Guards of Atlantis Review

Guards of Atlantis - Minions, MOBA, Miniatures

There are times where you make a fabulous choice and can't help but wonder how lucky you got. Sadly, sometimes there are decisions in life that come back to haunt you. Given that I'm writing a board game review and I've (somehow) got a reputation for being "a bit miserable", I'll let you figure out which way this particular decision went for me.

I'm not sure if Steve does this deliberately, but I always end up reviewing the video game conversions here in Polyhedron Collider Towers. I'm not complaining, I love both cardboard and pixel gaming, but being the paranoid type I'm convinced it's all a conspiracy on his part, that Welsh diabolic maniac. "What is all this bleating about?" you may be wondering. Well it's fluff around Guards of Atlantis, a tabletop MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) from Wolff Designa. Having played a couple of MOBAs in my time (Demigod was my favourite, although I won't claim to be any good at it) I'm familiar with the concept. Transferring the idea to tabletop was an interesting move so I was curious to see how it pans out and thus we arrive at my aforementioned decision.

Guards of Atlantis - Minions, MOBA, Miniatures

Steve and I actually got a taster of Guards of Atlantis at Expo 2017 as it looked like an interesting concept and impressive enough on the table. Each player (Guards supports up to 9 with the small expansion increasing that to 11!) controls a character and must work together on their team to push forward to seize control of the enemy stronghold as the opponents attempt to do the same to you. In the middle of the arena are minions of varying types which get in the way and slow your progress. None of this should sound too shocking if you're familiar with MOBAs; if you're not, there's probably a bunch of questions in your mind already. Bear with me, all (well, ok, maybe bits) will become clear.

As the resident Collider Dog, my eyes are a little less receptive to colour than the rest of you godlike creatures with fully operating ocular receivers. This frequently causes issues in games when I can't tell the difference between one brown lump and another (Yamatai is particularly guilty of this). This problem reared its ugly head (well, I assume it's the head, my eyes can't tell) when I see that the cards used to determine player actions are a nice shade of reddish-brown. The exact colour my eyes really have a hard time with. Over this smear of delight were placed icons that determine what the actions on the cards do; said icons were more than a little obscured due to the lack of contrast so I asked jovially "Who did your colour-blind testing?" receiving the response "We didn't colour-blind test". I was less than impressed and the lack of basic testing shows as I really struggled to choose cards quickly. In the game's defence, the initial of the colour is present in the top right of each card, but it's quite easily missed and it took Steve (who's eyes work) to point it out; oh the irony.

Guards of Atlantis - Minions, MOBA, Miniatures

On top of that, the iconography is a bit of a mess. Cards depict a combination of move distance, defence strength, attack strength and special actions. But there are two types of defence icon for the same job (you can use cards to defend attacks) which is just confusing. And coupled with the unique brown on brown colour scheme, my eyes were in a bit of a daze. Action selection is easy enough in principle (if you can see); pick what you want your hero to do (usually either move or shoot) and play continues. If you die, you go back to your start spot and the murder begins again.

The minions add a little more flavour to the proceedings, they're basically just there as cannon fodder. Although the bigger lads are basically immune to attack until the smaller ones are all killed for no adequate reason. Minions only attack each other so characters can just wander into a mosh pit without fear of reprisal, which seemed a little daft. The minions do offer bonuses to anyone nearby though, so if you're going to smack your opponent's hero, do it near your minions. The miniatures are pretty decent in terms of detail and quality, although it can be difficult to tell minions from heroes when things get busy. They'd definitely benefit from a simple ink wash to bring out the detail. 

One interesting thing that Guards does do well is the accommodation for odd numbers of players. There are two underpowered characters that, when used in unison form the same power as a single hero, but they can be split to make a more balanced 2 vs 1 sort of affair. Otherwise the game would be about as fair as entering the Hulk in a slap-fight.

Guards of Atlantis - Minions, MOBA, Miniatures

The rulebook itself isn't particularly clear; for such a simple game it makes things very difficult to understand and it took me several read-throughs to grasp that it really is as simple as "play card, do thing, pass to next player" then after four goes each, it's the next round. That's it. If your team manage to push forward enough to take the slightly different shade of green (I think it's green) from the enemy, you're one step closer to victory, but it's a hell of a slog. There's a lot of grind, which is par for the course for a MOBA, but it's not overly exciting in a board game.

Killing lots of things gets you cash which you can use to level up your character, which grants more powerful abilities. Worth having and it can make the difference having a better power than your opposite number. Problem is, once the drive to level your character up has waned, there's not much else to do other than than shoot and run. Again par for the course for a MOBA, but it feels a little slow after there's no more upgrading to do, which leads me on to the crux of the issue with Guards of Atlantis.

It's the worst kind of game to review here at Polyhedron Collider: a "functional" game. I choose that word deliberately as mechanically, it works perfectly well. It's simple enough to play, turns don't take long and learning it is easy. It accommodates a lot of folk (although we're wondering just how you can get 11 people round a table to play it...) so it could be good for conventions. And that's the downfall; it's just not very exciting. I've played it a few times now and every time I've felt that it's a bit "meh". It's like trying to buy chocolate from a vendor who wraps everything in toilet roll. It's not a painful experience, but it just makes more sense to go to another shop.

Guards of Atlantis - Minions, MOBA, Miniatures

As a MOBA, Guards of Atlantis actually does a reasonable job of replicating the mechanics of a pixel version. Sadly, it's let down by a slightly unclear rulebook, really poor choice of colours on cards and the simple fact that it's little more than a grind-fest. Dark Souls showed us that repetitive grind in a tabletop isn't fun and this offering isn't much different. If you're a big fan of MOBAs then you may take to it, but as far as board games go, Guards of Atlantis isn't exactly on my list of stuff I want to get back to the table.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment