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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Stak Bots The Next Evolution by Tom Norfolk

Its been a while since we aired a guest post here but when Tom Norfolk asks if he can write something for me I can’t say no. Stak Bots Red which we reviewed last week introduces a raft of new and vicious little bots into the game and here Tom looks at how those bots came to be, whether it was through strange science, bio-engineering, darwinian survival or simply being in the right place at the right time.

Take it away Tom…

A Treatise on the Evolution of Stak Bots

In the last 2 years, ever since Callout Bot summoned forth its army of admirers in the Yellow Expansion, the cogs of the Stak Bots factory have continued to turn and grind and smoosh together… a new wave of Bots is now ready to make its appearance! In no particular order… 

There are concerns that a door was left open round the back of the factory somewhere, and that various creatures wandered in and somehow got caught up in the fabrication process, because some of the new Bots are decidedly animalistic. 

elephant-512

Elephant Bot for example, a towering beast of a Bot, not only harnesses the power of the pachyderm, but also its weakness: an intolerance of tiny creatures. In this case, it self-destructs if it even tries to fight off a zero-powered Bot! Never have Trip Bots been so mighty! Watch a power 8 tremble with fear as you draw forth your mighty Shot Bot! Maybe now you won’t be so hasty to cast them aside once they’re spent? 

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Another animal to amble out of the gates is the sinister Shark Bot. With no concern for affiliation, this fish feasts on damaged Bots. Be careful not to spill any oil or it will seek you out! 

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The final member of the new animal family takes the form of that perennially popular plant pollinator, the Bee. Thanks to robotic adaptations, Bee Bot will manage to sting and survive, resetting the card it is played on top of. If it finds nothing to sting there, it will look elsewhere. 

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Some of the Bots have had a simple upgrade. Crevice Bot is a Pit Bot that swapped its shovel for something a little more impactful, which allows it to sink a whole group of Bots at the same time.

 spike-shot-512

In a similar fashion, the vicious game-ending Spike Shot Bot adds the injury of a Spike Bot’s damage effect to its bullets. 

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Sometimes an upgrade isn’t as simple as grabbing a fancy weapon; Stomp Bots have to attend several years in a mysterious elite facility to learn to mask the sound of their approaching boots. Once they do, they graduate as fully fledged Ninja Bots, capable of stealthily assassinating their foes then Stomping their way out of (or into) trouble! 

nice-512

For Bountiful Bot, things took a strange turn… or two. Some were so pleased with the fruits of their card-drawing endeavours, that they decided to package them up and share the joy with others and became known simply as Nice Bots. This horrifically na├»ve Bot has swelled up in size from the pride it finds in helping others; unfortunately it needs this size to survive when the gifts are turned against them! 

bounty-bot

Other Bountiful Bots took a different path; lost to the powerful feeling of generating new Bots, they obsessively worked until their spark finally exhausted. Left suddenly absent of their effect, in their desperation they turned to another method of generation: harvesting the Bots they defeated and trading in the scrap. Bounty Bot was born.

 armour-512

Bounty Bot’s weren’t alone in this habit of harnessing other Bots; by hiding in the shell of another Core Bot, Armour Bot managed to fashion an impenetrable shell… well, impenetrable to weak blows, but it’s enough to keep the Spike Shot Bots at bay!

ladder-512

While some Bots were being turned into scrap or hidden inside, others turned out to be more resilient to a battering. Some ended up with so many dents and holes that other Bots were able to scramble over the top of them, using the injuries as footholds! Once this turned out to be useful, the design was later refined and Ladder Bot appeared as the finished article. A quick thought: if there is nobody around to climb it, what use is a ladder? 

