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MERCS: Recon – Counter Threat» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Initial impressions: impressed. rss

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Peter Darby
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Disclaimer - I won this game in a BGG competition, so was only peripherally affected by the problems with the kickstarter. I'm not reviewing the kickstarter, I'm reviewing the game.

And with that out of the way...

I am VERY impressed.

For anyone coming in new, MERCS: Recon is a co-operative / solo SF dungeon crawler, set in a dystopian, corporate dominated future. Each of the two base games comes with two five-person factions of MERCS, ten security force figures, a buttload of tokens, a good number of modular board pieces, two decks of cards to automate the game's response to the players, a deck of ten missions... Yeah, it's not a box of air.

I'm not a miniatures guy, but the quality of them looks good to me, only one of them gave me trouble assembling with my sausage fingers, and they certainly look dynamic when put together. The MERCS are getting sh*t DONE.

The other components look good, fairly sturdy. The modular map is a snug fit in the frame, which is a good thing in my book. With a couple of basic principals for map building, a good number of tactically different maps can be generated straight out of the box.

The map's initially populated with "agents", blank tokens in three ranks. Players of Space Hulk and similar dungeon crawlers will be familiar with this mechanism of opposing forces being marked on the board this way, but without an opposing player, their actual nature is not so much hidden as "unresolved" until they get in line of sight of the MERCS. The resolution comes from an interaction between the current alert level (raised by the MERCS mayhem & destructions) and the flip of a card from one of the decks. So while you know that Black tokens tend to be more dangerous than red tokens that tend to be more dangerous than blue tokens... It's both not certain, and affected by how much accumulated damage has been done by the player(s)

MERC actions are regulated by Command Points (and, to a lesser extent, ammo), which is not my favourite mechanism, but allows a few extra wrinkles in emulating the "aggro" mechanic of digital strategy games, using the initiative track (affected by command point use) to determine the attacking priorities of the Security Forces (SecFor). Now, apart from that, given that all player characters move after the Opposing Forces (OpFor), the initiative system seems oddly reundant without it determing whether the characters act before or after the OpFor, and seems like a bit of administrative overhead without much payoff. I may well be missing something, though.

Combat is pretty straightforward (again, any players of games with custom dice should be pretty much at home), with again enough wrinkles in terms of shot selection, collateral damage, etc to make it interesting.

But then we have the highlight combat, the Breach & Clear (B&C) action, used pretty much any time the MERCS have to go into a closed room (ok, when there's OpFor inside. Or a mission target. Or something interesting. Or just not nothing), it's a fast resolution of a mass combat, and essentially a mini-game in and of itself that invokes a different set of special abilities of the MERCS, and provides a good dramatic flashpoint in the game.

So, I'm going to say what I don't like about this game. The rules, already on version 4.04 on the website, and supported by both an official and unofficial FAQ, are typical of a game that has been played the heck out of during development but struggles to express it clearly. The rules could do with a full, page one rewrite, basically. By now, pretty much everything is there, but given the ambitious and modular nature of the game, there are going to be a LOT of edge cases, and the rules as standing allow more room for ambiguity than I'm comfortable with.

And while it's billed as a co-operative game for between 1-5 players (and, oddly , 2-5 on the box), it plays exactly the same no matter how many players you have. You ALWAYS run five MERCS, mechanicaly the same no matter how many players are controlling them.

But, as far as it goes, those are really my only niggles with the game. The two decks for agent movement & resolution of "Schrodingers OpFor" are a simple, functional and elegant replacement for an opposition player, allowing for sensible but not scripted responses to the players.

And that resolution feeds off the security level, which is raised by, well, pretty much anything the players do to try achieve their objectives, which gives a great tension to the game. You want to get as much done as possible early on, before the security level ramps up until you're facing, essentially, other MERC teams, but the very act of getting stuff done puts that security level up. So, do you cowboy it or sneak it?

Which leads onto another great thing about this set in particular: the two factions that come with the game are polar opposites in approach. The CCC are meat and potatoes combat monsters, destroy the village in order to save it guys. I believe their motto is "You can't make an omlette without blowing up a coop full of hens." No matter how many times you wag your finger at them and say "no disintegrations", you know they'll be forcing the target corp to fill out a LOT of claims forms in the coming weeks.

The EU, conversely, get bonuses for sticking together in a tight group and getting into the right place at the right time. They're not so much sneaky as focused. While the CCC will blow your office to bits, the EU will leave an apology note on the server they've hacked and a critique of your coffee selection. Your office workers will be very neatly killed, and the bodies stacked tastefully in discreet locations. Honestly, if your enemies send the EU MERCS against you, at least they resepct you, is what I'm saying. It's almost sweet.

