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Subject: A successful search for a board game treasure rss

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Barry Figgins
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Woodland
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I'm not usually one to buy a game just because of its license, but when I heard that Uncharted had a board game - and that it wasn't terrible - I decided to give it a try. So far, I've played two 2-player games with my wife and one solitaire game to get a feel for how the game works.

First off - yes, it's a game! With licensed games, that's not something you can take for granted. Uncharted: The Board Game has rules that work, interesting decisions to make, and a meaningful endgame. You can definitely play this game.

Rules and Gameplay

The primary mechanic of Uncharted is one that I enjoy: your cards are also your currency. In order to play a card, you must discard a number of cards from your hand. Inexpensive or defense cards may cost 0 cards, while the most expensive card is Jump, which costs 6 cards from your hand. (Jump will pay for itself quickly, though - it allows you to draw two cards each time you use it!)

Each turn, a player takes two actions. These actions could be playing a card to their play area, using a card in their play area, discarding a card directly from their hand, or attacking an enemy (which is just a fancy way to use a card in their play area). Players continue taking turns until every player has passed; at that point, the enemies on the table attack, everyone can refresh the cards they've used, and a new round begins.

During a turn, there's never any shortage of decisions to be made. The real strength of Uncharted's system is the versatility of each card: at any time, any card in your hand could be used in three ways:

*You could play the card to your play area, paying its cost.
*You could use the card as part of the cost for playing another card.
*You could discard the card directly from your hand to gain a bonus based on its color. For example, discarding a blue card allows you to gain two life.

Once a card is on the table, you still have a decision about what to do with it. You can use the text of a card, which causes it to 'rest.' It's the same as tapping/bowing/exhausting (the card cannot be used again until the next round). When the enemies attack, however, each non-resting card you have can absorb one point of the enemy's attack. So you may choose not to use all of your card abilities in order to gain some extra defense.

Gameplay Observations

While playing the game, I found that combos are really the order of the day, particularly cards that allow you to re-ready cards that are exhausted. The game is designed to accelerate; once a card is played down to the table, your opponents can't destroy it, so your combo opportunities will naturally grow. In addition, most characters have a special ability that kicks in once their life drops to a certain point. (I often wished I could find a way to kill myself faster!)

The other key to the game is card advantage. There are many ways to spend your cards, but only a few ways to draw them. Getting some more cards down that allow you to draw additional cards will pay off in the long run.

The game isn't really a take-that style game, but there are a few ways to mess with your opponents, damage them, or play cards from their hands. For the most part, I found that it's more advantageous to aggressively play in your own area, rather than try to mess with your opponents' areas. That might change in a 3 or 4-player game.

Theme

The theme of Uncharted is surprisingly strong in the board game. The four major pillars of Uncharted gameplay are present: gun combat (red), traversal (blue), treasure hunting (yellow), and interesting items (green). Some of the links might seem a little weak (horseback riding lets you draw a card?) but they're consistent.

The only thing that's really missing for me is the overall plot structure of Uncharted. The games are very formulaic: Nathan Drake goes searching for a treasure, barely stays one step ahead of a bad guy, finds the treasure, realizes that the treasure must remain buried, and defeats the bad guy who wants to unbury the treasure.

You don't get that in the board game; there's no concept of a cursed treasure, or fighting to prevent something from being discovered. The way I've been justifying it is to imagine the board game as representing the adventures that Drake and company are having between the big video games; the treasure hunts that actually work out, but only yield small rewards. From there, you can justify most of the interactions: Drake vs. Sully is a race to show off as the best treasure hunter, Tenzin vs. Elena has Tenzin trying to hide treasures while Elena tries to put them on TV, and Drake vs. Lazarevic is the plot of Uncharted 2.

Presentation

Based on the art, you can definitely tell when the game was made. The characters and enemies are all from Uncharted 2, but the box cover and some of the card art uses the marketing images from Uncharted 3. I'd happily buy an expansion that draws more from Uncharted 1, 3, and Golden Abyss.

The game feels a little cheap. It's a subtle thing, but the cards are just a little too light (and not linen-finished), the tokens just a little too small, the rulebook's paper just a little too cheap. The art is often still images from the games that don't quite hold up in isolation, often with a lazy edge glow around them. Uncharted definitely has the feel of a game that's aimed for the mass-market.

The upside of that is that it actually is cheap; you can get a copy of Uncharted: The Board Game off Amazon for less than $25.

Other Thoughts

A unique aspect of the game that I really appreciate is the number of variants offered in the rulebook. There are minor variants, such as modifying the card decks for an easier or harder game, as well as major variants such as a deathmatch mode and a survival mode. I think that it shows the designer's confidence in the game system, that it can stretch a bit to cover different gameplay styles without breaking.

All in all, I think Uncharted: The Board Game is a solid purchase. The mechanics are fresh, neither a retheme of an existing game nor a clone of a common game mechanic. The theme is strong without being overwhelming, and uses the Uncharted license without becoming inaccessible to non-fans. There are enough cards included to provide strong replayability, with different strategies each game.

You may or may not love the game, but it's definitely a game, and that's more than I could have hoped for out of a mainstream-leaning board game based on a video game.
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Christopher Boat
United States
Ankeny
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I haven't played my copy much since purchasing it, but your review sums up my opinion on it almost perfectly. It was a nice surprise compared to other games Bandai clearly rushed out. Definitely helps that you can get Uncharted on the cheap.
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Tristan Hall
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Great review! Definitely considering picking this up.
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Arthur Rutyna
United States
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Nice review. I also ended up buying this after playing it at GenCon. It's actually a good, fun and enjoyable game and the theme fits well. I'm guessing many here on BGG may be writing it off since it's based on a video game (or maybe the publisher). Either way, if you have a chance to play this one give it a try. Everyone I've played with has enjoyed it.
 
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Fedor Ilitchev
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Ottawa
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Agreed. It is a good game deserving of greater exposure.
 
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Scott Ferrier
United States
Salem
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You would think it sucks because it's based on a video game but it is actually a really fun game. Well designed and not a coop, you can win by knocking everyone else out. Multiple ways to win, surprises, good fun and a great price.
 
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Matt Connellan
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Avondale
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I agree, this is a good game. What I don't agree with is the assumption that video-game based board games are bad. Doom is a great game (if you have the expansion) Gears of War is really good, Resident Evil DBG is competent and fun, especially for a DBG. Puzzle Strike is dynamite, Yomi is godly, and the upcoming Bioshock board game looks like it could be a killer.

That's my 2 cents.
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