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INTRODUCTION

Let’s start with the most important thing that’s happened to me in the past few weeks: After I knew I would be reviewing this game, I decided it would be a little disingenuous to do so without, you know, watching Attack on Titan. So I did. I watched all of season one in a week. Oh man! Such a gut-wrenching show. My first anime, too. I’m sold, and it sounds like I don’t have to wait as long as everyone else did for season two. Hurrah!

So, if nothing else, the mere existence of this game created another fan of Attack on Titan. But really, its main purpose here is to service the established fans of the show. There are plenty of other deck-building games out there, but only one designed to emulate the terror of a titan attack. So there are two questions here: is it a good game in and of itself, and is true to its source material? Let’s find out!

REVIEW

Cryptozoic has a long line of themed deck-builders based on their “Cerberus” engine. Attack on Titan continues this trend, but brings its own twists. For starters, the game is cooperative, with players working together to increase in strength and fight the titans. Second, the game has two currencies, much like Star Realms, Ascension, and other deck-builders. But here the resources are not money and attack, but rather power (which encompasses the first two) and move. Players move along the wall, buying cards and fighting titans in different areas. Mechanism-wise, it doesn’t feel particularly fresh, but it’s incredibly on-theme and works very well in that regard. (I might just be worn out on deck-builders, though.)

That’s just one of the ways in which Attack on Titan masterfully integrates its theme. Each player is a unique hero from the show, and players recruit allies, perform maneuvers, and use equipment pulled straight from the show. They also do this with a complete lack of spoilers, with maybe one exception. (One of the important titans later in season one is one of the possible titans to fight against in this game, and I suppose that could be a bit of a spoiler.) The characters have special abilities that are very fitting for their character. The archenemy titans have terrifying bonus abilities that make them extremely hard to kill and unpredictable.

I played the game with two students who are obsessed with the show, and they really got into the theme and how it was applied to the game. It made it a little easier to learn for them as well, as one had not played a deck-building game before. The mechanisms beyond deck-building are nicely tied to the show, so both students easily picked up the rules. The difficulties we had were from card text and interactions, which were admittedly messy at times. There’s a list of clarifications in the rulebook, but not every card has an entry. Since the game is cooperative, though, we could usually agree on an interpretation and move from there. And the game really does force cooperation by being so difficult. To beat the archenemy titans, you really need everyone to power up the player with the best hand. Even when we did that, I could see their enthusiasm deflate when they missed a huge attack on the final titan. In a weird way, even though it was a disappointing moment, it was totally on-theme. The game also has a lot of replayability, with a random deck to buy cards from and a variety of archenemy titans to face each game.

However, the central deck is my main complaint with the game. I’m not opposed to the mechanism, and in fact I really like how it works with the walls, but it needs some tweaks. In a competitive game, if the available cards suck, it’s even for everyone. But in a cooperative game, the players are screwed if the deck is unkind. It’s possible that you’ll only get expensive cards early, or that you won’t find any cards that let you “destroy” your starter cards (i.e. remove them from the game). This can make the game vary wildly in difficulty, and it’s already fairly hard. It would make more sense for the deck to be cut into “phases” with numbers on the back, instead of being purely random.

The other problem with the main deck is that the game is too long. Explanation and playing to victory can take nearly 2 hours, and I’m not sure the mechanisms support that, though the theme definitely does. I’d honestly prefer the game clock in at 60 minutes. Granted, there are several variants in the rulebook, one of which adjusts for game length. Some also adjust for difficulty, and there’s a solitaire variant as well. I have to say, though, that the solitaire variant is far too slow and not very exciting. The game is at its best when several players are working together. Three players is probably ideal.

I wouldn’t suggest this one to somebody looking for new deck-building mechanisms, but that’s probably a good thing. It means that new players who are fans of Attack on Titan can experience fresh gameplay, and veterans can focus on the strong integration of theme instead. And theme is where this game delivers. In fact, I don’t know of another deck-builder I’ve played with such a well-integrated theme. Attack on Titan has finally landed on tabletops, and the experience is definitely worth it for fans of the show.

