Recommend
55 
 Thumb up
 Hide
21 Posts

Assault of the Giants» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Flawed, yet wonderful rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Anthony Faber
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Assault of the Giants is a multi-player conflict, aka dudes on a map, game for 3-6 players that is set in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe, in which each player takes on the role of one of the six races of giants: Storm, Cloud, Fire, Frost, Stone or Hill. The game takes approximately 20 minutes per player.

The background to the game is that the gods have overthrown the long established hierarchy, or 'ordning' of the giant races, and now the races are fighting each other and completing unique quests to establish dominance in the new ordning. They are exploiting the 'small folk', humans and other races, to obtain resources for their pitched battle against each other.

I will give a broad overview of the gameplay, followed by a thorough evaluation of the game's strong and weak points.

Gameplay


Different Races of Giants

Different races of giants are used at different player counts. Races not being used still get some giants in their home region and an adjacent region which take up space and can later be attacked by the players.

Each player starts with a home province containing four (or, in the case of the Storm Giants, three) giants of their given type. This province cannot be occupied or attacked by opposing giants until the game is almost over. The giants vary in strength depending on the starting ranking of the race; Storm giants are strongest and hill giants are weakest.

Turn order also goes from strongest to weakest, though the weakest race in the game gets the last turn in the game so the number of turns each player takes is always equal. Finally, there is a limit to how many giants you can have in a province depending on what race you are playing - the strongest, the Storm giants, can have up to 3 giants in a region, down to the weakest, the Hill giants, who can have up to 6 in a region.

Action Cards

Each player also starts with a handful of nine action cards. On a player's turn, they will play one of the cards from their hand and take the action associated with that card. The card remains on the table, and you may not play that card or take that action again until you rest (see below). The actions includes:

Move - moving your giants around the map.

Attack - attack enemy giants that are in a region adjacent to your giants.

Magic - gain a magic spell from a spell deck.

Plunder - gain resources from the resource deck based on how many 'small folk' regions you occupy.

Trade - trade resources with other players or from the resource deck.

Recruit - bring new giants into play in your home region.

Leader - increase the combat ability of your leader giant and activate your leader's special ability (different for each race.

Rest - return all the cards into your hand, heal one of your giants, and activate a band of human heroes (Giantslayers) to attack the other players.

Special - each race of giants has a unique card which activates an ability unique to that race.

This card action system, wherein each player takes an action on a card, and then can't take that action again until they play the card that returns their cards to their hand, is just like that used in the eurogame Concordia, albeit inside of a completely dissimilar type of game.

There's a unique twist on this cardplay, however: the strength of each action is dependent on how many other cards you've played on the table. Most actions become stronger the more other cards you have already played down. The Recruit card for the Hill Giants, for instance, gives 2 recruit points (allows you to recruit two points worth of new giants), plus one point per card you have already played down on the table. When you play the rest card and pick up your cards back into your hand, those actions will again have to start at their beginning strength.

Ordning Points

The winner of the game is the player who accumulates the most ordning points (victory points). This is done by completing events (quests), playing race specific cards in specific situations, and most importantly, by killing other giants. Ordning points aren't tracked publicly, rather, when they are obtained they are given to a player in the form of tokens, and it's the disappearance of these tokens that triggers the endgame.

Events

To complete an event, a player usually needs to occupy a given region at the start of their turn, and usually needs to turn in a specific colored rune (a resource available in the resource deck) as well. This gives the player a certain number of ordning points, and occasionally some other immediate benefit in resources as well.

There are always three public event cards available for any player to complete, additionally, each race of giants has 1-3 events that only that race can complete. Completion of these race specific events often requires another condition beyond occupying a region and spending a rune, usually gives an additional benefit beyond points, and unlocks the next part of that race's story, meaning it unlocks the next event available for them to complete.

Another way players can score ordning points is by using their race specific action cards, most of which allow the players to score points for fulfilling thematic goals.

Race specific action cards

For instance, the Cloud Giants are attempting to become the dominant race of giants by collecting as much ancient magical knowledge as they can, so as to score points by discarding (using) artifacts, a resource in the resource available in the resource deck.

The Stone Giants believe that the world is an illusion, a nightmare caused by an infestation of humans and other small folk. Therefore, they receive ordning points when they play their special card to ravage as many small folk regions as possible.

The hill giant queen thinks her race will become dominant by her becoming the biggest giant in the world, and therefore the Hill Giants score points by discarding (eating) as much food as possible.

The Storm Giants are trying to make peace with the small folk so that they will help them find their kidnapped leader (their first race specific quest frees this leader), so their special action card allows them to score points by allying with small folk regions they occupy.

