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Subject: Project Elite Review rss

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Colin Degnan
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Maplewood
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Overview:
Welcome to a world that has been overrun by aliens that want nothing more than to kill you, and all you are armed with is. . . dice! Project Elite is a real time, cooperative, tactical, and fun game for 1-4 players.
First apologies for the length of this review, I just had a lot to say! If you prefer a practical approach to learning, I have uploaded 2 playthrough’s of this game at my new channel One Stop Co-op Shop. Please check them out and thank you in advance!

Solo Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEl4v_XYbEQ
2-Player Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWibQoVmVCk

The game consists of 8 rounds of the following:
1. Event Phase (if applicable) Events are always bad, and you must use dice to get rid of them!
2. Alien Spawning Phase – spawn aliens equal to the number of players unless at the Hard level (my preference as you truly feel you are being overrun!)
3. Strategy Phase – Cannot remember what this is called, but you and your fellow teammates can make a strategy on how you will tackle the mission.
4. 2-Minute Real Time Action Phase (meat and potatoes of the game). Here is where you roll your dice as if your life depends on it (which it does!), activating your weapons, moving around the board, and completing objectives. Oh and killings lots of aliens, did I already mention that?
5. Alien Ability Phase – Once again, always bad. Some aliens can bite you, shoot you, push other aliens etc.
6. Alien Movement Phase – Aliens move. That sums it up.
7. Clean Up Phase – Check for win conditions etc.
Rinse and repeat this for up to 8 rounds and you are good to go. I would say average game lasts about 30-35 minutes depending upon how many rounds you can last. . . . er I mean how many rounds it takes you to win.

Art & Design: 7.5/10
The art of this game fits the theme perfectly. Looking at some of the items and weapons, you can just imagine what it would be like using this weapon to kill aliens (the Judge is one of my favorites). The alien cards are good at helping you find the minis you need to place on the board.
The board is my favorite piece of art. The base game comes with one board that has 2 sides. One side is easier than the other which also provides more replayability to the game. The art on the board provides a great medium to becoming engrossed in the game. And when you add mini’s to the board, it really comes to life.
Now there have been a lot of people who were unhappy with the minis. I did not back this game on Kickstarter, so I was not expecting a certain type of mini for this game.
HOWEVER, in my honest opinion the minis do not detract from the game in the least! Since this is a real time game and you are essentially chucking the minis off the board as quickly as humanly possible, I don’t really care if the detail is not there. What is important to me is I can quickly identify the type of alien so I know its special abilities (Shooters will shoot you at range three, or Biter’s will bite you at range one etc.). I know the minis could have been better, but this is not a Sword and Sorcery game. The minis are not on the board for long, and you will not spend time sitting back and just staring at the beautiful board covered in aliens. Instead you will be staring intently at your dice hoping you can roll that Gun you need, or the Walker that will let you get out of range of an alien. In my opinion, if you did not back this on Kickstarter, you will be completely fine with the minis.

Theme: 10/10
Not much to say here, the theme is you are killing aliens to complete an objective. . . and that is exactly what you are doing! Simple theme and great execution of having the Theme reside in the Gameplay, Art, and Design of the game.

Gameplay Mechanics: 8.25/10
If you look at my play’s recorded on BGG, you will see that this game has the highest amount of plays. That is because I really enjoy the mechanics in this game as they are simple yet strangely tactical.
How the designers of this game did this is through a couple mechanics:

Action Phase: If you think of many tactical games, there is a turn base for when you can act, when your fellow teammates can act, and when the bad guys (aka Aliens) can act. What makes Project Elite special is a simple mechanic that is woven into the dice rolls. One side of the Action Dice is an Alien Face. When this Alien face is rolled, you are required to move an alien one space forward (following the arrows on the board) towards your base. This movement could be beneficial as you can move an alien into your LoS, or it could hinder your team as you moved an alien out of the LoS of one of your teammates. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me! But I also have been able to move aliens INTO my teammates LoS just in time for them to take ‘em out! So you are trying to make these tactical decisions, which in a regular tactical board game could take 2-3 minutes to decide which enemy to move. In this game you are doing this AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Sometimes making poor decisions, but who cares, you just need to keep rolling so you can kill the next alien. I love this aspect because it helps with AP (analysis Paralysis) for some players.