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Created sadly small and with no innate offensive tools, there exists a real runt of the purple Bot litter. In order to ensure its survival, it had to learn to wield weaponry almost the same size as itself. It is the most feared of all the purple Bots and ironically Mace Bot is now the least likely to survive. 

juggler-512

While Mace Bot was doing something useful and mastering weaponry, a little orange Bot found a few round objects on the ground and entertained itself making patterns in the air with them. Through the dark art of something known as ‘numbers juggling’, Juggler Bot became insanely strong and eventually was able to launch several Bots into the air at once, rearranging them at will. Yes, it can even juggle Elephants. 

needy-512

Another one that needed something to hold is Needy Bot. Or rather, someone. It can’t stand being alone and has even taken to wearing a nappy to try and evoke Boternal feelings in other robots. They should really learn not to try and hug Spur Bots though. 

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This next Bot has a strange ethos: when you’re surrounded by trouble, generate even more trouble. Avalanche Bot summons a mighty debris of Bots that tumble onto every Stak. Unfortunately the effort is so ridiculous and tiresome that you’ll need a moment to recover while your opponents get the drop on you with their new entry effects. 

pulse-512

Another Bot that has the ability to possibly affect all Staks at once is Pulse Bot. And not just all Staks; it has been known to eliminate every single Bot in a fight before (including itself!). Pulse Bot generates an EMP which is tuned to the frequency of whatever it perceives to be the largest threat. Its cold calculations don’t take into account whose side the Bots are on; maybe it has suffered too many times at the hands of a Grappling Bot, who knows. 

ram-leader-512

Finally, we turn to Ram Leader Bot, a Bot as fiendishly complex as the steering system of the supermarket trolley it loosely resembles. Calling on its Leader Bot powers to boost itself up to a decent ramming speed, when this Bot collides with another Stak it will shatter the parts of the weakest Bots present (unless those Bots are larger than the Ram Leader Bot, in which case it’s more like an egg head-butting a tree). 

These Bots are itching to get out there; the prototypes have been functioning for over a year and they’re dying to get into mass production, so they can unleash their special brand of chaos upon the Land of Bot. 

Please help them!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/643459158/stak-bots-red-a-sneakily-strategic-tabletop-card-g

Chris’ Thoughts

Thanks Tom.

I have a real soft spot for this game, it’s not only fun and cheap but its also infinitely adaptable. Tom has published a 60 page pdf this week featuring all the current play modes and he’s putting out more all the time. No two games need ever be the same, so if you haven’t already checked out the game head on over to the Kickstarter page and pick up the base game and expansions for just £20 + P&P. I cannot recommend this highly enough. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Preview: Stak Bots The Red Expansion

“Oh dear, it is very dusty in here… hang on… there’s a light switch around here somewhere…”

*Click*

“Ah that’s better… No wait, now I can see the enormous spiders… erm… be right back!”

So, it’s been a while since my last post, however the UK Games Expo is fast approaching so I thought now would be a good time to dust off the old blog and to start posting some new reviews.

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So, to kick things off I’m going to be taking a look at a preview copy of the Red Expansion for Stak Bots from Dogeared Games. I’ve been a fan of this little card game now for a while, you can see my review of the base game here. It’s a small box that packs a mean punch and the designer, UK based Tom Norfolk, is a fantastic chap. Is the expansion worth getting? Lets take a look.

Unboxed

You get a lot more bots. My preview deck contains 60 cards however the final number will probably change depending on the success of the kickstarter.

If you own the base game then the cards will be of the same quality, relatively stiff card stock with a satin finish and of course the cutesy art style that the original had. Now, I’ve said it before but I think it bears repeating, I suspect that Stak Bots would have garnered wider success with better artwork. I like the cutesy stuff fine but I can see how the homemade look of the cards could turn people off before ever even playing the game. And that’s Stak Bots biggest flaw, because it’s a great game that hides it’s light under a bushel.