Combat

Defeating other giants is the biggest source of ordning points in the game. Combat occurs when a player plays the attack card and declares that a group of their giants is attacking an adjacent enemy province.

Most giants are represented on the board in the form of discs, which have the combat statistics for that giant written on them. The first statistic is attack - this number gives that many dice for the player in combat, up to a maximum of seven dice for all combined giants. The next statistic is fortitude, which is hit points, and the bottom number counts as both the number of ordning points that giant grants when defeated, as well as the number of recruit points it takes to bring that giant into the game.

Champion giants, which along with each giant clan's leader are the strongest units in the game, are represented by a big (3-4 inches or so in height), detailed plastic miniature instead of a disc, with the champion's statistics shown on a separate card.

When combat occurs, the attacker rolls dice equal to the combined attack value of his giants (again, max 7), with results including a certain number hits (1-3 on the base dice), a block or shield, a magic symbol, or an X (which is a miss). Shields will subtract from the enemy's hits, while magic symbols can be converted to a shield or two hits if one has previously played a magic or attack card respectively.

The attacker can also play certain spells as appropriate. Spell cards represent classic spells from Dungeons & Dragons, and each effects a combat in clear ways. There is also a stronger version of each spell which can be used if the player uses an artifact resource when playing the spell.

Weapons and ore resource cards can also be played in the battle - each weapon card spent adds a hit and a shield, while each ore used by the attacker adds two hits.

After all the effects of the attackers dice, spells and resource cards have been resolved, the final amount of hits and blocks are recorded. The defender then rolls the dice and does the same thing, using dice modification abilities, spells, and resources similarly, until they too have a final number of hits and blocks.

It should be noted that each race of giants has a special, unique, die that is always included in any combat they roll and is better (more hits, blocks, and/or magic symbols) the stronger the race of giants is (the Storm Giant die is strongest, the Hill Giant die weakest). If a player rolls 7 dice, they will use their special race die and six generic dice.

After the hits and blocks are determined, the defender's blocks are subtracted from the attacker's hits, and the defender allocates the final damage onto their giants. If the defender has a champion, all damage is applied to the champion first, and if not enough damage is done to match the champion's fortitude, the champion lives and the defender suffers no losses.

If a champion (or other unit) suffers enough damage to match its fortitude, it dies, the attacker gets that giant's ordning points, and then the remaining damage is computed on another giant of the defender's choice. If damage isn't enough to kill a giant, it becomes wounded - the disc is flipped over and new stats (usually weaker) are revealed. A wounded giant that takes any damage is killed.

Then the same thing happens with the damage that the attacker's giants suffers - starting with any champion present, they select giants one by one to absorb the damage.

Other resources

Besides weapons and ore, resources in the resource deck include the different colored runes necessary to complete events, artifacts which give the stronger version of a spell when spent along with the spell, and which also can be traded in by the Cloud giants for points, and finally food, which can be discarded for extra food points, or turned in by the Hill giants for points.

Giantslayers


When a player takes the rest action, they get to activate up to 3 small folk heroes that can attack the other players' giants. Players receive half points for any giants killed this way.

End of game

The end game phase triggers when a predetermined number of ordning points have been claimed (the number is greater with more players). Once this happens, players may now enter and attack other giant clans' home regions. There is another pool of ordning points equal to one quarter the starting number, and when this is exhausted, the round is completed, and then each player gets one more turn.

Review - positives, mixed, negatives

This review is based on five plays of the game, mostly with the same play group. Three of the plays had four players, one had five players, and one had three players. I played a different race of giants in each game - the Frost Giants are the only race I didn't play with.

I'll make the review easy to digest by dividing it into what I see as the strong, weak, and mixed or neutral points of the game. Then I'll come back and summarize my final thoughts.

Positive points (+)


+ Production and Theme Shine

The theme really shines in this game, in part because of the excellent production. The board looks good, with that retro D&D look, and the locations are faithful to the Forgotten Realms universe.

The miniatures are really excellent, whether you've bought the deluxe version where they're painted or the regular single color version. Personally, I prefer the single color version because it makes it very clear which race each giant belongs to. They're well sculpted and big and chunky. It's very satisfying to plunk them down when you move or attack with them.

The discs for the leader and other giants are fine, and while miniatures for all the giants sounds like it would be great, cost and board space make that impractical, plus it would mean looking at someone's cards to see the strength of all their giants, and it would remove the depth of the wounding mechanism where you flip the disc and the giant's stats change. All told, big chunky miniatures for champions and disc for the rest is an excellent compromise.

