Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Small Soldiers Big Battle

Movie tie-in games are usually not very good. Some of them stink. (Reference the Milton Bradley game, Congo: The Movie, which is so incredibly bad that it is actually worse than the horrible film it was based on.) Too many of them are simply re-themed classics: Madagascar Sorry, Lord of the Rings Risk, Star Wars Monopoly. There are some exceptions - I'm a big fan of four of the Star Wars games:
  • The Queen's Gambit - a big box full of plastic minis & a three-tier board system that takes most of a six foot table to set up... and, amazingly, a really good game is in there with all that stuff.
  • Epic Duels - a card-based multi-player combat system that is loaded with Star Wars flavor... you can choose to mix Episodes & characters!
  • Clash of the Lightsabers - a two player dueling card game with nifty pewter figs and interesting gameplay.
  • Attacktix - miniatures combat with not-so-minature figures... with spring-loaded guns & lightsabers!
But, I really wasn't intending to write about Star Wars... I wanted to write about one of Braeden's favorite games. (For those of you who don't pay good attention to the rest of the blog, Braeden is my 4.5 year old son.)

Currently, that's Small Soldiers Big Battle, which ties in (of course) with the film, Small Soldiers. (Note: I haven't seen Small Soldiers - any capsule reviews in the comments section of the blog would be highly appreciated.) We played 7 times this weekend - and Braeden won five of them. Any surprise that this is his favorite game?

Anyway, it's a simple "capture the flag" game using plastic minatures (about 3-4 inches tall). The pieces are copies of the characters from the film - meaning you have one player using army men and another player using monsters. On your turn you spin the spinner, which can result in:

  • moving a character 1-4 hexes (in the 'advanced' rules, you can split your move between pieces)
  • drawing a card (most of which are power-ups... which add speed or strength to a character)
  • recruit a character from the toy store (the toy store backdrop is where "killed" characters go)
  • If you are adjacent to an enemy figure, you can fight. Both players roll a die, apply modifiers, and the highest number wins. Repeat this process until one player manages to land on the opposing flag.

There are some wrinkles:

  • recruited characters MUST appear on a certain space - if that space is blocked by another piece (friendly or otherwise), you can't recruit
  • one of the cards (well, there are two of them) is a Globotech Recall - I'm not sure where it fits thematically, but it means you get to throw one opposing figure into the toy store
  • a number of cards in the deck allow you to use the catapult - which is a skateboard with a flyswatter that throws a golf ball with bolts in it... any figures which are knocked over are put in the toy store
  • powerups are good only until the next battle you're in - once you fight (win or lose), the powerup goes on the discard pile

And that's pretty much it. The box says it's for 5 years & up, but Braeden has no problem handling the game, and he's only four. (Granted, Braeden has been playing games since he was 2, so your mileage may vary.)

So why would I write about this game, instead of jumping on the "Gosh, isn't Caylus the coolest thing since sliced bread?" bandwagon?

  • It's actually fun to play - it's not going to eclipse Memoir '44 as my favorite battle game any time soon, but I don't hate playing it (as opposed to Candyland or Adopt a Dog)
  • there is some room for intelligent decisions - who do I give powerups to? should I rush foward or wait for the other player to come to me? how do I use what I've got to win?
  • it's great training for other games - as far as I can remember, this is Braeden's first hex-based game. It's also doing a great job of teaching him die roll modifiers and tactical movement. (Since there aren't any ZOC's, we don't have to worry about that quite yet. Of course, since he's unlikely to ever play 70's/80's AH and SPI games, he may NEVER figure out that ZOC means Zone of Control.)
  • I haven't played Caylus, which makes lavishing praise on it difficult
A final note: whoever wrote the description on the Geek doesn't have children and/or has some major extra time on his hands - why in the world would you PAINT these figures? In the words of Pepe the King Prawn, "Un-bee-leev-able."


Dean said...

Mark, I'd love to hear more about your gaming with your son. I have a 4 year old, and I hate to play Candy Land. I let him help me punch out my new Puerto Rico game last night, and occasionally I'll let him play with my icehouse pieces, making up games along the way, but I'd love to know what games have worked well with yours, and what I should check out for mine.

Anonymous said...

My kids, 5 & 7, like Small Soliers a lot too. Fortunately Candy Land has slipped to the bottom of the stack and hasn't been out in a while, although my daughter (5) and I worked up some "Ultimate Candy Land" rules which involved having a hand of cards, running a couple men at a time, landing on people and sending them back, etc. Helped a little, but not much. Sorry is still popular with the kids, but they've enjoyed simplified versions of heroclix (we don't use all the rules), daytona 500 (no auction, just deal everyting out and play), max, the cooperative cat game is pretty good. Those are off the top of my head. The Geek is closed now or I could give you a few more. Most games that you enjoy that call for an age of 8+ can be simplified a bit to bring the kids into the fold.

Anonymous said...

In case you didn't know, Attacktix Series 2 figures are out. Picked up a couple packs at Target last night. Scored a Boba Fett in the first pack. Star Wars goodness. We picked up a Republic Gunship several weeks ago as well.

GodFix said...

This doesn't have ANYTHING to do with this game, but it's about a game and the translation of the instructions.