Prototypes of up and come Kickstarter projects
5,4,3,2,1...thundercubes are go
Whats is about?
What do you do when you live in Japan, the earth starts to shake and from that shaking, Kaiju Monsters erupt into your city? Well, you build a company, a big Mecha Robot, buildings to produce resources and beat the crap out of them...And also each other.
That is kind of the premises of New Osaka, a new Kickstarter game from Daso Games, that has a load of your favorite types of Japanese monster, multitudes of different buildings to construct, and it just needs your big brains to handle the resources and manpower to save the small corner of the world.
Remember that these are first impressions of a prototype. Rules, mechanics and components may be different from the final version of this product.
How do we play?
Players will choose a corporation that has its own designated space on the main board. Collecting a deck of unique combat cards, some money in Yen, cubes for marking resources and two player boards. One for marking your progress and the other to keep tabs on your workers and productivity. You’ll play for 9 rounds and each round is broken into 4 phases and in each phase every player will continually perform one action each, until everyone passes. The easiest way to understand the game is to explain what happens each phase as each action leads to the next.
Combat is a simple case of Rolling your own personal D12. Whether you're fighting other players Mechs or one of the Kaiju, this is your basic attack. Your attack can be improved by spending any rockets or any jet fighters that you have constructed. Not forgetting your own personal combat deck. Of which you will have 10 cards in your hand and you can play one of these cards. All these optional add-ons to your attack must be decided before anyone rolls any of their dice. The Kaiju Monsters (four possibles types) that will be on display next to the board, all have different dice to use in combat (from D6 to D14) as well as different rewards. Sometimes Yen and sometimes an upgrade to produce more of a certain resource. When fighting another player, you're probably fighting over a control of a building. Whoever wins gets control of the building while the loser goes home with a wound token (the defender if he is victorious can steal yen). All victories (type of Kaijus or against other Mech) are recorded on your progress board, as there are some common objectives for players to aim for.
And the overall objective of the game is to have the most points after 9 rounds. Points are scored from completing the common objectives, building buildings, upgrading buildings, constructing part of Osaka Castle, destroying Kaiju and winning fights against your opponent.
Respect for the theme?
Barry: This is a typical Japanime Style themed game with a mix of Mechs and monsters, plus evil corporations (if you consider yourself to be evil). The monsters themselves seem to be aimless, more like sitting ducks on a pond. Which serve only as a function to score points, gain money and resources. As the game does not have an overall objective and the players can go whichever way they want to get points to win the game, the theme is kind of there more in the visual spirit than the gameplay.
Guilou: A game set in Japan, a futuristic universe, mechs, Kaijus, construction ... On paper, everything is there to please me. But I quickly forget the why and how. The problem stems from the fact that this mixture gets lost a bit in the middle of an accumulation of mechanisms which is ultimately quite abstract. The Kaijus are there only to justify an improvement in our capacities and a constraint to build. They do not move, do not fight (they only defend themselves against the barbarity of expansionist humans) and reappear without real explanations (besides what is their goal in life?). The construction of New Osaka and its castle does not really have any impact (apart from earning victory points). The development of its corporation is done in a fairly abstract way.
Visually, I feel that the designer is passionate about this style of universe, but unfortunately the game does not manage to effectively transcribe this passion. Too bad because with a little more background and some gameplay changes I could be seduced by this whole.
Barry: We played a 3 player game and we chose are corporations from there the four corners of the board, keeping ourselves well apart. As this is a 5 player game, one of the corporations on the main board is slapbang in between two others. Our game was very tranquil as we discovered more and more about the game as we played. The main interaction between us was purely from the public buildings. As being the first player uh at the plastics factory for example, meant you only needed to spend one worker (plus the cost in Yen) to get the resource you needed. If you were the second player to go to the same factory, you are required to spend 2 workers. And 3 workers if you were the 3rd.
Most of the game was spent fighting the Kaiju Monsters, as they seemed a good form of income, either in Yen or in the productivity of resource generating. And as seen as some of the common objectives were to kill “X” amount of one of the four types of Kaiju, this seemed like an easy route to follow.
It wasn't until round 7 or 8, that we started to actually not avoid one another. Someone has built a building that another player found interesting, as it transported one resource into a very rare resource, and this triggered a lot of fighting between us. As there are a multitude of buildings and 12 different resources, some of which are very difficult to come by. Only by the building itself or it cannot be manufactured directly and has to be transformed from something else. Then the strong players prayed on the weak. What do I mean by that? Well, everybody can see how many rockets, jet fighters and cards are left in their hands. And if you see that someone one doesn't have these but you have a multitude, you attack for attack sake.
Guilou: The game oscillates between direct and indirect interaction. However, direct interaction seems to win most of the time. Everything seems to push you to reach out to each other and take care of what your opponents are doing. And paradoxically, you may find yourself playing a good chunk of the nine rounds in your own corner. The direct interaction is found at the level of the choice of construction of the buildings (damn I wanted this one and you stole it from me) which can trigger fights between players for their possessions. There is also the race to the goal aspect which allows to maintain a certain tension.