The contrast between the big giant miniatures and the tiny miniatures used for the Giantslayers is wonderful thematically, as their existence, even when on the side of the board when they're not being used, emphasizes the puniness of the small folk, and not so subtly reinforces that you're playing with GIANTS.

The rules are fine, not so much in how they're written but in how clear and logical the game is. Pretty much every rule resolves how you would expect intuitively. Compared to other dudes on a map games that often have a lot of corner case situation that need an FAQ, this game is breathtakingly straightforward, and that's a good thing. Furthermore, the game designer, Andrew Parks, has responded to what few questions have come up on the BGG forums almost immediately.

The asymmetrical giant races feel very different in the game, from their events, to their miniatures, to their colors, to their abilities, and they play very differently in a way appropriate to their backstory.

Whether you're into the recent Storm King's Thunder D&D storyline upon which the game is based, or you're an old fart like me, and one of your first roleplaying experiences as a kid was playing Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and the rest of the giant adventures that comprised Gary Gygax's first series of modules, anyone who likes D&D or high fantasy should be able to jump right into the theme. It was simply brilliant to have the players be giants - there's a million hero based combat games, but almost none based on playing these wonderfully cruel creatures. Playing giants helps imbue a sense of agency and power in the player from the first turn.

+ Hand management system creates fast turns and excruciating decisions

The limited hand of cards system wherein you play a card, take the action on the card, and can't take that action again until you play a card that gives you all your cards back might be right out of Concordia, but hey, it's better to be good than original. Besides, I don't see any other American style games borrowing this mechanism. Maybe they should.

In addition to the inherently fast turns created by such a system, as well as the tough decisions that come with a dwindling pool of possible actions, the game adds the genius twist of making cards more or less powerful based on how many cards have already been played down. Now the decisions become even more challenging.

I really want to attack, but I don't have enough cards down to assure victory. Do I risk it, or build up some cards and hope my target is still there in a couple of turns? I desperately want to get more resources to get a rune I need, but if I plunder now I'll be able to get half the resources I'd get in a couple turns. Do I go for it or wait?

That 'go for it or wait' feeling is there all the time in AotG, and adds this beautiful level of decision making to a genre that usually just gives you the freedom to move, or attack, or recruit, at the same level whenever you feel like it, making your decisions obvious.

The choices are clear and simple, but rarely easy, which is wonderful. And the game rewards action efficiency in a way that a Europhile like myself can fall in love with. When you play Cry Havoc, you know that you are playing an incredibly tight, vicious game that brutally punishes action inefficiency since you'll only be able to do about 15 things in the game.

AotG feels much looser - you have a whole bunch of different actions you can take, in different ways - but it's not. The game is pretty short; 15-17 actions (card plays) can be typical. If you durtle around and do things that don't help your position much, you will lose badly. And yet the game doesn't put a knife to your throat and tell you to play efficiently. It instead gives you a lot of rope with which to make bad plays and hang yourself. Wonderful.

+ Combat's enjoyable with the right blend of luck and skill

Some games call for rolling huge handfuls of custom dice, and a game of battling giants is definitely one of them. Don't get me wrong, my background is mostly in euro games and I abhor runaway randomness.

But the dice rolling in AotG is very mitigatable and manageable. If you've played the right cards before the combat, you can reroll dice, and turn results of the magic symbol into productive hits and blocks. If you have resources like weapons and ore, you can further add strength to your attack and defense, and if you cast a powerful spell or two you can make victory even more assured.

While luck plays its part, if you go into a battle well prepared, you can be assured that you will that you'll do a lot of killing. Combat also combines nicely with the card system in that you can fight a lot by playing the combat card quickly with little preparation, but then you are much more at the mercy of your dice, as you won't have any mitigation. Or you can take the disadvantage of attacking less often, but with more preparation, a very nice tradeoff.

There's also an interesting push your luck element to combat for the attacker, who has certain advantages, such as the attack card which can turn magic symbols to extra hits, and possibly using ore, which adds even more hits, but you have to determine your hits and blocks first.

In deciding what to reroll, whether to use a spell or resources for extra hits, or convert magic symbols to hits or blocks, you have to make an educated guess about how many of your hits your opponent is likely to block so that you can still have enough hits to take out the defenders. You don't want to waste resources, but if you don't assign enough hits and your opponent rolls a lot of blocks, your attack will fail. The stakes are especially high when the defender has a champion in the battle, since if you don't take out that champion first, you do absolutely no damage in the attack.

