B-Sieged: Sons of the Abyss Review


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Posted by Shane on Feb 25, 2016

There is a certain amount of leeway given among many tabletop gamers to a board game with incredible components. Dynamic illustrations, quality player boards, and mountains of colorful tokens can save face for an otherwise boring game, or help to transform a great game into a masterpiece. Oh, right—and miniatures. This is a review of a Cool Mini Or Not board game. Of course there's miniatures.

B-Sieged is a box packed with molded plastic. Half a dozen player character heroes to defend your walls and scores of demonic antagonists, from hulking lava-men to fire-spitting lizard creatures and their gargoyle-like riders, all of whom are descending onto your castle with one goal in mind: destruction! This is a fully cooperative tower defense-style board game that makes certain other “Panic”-inspired titles look like a cake walk. Barely out of its release infancy and hitting tables around the world, B-Sieged has been labeled “too difficult” by many due to the high luck factor involved in winning the game.

It doesn't take long for tension to build; two or three rounds into the game your walls are already being assailed by demon foot soldiers, while hulking magma giants hammer your castle's interior structures with boulders. It's a race to gather weapons, traps, magic spells, and more that allow your valiant team to defend a fleeing—and later returning—messenger as he retrieves a mystical ritual that will banish the demons back to their fiery underworld. If you can safely clear a path away from your fortress to allow your courier's escape into the wilds of the world, and then protect him as he's pursued by demons on the return trek, victory is yours. If your first messenger dies in his attempt, you get one more chance—but a second squashed messenger means game over and defeat.

Your castle is made up of eight buildings, which can be damaged by the monsters' ranged attacks. Each structure can endure two damaging hits—one that disables it and prevents the heroes from utilizing them to gather much-needed special attacks, food, or improved abilities, and another that destroys the building outright, usually forever. If five buildings are destroyed at one time, or if all of the heroes are defeated by having zero morale at the same time, all is lost. Game over.

At the same time three ranks of enemies in the demonic horde are marching forward, with the most numerous of those creatures pushing their way toward the castle walls. Heroes use their allotment of actions each turn moving from the aforementioned buildings, to a long-distance-attacking catapult at the heart of the castle, to the wall ramparts. With each action players do their best to blast and hack and slash the encroaching invaders, thinning their overwhelming numbers and slowing the invasion's progress. Monster attacks cause damage automatically, which makes hero placement an important tactical decision—because heroes on walls and buildings act as buffers against the enemies, and if a wall is undefended during the demons' turn any first rank soldiers will march over the walls. As you may suspect, this also ends the game in a loss.

There are ways to lose and just one way to win. Typical fare for a good cooperative board game. Cooperation and coordination are vital during every single round of B-Sieged; each building or the catapult can only house one hero at a time, which means ending on a location needed by someone else deprives them of its use. By mid-game players are divided between walls constantly, struggling to beat back the mob of assault units that are trying to overrun the ramparts. It's a mad scramble of important decision after important decision, where solid strategy and great planning seem like they should win the day or at least come close. So what gives with the declarations of nigh-impossibility, or that this gorgeous miniatures-centric game is so luck-dependent?

Dice rolls. Lots and lots and lots of dice rolls. Swingy dice rolls where each of your attacks against the easiest targets starts out with a fifty-fifty chance of success. It doesn't get much easier, especially when there are three to six units on each side of the castle and you've got a small handful of dice to sprinkle attacks among all of them. A completely missed roll can be devastating to your best laid plans. Some character abilities and, later in the game, advancement options allow you to mitigate a tiny amount of luck and increase your number of attack dice. These character improvement abilities are unfortunately completely random, not to mention few and far between, and have the potential to be useless to the character you've selected. Nothing is less exciting than when you “level up” your archer and pull a token that enhances your attack options against front line footmen; fortunately all abilities allow you to increase your Strength attribute, which determines whether you can actually harm the toughest monsters in the game.

And you know what? I'm okay with that. This is Ameritrash at its absolute best: a rich setting, bursting with spectacular components. Just be ready to leave your opportunity for victory in the hands of luck and dice rolls no matter how organized and brilliant your strategy. Cooperative games shouldn't be easy. They should be a challenge to overcome and, once you're finally victorious playing the normal-mode level of the game, they should inspire you to cheer and pat your friends on the back for a job well done. The luck elements of B-Sieged not only provide that challenge but also promise replayability, ensuring that a single strategy won't win the day with every play.