Each year it seems that boardgames are becoming increasingly more popular. Not only that, they are also getting more and more exotic. Released in ever bigger boxes, we now have games that need a table as big as a soccer field to properly lay out all of the components. Now, I certainly have my own share of those kind of games, and once set up is complete it’s usually one heck of a sight to behold. Miniatures, cool looking cards, different kinds of tiles/boards make most of these games a true feast for the eyes. However there is a flipside to that coin. It sometimes takes half an hour or even more to get all the components ready and laid out and can honestly at times be kind of a choir. Not only that, games like that usually can’t be simply be played on weekdays because most people have to work, and have a limited amount of spare time on their hands. When I look at myself, I’m happy to have about 4-5 hours a day after work, which I have to divide between blogging and all of my (admittedly way too many) hobbies. Luckily there are also games that are aptly called “filler games”. Games that are fairly easy to learn, have a limited set up time, and don’t last for hours on end to complete. The fun push your luck dicegame Encounters Shadowrun, is a game that falls into that category.
Encounters shadowrun is a mix between a card and dice game. That being said it won’t come as a huge surprise that the components that can be found in the box, are cards and dice (duh!). The dice included are just normal six-sided standard dice, nothing really special. It’s the cards however that are the main attraction of this game. In total there are 124 card in the box that represent the runners (more on that below) and the nasty encounters that the players must overcome. Also included are cards that feature the Mega Corporations that have employed the players. Five oversized cards display the different districs that the players can visit during their quest for riches. The final components for this game are a bunch of tokens that are the currency that the players need to earn in order to win the game, the so-called Nuyen. Ofcourse no game can be complete without a rulebook. In the case of Encounters Shadowrun it’s a small one, but one that gets the job done in learning you the game. It’s all very easy to understand, and in about 10-15 minutes you have learned enough to get the game set up and ready to play. Lastly the game also contains a small booklet that gives you some background on the Shadowrun world.
The Shadowrun setting can best be described as a kind of Blade Runner type world, mixed with fantasy elements. Technology meets magic, and exotic creatures such as Dragons are also very much alive. Shadowrun has been around for quite a while, and is a very popular roleplaying setting. This game though has very little to do with roleplaying, but is still a lot of fun. The premise of the game is simplicity itself. You must try to win as much currency as you can and the first player to achieve a result of 30 Nuyen is the winner. In the solo version you have to reach a set amount of money within a number of turns. So how exactly do you achieve this? The game plays in a series of turns. In each turn a player must try and defeat a random encounter by rolling six dice. Each encounter has a number, for example 9. By allocating a number of dice that exactly match the number on the encounter, it is defeated. So using 9 as an example, you could use two dice that showed a 4 or a 5, or three dice that had a result of 3. Each encounter defeated gives you one Nuyen. But, now comes the challenging part. After defeating an encounter, a player can choose to push on, and reveal the next encounter. But in order to defeat that one, you must continue with the number of dice that you have left. In other words if you have used two dice to defeat a previous encounter, you only four left in order to try and conquer the next one.
And that’s where it becomes even more interesting. If you manage to defeat this next encounter, you can try to push on again. But again, only with the dice that you have left! Thus it becomes ever more difficult to destroy an enemy. The encounters are placed in a row beneath each other. If you manage to defeat the encounters by using up exactly all of your six dice, you can start a second row, and you then get all of your dice back. The encounters in this second row, earn you even more money. But, and this is a very big but: if you fail to defeat an encounter at a certain point, you lose all of the money that you earned up till now in the turn! Hence the name push your luck dice game. Should you push on and try to earn some more money, or call it quits and collect? The choice is of course yours! The game is made even more fun by being able to recruit runners. These individuals are able to manipulate dice rolls, and can make it easier to defeat encounters. Some for instance have the ability to turn a rolled dice to a different result, or allow you to re-roll some or all of your dice. But most of them can only be used once. So do you use some of your hard earned cash to recruit, or push on and try to save some money to stay ahead in the game?
As mentioned this game is very easy to learn. The rulebook can be read in about 10 minutes, and it becomes even easier if someone already knows the rules and can teach it to other players. I have played the game only solitaire so far, and have both won and lost games in equal shares. This being a dice game it mostly comes down to luck. Some unlucky rolls can make you lose the game fairly quickly. The biggest challenge lies in deciding when to recruit and use the runners. Sometimes you buy a runner, only to have it not really help you in the long run. (Yep…pun intended!) When playing with more players, the game becomes more of a challenge. Each player then represents one of the Mega Corporations in the world, and these all have their own abilities to thwart other players. Both in the solo and multiplayer version the encounters that are being faced can become more of a challenge depending on which district the player is currently at (A district is a location within the game world) Some districts can give bonusses, while others make it more tough. All in all, the game has a pretty good balance of risk and reward, and offers enough of a challenge to make each game tough enough, but not impossible to win.
Encounters Shadowrun is simply put a fun little game that is easy to set up, and with each game lasting about 20-30 minutes, great to play when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. The different combinations of runners, and the variety of encounters ensure just enough replay value to make each game different. I do say just enough, because eventually you will have seen all of the cards and encounters. I don’t know if this game will ever get some expansions, probably not as the game is now 3 years old. That is a bit of a shame, because I do think that eventually the game can become a little bit repetitive without new and challenging encounters. That said, this isn’t a game to play hours on end anyway. It’s fun enough to play two or three games in a row, and then call it quits. Overall I think if you like dice/cardgames, that look good and are not too difficult to learn, you will get a kick out of this game.
I give Shadowrun Encounters a 8 out of 10 score.