I would say more about the spells here, but they deserve their own section.

+ Spells are wonderful, adding strategy and theme

The spells are a joy - fun, thematic and strategy expanding. All of them are classic D&D spells, which should bring a smile to any veteran player's face. All of them have a significant effect on the game. Some add extra hits in combat, or allow your magic symbols to do even more damage, others remove opponents dice' or allow you to retreat suddenly before a battle, or move all the way across the board, or switch places with opponents' forces in a different province, or bring back your killed giants, or a bunch more things.

Having a stronger version of each spell activated by an artifact is another fun twist which gives a strong purpose for those resources, and also has you think about which version of a spell you intend to use. All of them challenge you to make the best use of them in the game and to plan your strategy around them.

One nice decision the designer made was to have all the spell cards (and resources) kept face up in front of a player, so that their aren't many unfair surprises. In fact, certain spells serve as a deterrent as much as anything!

+ Combat isn't just fun and strategic, it's also incentivized

One issue that can crop up in multiplayer conflict games is that if two players are fighting each other, the third player who's been hiding in the corner wins, cleaning up the remains after the other two have beaten each other down. It's obviously important in this kind of a game that combat is highly incentivized.

And it is. You can get a TON of points in this game by fighting, the majority, in fact, if you're doing it right. One thing I heard in some reviews of this game is that the players didn't fight much, as they didn't want to expose themselves or lose forces. This is simply bad play. You get a lot of points for killing other players' giants, and you lose none if your own giants are killed. Furthermore, fighting is often very useful to knock opponents out of a region before they complete a public event so you can do it yourself.

Finally, it's pretty easy to recruit more giants if need be, and you don't get points for having a lot of forces or controlling areas at the end of the game. I won one game having no giants left alive at the end of the game, while my opponents had lots. It didn't matter. The killing matters, not the surviving. For this reason also, even if two players gang up on another, the third player has a good chance to do well if they can give as good as they get.

Neutral/mixed points

? Giantslayers are both good and bad

The small folk Giantslayers which you get to activate on your rest action are wonderful thematically, tying players back into the world of D&D adventurers, while at the same time reminding players how powerful they are with their monstrous figures compared to the puny humans.

It's also great how a significant power is added to the rest action, which would otherwise be basically a pass turn, which is very unsatisfying in a game like this.

There are a couple of downsides, both relating to the fact that certain players will get picked on more by the Giantslayers than others. Their ability to do damage is relatively limited, so players often use them to pick on the weaker races of giants where they feel more confident of killing something. If they go after a Storm giant champion, there's a good chance they will do absolutely nothing, so players tend to pick easier prey.

Moreover, because it costs you action points (you get one per card on the table when you rest) to move the Giantslayers as well as attack with them, it's general not worth moving them much or at all, since you won't have the actions to attack with them all if you move them all much. This means that Giantslayers tend to hang around the same general area, which often means attack the same player over and over again.

While this is a more minor issue than I'm making sound like, since they're not that strong and you don't lose points for having giants die, I still don't like it.

? The game is really quite short

When you read the rules, and it says that when you run out of ordning points you enter the endgame, at which time you have to play through ordning points equal to 25% of the start total, and when those are gone through you finish the current round of play, and then everyone gets one more turn after that. This makes it sound like the endgame is a long, drawn out process. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, by the time the first pool of points run out, the players are getting points quickly - they have runes to fulfill events, big armies to kill each other with for more points, and resources and provinces to get points from things like turning in artifacts (Cloud giants) or ravaging (Stone giants). Often, the second, smaller pool of ordning points gets used up in the same round that the first pool of points was used up in, meaning, that all that end game gives each player just one or two more turns.

The way that it plays out, the ending always seems sudden. You have all these plans for the next few turns and suddenly you can only do one or two more things.

This is good in two ways: it's really nice to have a dudes on a map game that can be reliably played in 20 minutes per player, no kidding. And it's always better to have a game that ends too soon than one that outstays its welcome.

On the other hand, my feeling is that the game is a little too short. You often feel a bit disappointed you didn't get to do just a few more things to make all your plans come together. With a typical game length of 15-17 turns per player, you can usually only attack 2 or 3 times in the game, unless you are resting and attacking repeatedly, which severely reduces the effectiveness of your attacks.

I wish they'd put an option in the game to play to different amount of ordning points depending on player preference. Of course, anyone can do this as they wish, and I would highly encourage it if you want a longer game.

