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Subject: Brave the Elements – A Tactical Game with Excellent Choices rss

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Review by mmazala
For this review and more, visit http://todayinboardgames.com/


Discover a land of wonder where the ability to control the four elements — Fire, Air, Earth and Water — has become second nature. Conjure powerful disasters and infiltrate your opponents' societies while developing your own and defending it from harm.

A Review of Brave the Elements

Brave the Elements, designed by Miles Ratcliffe and managed by Chaos Publishing, is a 40 - 80 minute tactical resource management game for 2-4 players.

The game is currently seeking funding via Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/682642109/brave-the-ele...

The Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to end on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing


OVERVIEW

Brave the Elements is a clever fantasy-themed "take THAT!" game that offers players exciting choices while maintaining decent catch-up mechanisms.


COMPONENTS

Components List

Inside the box you’ll find:
- 56 Location Cards
- 46 Disaster Cards
- Element tokens
- Runestone tokens
- VP tokens
- Minion tokens
- Dice (2 custom, 1 standard D6)
- Round tracker
- Start player card
- Player reference cards
- Rulebook

Location Cards


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing

The objective of Brave the Elements is to accumulate the most victory points. The primary way to accumulate victory points is to capture other players' locations. For example, a captured Fire Temple is worth 2 points at the end of the game, while a captured Academy is worth 3 points. However, you will also have your own locations to defend from your opponents' attacks. Locations vary from 1-4 points and offer various benefits during the game. The catch-up mechanism for location cards is solid: Players must end phase 2 of each round with a minimum of 5 locations, providing both new benefits and a continued supply of targets.

Disaster Cards


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing

In phase 1 of each round, players refill their hand to 6 Disaster cards. These cards are the real meat of the game and the part that excited me the most when I first read the rulebook.

Disaster cards may be used in 1 of 4 ways:

1. Disasters conjured against other players: In phase 5 of each round, players have the option of playing disaster cards as conjured disasters. For example, I could target an opponent's Fire Temple with the Landslide disaster card. My hope is that my opponent will be unable to defend against the Landslide and I will get to put the Fire Temple, worth 2 points, in my prize pile.

2. Action cards: Each disaster card contains a description of actions players may take with this card in phase 3 of each round.

3. Defense: I may play a disaster card's element to defend against a disaster. For example, the Tornado disaster card requires the defending player to provide 2 Fire elements, or else the defending player loses the building to the attacker's prize pile. The Firestorm disaster card has an Element symbol (upper left hand corner) and can count as 1 of the 2 needed Fire elements.

4. Support a disaster: A disaster may only be played if the disaster's strength (large white number on the left side of the card) is equal to or greater than the Defence value of a location (number in the shield in the upper left corner)

Tokens

The tokens in the pre-release copy I received were made of cardboard and featured the game's Element symbols. Should the Kickstarter be funded at the £15,000 level, thicker tokens will be included.

Dice


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing

The published game will come with one standard D6 and two custom D6s with the above symbols.


GAME PLAY

Setup

Setup is a snap - Shuffle the location cards, shuffle the disaster cards, and place piles of tokens where all players are within reach. Each player chooses a color (red, yellow, green, blue) and their corresponding minion tokens and starting locations; one player takes the Start Player card.

The round tracker is also placed on the table:

A 2-player game lasts 6 rounds (40-50 minutes)
A 3-player game lasts 6 rounds (60-80 minutes)
A 4-player game lasts 4 rounds (50-70 minutes)

Flow of Play


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing

In clockwise order, beginning with the Start Player, players will take a turn doing the following:

I. Draw: Each player refills their hand to 6 disaster cards

II. Construct: Each player builds new locations until they have five locations in their tableau

III. Action: Each player may play a disaster card to take 1 action.

IV: Infiltrate: Each player has the opportunity to capture an enemy's location through a die roll (mostly luck, with a little bit of strategy)

V: Conjure: Each player has 2 opportunities to capture an enemy's location through the use of disaster cards, and may use tokens and disaster cards to defend their own locations

VI: Gain VPs: Players receive points for locations still standing at the end of the round and occasionally through locations' special abilities

This series of events is repeated each round.


CONCLUSIONS

Great choices: As I mentioned earlier, there are 4 ways to play disaster cards. The flexibility and variety of options excited me and made me eager to play the game. I wanted to see what my cards could do and enjoyed asking "In the current situation, should I play this card now or later?"

Light randomness: Luck does play a part in Brave the Elements, but I don't think it's overdone. It isn't featured that often, and when it does come up, it can be tempered by other parts of the game. For example, if an attacker has a lousy dice roll during the Infiltrate phase, they get to place a Minion token on the card instead. The Minion token gives the attacker a benefit that makes it easier for the attacker to conquer the building in future rounds. As another example, players can help defend their locations using the custom elemental dice, but if the dice fail them, they can also use tokens and disaster cards.

Tactical, not strategic: There is no engine-building in Brave the Elements. For the most part, you cannot do anything in the game that will give you advantages in future rounds. A location may get you an extra defense token and a disaster card may allow you to draw extra cards, but these are one-time benefits are

Great 2-player game: I love Brave the Elements as a 2-player game. You and your opponent begin the attack rounds with equal conditions (5 locations, 6 disaster cards, 1 action to play) and the choices you make will in each phase ultimately determine who wins. I think it's a battle of the wits with a mostly level playing field.

Multiplayer = Kick them when they're down: If player X spends cards and tokens to defend from an attack from player Y, then player X has fewer means to defend from an attack by player Z. Players Y and Z can even attack player X a second time. Also, if player X reveals they are vulnerable to attacks of a certain type, like Earth attacks, then the other players become immediately aware of this weakness and can exploit it. Brave the Elements can be a little Ameritrashy in this sense, like Risk or Nexus Ops or Diplomacy.

Attack game: In case it wasn't clear above, this is an attack-and-defend game. Some people just don't like playing games where they come under attack, and those people probably won't enjoy Brave the Elements.

Easy to learn: This game was so easy to teach. It just made so much sense logically and intuitively, and everyone I taught the game to had few problems catching on.

Pretty artwork: I found the art to be compelling. Definitely more of a plus than a minus.


Photo Credit: Chaos Publishing


Recommendation

I enjoyed the 2-player version of Brave the Elements a lot and think this game is worthy of publishing. It moved quickly, offered exciting choices, was easy to understand but was not simple, and because of its great catch-up mechanisms I felt in the game the entire time. Brave the Elements will continue to hit my gaming table in the future, and I hope if its Kickstarter campaign is not successful (it has set a lofty £13,500 goal), then I hope it will be picked up by another publishing company.
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