- For ages 12 and up
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 90 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Reading & Writing
- Strategy & Tactics
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Build your army out of pieces of people abducted by aliens
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek mixed!
Aliens have abducted humans over the centuries and are now battling them in their arena. However, they are not content to have any old battle. They have taken the abducted and separated them so they can mix, match, and build their perfect warrior. You are one of those aliens, and you have at your disposal many disembodied people to put together as you wish to build – literally – your perfect soldiers. Enter the arena and battle!
Battle Bodies, designed by Christiaan van der Linde and published by Vanderlinde Games, is comprised of 135 Body Part cards, 40 Body Number tokens, 131 Action cards, 40 Reward tiles, eight Strength markers, and one game board. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The game board, tokens, and tiles are thick and sturdy cardboard. Excellent quality. Illustrations on the cards are colorful and stylized.
Organizing Your Parts
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, place the game board in the middle of the playing area. Make sure there is enough room for the players to organize their cards beside the game board. Reserve space for a “Graveyard.”
Second, have each player select a side of the square game board. The color they are sitting in front of is their Strength track. Have each player take two Strength markers adding one to the “10” Body Number token that is the same color as their Strength track. Leave any remaining off to one side.
Third, separate the “Head,” “Torso,” and “Feet” Body Part cards into different piles and shuffle. Next, take the Action cards and shuffle them as a separate pile. Once shuffled, place each face-down on the corresponding space on the game board. These are the draw decks for the duration of the game.
Fourth, deal to each player four “Head,” four “Torso,” and four “Feet” Body part cards from the draw decks. Also, deal nine Action cards to each player. These cards represent that player’s starting hand. Players should look at these cards but keep them hidden from opponents until played.
Fifth, find and separate the white and yellow Reward tiles by color. Shuffle each separately and place face-down. This is the “Graveyard” for the duration of the game. From the Graveyard, have each player select a combination of five Reward tiles. The player can select all of one color or mix and match. The yellow Reward tiles will provide the player with additional Body Part cards, while the white Rewards will give the player additional Action cards. After selecting their Reward tiles, the player should place them face-up in front of them. This area is the player’s “Reward vault” for the game’s duration.
Sixth, each player now adds the total value of the yellow Reward tiles and draws that number of Body Part cards, adding them to their hand. Any combination is allowed. Then each player adds the total value of their white Reward tiles and draws that number of Action cards, adding them to their hand.
Seventh, each player looks at their hand and builds up to five Battle Bodies. A Battle Body is comprised of one “Head,” one “Torso,” and one “Feet” Body Part card. These are played in front of the player, face-up. A Battle Body can be made from a single character’s same “parts” for a bonus or made from several different parts. Have fun mixing and matching, but watch those number values to the left and right side of the Body Parts cards, too! These values will be used in combat.
This is the player’s Battle Body starting army. Any Body Part cards not used remain in the player’s hand. Once a player’s army is built, have each player take a Body Number token and assign a value (starting from the leftmost Battle Body) of “1′, then “2”, and so on until each Battle Body has a unique number. Then the player takes the same numbers with additional Body Number tokens and places them on the game board in the “Battle Podium” space.
That’s it for the game setup. Determine who will go first and begin.
Building Bodies for Battle and Profit
Battle Bodies is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is separated into steps which are summarized here.
Out of Turn / Not in Battle
Normal turns will include one Attacker and one Defender (starting with step one, noted below). When a player is neither active nor defending against an attack, they may take the following actions out of turn.
- Upgrade: The player may take any Body Part card from their hand and replace any Body Part card of the same type in play found on their current Battle Bodies. For example, a player could replace an in-play “Torso” Body Part card with another “Torso” Body Part card from their hand. The replaced Body Part card is placed back in the player’s hand.
- Exchange: The player can discard to the Graveyard any three Body Part cards from their hand to the Graveyard to collect one Body Part card from the Graveyard. The player can do the same with Action cards, discarding any three to collect one new Action card.