POSITIVES

+ Strong connection to its theme
+ Forces cooperative play
+ Several variants/tweaks included
+ No spoilers!
+ Fun, especially for fans

NEGATIVES

- Definitely too long
- Central deck setup is too random
- A fairly standard deck-builder without the theme

BOTTOM LINE

The finesse that Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game lacks in the gameplay department, it recovers with its loyalty to the theme. This is a sure hit for fans of Attack on Titan who want to feel like they're experiencing the show.
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C Sandifer
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Nice review!

A comment for those who have tried the competitive Cerberus games (e.g., DC Comics, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings):

A problem with the competitive games in the Cerberus line is that they tend to have a severe "runaway leader" problem. If you score an early 'high power' card and defeat a villain, that defeated villain goes into your deck, which makes you stronger, which allows you to defeat more villains, etc.

The co-op games (DC Crisis expansions, Attack on Titan) avoid this problem because "purchased" villains are removed from the game and nobody cares if someone's deck gets insanely powerful, since everyone is on the same team. This elevates the Cerberus co-op games above the competitive ones - so even if you weren't keen on the competitive games you might give this a try.

And if you're wondering how Attack on Titan is different from other Cerberus games:

There are five different areas (walls), and each wall has an inside (where the cards are) and an outside (where the titans are). Card-based movement points allow you to bounce between and across walls, and cards can only be purchased when you physically occupy their location. There are also two new ways to lose: (1) when all walls have been destroyed by titan attacks and (2) too much player death. Players gain wounds when they soak up damage from a titan assault, and playing two wounds at once will kill you, as will gaining an additional wound when you already have one in play.

I initially had doubts as to whether Titan would be different enough from DC and LotR to be worth a purchase. I'd say yes - it is. The package works, and my family was impressed, even having played a dozen other Cerberus games.

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wkover wrote:
Nice review!

A comment for those who have tried the competitive Cerberus games (e.g., DC Comics, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings):

A problem with the competitive games in the Cerberus line is that they tend to have a severe "runaway leader" problem. If you score an early 'high power' card and defeat a villain, that defeated villain goes into your deck, which makes you stronger, which allows you to defeat more villains, etc.

The co-op games (DC Crisis expansions, Attack on Titan) avoid this problem because "purchased" villains are removed from the game and nobody cares if someone's deck gets insanely powerful, since everyone is on the same team. This elevates the Cerberus co-op games above the competitive ones - so even if you weren't keen on the competitive games you might give this a try.

And if you're wondering how Attack on Titan is different from other Cerberus games:

There are five different areas (walls), and each wall has an inside (where the cards are) and an outside (where the titans are). Card-based movement points allow you to bounce between and across walls, and cards can only be purchased when you physically occupy their location. There are also two new ways to lose: (1) when all walls have been destroyed by titan attacks and (2) too much player death. Players gain wounds when they soak up damage from a titan assault, and playing two wounds at once will kill you, as will gaining an additional wound when you already have one in play.

I initially had doubts as to whether Titan would be different enough from DC and LotR to be worth a purchase. I'd say yes - it is. The package works, and my family was impressed, even having played a dozen other Cerberus games.



Thanks for the added perspsctive! You should add your own review
 
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wkover wrote:
and nobody cares if someone's deck gets insanely powerful, since everyone is on the same team.


I'd go as far to say that certain situations and Superheroes encourage players to fit into certain roles. If you are Crisis Booster Gold, Crisis Green Lantern, or Mikasa, you should probably be focused on defending for your team-mates.
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wkover wrote:
Nice review!

A comment for those who have tried the competitive Cerberus games (e.g., DC Comics, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings):

A problem with the competitive games in the Cerberus line is that they tend to have a severe "runaway leader" problem. If you score an early 'high power' card and defeat a villain, that defeated villain goes into your deck, which makes you stronger, which allows you to defeat more villains, etc.

The co-op games (DC Crisis expansions, Attack on Titan) avoid this problem because "purchased" villains are removed from the game and nobody cares if someone's deck gets insanely powerful, since everyone is on the same team. This elevates the Cerberus co-op games above the competitive ones - so even if you weren't keen on the competitive games you might give this a try.