Alien Abilities: The three main solder groups have distinct abilities which provide players with tactical decisions each time they are forced to move aliens during the Action Phase. Runners are fast, Shooters are slow but have a range attack you need to be aware of, and Biters will try and take a chunk out of your life if you stay too close to them. This provides tactical decisions on which aliens you will move and which you will not.

Red Die Slots: I just love the mechanic dealing with Red vs. White die slots. To activate your weapons, items, or even search areas on the board you have to roll a specific symbol on your dice. If the die slot on the card/board is white, you simply place the die on the white space and activate its effect. After that you can pick that die up and continue rolling it to your hearts content. However, to complete objectives, or to get rid of events, or even to activate some items or weapons you will see that the slot for your die is red. This means this die is lost for the rest of the round. This simple mechanic provides a lot of difficult decisions while playing in real time as you never want to lose your dice! But at the same time you need to complete those objectives, or activate a powerful weapon etc.
Also –for the Demolition Scenario you actually lose one of your dice permanently when you complete an objective! So this begs to question, how soon do you complete the objectives? If it is too soon, you will be hindered only rolling three dice the rest of the game instead of four, etc. More great decisions to make and all in the 2-minute real time Action Phase.

Scenarios: The game comes with 4 scenarios (Extermination, Recovery, Recon, and Demolition). I find that each type of Scenario provides you with a unique experience and provides replayability.
Health: I love how this game handles health. If you lose your 3 life, instead of eliminating you from the game, you just limp through the rest of the game with one less dice, and then you heal up to full health. If you lose all your dice, then you are dead and the game is over. This is just a great mechanic to prevent player elimination, but also make health a coveted resource.

Length of Game: Games that allow all players to “play” their turn at the same time are a big plus for me. With kids I have limited time to play games, and this game’s 30 minute time stamp is pretty much perfect. It does take a couple minutes to set up, but I have figured out a good way to put everything away in such a way it only takes me about 5 minutes to set up, and 5 minutes to take down.

If Only. . .
Every game has its set-backs. Here are the ones that I can think of:

Timer: This game is BEGGING for an app that plays thematic music as you are rushing to mow down aliens as quickly as possible. Instead you get a physical timer that makes me think we are in the 80’s. You can’t even turn the display off! There is no countdown, so you have to keep watching it to know how much time is left etc. Fortunately for us, this issue is easily remedied by the amazing BGG communities who have created their own soundtracks that I happily employ in all my games now.

Alien Tech: When you defeat a boss or complete an objective you get to draw an alien tech card, which is great! However I found more often than not, I discard the alien tech as it is just not that good. . . I wish the alien tech was stronger so that it felt like you really were getting something worthwhile when you killed that boss alien.

Characters: after playing 20+ games I really only play with 2 of the characters. The others just don’t feel like they are remotely as good as the two I play with (Momentum and Caress). I wish they characters were more balanced.

Swingy: I am not sure there is anything you can do for this, as the alien draws are random. But sometimes you have all your aliens coming out of one spawning area and it just overwhelms you. Other times the game is a walk in the park. We have toyed with the idea of always having a soldier alien card spawn each round (this way, you cannot spawn only special aliens in one round. This would help to ensure there is sufficient aliens on the board etc.)

Cooperative Aspect: 7/10
The game has a strong Co-op component as you are all trying to kill aliens and complete objectives together. You can gang up on Boss or Special alien together or even complete Objectives together.
However, unlike Escape the Curse of the Temple I can never use your dice to help me with my own dice (ex. Unlocking black dice in Escape). I also cannot use your dice to play on my weapon etc. For me, this is actually a good thing because it allows players to feel more autonomous during the game and there really can be no “alpha gamer” here.

Replayability: 7.5/10
There are 4 different Scenarios with 4 levels of difficulty (Easy, Medium, Hard, Super Hard). There’s also two sides of the board (Alien Crash Site and Abandoned Lab). There are a multitude of different characters to try, and on average you will see only 2-3 bosses a game. There is a large number of Weapon, Item, and Alien Tech cards as well. I have played 22 times and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
Due note, if you want more replayability, getting the Adrenaline expansion will help as it adds two more soldier aliens as well as another double sided board. It also adds another 2 scenario’s I believe. I am getting mine in November!