While this is important during the game to adjust to the shifting battleground, it’s also a necessary component of gameplay for players unable to build their initial army of five Battle Bodies during the game setup. If a player has fewer than five Battle Bodies at the start of their second turn, they will lose any Battle Podium spaces not currently occupied. The player made it that much harder to win the game.
Step One: Choose an Attacker
The player now evaluates their available Battle Bodies in their army and selects one to be their Attacker for their turn. The player takes the matching Body number from their Battle Podium and moves it to the Battle Circle space on the game board.
Step Two: Choose a Defender
After selecting an Attacker, the player evaluates the competition and selects one Battle Body owned by an opponent to attack. The opponent moves the matching Body number from their Battle Podium to the Battle Circle space on the game board.
Step Three: Choose a Weapon
The battle is set! The Attacker Battle Body will have one or more weapons at its disposal. Weapons include knives, guns, explosives, bioweapons, and electricity. Each of these weapons will have a number value of zero or more on each Body Part card. The player adds the three numbers of their selected weapon to determine its attack strength.
The opponents now find the defense weapon for that attack. For example, muscles blocks knives, bulletproof armor blocks guns, extinguishers block explosives, antidote blocks bioweapons, and diamond blocks electricity. Similar to determining the weapon’s strength, the opponent now determines their defense strength by adding the number values across the three Body Part cards to determine their defense strength.
Both players should take note of their Battle Body when determining their attack and defense values. Each “Feet” Body Part card has a bonus ability. This bonus is only available if the player has built a Battle Body using three Body Part cards of the same type, creating a single character complete with each correct Body Part card. This bonus can be used in any battle.
Step Four: Battle and Resolve
It’s time to battle!
The first thing each player does is set their Initial Strength by taking one of their Strength markers and setting their current strength on their Strength track.
Starting with the Attacker, each player can play one or more Action cards. Once played, the cards are immediately resolved. Adjust the Strength track as needed. This continues, with Attacker and Defender alternating playing one or more Action cards until neither player wants to play any additional Action cards.
There are eight different types of Action cards.
- Attack (red): The Attacker can only play these Action cards.
- Defense (green): These Action cards can only be played by the Defender.
- Remove Body Part (grey): These cards force a player’s opponent to remove Body Part cards in play, reducing their opponent’s ability to attack and defend.
- Upgrade/Exchange/Turn Order (black): These cards will shift Body Part cards around and allow players to draw new Body Part cards.
- Evacuate/Pursue (purple): These cards allow a player to stop a battle by running away or bring an opponent back into battle by catching them before they vanish.
- Alley (blue): These cards bring other players into the battle, allowing those sitting on the sidelines to join the fight.
- Not So Fast (yellow): These cards cancel other cards.
- Bounty (orange): These cards improve the rewards to be won at the end of the battle.
The final Strength values on the game board are now determined, with victory going to the player with a higher Strength value.
Step Five: Cleanup
All Action cards played during the battle are now discarded face-down into the Graveyard. The battle loser takes their three Battle Body cards and the corresponding Body number tokens, placing them in the Graveyard.
The battle’s winner returns their Body number token to the Battle Podium and takes the reward shown on the Reward tile from the losing player’s vault.
After the reward is provided, the owning player takes the Reward tile and flips it to show the Skull side, indicating that the Battle Podium space is destroyed and unavailable for the game’s duration. This reduces the losing player’s total number of Battle Bodies they can deploy to their battle army.
This completes the player’s turn. The opponent to the player’s left, still in the game with at least one Battle Body, now takes their turn.
If there is a tie during step four, when players resolve the battle, both players enter “Sudden Death.”
- Discard all currently played Action cards to the Graveyard except for the “Remove Body” and “Bounty” Action cards.
- A new battle now begins, but the Defender is now the Attacker. This means the previous Defender gets to select the weapon type to be used!
- Resolve the battle as you would normally
If there is still a tie, both players have lost the battle.
Winning the Game
The game continues until only one player is left with a Battle Body in their army. This player is the winner!