? Replayability is both helped and hurt by the different races

The asymmetric races of giants both help and hurt the game's replayability. On the one hand, the six races of giants are very different, from their statistics, to their events, to their special abilities and special cards, to their turn order, meaning that each race really does play differently and offer up different strategies. If you get sick of playing one race, there are five others to try.

On the other hand, the way the different racial events play out lead players into playing a particular race the same each time. The Storm Giants, for instance, are usually going to be moving their giants to the east along the southern part of the board in every game, so as to get to the desert in the far east where they need to have a giant to fulfill their second event.

While the events are thematic, after a couple of plays of following the same strategies to fulfill them, you may want to move onto a different race. This is a bit of a shame, since otherwise each race could legitimately be played in very different ways - it's the events that lock in the sameness, both thematically and in terms of gameplay.

The combination of the six different races and the events being the same every time for each race leads me to judge that replayability is overall about average for a dudes on a map game.

Negative points (-)


- The different races aren't even close to being balanced

This is probably my biggest issue with the game, though it's not a deal breaker for me. The different races vary widely in their power levels, with the races with strongest units (Storm, Cloud) being better than the races with the weaker units (Stone, Hill). The Stone giants in particular are extremely weak and difficult to play.

The stronger races are given powerful advantages which the game inadequately compensates for in other ways. The Storm and Cloud giants begin the game with very powerful units on the board, while the Stone and Hill giants units are puny and weak. To give an idea, the total attack strength of the Storm giants that start in the game is 13, while their total hit points is 24. The Cloud Giants, because they have one more giant on the table at the start, have even more power - 14 total attack and 25 total hit points.

The Hill giants, by comparison, start with 5 total attack and 17 total hit points, while the Stone giants have 7 total attack and 26 hit points. The Fire and Frost giants are somewhere in between in terms of their starting attack dice.

One reason this really matters is because every race wants to spread out at the start of the game so as to take small folk areas - this helps players fulfill events, get more resources when plundering, and perhaps get points per place occupied, depending on the race. The races that start with fewer attack dice aren't able to attack effectively after spreading out (you generally want to be at or near the maximum 7 attack dice when you attack) without recruiting more giants. Because recruiting is much more powerful if you wait to play a bunch of other cards first, the most efficient ways for the weaker races to attack is to play a ton of cards, then recruit, then finally attack.

This makes them vulnerable in the early turns of the game and unable to capitalize on attacking opportunities. And if those races lose giants in those early turns, it can really make it hard for them to occupy multiple territories and still mount attacks. The Storm and Cloud giants can lose their most powerful giant and still get a good attack off without recruiting.

The Storm Giants are made even more powerful by having far and away the best race specific event in the game. Their first event, which is pretty easy to complete, brings them not only points, but a free spell, and the addition of the most powerful giant champion in the game to their forces! This is huge, and virtually guarantees that they will always be able to have strong forces to attack with.

Having weaker forces also means that the weaker forces will likely have to use the recruit action more often. This matters in a game where the total turns are very limited - they have to use more precious actions just to be able to get close to the other races in strength.

You may be wondering why, if the Hill giants are the physically weakest race, and the Stone giants have a lot of hit points (they do), why the Stone giants are by far the weakest race in the game. The answer is because, unlike all the other races, the Stone giants have no really powerful way to get points in the game.

So the Storm giants have two great events, powerful giants to fight with which are easily available (along with a wonderful leader ability which allows them a second attack in each cycle of cards), and a 'make alliance' power, all of which mean they should always do pretty well. The Cloud giants are powerful in combat and have a very powerful ability to turn artifacts into points. Fire and Frost giants are pretty solid in combat and have event chains, which while long, can eventually give lots of points, and in the case of the fire giants, given them the most powerful unit in the game (their titan). Hill giants are weak, but they have a leader ability that makes them fight much better than their strength (bonus hits outside of their start area), and more importantly, they have the ability to turn food, the most common resource in the game, into points. Given that food is usually the least useful resource in the game for the other races, the Hill giants should be able to plunder and trade for lots of it and make many points this way.

The Stone giants, on the other hand, get basically bupkis. Their event is one of the hardest starting events to fulfill, and besides a few points, all it does is give them an extra point when they use their ravage ability (which gives them a point for each small folk region they control or ravaged in previously). You'll usually only ravage a time or two after fulfilling this event, meaning it's usually worth a whopping one or two extra points. Whoopty do.

How could it happen that the Stone giants are so weak and the Storm and Cloud giants are so strong? A few reasons present themselves. One is the ineffectiveness of the stacking limits in accomplishing much. One way the weaker races are supposed to have an advantage is that they can put more giants in a single space. But in practice, this hardly matters at all. The Storm giants can only put 3 units in a region, but so what? Even the weakest three Storm giants represent a ton of attack dice and hit points - they don't really need any more than this. It's a minor inconvenience at best.

