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Subject: The Broken Meeple - Adrenaline Review - First Person Euro rss

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Luke Hector
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Ah who remembers the days of old where arena based first person shooters were all the rage? I was particularly partial to Unreal Tournament and Mobile Forces (bet most of you don't remember that one, look it up), but there was also a huge Quake following as well. Many hours spent fragging people on the internet and probably raging at them while I'm at it! Yeah, yeah come on we've all done it!

However it's not the first thing I would expect to be able to port over into a board game. Some have tried and from what I can tell, failed miserably. Czech Games Editions (CGE) now believes it can pull it off with the new Adrenaline, which certainly has an enticing box cover, even if the size is irritating for transporting in bags. But a Euro style game? Surely this is more suited for Amerithrash right?

 



Designer: Filip Neduk
Publisher: Czech Games Editions
Age: 12+
Players: 3-5
Time: 90-120 Minutes
RRP: £39.99


From Czech Games Editions

In the future, war has left the world in complete destruction and split the people into factions. The factions have decided to stop the endless war and settle their dispute in the arena. A new virtual bloodsport was created. The Adrenaline tournament. Every faction has a champion, every champion has a chance to fight and the chance to win. Will you take the chance of becoming the next champion of the Adrenaline tournament?

Play a first-person shooter on your gaming table. Grab some ammo, grab a gun, and start shooting. Build up an arsenal for a killer turn. Combat resolution is quick and diceless. And if you get shot, you get faster!



ONLY THE BEST IN MILITARY HARDWARE


CGE do have a knack for making their games look colourful. The vibrant "neon" style light colours contrast nicely with the black board to create the arena map. The artwork across the player boards and weapons is particularly impressive and I love how the weapons are shown from the wielder's perspective just like in an FPS game. Nice touch. Makes you want to download the soundtrack to Unreal Tournament or similar and have it in the background.



Component quality is pretty solid too. Plastic translucent cubes for all the ammo, some cool skulls for kill counts and well sculpted plastic miniatures for each of the combatants. It's very striking when it's all laid out and it would have suffered badly if it tried to skimp on anything. The rulebook is well laid out with a ton of art and pictorial examples throughout. Learning how to play Adrenaline from this is a piece of cake, but if you hate books, "Watch It Played" and "Gaming Rules!" have some videos to assist you.

The slight issue is the Weapons Manual. It's a compendium of how all the weapons operate in the game including their alternate fire modes and boosts. The iconography isn't the most intuitive on the weapons so you'll be referring to this constantly throughout the game and when teaching to new players, you simply have to say "just pick up any weapon that sounds cool and I'll tell you what it does" to avoid too much initial stalling. Using text would have just cluttered up the cards so it's the best solution, but be aware new players may struggle at first.


MULTI-KILL!


A Euro game trying to emulate a first person shooter, I was cringing at that thought. Euro's and strong theme aren't always two concepts that go together. But Adrenaline actually manages to pull it off quite well. The weapons function as you would expect and everyone gets into the pure carnage of shooting other players quickly. My only beef and it's a personal nitpick is that I don't get why you have to reload constantly. One shot and that's it? You can argue that it represents a spray or clip unload, but then I'd expect more than a couple points of damage from a spray of rockets! Poetic license I guess, you have to compromise somewhere.

The biggest worry I had was the issue of ganging up for giggles. Thankfully that was addressed from the start and taken care of. As you take damage your actions become more powerful and with each death your point value decreases, thus deterring players from focusing on you. I'll touch on the only issue with this later, but I'm glad they thought about this.



Despite being all about a first person shooter experience, at its core, Adrenaline is an area control game with a map element. To win you have to spread out the damage tagging as many players as possible for a spread of points. On top of that you need to grab opportunities for kills whenever possible. So for you Euro fans, there's plenty here to keep you satisfied, but given that it's a very tactical game, you can't plan out your turns in advance, which means giving a lukewarm welcome to analysis paralysis fairly frequently.