To learn more about Battle Bodies, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks had a bit of a learning curve with this game. It wasn’t that the gameplay was challenging. The battle is straightforward, and the objective is always evident. Where they had trouble was with all the math. According to one Child Geek, “The math is easy, but there is a lot of it. If I want to fight my best, I have to add up all my numbers for all the weapons and then do the same with my opponent’s possible defenses. Battles feel like a math test.” Another Child Geek said, “I like it better when you have fewer people to battle, but I liked how I could make my best warriors by changing their faces, pants, and shoes.” When it came to it, all the Child Geeks immensely enjoyed the flexibility to create different warriors, which they found to be a lot of fun and imaginative. On the other hand, almost all of our Child Geeks found that the many times you had to add up your numbers was tedious. The Child Geeks gave Battle Bodies a mixed endorsement, not knowing if they liked the game or hated the math.
The Parent Geeks were very similar in their disposition with the game but were much faster with the math. Again, the math appeared to be the sticking point, regardless of how quickly their brains could sum up the math values. According to one Parent Geek, “A great concept, and I think the building of different fighters – while morbid according to the game’s backstory – was a creative exercise and empowering. Where the game felt too heavy was all the math I had to do. Every time I had to fight, I had to add up a lot of numbers. Worse yet, my opponents kept changing their different body parts, which meant I had to keep doing new math. Sure, battles are quick, but you have to do a lot of math around the table before you can even throw your first and only punch.” Another Parent Geek said, “A neat idea that gets bogged down by the numbers. I like a shifting battleground, but it shifted too much, making each battle a new fight with my poor eyesight and quick number punching into my phone’s calculator. Eventually, you fight after some light accounting work.” When the last battle was completed and all the body parts put away, the Parent Geeks took a vote and gave the game a mixed review. Like the Child Geeks, they enjoyed the concept, but the execution drained them.
The Gamer Geeks flat-out disliked the game. According to one Gamer Geek, “Horrible execution. I have to add numbers in my army over and over again and in my opponent’s army. I cannot look at a glance to determine who I should fight. I have to go through each of my opponent’s cards, do their math for them, and then decide. My brain hurts, and this game was simply no fun. It wasn’t challenging. It was just busy.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Nope. A neat idea, but it isn’t fast or fun. It’s math, which I would normally say is just fine – math is great – but this game was just about math. Adding numbers in one column and row with another column and row repeatedly. I would have preferred it be in a spreadsheet where I could quickly create pivot tables.” After the three games, the Gamer Geeks all agreed that three games were three too many, giving it a zero.
Battle Bodies has some great ideas, but as it was noted again and again by our players, the math needed to make an important decision was too heavy and too frequent. Each time you wanted to fight, you had to do the math on your side of the fence and then do the same math for your opponents, hoping to find a mathematical difference in the attack and defense value that worked in your favor. In theory, an excellent idea and how any player should calculate the odds of winning the battle. What became apparent is that his exercise was required every time because number values kept changing. Thematically, it works great and is fun to mix and match. However, execution-wise, it’s painful, repetitive, and prone to errors. Worse, it became apparent that after a while, our players just stopped caring about the number and fought each other, picking a character at random to fight another at random. Numbers, you see, which are the backbone of the game, became very unimportant to the players.
While none of this was surprising to me, I raised my eyebrows about how on the fence our players were when endorsing the game. The Child Geeks and Parent Geeks wanted to like the game more than they did and found great pleasure in creating different types of warriors. This creative aspect of the game was a big hit and kept them coming back for more. Ultimately, it was enough to keep the players returning, but they always left disappointed. Of course, the Gamer Geeks had no problem expressing their dislike, as I have come to expect. I imagine our other players had difficulty balancing the game’s creative aspects against the math-heavy required outcomes.
I didn’t care for the game. I like games where I must reevaluate my tactics to ensure my strategy is still a valid approach to victory. What I am not a fan of is having to do the math to determine if my tactics are still valid over and over again. It felt chaotic and too loose. The end result was a game that shifted so much I never felt like I was on stable footing.
Give this game a try on your family gaming table to see if the evershifting number values add to the fun.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.