Another reason for the power imbalance comes from the turn order. The fact that the stronger races go first in the game is supposed to be balanced by the weaker races getting the last chance to take action. But my experience is that getting to go first is more important than getting the last action. By going first, the Storm giants and Cloud giants can claim key territories first, allowing them a really good plunder for resources later on and denying them to the weaker races, who, if you'll remember, aren't great at attacking early (their only way of getting territories other than moving into them).

The strategy guide in the manual says that the Stone giants should spread out into a few territories so that they can play an early ravage. But in actual practice in my games, and I've played 4 that the Stone giants have been in, this has been impossible. In every game, the Storm giants and Cloud giants have hemmed them in before they can even move, leaving at most one territory the Stone giants can move into uncontested. A big part of this is that second Storm giant event, which incentivizes them to basically hem in the Stone giants in an effort to get to the eastern desert to fulfill their second event.

The Stone giants do have a cool leader power that essentially allows them to teleport two unit across the map to another region, but this is less powerful than it first appears. You are using a whole action to take one more region. If you use this action one turn and a move action on another, you are using two actions to take two territories. The Storm giants can take three territories on their first turn if they like. And splitting the Stone giants forces to teleport them across the map makes it even harder for them to get off any effective attacks.

And even if the Stone giants get a few territories, the ravage action is only an okay way of getting points. Other races can get more fighting, doing events, or converting food or artifacts to points.

One way the Stone giants were supposed to be able to compensate for all this is through their increased hit points. They get the most hit points for the cost when they recruit. However, this just isn't that much of an advantage. Yes, other races are disincentivized from attacking the Stone giants, since they have to do a ton of damage to get relatively few points. But that's not entirely a positive. Less fighting equals less points, since you get points for killing and you don't lose them for dying. In theory, the Stone giants could occupy a lot of areas and make it hard for other races to kick them out, and then ravage a lot and fulfill a lot of events. But again, in practice, it's hard for the Stone giants to get a lot of territories because the other races go first and hem them in.

So what was the net result of all this in the games I played? In the four games where both the Storm giants and the Stone giants were in the game, the Storm giants scored about 50% more points in total - they averaged scores in the mid thirties, while Stone giants averaged in the low twenties.

Now, having said all this, this doesn't break the game for me at all. Why not? Well first off, the lack of fairness works fine thematically. Why should the weaker giants have the same chance as the Storm giants to get to the top of the giant hierarchy?

Theme aside, most people care about balance of asymmetric races. However, once you know what you're doing, you can still have fun playing any race. The base gameplay is so satisfying to me that I still enjoy playing any race. It's not like the Stone giants can't build up a force and beat on people like any other race of giants and have fun doing it, maybe even winning if they play really well and get really lucky. And if there are players of varying skill or experience level, you can balance this by giving players stronger/weaker races.

Also, you don't have to play with the Stone giants if you don't like. I'll address this later on, but you don't have to use the races that the game assigns for each player count. The designer himself has said on BGG that the given races were designed to be the most regionally balanced with the map, but that players should feel free to alter the race composition if they felt like it. This means, unless you're playing at 6, no one has to play the Stone giants if they don't want to.

A final defense of the game on this point: balancing factions is asymmetric games is real hard, much harder than people realize. Different playtest groups do different things. Perhaps the groups testing this game didn't tend to hem in the Stone giants early as much as we did, and they fared better. The designer himself has said that the Stone giants are the hardest race to play, and I will concede that experience players can mitigate some of the handicap that comes with playing them.

- The events add a lot of luck to the game

Mark Bigney of 'All the Games You Like are Bad' has said about this game that "the points from random events will be showered on players somewhat arbitrarily...you have a fun game with clever bits where the actual points are doled out in a very unsatisfying manner."

While I think he overstates the case about the overall point distribution, he has a point about the arbitrary nature of the public events. This comes from the fact that to complete a public event you must occupy the territory and spend an appropriate color rune resource to get a bunch of points.

This works fine when it incentivizes players to go fight for a region so they can fulfill the event. It's less fine when an event comes up (from another one being fulfilled) and a player already occupies that territory, meaning that if they have the right rune they can fulfill it automatically at the start of their turn, essentially getting a bunch of points for doing nothing. Points doled out this way are not enormous but they are significant - they can certainly be the difference between winning and losing.

