Bots Battleground Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 3 to 6 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Semi-Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Reflex & Speed

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Take your Bots and battle to the top!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

For centuries, men and woman have competed in combative matches to determine who is stronger, faster, and smarter. This became very boring. Robots were introduced, and since there was no cause to be concerned with safety, so were weapons. Now Bots armed with blades and guns battle for our amusement and the human warriors continue their fight behind the soft glow of computer monitors.

Bots Battleground, designed by Saar Shai, will reportedly be comprised of 2 Boogie Dice (custom programmable six-sided die), 1 Boogie Dice Charger (which also acts as makeshift dice box), 60 Bot cards, and 40 Power tokens. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. Nor can I comment fully on the game play, as the prototype we were provided did not contain all the components the final game will have. The illustrations for the “Bots” are fantastic. Each Bot is brightly colored and bristling with heavy weapons.

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Let’s Boogie

Before we get into the game, we really need to spend some time talking about the Boogie Dice. These special die contain LED lights, a small vibrating motor, a microphone that detects sound, and a motion detector. They can be programmed to do different things, as well. For example, in this game they act as a timer and randomizer. Plus, they can be used as just a standard six-sided die.

It doesn't look like much, but this die can do a lot

It doesn’t look like much, but this die can do a lot

For those of you who are super geeky, you’ll be most pleased to learn that the Boogie Dice are programmable via your smartphone or tablet. No connection to your device is required. Instead, the Boogie Dice are programmed using sounds. Yes, sounds. The microphone on the die picks up the sound, recognizes what it means, and changes its behavior accordingly.

How it’s used in this game is fairly brilliant, but even more so is the many different ways the die itself can be utilized outside of the game. Since it’s programmable and customizable, this little cube can take on many different roles (if you’ll excuse the pun), opening the door to creative game designers.

Bots to the Ready

To set up the game, first shuffle the Bot cards and deal 4 cards to each player, face-down. This is the player’s hand. Each player should look at their cards, but keep them hidden until played. If a player drew 2 or more copies of the same Bot, they reveal them and draw new Bot cards, placing their discarded cards at the bottom of the deck. Place the remaining deck of Bot cards face-down to one side of the game playing area.

Second, place the Boogie Dice Charger in the middle of the playing area. The charger comes with a cable that should now be attached to form a circle. The Boogie Dice will be rolled within the circle during the game, keeping the bouncing dice on the gaming table. When the Boogie Dice are not being played with, they sit on the charger in a special cradle area where they can be stored and charged.

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Third, place the Power tokens to one side of the playing area in a pile to form the Power token pool.

That’s it for game set up. Time to rumble.

Robot Rampage

Bots Battleground is played in rounds, with no set number of rounds per game. Each round begins by placing the Boogie Dice in the circle and having each player take a turn clapping their hands above the dice. The dice will either flash blue or red. If the dice flashes blue, then the next player in turn order sequence claps their hands and so on until 1 or both dice flashes red. A red die signifies the beginning of the round.

botsbattleground_firstplayer

The player who turned the dice or die red is the “Attacker” for the round. Once the die turns red, it will roll by itself for about 2 seconds. During that time, the Attacker must point to an opponent who becomes the “Defender”. At the same time, the Attacker must play 1 Bot card from their hand face-up in front of them.

As soon as the die stops moving (and continues to glow red), the Defender now plays 1 Bot card in front of them.

As soon as both players have a Bot card in play, they can start switching out their selected Bot card for another Bot card in their hand. However, a player can not have 2 or more Bot cards in play at one time, although there are rules provided by Boogie Dice that will allow for more than 1 card to be in play during the round. Failure to follow the card limit rule will automatically result in the player losing the round.

Some Bot cards have special abilities. If the player wants to use the ability, they must make sure the Bot card is the one left face-up when the round ends. When the round does end, the ability is resolved. Some abilities include changing Attack and Defense values.

Some Bot cards have special conditions. Conditions change everything in the game for as long as the Bot card is in play. Once it’s picked up and placed back in the player’s hand, the condition is no longer valid. Abilities cannot trump conditions unless a card specifically says it does.

