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Weekend Warrior: Shell Shock

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

It’s a new year, time to bring back Weekend Warrior with a vengeance. I’ve been so stoked this week to get TMNT Shadows of the Past back to the table and I’m already jonesing to play it again. For those who haven’t heard of this IDW brawler based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was designed by Kevin Wilson (Descent Journeys in the Dark, Arkham Horror etc) and introduced a genius new dice sharing mechanic.

I have raved about the game in the past but it has failed to hit the table much this year, buried beneath other campaign games like Imperial Assault, 7th Continent and Lord of the Rings LCG, it just always feels like it’s not TMNT’s turn to dance. Anyway, the launch of the new Kickstarter this week brought back my love for this game and my nostalgia for the IP in a huge way and come the weekend I insisted we had to play it or I was going to sulk.

When we last left the action the Turtles had fled from Old Hob through the sewers unfortunately upon returning to their subterranean dwelling they found themselves face to face with the Foot Clan and their arctic fox leader Alopex.

The mission was simple, get to the door and open it. My long time gamer friend Dave was running the TMNT and I was running the foot. The scenario features 4 cameras which the turtles must disable or risk increasing the difficulty of getting the door open. The cameras begin the mission facing the wrong way, giving the turtles one turn to disable them. I began the game with two foot clan bruisers and two ninjas, along with Alopex.

Perhaps I was over confident because of my bruisers hulking size but I thought I would be dining on turtle stew. Raphael had other ideas, he rushed my bruiser, performing a Kick Shell special move and launching him to the other end of the board and KOing him in the process. He then unleashed a hurricane of shuriken and disabled one of my cameras. Things were off to a bad start.

Enraged Alopex flew across the board, ignoring terrain affects to land a few scratches on her favourite red bandana’d turtle before scarpering back to the door she had sworn to protect. As the Turtles advanced they quickly disabled the second camera and wiped my second bruiser off the table which left me in the difficult position of needing to use Desperation Activations to get any of my remaining ninjas into position.

In the game the Villain Player has a hand of 5 cards to activate their minions and leaders on the board, if you don’t have the cards you need you can burn any other card but only receive a single activation. Wiping out a whole minion group is a great way for the Turtles to gain an advantage, limiting the villain players options. Fortunately each round, half of all dead minions, rounded down respawn, as long as there are available spawn points. This is a second valid tactic, block the spawn points.

As the turtles pushed up the board Raph was able to pin a bruiser and several ninja in place, preventing me accessing two of the four spawn points on the board, while Mikey covered a third one on the other side. This tactic forced me to sacrifice hitting Raph and instead move my foot ninjas to free up space for incoming reinforcements.

Unfortunately it wouldn’t matter, Leo cut down Alopex and left the path open for Donnie to rush for the door and open it on his first try. Looking back I played this scenario really poorly. I mobbed the Turtles with everything I had, hoping to pin them down in the slow moving sewer water, but I should have instead been protecting the door against Donnie. The dice were also against me with my bruisers failing to even scratch Raphael at times.

Scenario 4 however was a different story. The Turtles escaped Alopex only to run into Old Hob once again, this time in the subway station. The Turtles goal was simple, too simple. All they had to do was get across the board. I couldn’t see how I could hope to stop them.

The subway map consisted of two sets of train tracks and the station platform. The rails were slow terrain which kept the slower moving turtles from rushing my backline, but Mikey is far more agile and he flew across in a single bound. Problem was Mikey left himself open to repeated attacks by my gunners, who were supported by Old Hob granting them an extra dice per round and a judicial use of focus tokens granting me rerolls a plenty.

Mikey went down in a hail of bullets and Leo’s scream “Noooooooooo!” echoed through the underground tunnels. The blue bandana’d turtle charged forward to revive the party dude while his brothers dealt with the brawlers. However one of my gunners had other plans, stepping up she dropped 5 damage on Leo with one shot. Further gunners put chips and dents in Leo’s shell and by the time he reached Mikey he was ready to drop and Old Hob was happy to oblige.

Raph and Donnie pushed forward but they had a hard keeping the thugs from surrounding the downed brothers. With a little help from Raphael Mikey got back up, but he had already accumulated one KO token, a second one and the heroes would lose. Their only hope was to surround Leo and get him back up on his feet but it was not to be, Leo failed his stand up roll, (needing a perfect 8 hits on 4 dice, a 1 in 1296 chance, but still a chance... right?)

So despite winning every mission up to this point our Turtles lost the campaign. We both agreed it was Mikey’s fault and I was on fire, rolling more double hits in a single attack than I had during the entire previous game.

I had a blast with the game, I had forgotten just how much fun it is. Playing two player is a little slow as one player plays all 4 heroes and needs to assign all the dice at the start of the round, but the rounds themselves are dynamic and fluid as each activation is really easy to perform. The minutiae of movement can be a bit tricky to get your head around but is also vital to how the game plays. Pinning a target down and preventing them getting to their goal is what drives a lot of the tactics in the game.

There is some luck in the game, what with all the dice rolling but with the dice sharing and with the ability to spend Focus for further rerolls it can largely be mitigated. Playing as the villain player can be frustrating when you find yourself hamstrung by poor card draw but overall I had a blast.

Now… let’s talk about that Kickstarter. I’ve been following along with the developments for this one over on the facebook group so I already knew a lot about it and that I would be going all in. However even I was surprised by the price. $250 +$40 makes this a £230 game delivered and that is a lot of cash even for a game I love. Worse still with all the Brexit uncertainty who knows if I’ll be getting an extra 20% tax on top of that.

However, despite the cost I’m staying all in. Firstly the game has been vastly improved from a component and graphics point of view. The miniatures are hugely superior to their originals and the tile art and components are now in line with those we expect from the big boys in the miniature board game market.

The game is also shipping with 34 new missions which are much more closely tied to the IDW comics source material. These missions are spread across both base sets and include a pair of crossover missions that use both sets. In addition missions from SOTP remain completely playable and are not repeated in either box. Both sets also include co-op allowing me to finally retire my steel claws and pick up my catana… or my hockey stick. At the last count the new edition also ships with 18 playable characters, well over 100 miniatures and stretch goals that add to the variety allowing you to swap minions in and out and easily create custom scenarios and run the ultimate “what-ifs” by taking control of the villains as heroes.

And if that’s not enough IDW is also giving away the first 50 (possibly more) issues of the comics, digitally, to backers. If you haven’t read the comics, they are incredible and issue 50 is amazing! I had no interest in comics before I backed the first campaign and now I’ve read it all and I’ve just started it all over again!

The miniatures used in this article were painted by the talented Duke of the Blood Keep. You can see more of his TMNT minis in this gallery.

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