And when you're bored with simple fragging for the sake of fragging, you can always try out the Domination mode where area control expands to specific points on the map for gaining points. It's not drastically different, but it does make the area effect weapons a bit more worthwhile having as players will congregate on those points. In the standard game I found that area weapons were incredibly situational at best. Turret mode is basically the same as the normal game, but more advanced.


SUDDEN DEATH


Adrenaline has short and long game variants based on preference, but most will tend to opt for the long affair. Of course such an experience will still set you back a good 90-120 minutes regardless of player count and when it gets to the upper threshold I'm peering at my watch as it's quite a repetitive affair each round. You don't build up to anything over time, it's basically constant from start to finish, just keep grabbing ammo cubes to replenish your guns. I would have preferred maybe a cap at 60-90 minutes and you can go for a short game variant to accomplish this, but this escalates another issue.

The awesome balancing mechanic I mentioned before has a weak spot. By reducing the point gain from killing the same person again, the kills get spread out among all players every game. Each player will die once before any player dies a second time. With 5 players you're already more than half way through the game by the time anyone gets close to dying twice. After a few plays it starts to feel a little scripted. With the short game variant, it's even worse.

Adrenaline has a small player count of 3 to 5 and I would call 4 the sweet spot. With 3 players there just isn't enough action unless you use the Bot variant and as we all know from online gaming, a bot never replaces a human player. 5 players means a lot of carnage, but the downtime crosses the line at that stage. 4 is enough to keep the game length manageable, but also not make the area effect weapons worthless, which a lot of them tend to be in a 3 player game.






VERDICT ON ADRENALINE

This is a valiant effort by CGE to pull off a first person arena shooter as a board game and for the most part, it succeeds. If you can get over the constant reloading requirement, the theme is strong and will have you reflecting over all those computer game sessions of old and enjoying non-stop shooting mayhem. Decent production quality and clear gameplay rules help a lot in this regard. . . well clear other than having to constantly read from the Weapons Manual to understand the iconography.

However it's a little long for a game that doesn't really evolve by the end with most games clocking in at 90-120 minutes with teaching including some added downtime at max player counts. Analysis paralysis can set in easily as you can't plan out a turn in advance. Games also feel a little scripted with how kills come about despite the welcome inclusion of a balancing feature to stop "picking on" issues.

It's far from perfection, but still a fun experience and there are some people who are just going to fall in love with the theme. Definitely worth a try if you're an FPS fan who wants to veer away from Amerithrash dice combat.




BROKEN RATING - 6 "Up Close & Personal" Shotgun Kills




YOU WILL LIKE ADRENALINE IF:



You're a fan of first person shooters - this is FPS Euro Edition.



You want a combat game that doesn't rely on the luck of dice.



You want a more tactical experience.




YOU WILL NOT LIKE ADRENALINE IF:



You feel that the game outstays its welcome with the time length.



You have to keep referring to the Weapons Manual all the time.



You feel the action is a little scripted.

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Matthew Peckham
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farmergiles wrote:
I'd expect more than a couple points of damage from a spray of rockets!


Oh, you've never come across me in an online game, then! I'm the guy who manages to shoot everything in the room but my target. laugh

Nice review! I've only had the chance to play it once, 5-player, and it clocked in at about 2-hours but everyone really loved the theme and the mechanisms so no-one was complaining about downtime! Looking forward to getting it to the table again.

What's nice to note is, once you've been told the explanation of what each weapon does, they're all so simple to understand you never need to RE-look at the weapons manual for it again. And once you get an idea of how the iconography works (grey figure is me, red figure is my target, blue/green figures are additional targets, X under my figure means "not on your square", grey right arrow is my forward movement, red left arrow is their backward movement, etc.) you can pretty much work out what each weapon does and then a quick glance at the manual confirms.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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I've played this 6-7 times now, mostly with 4-5p, and it never took more than about 75 minutes. Not sure what's slowing it down, but it really shouldn't be that long, unless there's some serious AP going on.
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Paul Grogan
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Yeah, I've played it and demoed it a lot, and 75-90 minutes was the max, even with slowish players. But yeah, severe AP and not thinking ahead can really slow things down (as in most games)
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Luke Hector
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Usually you're looking at that manual for various different types of guns like for example the AOE ones aren't that easy to decipher. But it's more that new players will tend to grab the book and if you're not playing this regularly you'll likely forget the odd thing. But yeah with time that book becomes less of an issue.

