Putting Too Much Trust In Fate - B-Sieged Review

Right, before I start this review, a little mini-rant. Publishers, please can you stop calling your games these weird names that mean they are constantly mis-spelt or difficult to find on search engines? And subtitles are pointless, no-one is calling this game "Sons of the Abyss" when they show it to someone. How hard can it be to name a game?

Phew, got that out of the system! So as you all know, I love a good Co-Op game when it's done right. Easier to teach, great fun and none of that "take-that" attitude that puts people off some games. So a tower defence Co-Op with great production values, that's a recipe for a hit right there. . . until I noticed the logo on the side. . . Cool Mini Or Not. And then I remember this was a Kickstarter project (actually saying that has Cool Mini or Not ever self published a game not via Kickstarter?) Now I'm not trying to bash the publisher here, but anyone who's heard my podcast or read my reviews will know that I have a sketchy history with their games. 90% of the time they blow my mind with the production quality (Xenoshyft is basically the other 10%), but constantly I'm discovering flaws that put me off wanting to keep them in the collection or play them again.

It happened with Zombicide, Blood Rage, SMOG, hell I still hold up that Arcadia Quest is their best work to date (The Grizzled was predominantly made by a French publisher and doesn't count) and that was one of the earlier ones. But I hold hope that this one can break the chain, and if that fails, there's always Zombicide Black Plague which is sitting on my sofa in shrink wrap right now beckoning to me, more on that to come in the next few weeks. So let's get this giant box opened up and cross your fingers. . .



Designer: Gorka Mata, Victor Fernandez, Sergi Sole
Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not
Age: 12+
Players: 1-6
Time: 60-90 Minutes
RRP: £74.99



No Matter What Comes Through That Door, You Will Hold!


As with all tower-defence style games you are a band of heroes defending your castle from an invading horde of enemies of various types from fast advancing troops to rock hurling monstrosities. The twist here is that it's not enough to simply survive for as long as you can. Players must also ensure that a Messenger is able to breach through the incoming horde to send for help and then return back to the citadel to win the game. I'm not entirely sure why it's necessary for a Messenger to return, surely you would be better off with a giant army returning back to fight the hordes, but I digress, that's the rules of the game.

Each player has their own hero with a couple of unique skills. From the beginning you can upgrade your character with a varied selection of new abilities, items, spells and traps to help defend your citadel. If things get too hairy, you can push your luck with the central catapult to take down multiple foes or some of those insanely large ones, but be warned, it may get stuck every now and again, such is the way with medieval artillery.

Should two Messengers die or one not return within 12 rounds, the heroes lose the struggle, however if they can get a Messenger back in time then it's a victory all round. Of course achieving this is another thing entirely but we'll get on to that later.


Oh Look! Miniatures!


It's a CMON game so what did you expect? There's a ton of large miniatures here to represent both heroes and hordes and they all look as great as ever. Although why they couldn't fork out to make the Avatar (a humongous beast that randomly spawns) and the Messenger a miniature I don't know. I hear they were Kickstarter exclusives and that's ALWAYS the wrong way to do a Kickstarter in my opinion. Not everyone is keen to fork out money in advance you know! And I certainly am hesitant to do it with giant miniature games like this, I don't subscribe to this whole "pledge and sell afterwards" trend that's going around at the moment.

On top of that, the cards are actually pretty good quality as well along with the boards and the artwork is also very cool across the range. It's an art style that I can't quite place my finger on, but I've seen it in animated movies or anime at some time. It's very colourful and striking and when everything is combined it will look great on the table even though your miniatures will be grey. Although one caveat with that, this has a humongous footprint and I really can't place enough emphasis on that H-word. The cross shape of boards you set out takes up a ton of space and that's not even taking into account the miniature boxes, the placement board for the cards and the player sheets. It really is a table hog, I had to put the cover on my poker table just to barely fit it on, granted it's not the largest table in the world, hence I have a GeeknSon table on order, but even so.

The rulebook also isn't perfect. It's not bad, but you will likely be checking up a few rules to clarify matters and some aspects are not fully explained like the catapult, i.e. is it technically a building, does a hero occupy it when used therefore blocking others, etc. These obscurities are actually pretty fundamental to the game however. Now there is a FAQ that clarifies matters (more on that later), but in my world, your game shouldn't need a giant FAQ less than a fortnight after its release, proof read your rulebooks people!


The Odds Aren't In Your Favour



The game is definitely extremely difficult in its current state. However it's not difficult in the right way. Now what I mean is that you have very little control over how the game progresses. When you fight an enemy, you roll a die. When you fire the catapult, roll a die. When you rotate the catapult, roll a die. When you spawn enemies, roll a die. When you gain a new item, draw a card from a random deck. Get the picture yet?

