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Subject: A five games review of Claustrophobia rss

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Game Inglorious
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Claustrophobia is a big-box miniatures board game for two players, designed by Croc and published in 2009 by Asmodee. It was expanded in 2011 with Claustrophobia: De Profundis. This review concerns only the main game after five play-tests using the first 3 scenarios only.

Hailed as an ideal intro to tabletop skirmish level miniature wargaming, Claustrophobia won awards in 2010 and was further nominated in both the innovation and thematic categories. So is it a board game or is it a wargame? Dear readers, let my perfunctory perambulations take you gently by the hand as we investigate...

Claustrophobia pits a small group of holy warriors against a host of demonic fiends from the very hells themselves within the catacombs below New Jerusalem in the pseudo-historical world of Hell Dorado (Croc/Asmodee) sometime around the 1650's (?). One player plays the Redeemer, a Holy Priest supported by last chance criminals while the other player takes on the role of the host of pale-skinned troglodytes and their Demon controller. Both groups are pitted against each other across a series of randomly generated board tiles within the framework of one of six scenarios.

Essentially, Claustrophobia (termed as CL from now on or my fingers will start bleeding) is a 1-on-1 skirmish level wargame using nicely painted miniatures. Many have likened it to fantasy Space Hulk, but is that fair? Lets see...

Design & Quality

Asmodee excels here with very high production values to both the outer box and contents. Riotous colours on the 'big' box draw the eye and enthusiasm like a magnet and is very much in the style of the Space Hulk box. There seem to be just enough material components; dice, tokens, cards and of course the well painted (yes, pre-painted here folks) hard 'heroic scale' plastic miniatures. Board tiles are quality cardstock and square, of a decent size to fit the miniatures and with full colour semi-gloss finish with the well known 'linen' effect on both front and back that reeks of thoughtful production values.

Did I mention the miniatures? Well pre-painted figures if done well are always a major plus point and these certainly deliver. The Demon player gets 1 Demon leader mini and 11 little trogs reminiscent of albino Gremlins, while the Redeemer player gets his boss plus 4 criminal minis. The crims are 2 and 2, meaning the models come in pairs but are thoughtfully painted with different light/dark hair colours* to differentiate and match up to their combat sheets. Oddly the miniature models in our set seem to be better painted than those depicted in the rulebook so we assume this should be the case for all currently available retail sets.

The basic game seems to come with the minimum of 'ingredients' to play the game properly and we wondered if the Demon player would not quickly run out of trog minis. However, it seems the game has been properly playtested and just enough of everything is in the box. Thumbs up.

How Does it Play?

I've kept all discussion of game design to this section also since that is inherently tied up within the 'playability' of a game. So... it's quick! Surprisingly quick. Mostly due to the randomness of different board tile types coming out during a scenario we found often that once the simple enough rules were known, a game could be done and dusted in about half an hour (the box offers 45mins). No game has yet lasted longer than 50mins which, as an intro style game to tabletop skirmish miniature games is rather ideal really. Also the box states 14+ as a recommended age but my 9yr old, who instantly gravitated to the Demonic side rather than the Holy Priest, happily chomps away on my crims and can win the game without much trouble!

CL avoids complex rules, aiming for simplicity and speed of play over detailed mechanics and uses a simple (1 move:1 action) combination to progress. Where the game is more innovative is in the action resolution choices available to the Demon player and the simulation of wounds for the 'Good' side. A 'combat board' details various options the Demon player can take during the round by assigning dice results to the various options. This provides tactical flexibility to what would otherwise be a rather monotonous 'reactive' role for the Demon player; flinging more and more weaker Trogs at a tougher enemy. The Holy Priest player has a simpler set of options that are modified by cards selected at scenario start (such as Priestly prayers and items such as Blunderbuss and Grenade) and assigns a single die roll to a line of six stats (movement, combat bonus, defence bonus) for each miniature in the band, effectively changing the 'stance' of the model for that round (i.e. Offensive or Defensive).

Six lines of stats on each character 'board' contain six punch holes to fit red pegs. Each peg corresponds to a point of damage received - effectively giving 6 'life' points to each model in the band. Each point of damage must be assigned to one of these punch holes, effectively blocking the use of the line of stats next to it. Thus, models become less effective the more wounded they get. Simple to explain, easy to implement during the game. Trogs in comparison are 1 hit 1 kill minions meaning the hero player will cut through quite a pile during a game but to be honest, some of the demons although threatening in appearance, can also be killed fairly easily. Suffice to say, it is perhaps more fun to play the heroes than the villains since some of the scenarios are (I believe) intentionally unbalanced to be harder for one or other side and so far the Priest and criminals, if played sensibly, have a very good chance of winning.