Easily 2 hours from a 5 player game, I don't know whether people are simply not caring about their turn or what other players are doing to race to 75 minutes, but with 8 skulls, you're talking 2 hours. I'd accept 75 minutes if you were playing with only 5 skulls but then the game will literally always end with everyone having one death each and then the last kill being a spur of the moment. But given that I think 2 hours is too long for this I'll probably only play it now at the 5 skull limit for speed.

EDIT - now it does depend how you calculate your "time taken". From a Twitter convo I've had, it seems majority will only take the time it takes from the first turn to the game concluding. I do not do that as I factor in setup, takedown and rules. In a rosy tinted world we would love to have games played where it's constant that every player knows the rules back to front and inside out. But in the real world, you're teaching new players or it's a brand new game you've just bought/reviewed etc. Therefore more time is needed. Also when you are setting up a game, playing it, packing it and explaining it, you are involved solely with that game, no other. If a game took 55 minutes to set up but only 5 minutes to play, would you go around saying it was a 5 minute game or a 1 hour game? I'd pick the latter. I still don't think you can do 75 min with 8 skulls and 4-5 players in playtime, but hey!

But AP will happen, I can't see how it can't. You have several methods of dishing damage each round and players are naturally going to compare them all. On top of that, you say plan your turns in advance. How are you supposed to do that in a game where everything is tactical? The board state is completely different from what it was before so you can't plan your turn in advance. A weapon you want might be gone. Players have moved out of your required zones/rooms. Players have died before you could nab that kill. At which point you have to come up with a different idea and thus the downtime sets in. 75 minutes is such a short time for an 8 skull battle that in 4/5 players people just cannot be trying to win at this point.

The theme certainly is fun and done well I admit for a Euro. I do find myself checking my watch though past the 90 minute mark as I feel beyond that the rinse/repeat nature of the game grinds a bit. But then unless the game is engaging me fully every minute I'll be checking the watch past 2 hours regardless, it's why very few games that go for 3 hours plus interest me without a super strong theme to back it up.





 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Nope. I've played several 4-5p games. Teaching all new players. 8 skulls and frenzy round. 60-75 minutes. 90 max, but usually not.

As a supporting witness, I call to the stand Jamie from the Secret Cabal podcast. I happened to listen to their latest episode just now and he said almost exactly the same thing, "about an hour."

So I think you guys are slooooooooow.



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Luke Hector
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Or you guys don't pay attention to the board state and just shoot for sake of shooting Also do people socialise?

Time aside I'm surprised no one has commented on the scripting issue.
 
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Chet C.
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While the game state changes, you can begin to plan your turn in advance. Think: 'what would I do now?' as the player ahead of you starts their turn. And while they take their turn, think: 'does that change anything for me?' And now you already have a plan and only need to compare this plan against the results of a single player's turn.

This principle works for every game. There's also a second principle that ties closely with theme. If a game is meant to be exciting and is based on people running/flying/racing around, consider taking faster turns, if only to maintain the feel of the game. It makes sense to take your time in Risk or Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, but not in X-Wing Miniatures Game or Adrenaline, where there would thematically be a sense of frenzy and chaos rather than of sterile logic. In a game like Adrenaline, I think it's more enjoyable and more to the theme if you act/react instinctively rather than mathematically. This the person who can make the best choices in the moment.

Just my opinion. Certainly not fact. Oh, and I've never played Adrenaline, but I have played a 3 hr game of X-Wing Miniatures with only the base set (one or two ships per player; 2 players). It felt like my hyperspace-capable ships were casually floating in space, waiting for my opponent out of a sense of chivalry.
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