New Bots

I’m going to assume if you are still reading this review you know how to play the base game of Stak Bots, so, what does the Red Expansion add?

ninja curved

Like the first expansion the Red Expansion offers us some mashup bots. These take two abilities of previous bots and mash them together. For example we have Ninja Bot who is a Reaper Bot (Scraps the Top Card of any Stak it attacks) and a Stomp Bot (Continues to battle a Stak until it is defeated). Mace Bot which combines the Bash and Spike Bots and my personal favourite Spike Shot Bot, a Shot Bot that also scraps the card below the top card.

spike shot v2 curved

As well as mashup bots, the Red Expansion offers us plenty of unique content. Simple bots like Nice Bot that allow your opponent to draw a card, Bounty Bot that draws a card when it scraps a card or Needy Bot that forces you to play another card immediately after you play him.

bounty curved

It also introduces a new keyword via Armour Bot, these bots have an armour rating and ignore all damage below that rating, however if your power exceeds their armour then they take the full brunt of your attack.

armour v2 curved

Many of the cards in the set focus on Stak Manipulation. Ladder Bot (a weaker version of Levi Bot from the Yellow Expansion) allows you to move any face up card in your Stak to the top, a great way to bring up those Anchor Bots for big hits. Crevice Bot can target any Stak to move the top group of face up cards to the bottom of the stak, helpful for burying your opponents big hitters. Juggler Bot can target any other Stak to rearrange the top three cards, allowing you to get at the weaker cards hiding behind defensive bots, like Shield Bot or Cloudy Bot and finally Bee Bot who allows you to reset your top card or if that card is already face down, any other top card.

crevice curved

A couple of cards in this set have global powers affecting all Staks in play, which I think is a first for Stak Bots. These powerful cards are understandably weak, Avalanche bot has 1 power, while Pulse Bot has 0. But their impact in game is much greater than their miniscule might. Avalanche Bot places a card from the deck on top of each Stak, naturally then these turn over and resolve, completely changing the state of play. While Pulse Bot scraps all face up cards with the highest power, meaning that it could wipe out multiple cards from anywhere in the Stak as long as they are face up.

avalanche curved

Finally we have the animal bots. Two of these I love and one, well, we’ll get to it in a second. First up is Shark Bot, this sneaky little bot is the enemy of all Stomp Bots everywhere. When Shark Bot enters play he scraps one damaged card. If Shark Bot was hiding in your Stak there is a good chance he’ll kill whatever revealed him, while if he’s in your hand, you can use a low powered bot to damage a 6 or 7 and then play Shark Bot for the kill. Elephant Bot is very powerful, only Greedy Bot I believe out ranks him for sheer fighting power, however he has an Achilles heel, if he ever fights a zero power bot he immediately scraps and to add injury to insult he scraps before damage is dealt.

 elephant r6 curved

Finally we have Ram Leader Bot my least favourite Bot in the deck. RLB’s ability is a little bit convoluted, first up he’s a leader bot (so his power is equal to the number of face up cards below him) and Ram causes the weakest face up card in the attacked Stak to scrap after damage is dealt unless it’s power is greater than RLB’s. It’s an interesting ability but it’s not simple, it takes up a lot of space on the card (so much so that Leader isn’t explained at all) and I found myself having to explain it multiple times to players as we played. The problem with this is that I have always enjoyed the simplicity and elegance of Stak Bots and so the more convoluted cards tend to slow down play and cause confusion. 

ram leader curved

(edit: It seems Tom may have simplified the language on the card)

Thoughts

Is the Red Expansion a necessary expansion? No. But I would say the same of the Yellow Expansion. I think the base game, in it’s original form has a lot to offer, especially in the simplicity of the bots. However if you are looking to expand the game and diversify your options and tactics then I can whole heartedly recommend the Red Expansion. It brings with it plenty of content, my personal favourites being Spike Shot Bot, Shark Bot and Elephant Bot. There are some very powerful new effects alongside more of the simple efficient bots that we know and love. You can easily mix and match bots, swapping in one or two new cards or just chuck everything together for a different game every time.

As a quick note, I recommend playing Stak Bots in Dual Stak Mode. This vastly improves the tactical choices you have on your turn especially with all the new bots available.

Final Thoughts

The Red Expansion is a solid addition to Stak Bots, that skews more towards experienced players looking to change up the game and face new (and devastating) surprises.

A preview copy of the game was provided by Dogeared Games.

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