Most of you probably know by now that I really enjoy watching anime. Another thing that I like doing just as much is playing sci-fi and fantasy boardgames. I have been looking for a decent anime boardgame for quite a while now. There are a few of them out there, but most of these either aren’t any good, or are not based on an existing anime series. However things have finally changed with the arrival of a new cardgame, by publisher Cryptozoic Entertainment. What is even more awesome, is that it is based on one of my alltime favorite anime series: Attack on Titan. Now all we have left to do, is to find out if it is actually any fun to play, and if it manages to capture the atmosphere of the series.
Now, this being a cardgame it will probably be not much of a surprise that the key components for this game are cards. Included within the box are 188 normal size gamecards, depicting various characters, Titans, locations and equipment from the show. Each player takes on the role of one of the main characters from the anime, and these are represented by 7 oversized cards (and if you are lucky enough to get the first printing of the game you get Hange as an extra bonus card). Also included are five cardboard tiles representing the walls, 7 (or 8) Hero standees, and a bunch of small tokens representing lifepoints for the Titans. Now these lastnamed tokens are very small, and I dare say a bit too small. As such you have to be careful not to misplace them, as they are definitely very easy to lose. This is a minor gripe though as the rest of the components really look very cool. The cards contain very clear imagery straight from the anime. Rounding out the set is a rulebook, that teaches the game in a very straightforward, but easy to understand way.
The object of this game is to destroy four Arch-Titans that are picked randomly at the start of the game. The playing field is made up out of five walls that represent five different districts. Each player starts with a set of basic cards that allow you to buy new (and more powerful) cards to strengthen your deck, and cards that allow you to move through the different districts. And here is where things get interesting. Each district has an inside portion of the wall, where cards are placed that you can buy for your deck. These can be new weapons, powerful allies, or even new locations that allow you to do a lot of cool stuff. With each round and new card you buy, you will get a more powerful deck of cards, hence the name deckbuilding game.
And you are definitely going to be needing these cards, as there is also an outside portion of each wall. Three guesses as to which friendly beings might appear down there? Yes, ofcourse the Titans. Every time a new card gets drawn from the main deck of cards, this might be one of those monstrosities. A Titan has only one objective, to destroy the wall of a district, and make things even more difficult for you. Every time a wall gets destroyed you lose a district, and all the cards that were still there for you to purchase. And trust me, these walls can come down pretty fast. The really big Titans can, if you are particularly unlucky, destroy a wall in one round. When all five walls are destroyed, you lose the game. (And one could argue humanity as well).
Gameplay can become very tense like this. You will continually have to make very difficult decisions. Do you take a risk and buy a new and powerful card that might come in handy, but by doing so leave a wall defenseless? Or do you play it safe, and patrol the outside portion of the wall, and defend against a new Titan that might appear. The normal Titans can go down fairly easy. But the four big Arch-Titans are an entirely different story, and require a lot of good cards to take them down and win the game.
This game is not very difficult to learn. Players who are already familiar with these sort of games, will find a lot of the mechanics similar to other deckbuilding games. That said, there also a lot of things that set this game apart from all those other deckbuilders out there. The travelling between districts for instance, is something that I found to be very unique, and really captured the spirit of the Anime show. When a new Titan appears, and your character races to the outside portion of the district to defend the wall, I could almost see the anime series in my mind. Great stuff! Even players who are not familiar with these type of games, will find no real difficulty in learning this game. Winning however, is an entirely different matter. So far I have only played this one solo, but this game can go downhill pretty fast. Especially when the first Arch-Titan makes an appearance, you will have to think quick and act fast in order to save the walls. Honestly though, I like a challenge, and I really enjoy games that make it tough to win.
If you are a fan of Attack on Titan, you are going to love this game. One of the things this game does right, is capture the atmosphere of the anime series. The travelling between districts and defending the walls, is a very clever mechanic, and really captures the feel of this great show. I already love deckbuilding games, owning quite a lot of them, and this one really tries to set itself apart. In my opinion it succeeds in this mission. There are just enough different cards contained within this baseset to keep things interesting for now. In the future though, this game will definitely need some expansions, to add more variety to the game. Still for now, this game contains enough value for your money, and I highly recommend this one to Attack on Titan and deckbuilding fans alike.
I give the Attack on Titan deckbuilding game a 9 out of 10 score.