So it's a case of the right tool for the job, and then you've got ten, pretty varied missions, from kill everyone cowboy jobs, to in-and-out heists, and that makes it basically 20 different plays available out of the box, not taking into account the huge difference that different map layouts can make to the game.

And then, with the expansion: the second base set adds two factions and another ten missions. So two base sets give you 20 missions with four avilable factions, 80 playthroughs without repeating the basic set up.

And each of the six faction packs add another ten missions (along with new B&C boards and civilians)... yeah, each expansion extends the game exponentially. And then there's two expansions which move the MERCS into the watelands and abandoned... well, offices again, and the inevitable zombie armageddon.

Basically, MERCS: Recon isn't so much a game as a very, very good game engine with a HUGE potential for expansion and replayability. It's hands down the best no-Dungeon Master dungeon crawl game I've ever played, even without a campaign system attached.

Given the negative hype around the kickstarter, I was wary about getting my hopes up for M:R. I mean, I'm also wary of kickstarter games, particularly ones that are sold on the strength of their miniatures. I played M;R with dice instead of minis before I put the minis together, and it was fun, tense, and atmospheric even then. The funding may have come on the back of the minis, but the game is more than robust and fun enough without them, and with them is even better.

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Jason S
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The only thing I would note is that if you got a retail version, and I'm not sure if there's any way to tell the difference vs the KS versions, then it has different miniatures than what came in the KS versions that are supposed to be higher quality.
 
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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js379 wrote:
The only thing I would note is that if you got a retail version, and I'm not sure if there's any way to tell the difference vs the KS versions, then it has different miniatures than what came in the KS versions that are supposed to be higher quality.


This is incorrect.

As they stated on the KS forum, the current retail versions are from the same company. They moved the molds ONLY for the tabletop game sets. Also all the KS bonuses were outside of the retail box, so the retail box and the base game boxes backers received should be 100% identical.

FUTURE retail printings will be done elsewhere.
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klkitchens wrote:
js379 wrote:
The only thing I would note is that if you got a retail version, and I'm not sure if there's any way to tell the difference vs the KS versions, then it has different miniatures than what came in the KS versions that are supposed to be higher quality.


This is incorrect.

As they stated on the KS forum, the current retail versions are from the same company. They moved the molds ONLY for the tabletop game sets. Also all the KS bonuses were outside of the retail box, so the retail box and the base game boxes backers received should be 100% identical.

FUTURE retail printings will be done elsewhere.


Actually, they have already started assembling and distributing "corrected" versions as stated in updated 166.

"Additionally, we were able to secure a limited amount of advanced copies of several games. We have about 35 copies each of the corrected Recon: Counter Threat and Assassination Protocol. We have about 45 copies of Banner Saga: Warbands. We have 24 copies each of Shores of Kanis and Blackwall Warrens.

As a backer if you want to stop by the booth and see the quality of Warbands and the Journeyman products, we'd love to show them to you.

Note: The corrected copies of CT and AP available at Gencon are advanced copies from the ones we sent back. They contain the same replacement materials backers will receive if they have requested replacement parts."

However, I do suppose my terminology was incorrect. I should have said "corrected" versions instead of "retail" versions. Thanks for the heads up on that. The point still remains though that there are some copies floating around out there that have better materials that were provided to Kickstarter backers in their initial shipments. Hopefully, everyone will eventually get these corrected materials to replace their messed up pledge rewards, but that does remain to be seen for now. As I told Nikki on the forum, which I guess doesn't matter anymore that she's been let go, my family situation doesn't permit me the time to go through my 400 bucks worth of pledge and painstakingly photograph everything, so personally I guess I'll just have to make do with whatever I was sent.
 
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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js379 wrote:
klkitchens wrote:
js379 wrote:
The only thing I would note is that if you got a retail version, and I'm not sure if there's any way to tell the difference vs the KS versions, then it has different miniatures than what came in the KS versions that are supposed to be higher quality.


This is incorrect.

As they stated on the KS forum, the current retail versions are from the same company. They moved the molds ONLY for the tabletop game sets. Also all the KS bonuses were outside of the retail box, so the retail box and the base game boxes backers received should be 100% identical.

FUTURE retail printings will be done elsewhere.


Actually, they have already started assembling and distributing "corrected" versions as stated in updated 166.

"Additionally, we were able to secure a limited amount of advanced copies of several games. We have about 35 copies each of the corrected Recon: Counter Threat and Assassination Protocol. We have about 45 copies of Banner Saga: Warbands. We have 24 copies each of Shores of Kanis and Blackwall Warrens.