Even if fighting with another player can become profitable (gain victory points and control a new building), it can also be very (possibly too?) punitive in case of defeat. This sanction can quickly make you think and hesitate if it is necessary to attack the other. Add to this the cost of fighters or missiles and the cost of recovering cards, the choice to attack the other is more and more questionable. So you can easily stay in your corner, develop quietly and possibly as a last resort turn to others.
Fortunately, to overcome this and add a little direct interaction, the designer has thought of incorporating a sort of auction system on the use of buildings. During the resource phase, the first to arrive at a location will only use one worker to produce. The second two and the third three. Knowing that each player has only seven workers, the choice becomes more judicious. But for this to work and add tension, multiple players need to focus on the same objectives or public buildings as private buildings suffer less from this "rush".
Finally, the joint construction of New Osaka could have been a good idea to increase the challenge between players. However, the stages are very expensive, with very hard and long resources to produce, finally bringing "only" victory points can quickly discourage participants. All that to say that “yes there can be a strong enough interaction between players” as long as everyone plays the game. Otherwise, you will already have a hard time trying to develop yourself at best. You will then have to be content with a less present interaction based on "they attacked the monster I wanted" or "they have just built or produced on the building that I wanted".
Dive into the mechanisms
Barry: The wonderful thing about playing this game was how easy it was to slip into, due in large part to the fact that the rulebook flowed with the gameplay. Or maybe it was because this game seemed a little similar to many others.
The first main mechanism is the worker placement, which is not too heavy handed or 2 thought provoking at the beginning of the game. But as the game goes on and the board fills up with more and more buildings and more and more options appear, every worker becomes more and more vital. Avoiding damage to your Mech is vital, as the more damage tokens you collect, the fewer workers you can use. Not only that, you will have list options open to moving your Mech around and generating money.
The second main mechanism is resource management. Making money and generating resources seems very simple and is. But it feels like a grind. From beginning to end, there seemed to be a very, very slow evolution of your corporation. Everything felt hard-earned. Going into this game without setting yourself an objective or knowing what types of buildings can be built during the game can be a setback to a new player. Cold calculating is needed on every turn. Picking up a resource that you will never use or need it will cost you. You may feel urged to be guided by the resources that you collect to just build any building. But that building may not serve your purpose or it might light up the eyes of another player.
The third mechanism is the combat. Again, this is intuitive to anyone who has played board games, as it involves rolling dice. So there is the luck of the dice, but that can be modified by the cards and any extra Arms that you have manufactured. This is quick to carry out and doesn't leave the other players waiting to have their turns.
The most important mechanic is the one that lets each player perform an action before passing to the next player, then coming back to you, allowing another action (if possible). This keeps a fluidity in the game and reminds you you are part of this world. Leaving little time for you to play with your phone or go on a toilet break (unless you pass). You will be glued to the table.
Guilou: A bit like a game like Scythe, New Osaka is a game that mixes up many working mechanisms. We start with worker placement where we will have to go find the right resources to best optimize their next purchases and actions. You have seven workers who will have to be used in the best way. Remember that they will serve you in two distinct phases, be careful not to exhaust them too quickly.
The mechs phase adds a little ameritrash side with direct confrontation (Kaiju or opposing buildings). The fights are resolved in a simple way with the throwing of a 12 dice enhanced by the use of resources (missiles or fighters) and by the luck of the drawing of cards. Simple but not simplistic because the defeat is expensive and also the resources of reinforcements.
You end up with the construction of buildings or their improvement that depend a lot on the resources accumulated previously.
Finally, there is a notion of a race for the first which achieves different objectives (the same in each game) and the appearance of a huge building that can be built by anyone.
Everything is fluid and easily assimilated. But you see a lot of different overlapping and intertwining mechanisms throughout the nine rounds. It can then be difficult to juggle between a request for advanced optimization and a fairly present chance which can come to destroy everything during a turn. The game is not forgiving and every choice is important. The right to make mistakes can be very expensive in the long run.
New Osaka is clearly a game that allows you to learn quickly but take a long time to really learn. It will take several games for you to start developing real winning strategies and pulling out lucky draws. Note that despite the seemingly simple choices, the wait between two rounds can sometimes be long, especially if you have poorly optimized and you go quickly.
Barry: The game is very colourful and there are a ton of different components. From cards to tokens, from dice to miniatures and of course all the players boards. The main board itself is not too large, leaving space for your Mechs and tokens to sit nicely. Nothing felt too lost in the wash of colours that were displayed before you. Although the icons could have been enlarged to make it more evident on buildings and their functions. Also there was a disconnect between the icons of each of the Kaiju and their artwork on their cards. For a while we were worth looking at the back of the cards to see the colour and the icon on to match the name of the monster.
Every resource was easy to distinguish by its colour and it's form, even though in this prototype not everything will be cubes, I presume. The artwork is phenomenal as well as the simple graphic design which made it easy to make connections (apart from the aforementioned monsters).