Used together, a Bot card can be combined to boost a friendly bot, hinder enemy bots, twist the game rules, and quickly change the results of a battle.

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Players need to pay close attention not only to their opponent’s Bot cards and their own, but also to the Boogie Dice. When the dice stop rolling and are still red, the value rolled introduces special rules for the round. These rules will change several times, keeping the battleground in a state of flux. Rules include the following:

  • Normal round (no additional rules others than those from Bot card abilities and conditions)
  • The LOWEST value wins the round
  • Players can play 2 Bot cards instead of 1 (if this rule changes, the players must immediately take back 1 Bot card)
  • The Attacker and Defender switch roles
  • All players except the Attacker now play cards like Defenders (each is a separate Bot, but everyone is now in the battle)
  • Force another player to lend Bot cards

Around 10 to 20 seconds after coming to a halt, the Boogie Dice will again start rolling, signifying that the round is about to end with only 2 seconds left! When the Boogie Dice stops rolling, it will change color from red to blue.

When the die turns blue, all card plays must stop. If a player doesn’t have a card on the table, they are out of luck, even if they have a card in hand and ready to place it.

Now the players determine which Bot won the round.

Battling Aftermath

There is a reason why the players are battling their Bots. The goal of the game is to collect Power tokens and the only way to do that is to be victorious in battle.

The Attacker and Defender now compare their Bot cards, looking at either the Attack or the Defense value.

  • If the Attacker’s Bot card has an Attack value greater than the Defender’s defense, they win the round.
  • If the Defender’s Bot card has a Defense value greater than the Attacker’s attack, they win the round.
  • If both the Defender and the Attacker have equal values, the round is a draw.

The winner of the round collects 2 Power tokens from the Power token pool. The loser takes 1 Power token they previously won and places it back in the Power token pool. If the player has no Power tokens, they take no further action.

The round is now over and a new round now begins.

Beg, Borrow, and Battle On

Bots Battleground includes a semi-cooperative game play element that allows players to help each other temporarily. A player can lend another player one of their Bot cards during combat, increasing the total number of Bot cards the Attacker or Defender has available to them. The lender of the Bot card has to agree, of course, and will get their Bot cards back at the end of the round.

The lender must also give the cards freely (unless forced to do so by the Boogie Dice). The Attacker or Defender cannot just grab cards. Instead, the lender passes cards from their hand. There is no limit to the number of cards they can pass.

Lending Bots has a huge perk. If the player wins the round while holding a lender’s Bot cards, the lender earns 1 Power token, while the winner of the round collects the other Power token. It doesn’t matter if the player who was in combat used the card or not.

Additionally, if the player loses in combat, they are the ones who have to lose the Power token, not the lender.

Help in this game comes at a cost, so don’t be too quick to accept a helping hand.

The Best of Bots

The game continues as described above. The first player to collect 10 or more Power tokens wins the game.

To learn more about Bots Battleground, visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

Attention Reader: Essentially, we are reviewing two different products. The first is the game, Bots Battleground. The second is the Boogie Dice. The card game was inspired by and uses the Boogie Dice, featuring it as one of the major components of game play. The card game is where the rubber meets the road, utilizing the Boogie Dice to drive game play, but not resolve it. You could separate both and still have something to talk about, but for this review, we asked our players to look at them as part of the same whole. Despite our request, most players ignore us, as you will soon see.

The Child Geeks loved the illustrations of the robots and spent the most of the initial introduction of the game looking through the cards instead of listening to the rules. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, since the game itself is not overly complicated. They completely lost interest in the cards when the Boogie Dice started to do their thing. According to one Child Geek, “I’ve never seen a die that can do what this one does. Makes me feel like I’ve been rolling my dice wrong for years.” All of the Child Geeks thought the Boogie Dice was the “coolest”, but quickly decided the die had an evil side when they started to play the game. As one Child Geek put it, “You get so wrapped up in matching cards in the battle that the die startles you when it shakes. It made me feel stressed out.” Which is EXACTLY the point of the die in the game. It acts as a randomizer and a timer, both changing and driving game play. When the battles were over, the Child Geeks all agreed that the game was fun and sometimes a little hectic. They gave Bots Battleground their full approval.