There is a lot of die chucking in this game and we're not talking custom dice here, just your standard six-sided affair, well bar one die for the catapult with some skulls on it. So you're trusting to luck a lot, and there's no means of mitigation. When rotating the catapult, you have to roll a die to see if it gets stuck and if that happens, you wasted your action. Even when you draw a new card it might have a negative effect and thus you've wasted your action, hell even if it's a good card, you might not be able to use it to any good effect there and then or you'll have to waste yet another action to trade with another person.

Now on top of that, the game is already really difficult. Monsters spawn in droves and you will struggle to keep up with it all especially when trying to clear the path for the Messenger. But when you lose a game of B-Sieged, and trust me you lose plenty, you never feel like you could have played the game any different. Because the luck was either with you or it wasn't. Now you could compare this to something like Ghost Stories and yes there's some dice rolling in that. But you can control the mitigation there with the tokens and you have access to all the location abilities from the get-go that don't rely on die rolls. Here you might draw a bunch of weapons/armour cards that will barely help you. Or you might draw a really powerful bow that will lay waste to many enemies at once. You had no control over that though so you don't feel like you made a contribution in terms of tactics or strategy. And when the game isn't a short one (we're talking 60-90 minutes and all that setup time), it's very frustrating to have your time effectively nullified outside your control.

In terms of choices, there certainly are enough to make here, in terms of which wall you defend, what building you use, etc, but even if your choice was a sound one, again the end result is pure luck of a roll or card draw. Your best laid plan to wipe out the back zone with a catapult shot just went sour because one die made it get stuck and then your attack missed. And the enemies don't have this problem, everything they do is automatic and scripted including the hits they deal out. No chance the big Molen guys will miss with one of their rocks, nope, it's automatic hit and damage. Why is it so hard for the heroes to hit anything yet the enemy are pinpoint accurate?

It gives me the impression that B-Sieged is trying to be a light "beer & pretzel" style game. But if so, it should take half the time in game length and not require such a huge footprint, setup time and price point to boot.


Download The Latest Patch


Since B-Sieged was released, there has been a large FAQ issued out to fix some of the issues that I've mentioned above and clarify some of the obscure rules. Now this is a help, but it is by no means a complete fix. The rule clarifications are fine, finally the catapult is fully explained for example. However the suggestions it makes for toning down the difficulty only work so well. One of them is about the frequency that the Avatar turns up, which to be honest didn't happen that much in my games, at least certainly not from rolling the same spawn symbol 3 times in a row.

So even though this FAQ is out, I feel that if you want to get the most out of B-Sieged, you will have to come up with some house rules of your own. Certainly I feel one of the best things you can do is remove the turning nonsense with the catapult or at least make it so that turning and firing is all in the same action. Additionally I would opt for been able to look through the available resource piles everytime you draw one and then pick the one you want. This gets rid of the issue of spending time only to draw something useless for you and wasting actions to trade. Now the flip side of this is that you render the negative cards in the decks completely useless, but to be honest they shouldn't have been put there in the first place so big whoop!



Verdict


Not again . . not again! This one actually pains me to write because I can see a lot of potential here. Somewhere in this box is an awesome game, but sadly B-Sieged lets itself down with its lack of luck mitigation combined with a colossal difficulty spike. The recent FAQ has helped to improve on these things as well as clarify some ambiguous rules, but it's not enough and I feel that more house rules will be required. If that's something you are comfortable with, then go for it, but for me it felt like I needed to re-write half the rulebook and ditch some of the components.

It looks the absolute business as to be expected with quality miniatures, boards and cards, but you better have a large table otherwise you're going to be struggling to fit it all on. It's also not a short game due to the long setup and constant spawning/resolution of the enemy models, certainly I don't recommend playing this with any more than 4 players or even 4 heroes for that matter.

Overall, it's another disappointment for me, but there's a solid game in here somewhere and I really tried hard to see past the issues. With some rules fixing I feel it could be pretty solid, but that's why we have the concept known as "play-testing"!

If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/


YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:



You adore the visual aspect of this game, it is no doubt a great spectacle when laid out.


You believe the FAQ is enough to fix some of the problems or don't mind house-rules.


You welcome the challenge and like the variety of the cards that are used.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:



You think the difficulty spike is just way too high for it to be enjoyable.


You hate the amount of randomness this game puts you through.


You aren't prepared to house-rule a lot of changes in addition to the official FAQ.


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