One house rule that could address this would be to not allow a new event to be fulfilled for a full round after it comes out, but this would be fiddly - you'd need special tokens or some such.

In all, I like the way events encourage players to come out and compete for territories, and this is an important part of the game, but the auto fulfillment of some events can leave a bad taste in the mouth.

- Race assignments at different player counts are needlessly restrictive

This is a minor point, but I'll make it. There's no reason to play the races the game tells you to play at different player counts if don't feel like it. Yes, come combinations are likely imbalanced in terms of which regions are wide open, but if you like it, who cares? I think the rules should have listed them as 'suggested races for your first game' rather than as required races for each player count.

Final Thoughts

Don't let my lengthy diatribe about the race imbalances lead you to believe that I don't like this game or that I don't think it's fun. I simply thought it necessary to offer thorough arguments for my claims - I hate it when people say something is imbalanced without fully explaining why - it's unfair to the game, in that it doesn't allow people to decide for themselves.

In fact, it says a lot about this game that I still really, really like it in spite of what I see as some clear flaws. I love how straightforward the game is. You are gathering your giants, moving them around, and clubbing people over the head. You play special cards to help you. Every time you get points it makes sense in the theme - it's because you're killing stuff, occupying regions to fulfill events, or do something special related to your race of giants.

Even if you don't do well in a game, you can still have a lot of fun in that there's not really player elimination, effective or literal. Yeah, you can kind of be eliminated in the final ordning part of the game, but that means it's the last turn or two (and this never happened in our group's five plays). Even then, you'll have had the chance to huck dice, kill giants, and do thematic stuff like make the Hill giant queen really fat or kill lots of small folk.

People who like Dungeons & Dragons and dudes on a map games will naturally enjoy this much more than people who don't. Most of my play group liked, not loved, the game, and the extent of this was pretty much entirely correlated to how much they like this kind of game. The American style gamers really enjoyed it, the euro gamers not so much (which is interesting, considering it really is a hybrid game with euro mechanisms like the card actions).

How does it compare to other games in the genre? Well, I don't think it's as good as Blood Rage, my overall favorite in this style of game, as it doesn't seem to have the subtlety and legs of that one. But I'd be much happier breaking this out with new players, as the game's straightforwardness allows folks to be competitive in their first play, unlike Blood Rage, where veterans will crush new players through their card knowledge. And the imbalance in the races actually allows handicapping for new players as well.

A final point that I wouldn't make about most games: players' enjoyment may increase if they allow themselves to house rule things wherever they feel like it. Game too short (or long) for you? Change the points you're playing to. Don't like a race? Play with whatever races you like at any player count. Don't like autofulfilling events? Outlaw doing that on the first turn they come out, or handle it some other way.

I know some players hate house ruling and say why couldn't the game have been perfect from the start. Well, different people like different things, and house ruling stuff in this one, at least for races and points, doesn't require doing anything fiddly or difficult.

The point is, play it how you like. This is your game and have fun with it.

And fun the game really is. If you can get past a few warts, Assault of the Giants is an extremely enjoyable, thematic, dudes on a map experience, with more strategy than first meets the eye.
79 
 Thumb up
6.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Manore
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
badge
Warlord beats Troll, Troll beats Elf, Elf beats Water Sprite, and basically everything else beats Enchanted Bunny.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Spiro Dousias
msg tools
Well said.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hassan Lopez
United States
Greenfield Center
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Was waiting for another comprehensive written review (Charlie Theel also really likes this game) - thanks for taking the time to write up your detailed and insightful thoughts! My copy should be arriving soon, and I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
M B
Lithuania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmb
maxlongstreet wrote:
One nice decision the designer made was to have all the spell cards (and resources) kept face up in front of a player, so that their aren't many unfair surprises. In fact, certain spells serve as a deterrent as much as anything!
How do you know that spell cards are supposed to be kept face up? There is a sentence for resource cards stating that they must be kept face up, but there's nothing like that in spell cards' section.

maxlongstreet wrote:
One house rule that could address this would be to not allow a new event to be fulfilled for a full round after it comes out, but this would be fiddly - you'd need special tokens or some such.
You could use giant race tokens (the ones with each race's symbol and a number) for that. It's not like those tokens are used anyways.
For example, if hill giants complete a public event, they place their race token on top of the new event. The event cannot be completed while the symbol stays there. At the start of next hill giants' turn, the player removes hill giants' race token from the public event.
By using race tokens it would be easy to tell which events become available for completion when. Since only one event can be completed on a given turn, one token per player is enough.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dustin Boatman
United States
New Iberia
Louisiana
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Spell cards are not face up. Only resource cards are.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ken B.
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's a good game, but the Stone Giants are inexcusably awful, to the point I feel bad for anyone stuck playing them. It's a real black eye on an otherwise fine game.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aron R
United States
Ashburn
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
maxlongstreet wrote:


You can get a TON of points in this game by fighting, the majority, in fact, if you're doing it right. One thing I heard in some reviews of this game is that the players didn't fight much, as they didn't want to expose themselves or lose forces. This is simply bad play. You get a lot of points for killing other players' giants, and you lose none if your own giants are killed.


