Ender Wiggins
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Ultimate Soldier Reloaded

Ultimate Soldier Reloaded is a new release from Home Run Games that is currently up for funding on Kickstarter. In the interests of full disclosure, this is both a preview and a review, which is why I've posted this article in the Kickstarter forum. The publisher of this game asked if I would be interested in posting about it on BoardGameGeek, because I have a preview copy of the game. I was happy to post something about it here, because I'm sure there are other folks here on BoardGameGeek who might be interested in knowing about this project and possibly supporting it.

I have reviewed products from Home Run Games before, such as their Werewolf Coins (review link), which proved to be a very successful project, reaching more than $30,000 over the original target of $1,000. Then there's their beautiful Murphy Varnish deck (review link), which is a fine example of a classic deck of transformation playing cards originally published in 1883. Playing cards is one of the specialities of Home Run Games, and they have restored many classic decks of playing cards from the 19th century in beautiful new editions (store link).

But Home Run Games not only creates fine playing cards, they have also produced a number of games as well. Their Press Start Pocket games are a series of 2 player games in which two players share a deck of 56 cards, and are video game warriors battling their opponent to take control of the video game universe (link). They've also put together amusing 8-bit versions of Mafia and Werewolf (link).

In 2011 they released their mercenary card game for 2-4 players, entitled Ultimate Soldier. This proved to be a successful title for them, and the first edition subsequently sold out completely. They've now revisited this game for a brand new edition, Ultimate Soldier Reloaded, which features upgraded artwork, along with some new mechanics and new characters. It's this new version that is currently up on Kickstarter, and I was fortunate enough to receive a preview copy which I'm reviewing in this article, for the benefit of those who might be interested in knowing what it's about, and considering supporting it.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1500444958/ultimate-sol...



COMPONENTS

Box

The game box has colourful and attractive artwork that features eight of the characters who inhabit this game's universe. It is a linen finish box that should prove quite durable, and is by no means just a flimsy thin cardboard box as many card games have. The game contains 133 cards, and so the box is about the size of three decks of standard decks of cards.



The back of the box lists the components, along with pictures of some of the game cards, as well as this summary of the game:

"Ultimate Soldier is a fast paced strategic card game for 2 to 4 players. Each player commands highly trained soldiers that engage in combat against the other players. Your mission is to win 3 times in battle or earn 4 soldiers the fastest and become the Ultimate Soldier."

Component list

Inside the Ultimate Soldier Reloaded box we get 133 cards and rules:
● 14 Soldier cards
● 9 Weapon cards
● 32 Training cards
● 59 Action cards
● 4 Intensity cards
● 2 Sniper cards
● 9 Special cards
● Reference cards
● instructions



Soldier cards

There are 14 soldier cards, each representing a different type of soldier. Each of them has a preferred weapon, which is called their power weapon. When it is used it adds an extra level of force to the weapon. If a soldier uses their power weapon it can only be defended with another power weapon or a weapon and an intensity card.





Training cards

The 32 Training cards represent academies of training. Playing one of these cards face-up during a turn allows you to accumulate skills to earn a new soldier. When you play the equivalent of four training academies on top of each other you can select a new soldier.



Action cards

The 59 Action cards are the bread-and-butter of the game, and are used to initiate combat or issue a response to an attack. There are 6 kinds of Action Cards: Advance, Attack, Block, Retaliate, Redirect, and Retreat. Combat is between two players, and the loser in combat must surrender the defeated soldier.





Weapon cards

The 9 Weapon cards can only be used in conjunction with an Action Card. Using one of these cards during combat increases the power of your attack. There are 9 weapons: Glock, Knife, Grenade, M16, M4, Ninja Stars, Sniper Riffle, Pistol, and Smoke Bomb.





Intensity & Sniper cards

The four Intensity cards can only be used in conjunction with an Action Card. They can be used with a weapon and an action card or alone with an action card. There are 2 kinds of intensity cards; Superhuman and Adrenaline.

The two Sniper cards are used strategically to defeat a soldier without entering combat The card can be used any time even when it’s not your turn. The only way to defend against a Sniper card is with a mirror card.



Special cards

The nine other special cards allow you to do something extraordinary during a game. These cards include; Interfere, Radio for Help, Mirror, Bomb, Dud, Super Dud, and Persuasion.



Reference card



Instructions

The instructions consist of a 10 page booklet, and are available in PDF form from the publisher here.



GAME-PLAY

Ultimate Soldier is described as a mercenary based card game for 2-4 players, with the tag line "outwit and outmuscle your opponents to become the Ultimate Soldier". Each player has their own soldiers, which they'll use to engage in combat against the other players. To win, you need to get four soldier cards, or win three times in battle.