As a backer if you want to stop by the booth and see the quality of Warbands and the Journeyman products, we'd love to show them to you.

Note: The corrected copies of CT and AP available at Gencon are advanced copies from the ones we sent back. They contain the same replacement materials backers will receive if they have requested replacement parts."

However, I do suppose my terminology was incorrect. I should have said "corrected" versions instead of "retail" versions. Thanks for the heads up on that. The point still remains though that there are some copies floating around out there that have better materials that were provided to Kickstarter backers in their initial shipments. Hopefully, everyone will eventually get these corrected materials to replace their messed up pledge rewards, but that does remain to be seen for now. As I told Nikki on the forum, which I guess doesn't matter anymore that she's been let go, my family situation doesn't permit me the time to go through my 400 bucks worth of pledge and painstakingly photograph everything, so personally I guess I'll just have to make do with whatever I was sent.


Right... corrected boards, etc... for sure. But I was under the impression you meant upgraded miniatures which of course is not the case. They might have gotten better copies from the same source, but not the new source they will be using in the future.
 
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Cutthroat Cardboard (Barry)
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Thanks for putting the time into doing a detailed review. Think I broadly agree with most of your points. The more I play Recon the more impressed I am. It looks great, has huge replayability per buck, consistently throws up interesting tactical situations and let's you adjust the difficulty depending on how you layout the objectives and the office.

I agree about the priority system up to a point. It can be slightly clunky and doesn't work well when everyone is bouncing off the top or bottom of the track, but it is important. Not only does it define the primary target for SecFor it's key in Breach and Clear. Getting your guys in position for breach and clear in the right positions at the right time can be tricky. The big one however is that Mercs are positioned in the B&C in priority order and some sequences can be much more effective than others. You must therefore manipulate priority to optimize B&C, particularly if you are doing more than one in a turn.
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Jason S
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klkitchens wrote:
js379 wrote:
klkitchens wrote:
js379 wrote:
The only thing I would note is that if you got a retail version, and I'm not sure if there's any way to tell the difference vs the KS versions, then it has different miniatures than what came in the KS versions that are supposed to be higher quality.


This is incorrect.

As they stated on the KS forum, the current retail versions are from the same company. They moved the molds ONLY for the tabletop game sets. Also all the KS bonuses were outside of the retail box, so the retail box and the base game boxes backers received should be 100% identical.

FUTURE retail printings will be done elsewhere.


Actually, they have already started assembling and distributing "corrected" versions as stated in updated 166.

"Additionally, we were able to secure a limited amount of advanced copies of several games. We have about 35 copies each of the corrected Recon: Counter Threat and Assassination Protocol. We have about 45 copies of Banner Saga: Warbands. We have 24 copies each of Shores of Kanis and Blackwall Warrens.

As a backer if you want to stop by the booth and see the quality of Warbands and the Journeyman products, we'd love to show them to you.

Note: The corrected copies of CT and AP available at Gencon are advanced copies from the ones we sent back. They contain the same replacement materials backers will receive if they have requested replacement parts."

However, I do suppose my terminology was incorrect. I should have said "corrected" versions instead of "retail" versions. Thanks for the heads up on that. The point still remains though that there are some copies floating around out there that have better materials that were provided to Kickstarter backers in their initial shipments. Hopefully, everyone will eventually get these corrected materials to replace their messed up pledge rewards, but that does remain to be seen for now. As I told Nikki on the forum, which I guess doesn't matter anymore that she's been let go, my family situation doesn't permit me the time to go through my 400 bucks worth of pledge and painstakingly photograph everything, so personally I guess I'll just have to make do with whatever I was sent.


Right... corrected boards, etc... for sure. But I was under the impression you meant upgraded miniatures which of course is not the case. They might have gotten better copies from the same source, but not the new source they will be using in the future.


Ningbo was also supposed to run higher quality replacement miniatures as well as cardboard components so they theoretically will be better than what was made in the initial run, especially since MCG stated in their update coming back from China that Ningbo had agreed to modify their methods for miniature production and to be more thorough with their quality control in the future, but I can see how you took it as referring to the miniatures that Zibo is supposed to be producing in the future for Mercs TT 2.0, totally understandable and my apologies if I managed to give that impression.
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Christopher Senn
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This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.

So guess that means you will have to double down on buying the same factions twice.



 
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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Grove123 wrote:
This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.



$120 for the KS package is a great deal. You will probably from Counter Threat in stores soon for around $35, but Assassination Protocol won't be until later. So you'd get it now.

I think the miniatures on the whole a perfectly fine for tabletop and board gaming. They are not, of course, going to be great for painting competition quality. The aren't supposed to be interchangeable, they ARE interchangeable.

