaded up his dumb luck with another five skill points he would throw ten dice. if these were all threes he would do 27 damage, three for the first two threes and then three more for each additional three.

 

 

The Game Tiles

WAPLEworlds is made up of game tiles based on the whichever theme you are playing; these could be a city, the jungle, a space station, an alien planet, or Biff Waple’s mamma’s house.

The tiles are 6×6 one-inch squares. Some are blank, some have locations, others have random spots where you may find things. There is also a path that shows the direction in which any bad guys on that tile may move.

When you first start a game, you will place a tile on your regulation-sized WAPLEworlds gaming table¹. You’ll then place your Waple(s) on the START space, and in neighboring spaces if you have a friend to play with.  You’ll then roll six 6-sided dice, add them together, pick a BAD GUY from the BAD GUY DECK and place its marker on the number rolled. Note that the picture here doesn’t have numbers added yet, but just imagine them for now, pretty little numbers all over it.  Never mind, the fact that numbers weren’t on it was driving me crazy, so I just added them.

You may notice a squiggly line going throughout the tile. That there is the path that the bad guy takes while stomping around his turf. The white arrow with the grey border on the path shows his starting direction of movement. Each turn he will move a certain number of spaces, based on his MOVEMENT score.

You are probably already thinking out your strategy, eh? “I’m going to avoid the Fat Lady in the Electric Shopping Cart by going around the bottom of the map. Well, that’s where you’d be wrong, maybe. Before moving a bad guy, you will roll a 6-sided die and see if she will be passive and continue on her merry way, or if she is going to be aggressive and HEAD RIGHT FOR YOU! AAAHH!!!!

There are also respected establishments for you to enter, and some not so respectable:

  • If you are tired you can go to Pepe’s Motor Lodge for some rest.
  • Big Al’s Fat Camp is where you’ll want to train up and add skills to your Waple.
  • Scam and Save is this neighborhood’s trusted pawn shop.
  • When you have explored multiple tiles and want to travel a long distance, go visit Abdul’s Roach Coach. His certain items on his menu give you so much gas that it’ll launch you up and over to other tiles!
  • The Dark and Scary Alleys are great places to encounter things… sometimes.
  • Cheese dip is the Waple staple. Hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know I was! I haven’t decided if the blank yellowish orange space will be the queso store or if you buy that at the roach coaches. But queso will give you energy. For that case, the motor lodges may not be needed if they do what queso also does. Eh, time will tell.

Oh, one last thing about these tiles. Both Waples and Non-Waples can only move horizontally or vertically, unless they have a special item that says otherwise.

And the arrows on each store indicate the door and the side on which you must enter. You can’t just walk through walls, unless you are certain characters.

Another last thing, those solid black lines are barriers. When you flip over a new tile you cannot walk through those.

 

¹Not provided. We hear that some people have been able to play on other surfaces but we can’t say for sure.