Set-up

Make two face-down decks, one of soldiers (black backs), and one of the remaining cards (green backs). Each player gets:
● one random Soldier which they place face-up in front of them
● eight random cards for their starting hand
● player reference card



Flow of Play

Players take turns in clockwise order, and on your turn you first draw a card from the common deck (two cards if you have two or more Soldiers), and then do one of the following:

● Play a Training card: You can only play one Training card a turn, but when you have accumulated four points worth of face-up Training cards, you discard them and draw a new Soldier which is added to your current face-up ones.

● Initiate combat: This requires having an Advance and an Attack card besides a face-up Soldier. You announce which Soldier you're attacking with (playing the Advance and Attack card with it), and which opponent Soldier you're attacking. You can add strength to the attack with a Weapon or Intensity card. The Reference Card lists "Rules of Engagement", which are resolved until the battle has a winner - this involves playing cards in turns, such as Action cards like Block, Retaliate, Stun, Redirect, and Retreat. After combat both players replenish their hand to 8 cards.

● Discard a card: If you can't do one of the other two actions, discard a card face up to the discard pile. When drawing a card at the start of their turn, the next player can draw from the face down deck or take the card at the top of the discard pile.



End of Game

Whenever you win a battle, this needs to be marked in some way, because the first player to win three battles is the winner. Alternatively, if you earn four Soldiers, you also win the game.

Alternatively, you can play over multiple games, assigning points each mini-game (3 points for a win, 2 points for losing but ending with 2+ soldiers, 1 point for losing but ending with 1 soldier), and the overall winner being the first to get 7 points.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

The genre: Ultimate Soldier Reloaded won't appeal to everyone, but will especially appeal to people who like games with direct confrontation and military engagement. If you like the idea of building up a personal force of soldiers and taking on your opponents, with the help of weapons and trick cards, then this might just be a game for you.

Casual: This is by no means a very deep or complex game that requires deep strategy or calculated skill. It's very easy to learn and play, and is really a very casual and light game designed to be played in a relaxed atmosphere with friends and family, with lots of banter and trash talk. The appeal is not so much to serious gamers, but more to casual players or teenagers who enjoy a relatively simple and confrontational game.

Interaction: Even when it's not your turn, you're still involved in the game via some of the special cards, like "Radio for Help" (draw 2 cards from a non-fighting player) and "Redirect" (send the battle to another player). And you might find yourself the object of an opponent's attack at any time. Naturally, on your turn the game is all about interaction, because the whole aim is to be battling opponents in order to win. The game state can change rapidly because there are some powerful cards which can really change the battlefield quickly.

Special cards: I like the fact that there are special cards, especially like the Sniper which can be played at any time to take out a Soldier (watch out for the Mirror though, which reflects light into the Sniper's eye, and will make you miss!), or the Bomb, which kills a soldier in everyone's hand (although this can be defended with Dud or Super Dud).

Upgraded edition: I haven't seen or played the original edition of this game, so I can only comment on the Reloaded edition. However I have seen photos of the first edition, and it's immediately apparent that the artwork and graphic design is a significant improvement in this new version. The G.I. Joe style artwork will appeal to many people and looks great. And having additional cards and mechanics can only be a good thing - obviously the designers have had the benefit of time to upgrade numerous aspects of the game-play and make their original successful design even better.

Components: Home Run Games has a lot of expertise with playing cards, and are known in the custom playing card industry for their splendid and fine work in producing restoration decks of classic playing cards in new editions with quality cards. With this game, they've been able to bring their wealth of experience to produce game cards that are of a good quality - they handle well and should also prove durable.

Funding: Ultimate Soldier Reloaded is being funded on Kickstarter (here). Excluding shipping, the cost is only $14 at the early bird price (300 copies available). US shipping is free, and there's a small price for international shipping. Funding ends on 1st December, and several hundred copies of the game are already printed (which is why I have a copy), so once funding ends the games will be shipped already in the second week of December.



Recommendation

So is Ultimate Soldier Reloaded for you? This game will primarily appeal to people looking for a straight-forward and highly interactive card-game that they can play with friends or family, and who enjoy the theme of soldiers duking it out against each other. If you find the look of the cards appealing, and like the idea of a light and confrontational card game themed on being the best fighting soldier on the battlefield, definitely check out the Kickstarter to see if this is a game you want to support. Delivery is expected before the end of the year, so you could even get it before Christmas!

Want to know more?
Ultimate Soldier Reloaded: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1500444958/ultimate-sol...
Home Run Games: http://homerungames.com



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Luka Kovač Plavi
Croatia
Našice
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I must say that I find that the art looks dated. Especially the box
 
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Ender Wiggins
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Avtomatik wrote:
I must say that I find that the art looks dated. Especially the box

Yes, the publisher has deliberately gone for an 1980s feel with the artwork, with a style similar to the G.I. Joe action figures.

I know that the artwork actually has a strong appeal to some people for exactly that reason.
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Lee Schmitz
United States
Cumming
Georgia
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I backed simply because it looks like G.I. Joe, and for $14 you can’t gonwrong. I’m hoping it is something that sees the table and scratches my nostalgia itch.
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