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Games were intense and quick! When not battling, the Child Geeks acted as official Boogie Dice watchers

The Parent Geeks took a different approach. All of the non-gamers and casual players found Bots Battleground to be an intense game of quick card plays, fast decision making, and riddled with intensely painful hindsight. According to one Parent Geek, “The worst part of this game is reviewing your last battle in your head and regretting all of your decisions.” They found the Boogie Dice to be very interesting, but sometimes a bit distracting. As one Parent Geek put it, “I feel like the game is actually two different things that are trying to grab my attention. The die yells LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! Which I do, but then the cards immediately start yelling, NO! LOOK AT ME! It’s like they are little kids who want me all to themselves.” This pull between the components was felt by all our players, but none ever suggested that the dichotomy between card and dice ruined the game. In fact, the Parent Geeks grew to enjoy it, finding the unpredictable die to add tension and excitement to a game that was little more than just playing cards to beat numbers. When the Bots were all junked and only one winner remained, the Parent Geeks all agreed that Bots Battleground deserved their full approval.

The Gamer Geeks were much less impressed. According to one Gamer Geek, “What we have here are two things thrown together and it’s clear to me which is the star. The card game is much like War or very early Magic: The Gathering, where players use the card for abilities and conditions that create hurdles, but never roadblocks. The resolution of combat, by comparing Attack and Defense values, is too simple, although it’s quick. The Boogie Dice is stealing the spotlight and that’s just fine. It’s very cool and I can see it doing a lot of neat things. It’s too bad its introduction to the gaming community is with this game.” Which is to say, the Gamer Geeks found Bots Battleground to be exceedingly simple, lacking depth of play. They understood it to be a casual game of quick card plays, but that did little to change their mind about it. As one Gamer Geek put it, “This is not a bad game. It’s just not a game I would be interested in playing. I’d use the dice, though.” In the end, the Gamer Geeks disliked that the Boogie Dice and the game were one in the same, preferring to separate the two. Since they couldn’t, they all agreed to give Bots Battleground a mixed approval. The card game was found to be “OK” or “Meh”, but every one of the Gamer Geeks was very excited about the Boogie Dice.

When it comes to Bots Battleground and the Boogie Dice, you cannot have one without the other. They are tied together, but not forever. The designers of Bots Battleground used it to highlight just a few of the many possible features the Boogie Dice could offer. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Bots Battleground is a demo game, but one cannot help but note that the card game is only meant as an opener to provide a glimpse of what could be. This was not lost on any of our players.

The game itself is fun with Child Geeks and with Parent Geeks who are casual game players. Non-gamers and younger Child Geeks will struggle with the game due to the limited amount of time a player has to think about what must be done. The more advanced Parent Geek gamers and Gamer Geeks found the card game to be too easy and too shallow at times, with limited decisions, and uninteresting outcomes. All of our groups enjoyed the Boogie Dice, and in some respects, it was the blinking die that rattled and rolled on its own that drew the players in the first place. For some, it was the only thing that kept them at the gaming table, while others found the fancy die to be a clever component to a larger game that they enjoyed.

I personally didn’t find Bots Battleground to be that interesting of a game, but I love the Boogie Dice. Which means, by association, I also enjoy the card game. Not as much, but you cannot like one without the other. Not as difficult as it might sound when you consider what an intense game timer the Boogie Dice is that forces players to play fast and think quickly. The line between card and die blurs to a point where they become one in the game play. For those who couldn’t separate the two, it was obvious that they were fixated on the details instead of taking in the whole.

Perspective. It’s always about perspective. How we think and what we do is based on what we see and what we believe. This is what makes reviewing games so interesting. I can put the same game in front of 20 people and get 20 different answers. The same goes with Bots Battleground. Liking it or not will most likely be based on your enthusiasm for the Boogie Dice or your love for a quick game of battling robots. Either way, do try this game.

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.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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