Today 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(edit: It seems Tom may have simplified the language on the card)
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 wholeheartedly 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.
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.