Through it all, it really is an excellent game.
 
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Grove123 wrote:
This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.

So guess that means you will have to double down on buying the same factions twice.





Keep in mind also that there is also supposed to be a new line of all plastic higher quality tabletop miniatures that will be produced by the same guys who did the amazing miniatures for Myth. If you can get the KS pledge plus the all missions add-on for 120 (which is about half what the pledged would have paid for it) then I would say it is 100% worth it just for the nonminiatures component and then look to possibly picking up the nicer minis when they come out.
 
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Christopher Senn
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klkitchens wrote:
Grove123 wrote:
This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.



$120 for the KS package is a great deal. You will probably from Counter Threat in stores soon for around $35, but Assassination Protocol won't be until later. So you'd get it now.

I think the miniatures on the whole a perfectly fine for tabletop and board gaming. They are not, of course, going to be great for painting competition quality. The aren't supposed to be interchangeable, they ARE interchangeable.

Through it all, it really is an excellent game.


From my understanding the Recon game's squad factions are only 5 members, while the faction box for tabletop has 10 members.
Are there any cards or material out there to incorporate the other 5 faction members into the Recon game?
 
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Kevin L. Kitchens
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Grove123 wrote:
klkitchens wrote:
Grove123 wrote:
This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.



$120 for the KS package is a great deal. You will probably from Counter Threat in stores soon for around $35, but Assassination Protocol won't be until later. So you'd get it now.

I think the miniatures on the whole a perfectly fine for tabletop and board gaming. They are not, of course, going to be great for painting competition quality. The aren't supposed to be interchangeable, they ARE interchangeable.

Through it all, it really is an excellent game.


From my understanding the Recon game's squad factions are only 5 members, while the faction box for tabletop has 10 members.
Are there any cards or material out there to incorporate the other 5 faction members into the Recon game?


I assumed the deal included the stretch goals too of some more figures.

However yes, the boards are available for 4 of the 5 non tabletop units times 12 factions. Sniper figures are not needed in game, they function off board virtually.
 
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klkitchens wrote:
Grove123 wrote:
klkitchens wrote:
Grove123 wrote:
This game seems to be taking forever to hit FULL final retail.

Poor megacon games. They are brilliant designers, but the final product often falls short for some ridiculous reason. But they are committed to fixing any issues or shortcomings. Which is awesome to hear.

I am thinking about jumping into the mercs world. But bit confused on should I buy Merc Recon KS sets on ebay (I could get the both games and all mission expansions for like $120) or wait for final retail version on amazon.
And I heard that Mercs Recon Minis (while supposed to be interchangable with Mercs 2.0) are inferior to the Mercs 2.0 tabletop miniatures.



$120 for the KS package is a great deal. You will probably from Counter Threat in stores soon for around $35, but Assassination Protocol won't be until later. So you'd get it now.

I think the miniatures on the whole a perfectly fine for tabletop and board gaming. They are not, of course, going to be great for painting competition quality. The aren't supposed to be interchangeable, they ARE interchangeable.

Through it all, it really is an excellent game.


From my understanding the Recon game's squad factions are only 5 members, while the faction box for tabletop has 10 members.
Are there any cards or material out there to incorporate the other 5 faction members into the Recon game?


I assumed the deal included the stretch goals too of some more figures.

However yes, the boards are available for 4 of the 5 non tabletop units times 12 factions. Sniper figures are not needed in game, they function off board virtually.


And the boards are virtually free since they are available in PDF to print yourself. You will want a laminator but you can one for less than 20 bucks on amazon and you will never regret the purchase.

The sniper mini are slightly useful in recon just for tracking which side of the building the sniper is currently on, but yeah totally not necessary as you can use any kind of token or standee and its just going to sit around on the outside of the building. I think someone made some standees right?
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CK Lai
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Great review. Agree with all points. Although mention must be made that some of the provided missions DO seem unbalanced in that no matter how hard you try as the MERCS player, you can't win them. (Combination of very tough mission conditions + luck... good or bad).

Good point about the initiative as well. But yeah, aside from OpFor targeting priority and B&C (where it's pretty tough to actually match what you want, given that finding your objective is almost always random) there's not much payoff for the admin overhead.

I've now come to realise it's a carry over from their MERCS tabletop minis game where initiative DOES have an impact on model activation etc. Not so much in Recon since (as the review correctly points out) the MERCS and OpFor have their respective activation Phases.

Personally, I could've done without the initiative tracking since it adds to the fiddliness without much of a payoff. For targeting priority, just use the initial starting Initiative. Oh, well.
 
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