Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#56: Small Soldiers Big Battle Game

Small Soldiers Big Battle Game
  • designer: uncredited
  • publisher: Milton Bradley
  • date: 1998
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.04
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $45.00 (almost new copy through Amazon seller; beat-up copies show up on eBay often)
I've written about this one before - the best short summary is "an introductory wargame for kids with awesome plastic minis & a skateboard catapult." What's not to like?!
I wanted to write about one of Braeden's favorite games...

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 miniatures (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."
It's not impossible to find, but it will take some work and/or some cash - but if you're looking to "breed" a wargaming kid, this is darn near perfect.

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