This isn't actually correct; both attacker and defender earn OP for the giants they defeated. See Step 7 of the Attack Sequence on page 18.

Otherwise, very enjoyable review. Great job!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David desJardins
United States
Burlingame
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
AronR wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:
You get a lot of points for killing other players' giants, and you lose none if your own giants are killed.


This isn't actually correct; both attacker and defender earn OP for the giants they defeated.


That's exactly what he said.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Rubinstein

Long Beach
California
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DaviddesJ wrote:
AronR wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:
You get a lot of points for killing other players' giants, and you lose none if your own giants are killed.


This isn't actually correct; both attacker and defender earn OP for the giants they defeated.


That's exactly what he said.


Technically yes, that's what he said. But he seemed to imply that there is no risk of creating an OP imbalance if you attack and lose. You can attack, lose, and your opponent gains more OP than you did.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David desJardins
United States
Burlingame
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
epilepticemu wrote:
You can attack, lose, and your opponent gains more OP than you did.


That's pretty immaterial if you're playing with 5 or 6 players. Losing a bit of ground to one player in exchange for gaining a lot on the other 4 is a big win.

It would be a problem in a 2-player game, but this isn't a 2-player game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Rubinstein

Long Beach
California
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DaviddesJ wrote:
epilepticemu wrote:
You can attack, lose, and your opponent gains more OP than you did.


That's pretty immaterial if you're playing with 5 or 6 players. Losing a bit of ground to one player in exchange for gaining a lot on the other 4 is a big win.

It would be a problem in a 2-player game, but this isn't a 2-player game.


I'm not disagreeing with you. Just pointing out that it is probably more possible than people first realize to get 0 points out of a fight, and hand some to your opponent. Which is material.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robski Horus
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review.

Echoes my sentiments exactly, so saves writing my own review.DD
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ioan Pan
Greece
Thessaloniki
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! Thnx!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Veljko Dobrijevic
Croatia
Split
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review, and very well argumented.
But I have one question - if the stone giants are so awful is there any way you can fix them ?
I'm all for house ruling / modifying a game that has lots of potential but fails in one or several small details, as long as the house ruling / modification doesn't require a lot of work / memorizing new rules...
Simply not using the stone giants is not a solution as far as I'm concerned, having the individual giant races with their distinct advantages, weaknesses and playing styles, is critical to the game. If you remove one race you lose out on diversity and replayability. And besides you said the others weren't exactly balanced either. And in a wargame unbalanced sides is the worst flaw I can think of...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Parks
United States
Somerset
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Quixotic Games: www.quixoticgames.com
badge
Dungeon Alliance: Available Now!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
We have tested a variant that provides a great boost to Stone and Hill Giants:

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26201496
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francesco Valvo
Italy
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
maxlongstreet wrote:
I like the way events encourage players to come out and compete for territories, and this is an important part of the game, but the auto fulfillment of some events can leave a bad taste in the mouth
Another house rule would be to flip the top card of the Event deck face up. Only the 3 face up Event Cards in the Event Draft Area can be claimed, but players will know, and plan, in advance which will be the next Universal Event.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Veljko Dobrijevic
Croatia
Split
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
fvalvo wrote:
Another house rule would be to flip the top card of the Event deck face up. Only the 3 face up Event Cards in the Event Draft Area can be claimed, but players will know, and plan, in advance which will be the next Universal Event.

That's pretty good ! Simple to implement, and yet promotes strategy in favour of luck. I just might try this !
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francesco Valvo
Italy
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Enkidu_of_Abydos wrote:
Simple to implement, and yet promotes strategy in favour of luck. I just might try this !


I have tried it today. Worked as a charm.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Parks
United States
Somerset
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Quixotic Games: www.quixoticgames.com
badge
Dungeon Alliance: Available Now!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great idea for a variant. I'll have try it myself when I get the chance.

Andrew
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Francesco Valvo
Italy
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Andrew Parks wrote:
I'll have try it myself when I get the chance.


Can't wait to know your opinion after you try it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.