Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Robotech: Force of Arms by SolarFlare Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Robotech: Force of Arms by SolarFlare Games
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Title: Robotech: Force of Arms
Designed by: Dave Killingsworth
Publisher: SolarFlare Games
Year Published: 2018
MSRP: $20
2p | 20-40 min | 8+

Take on the role of either the brave Robotech Defense Forces (RDF) or the warrior Zentraedi.

You and your opponent maneuver your warships and deploy your forces endeavoring to gain supremacy. With fearless heroes and commands, you can turn the tide of the battle in your favor.

Will you defend the Earth as the valiant RDF? Or will you attempt to destroy the Earth, capture the SDF-1, and recover the secrets of Protoculture as the giant Zentraedi?

Players are trying to destroy their opponent’s ships while also successfully defending their own ships in this sector of space. Players take turns tactically moving ships around. Strategically placing their attack and defense fighter cards to defend their own ships and destroy those of their enemy and using their hero and command cards to win the day. The player with the most combined points in defended and successfully destroyed ships wins.

Once the players have finished the Tactical, Token, and Command/Hero phases they tally up the victory points for their Fleet Ships they were able to successfully defend. They then add the victory points for the enemy ships they were able to successfully destroy. The player with the most points wins!

—description from the publisher

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Interesting use of a mechanic that I first encountered in Archmage: Origins, by the same designer.  This game does it better.
  • If you like bluffing and deduction, this game has it in spades, all without any actual luck.
  • Interesting style of area control where units placed around the edges of the grid affect the power over multiple spaces in the grid.
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • I've found that the more you play this, especially against the same player, the more you start to notice patterns.  
  • There's a very strong aspect of deduction and bluffing, so you really have to pay attention if you want to feel any sense of control.
  • If you like the Robotech theme, you'll enjoy the characters and ships.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • There are two main phases to the game with some intermediate steps, too.  This can be a bit fiddly.
  • Your first few plays will feel like you're just placing cards without having any strategy.  It takes several plays, preferably against the same player(s) before you start to develop a sense of strategy.
  • The component quality and artwork is acceptable, but nothing exceptional.
  • A few rules are confusing when you read through them, but start to make sense after you play.
Final Thoughts:
I have no experience with Robotech, so the theme wasn't a draw for me, but I still found the theme of the game understandable.  In the past I played Archmage: Origins, by the same designer and publisher, which used similar mechanics.  Robotech: Force of Arms uses those mechanics in a much more refined way.  Archmage: Origins felt chaotic and random, but Robotech: Force of Arms feels more deliberate and secretive.  There's just enough information for you to make deductive decisions and manipulate the board to (hopefully) your benefit.  It feels very much like a battle of wits.  There is a bit of a steep learning curve though, not because the game itself is very difficult, but because the effects of your choices and how to use the available information to deduce what your opponent is trying to do only becomes apparent as you gain more experience with the game.  This game won't appeal to everyone, especially if you don't like deduction and bluffing in such a confrontational way.  However, if you do like that type of head-to-head jockeying for position and mental manipulation, this may be a game you enjoy.  It plays fast and is fairly easy once you have a few plays to gain experience with the flow.  And if you're a fan of Robotech, this is a game you'll be happy to add to your collection.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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