Guilou: Difficult to express oneself on the whole. Having played on the proto, there is still a lot to improve and define. From what we have seen, the whole is going to be effective. The resources will each be different in the form of a specific token. The illustrations are well chosen whether on the Mechs cards, the board visual or on the Kaijus. A little reminder between Kaiju tokens and associated card types may be welcome.
The figures (even though they were 3D rendered) look really beautiful, with well-chosen poses and quite detailed. New Osaka is a building to be assembled directly according to what we have chosen to build which makes it fun. The game's ergonomics are good, the iconography is easy to understand and readable quickly.
The current KS promises a lot of improvements to the trays which will make everything pleasant to use. The box looks full and generous.
Barry: This is one of those simple to learn and difficult to master games. I normally find myself saying this when playing some type of euro game but not in a game of this genre. The rules themselves are very light and make this game seem simpler than it actually is. There's nothing new and innovative, which is good and bad at the same time. It allows players to slip into a game very quickly. Even more so if you're into resource gathering worker placement.
Guilou: The rules are quite clear and ultimately take a few pages. Everything is clear and well illustrated. During the game, we did not return to the rulebook. Some things lacked existence (like what to do in case of a tie) but the final version should fix it.
The game is easy to learn and the explanations are simple. But it is not that easy to master and you will need several plays to get there.
Barry: This is probably been said 1000 times about this game, this is Scythe for hardcore gamers. From the map layout, the one piece miniature, the meeple placement, resource gathering, common objectives, and the building in the middle of the board, you will feel like you're playing the same game but in a different universe. There is more combat and a smidgen more aggressiveness to your goals. It’s more frugal with money and resources. You will be standing on people's toes to be the first in a building, spending less workers than they do or deliberately discarding buildings from those on display because you can see an opponent has the resources to construct it. And of course, you will be attacking' those who are weaker than you, because you can. It’s a point salad of decisions with no end objective.
This is not a game that you can play once and say that you've mastered it, as the only thing that you will have mastered is the rules. There are 4 different levels of resource that require different methods of obtaining, some easier than others. Either building them directly for by converting one resource into another. You will probably not see every single tile in the game. This adds a strategy to how you play that will make every game feel different. There are also quite a number of attack cards, again you won’t see all in one sitting as it may be rare that you draw from your deck. Your hand of 10 will quickly diminish and possibly never replenish, due to rare buildings.
So tactically this game is very profound, and very quick to pick up and play. But with the slow progression of your corporation, this game feels like you've been sitting at the table for eternity (over 2 hours in our 3 player game reality). As more options become available on the board in the form of stealing other people's buildings as well as which of your buildings are you going to use, analysis paralysis kicks in. Definitely a game for those who like confrontation and deep meaningful choices. It looks beautiful on the table and if you're into kicking a few Kaiju butts, this game could be for you.
Guilou: Of course, it is impossible to give a full opinion while playing the proto and especially with so few parts. This is a first opinion based on first feelings, it remains important to underline this.
The game offers a mix of gameplay that works well separately but can surprise all mixed up. You will need many games in order to master your games in the long run. Contrary to what might be implied, New Osaka is not a classic ameritrash. We are more in an optimization game with a hint of theme. Even if it is quickly forgotten, the game offers a challenge and a significant replayability as long as you like the genre.
On the other hand, a feeling of frustration quickly seizes the players: too few actions, race to recover money, difficulty to obtain scarce resources if the drawing of tiles is bad, Kaijus who are just there to serve to argue (good not only because they allow us to improve) ...
There are many great ideas throughout. It is however unfortunate that the impression of not really knowing why we are doing this remains. We ended the game with a little aftertaste in the mouth. And at the same time, the game can get so short that there are players who like to explore all possible tactical possibilities. And not only really long, but especially long between turns and the feeling of too much on display. This is also the case with this mix of genres.
Game created by an enthusiast, I have the impression that the designer wanted to put everything he likes in a game. Mechanisms on mechanisms which work, but which do not necessarily merge during the game. It's a shame because the game has real potential.
Please note, this is a game for players. The mistake can cause you to lose unexpectedly. Every action is important and every choice has a long-term impact. Unfortunately, it seemed to us, especially due to the injury system, a win to win aspect can be felt (but this would deserve more games to really confirm it or not). This can therefore slow down the pleasure of the game.
We didn't have the feeling of increasing power that we can feel along the round in this kind of game, but everything accelerated in the last two. Finally, it is the impression we had. Although this acceleration was perhaps more due to the desire of the players to force the routine of the game than the natural logic of the game. Starting a little faster might be better to keep players' attention and interest for the long haul.
New Osaka is an interesting game, a mechanical hybrid which tries to innovate by mixing mechanisms which have been proven and which are at the same time easy to access but deep in their application. Finally, one wonders if a little more simplicity in the multiplication of phases and especially in the construction would not have been welcome. In the meantime, it remains an enjoyable game that can still benefit from improvement before its physical release. If you like the Kaiju and Mecha universe, New Osaka might be the Eurogam for you.
Me, of course!