Difficulty: 6.75/10
Similar to many real time games, the first few games you will get owned by the aliens. They know the map better than you, are relentless, and you feel overwhelmed. I tried my first game on Medium playing solo. I lasted to round 2! I would say after 5 games you start memorizing the board, how the aliens can be manipulated in their relentless push (Come at me bro! Just need to roll an alien face so I can shoot your face!) and all of a sudden I am now only playing at the Hard Level and winning (sometimes).
I was able to pick up the Alien Expansion pack and this helps with difficulty. There are blue aliens (elite solider aliens), new green aliens, and new red aliens.
I do want to say the game is incredibly simple to learn. I taught my Dad (who is NOT a gamer) in 10 minutes, and after he figured out what to do with the green dice (wait rolling a Gun symbol isn’t enough to kill the alien?!!), he was off and killing aliens!

Player Number:
I have only played this 1 and 2 player. I really like 2 player and think honestly this would be awesome with 4. The amount of aliens moving, people moving, hands flying across the table. . . Sounds amazing and I want to try it so bad! The more the merrier in this game.

Player Type:
As mentioned above, I did teach my dad who is in a wheelchair and is 62 years old. He caught on in less than 10 minutes and had a blast! (we did play easy level though). If you are OK with Easy mode or maybe Medium mode at the highest, anyone can play this.
Where it starts to get very tactical is at the Hard level. I would reserve this level for the gamer types as you need to be very cognizant of which aliens to move, how to complete objectives and not let the amount of aliens intimidate you etc.

Final Thoughts: 8.5/10
This game, is just a whole lot of fun! I have never played video games but some of my friends equate this to a first shooter on the computer. All I know is that when I play this game, 30 minutes feels like 2 minutes. When I play this game, my food and drink sit on the table collecting dust because I am so engrossed in the game that I cannot break my concentration for anything else. When I play this game, I never play it once. I usually play it 3 times at a minimum.
I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a little time pressure, loves real time games, and enjoys blasting aliens to smithereens!

Edit: A few typos I missed. . . Hate when that happens.
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Mike Strand
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Excellent review and I basically agree with all that you said.

I do have a disability and when I told my wife about this game she asked me if I had considered that maybe a game that requires speedy manual dexterity might not be the best idea, I paused and kind of regretted my purchase. When it did finally arrive I was almost overwhelmed at how tough it was for me to play. Nevertheless, I kept at it. I have gotten noticeably better with several playings and am now am quite enjoying it. My first few games felt like a bad day at rehab, but I persevered and it has paid off!
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Colin Degnan
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Maplewood
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That is so Awesome! My dad became paralyzed from the chest down when I was 8 and I thought his life would be over. He didn't give up and now is teaching full time as a philosopher. This taught me that just because you have a disability, doesn't mean you can't do what you want!

Glad you are enjoying the game and the review, and I hope you can take out tons of aliens on your next mission.

Colin
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Mike Strand
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Well Colin, your dad is truly amazing! I was hit by a semi-truck almost 30 years ago and suffered a severe brain injury. I am very fortunate because my hard work paid off, my heroes are those I've met who work harder than me for less result and still they persevere. I know your dad must work very hard, yet he will never walk. I'm just humbled by that kind of tenacity, because I know just how hard that is.

My brain injury makes my reaction time slow, my thought processes slow, and my fine motor skills are more like crude motor skills. ;-)

But, and I'm sure your dad can appreciate this, it is because it is so absurd to imagine that I will ever get good at this game, that I keep on trying. I am getting better with every game, so that's a plus.

I'll keep killing as many aliens as I can, best of luck to you and your dad!
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Colin Degnan
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Thanks so much for sharing Mike! My dad (his name is also Mike btw) fell off of our roof when painting and broke his spinal cord. For me he has been one of my greatest heroes as I have seen him work hard to make life as "normal" as possible for his two kids. I am telling you now, I am certain you are a hero to others and you don't even know it

Doesn't matter if you are in a wheelchair, or slow in fine motor skills, killing aliens can continue to be a fun experience!!
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