The rulebook is concise and well illustrated with an additional suggestions section for more experienced players. However, some of the abilities of cards, characters or floor tiles are a bit confusing and scattered about in illogical places. A double read of the rules beforehand and much flicking back and forth helps initially. Overall though, the rules are sound which means play can start rapidly.

In Summary

Time to play: 30 - 50 minutes per game normally
Goes well with: scrunching sounds and/or the Aliens soundtrack

Components: 9/10 - Vivid colours, concise rules and painted miniatures. Woot! A big box but solidly built with proper areas to stack cards, tiles and miniatures so they don't get bent out of shape. Would have preferred a few more card options in the basic set, not multiple copies of the same.

Mechanics: 7/10 - Intriguing and different from the normal combat dice approach. However, only the Demon player really gets the flexibility of the new 'options' system. Why could this not be possible for the Hero player also? The Heroes damage point assignation system while also quite clever, could have been applied to the basic Demon character? Lastly, the Demon player's turn seems 'reactive' and is generally over much quicker than the heroes. It would have been good to see some Demon orientated scenarios in the rulebook also.

Replay value: 7/10 - Good repeatability for a while as you can try out the six missions proposed and then try some of your own. Plus of course swapping sides and experimenting with the various Demon card options but a few more scenarios wouldn't have gone amiss*. As an intro to miniature skirmish games though it is ideal.

Theme: 7/10 - The theme fits the game well and separates it from other 'Dungeon bashers' out there (like Descent) and the D&D boardgames but it doesn’t give you the feeling of impending doom and overwhelming odds that Space Hulk does. It is unfair to compare it directly with such gamer's games.

Overall 7.5/10 - This is an ideal gateway to tabletop skirmishing.

J@GI

The above review was originally posted on http://gaminglorious.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/colonic-anxietie... by Gyrhound
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τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν
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There are a number of official missions available on the website. CROC has done a hell of a job supporting the game.
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Ryan James
United States
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Professor, isn't it time for your nap?
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Great review! I have to disagree, however, with your point about the game being easier for the human players to win. I found this to be quite the opposite. I've played about eight or nine games now, and the humans have only won three times. Granted, that's not a huge swing in the demon's favor, but it generally seems much "easier" for the demon player to beat down on the humans.

Love how you looked at the game objectively, and didn't just make a 'fanboy' review.

I LOVE this game. It's quickly becoming my favorite 2-player experience, and the bonus is that the wife loves it too!

Fantastic review.
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Andrew Bird
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GamInglorious wrote:
but a few more scenarios wouldn't have gone amiss*.

Here you go:
Re: Additional Content Books
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Charlie Theel
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Good review. Looking at games you've rated it appears you prefer Symmetrical games, which is also evident in your 7/10 rating for the mechanics. The two sides playing differently is a huge selling poin to many of us Claustrophobia fans.

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Cedric Chong
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Hey thanks for this review. You've renewed my interests in Claustrophobia! I need to bring it out onto the table more often!
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Justin Morgan-Davies
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Alloa
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Bahimiron wrote:
There are a number of official missions available on the website. CROC has done a hell of a job supporting the game.


Yes he has, which I think does him great credit.
I made a note to that effect on the Gaminglorious site but was not posted on this review.
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Travis R. Chance
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Sandmanx82 wrote:
Great review! I have to disagree, however, with your point about the game being easier for the human players to win. I found this to be quite the opposite. I've played about eight or nine games now, and the humans have only won three times. Granted, that's not a huge swing in the demon's favor, but it generally seems much "easier" for the demon player to beat down on the humans.

Love how you looked at the game objectively, and didn't just make a 'fanboy' review.

I LOVE this game. It's quickly becoming my favorite 2-player experience, and the bonus is that the wife loves it too!

Fantastic review.


Agree here; the baddies can roll ya with their wider breadth of options. Today I was trap'd turn after turn, losing a guy, crippling another, and putting me in the drink.

This isn't really an issue, as the game is fast and fun as hell. Good review.
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