<snip>

I initially had doubts as to whether Titan would be different enough from DC and LotR to be worth a purchase. I'd say yes - it is. The package works, and my family was impressed, even having played a dozen other Cerberus games.


I find that a significant portion of deck building games I have played, I can pretty much figure out the final outcome part way through the game. I personally love deck builders, but the fairly obvious outcome turns me off sometimes. The Cerberus games I own (Penny Arcade and NHL Power Play) does have this effect.

I liked the DC Crisis game that I played. I had an opportunity to play it only once. It does have quite a bit of tension early on. I think about 3/4 the way through, it felt like we have the situation in hand. Overall, I do like it more than the competitive Cerberus games I have played.

Does Attack on Titan feel similar to DC Crisis? I am asking in terms of the deck building part and how enemies are defeated? Does the movement mechanic add an interesting twist to the game? I like how NHL Power Play's shot on goal mechanic works compared to other deck builders.
 
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Stuntman wrote:
wkover wrote:
Nice review!

A comment for those who have tried the competitive Cerberus games (e.g., DC Comics, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings):

A problem with the competitive games in the Cerberus line is that they tend to have a severe "runaway leader" problem. If you score an early 'high power' card and defeat a villain, that defeated villain goes into your deck, which makes you stronger, which allows you to defeat more villains, etc.

The co-op games (DC Crisis expansions, Attack on Titan) avoid this problem because "purchased" villains are removed from the game and nobody cares if someone's deck gets insanely powerful, since everyone is on the same team. This elevates the Cerberus co-op games above the competitive ones - so even if you weren't keen on the competitive games you might give this a try.

<snip>

I initially had doubts as to whether Titan would be different enough from DC and LotR to be worth a purchase. I'd say yes - it is. The package works, and my family was impressed, even having played a dozen other Cerberus games.


I find that a significant portion of deck building games I have played, I can pretty much figure out the final outcome part way through the game. I personally love deck builders, but the fairly obvious outcome turns me off sometimes. The Cerberus games I own (Penny Arcade and NHL Power Play) does have this effect.

I liked the DC Crisis game that I played. I had an opportunity to play it only once. It does have quite a bit of tension early on. I think about 3/4 the way through, it felt like we have the situation in hand. Overall, I do like it more than the competitive Cerberus games I have played.

Does Attack on Titan feel similar to DC Crisis? I am asking in terms of the deck building part and how enemies are defeated? Does the movement mechanic add an interesting twist to the game? I like how NHL Power Play's shot on goal mechanic works compared to other deck builders.


I have not played DC Crisis or NHL (so many deckbuilders now!) but I can say this. The archenemy Titans have cards that randomly flip when you try to kill them, and screw up your method. These are brutal and you could waste your whole round, when everyone spent their turns ramping one player for the kill shot. I never felt like the end was a foregone conclusion while playing, at all.
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aldaryn wrote:
The archenemy Titans have cards that randomly flip when you try to kill them, and screw up your method...I never felt like the end was a foregone conclusion while playing, at all.


Attacks on archenemy titans are similar to Confrontations in DC Rivals. You generate as much power as you can and then hope for the best. In Rivals, your opponent can play Blocks to increase their "purchase" cost. In a somewhat analogous manner, in Attack on Titan a random "combat modifier" card can knock out one of your attack cards, increase the cost of the titan, or some other effect.

But yes, I do think that the locations (and blocking wall damage) make the game interesting and unique.
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wkover wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
The archenemy Titans have cards that randomly flip when you try to kill them, and screw up your method...I never felt like the end was a foregone conclusion while playing, at all.


Attacks on archenemy titans are similar to Confrontations in DC Rivals. You generate as much power as you can and then hope for the best. In Rivals, your opponent can play Blocks to increase their "purchase" cost. In a somewhat analogous manner, in Attack on Titan a random "combat modifier" card can knock out one of your attack cards, increase the cost of the titan, or some other effect.

But yes, I do think that the locations (and blocking wall damage) make the game interesting and unique.


Sounds similar to a mechanic in NHL Power Play. When someone attempts a shot on goal, the other players may play defencemen cards that increase the power required to overcome the goalie. You probably want to ensure you have more than enough power to overcome the goalie as the power requirement may be a number of points more.
 
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