Orphan Black the Card Game Review

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Orphan Black the Card Game is a game by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, published by IDW Games. It is for 3-6 players. In this game, based on the television series on BBC America, players will be assigned secretly to one of the three factions as they work towards a secret agenda of influencing the clones and controlling their destiny. The player that can best sway the most clones to their faction and figure out what faction the other players are working for to score the most points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the 3 factions are set up to form a triangle in the middle of the play area with the Neolutionists having the Proletheans to their left and the Black to their right. Next the active player is chosen and the Influence deck is shuffled together. Each player is then dealt out 3 cards from this deck to form their starting hand. The remaining cards are placed face down near the middle of the play area. The scoreboard and the faction scoring tokens are placed to one side of the play area. Each player then receives a set of matching player score tokens, player mat and 6 accusation cards that contain the same color and symbol. The Goal cards are separated by faction and then shuffled. One card from each faction deck is discarded to the box facedown. The remaining cards are shuffled together and one card is dealt facedown to each player. Each player’s Goal and Accusation cards are placed in the respective areas beneath their player mat. A number of target clones are drawn equal to the number of players. Beginning with the active player, each player draws a clone card and then places it directly below the matching faction card. The player then draws 2 influence cards and looks at them secretly. They then place 1 card facedown on one side of the clone and one on the other side faceup. If a clone card is drawn that belongs to a previously drawn faction, it is placed below the already placed card of that faction. Influence cards are then drawn and placed exactly as described above. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will execute a series of actions in order. The first action is to play a character card. This action is optional. To perform this action the player simply reveals the character card from their hand and performs the power described on the card. The card is then discarded, unless otherwise specified.

The next action is to play an influence card. To do this the player takes one of the influence cards from their hand and places it on either side of a clone card facedown so that it makes a row, making it easy to see how many cards are on each side of the clone card. Character cards played facedown like this do not activate their abilities. They count as a 0 valued influence card. Once the card is placed, the clone’s ability is activated allowing the player to perform the action on the clone card. If this causes a character card to be flipped faceup, then the ability on the card is ignored and the card counts as a 0 valued influence card just like was stated earlier.

The third action is to resolve and score any clone that has a total of 6 influence cards next to it. To do this, the player checks to see if there are a total of 6 cards combined to the left and right of a clone card. If so, the clone is resolved by first turning all the cards facedown. The cards are gathered up on each side and shuffled. The cards are then flipped face up on the side that they were gathered from. The other side is then done the same way. The values on the cards are then added up for each side. If the difference between the 2 sides is more than the threshold number on the clone card, then the clone is placed facedown beneath the higher sides faction as depicted on the bottom of the clone card. If the difference is less than the threshold number or equal to it, the clone card remains in it’s original faction and is placed beneath it’s faction card. The clone card is then scored. The player does this by checking the scoring indicators on the clone card for the faction that the clone ends up in. The faction marker is then moved up as many points as there are faction logos that correspond with the faction that scored it. This is then repeated for any other clone cards that meet the resolving and scoring requirements. The influence cards that were attached to the resolved clone are discarded face up. The player then draws a new clone from the draw pile and places it as described in the setup, along with 2 new influence cards.

The next action is to make accusations. This action is optional too. To do this the player takes the corresponding accusation card that matches the faction that they believe the player to be working for and places the card facedown above the accused player’s player mat next to the highest available point value.

The final action that the player will do is to draw influence cards to refill their hand back to 3 cards. Play then passes to the left.

All this continues until the final clone has been resolved and scored. Final scoring then takes place. At this time players reveal their goal card. If 2 players were working for the same faction, that faction’s score is halved, sliding their faction token to the corresponding number. Player then place their scoring tokens on the space where their faction token is located. Starting with the player that resolved the last clone, their accusation cards are resolved. This is done by flipping over the first accusation card next to the 3 points space. If the player was correct they receive the 3 points and their scoring token is advanced 3 spaces on the score board. If not, then that card is placed to the side and all the remaining accusation cards are slid over to the left. The remaining accusation cards on the player’s mat, are flipped one at a time with points awarded for correct accusations. The player that was accused incorrectly scores 1 point for each incorrect accusation. This process continues clockwise with each player’s accusations being resolved and scored. Once this is completed, targets are resolved. This is done by flipping over all the clone cards under each faction card. Players then score 2 points for each target that wound up in their faction. Each player then checks the scoreboard and the player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has some really cool looking pieces, especially if you’re a fan of the show. First off there are the many different types of cards. The artwork for each is pretty darn cool. The faction cards and accusation cards all have really cool designs, as do the matching faction and player score tokens. I’m assuming that some of these are Greek letters. Of course having never been in a fraternity or dealt with the symbols, I couldn’t say for sure. That same design that’s on the player score tokens are also imprinted in a large way on the matching player mat. The player mats, like the scoreboard are a bit thin but they get the job done. Speaking of the scoreboard. I know that it’s there just to keep track of points but it’s quite bland and plain looking. It would have been nice if there’d been a little more artistic design incorporated into it. Going back to the cards once more, let me say that I love the still shot photos for the goal, clone and character cards. As a fan of the show, I love seeing these actors and actresses integrated into the design of the game. These photos kind of remind me of the game, The Last Night On Earth, and how they used still shot photos for their character cards. Some people may not like this style but for me, I do. It pulls me a bit more into the game itself. For me, I like the look and feel of the game.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is very nice looking and is designed really well. I love the artistic cover and the finish is quite nice too. There are plenty of pictures and examples of gameplay throughout the book. I really like the look and feel of the book. There’s also a great appendix that shows the various clones and characters and explains how each one’s special ability works. It’s a great addition to the rules and helps clarify things quite a bit. That said, I did have a few problems understanding exactly what to do the first read through. Some of the things that you need to understand or know to do aren’t explained thoroughly or aren’t explained until later in the rules. It’s a bit difficult to begin with but once you’ve completely read through everything, it starts to make sense. I really feel that things could have been better explained or even laid out better to help the reader understand the concepts better. In any event, it’s something to be aware of. Other than that though, the rulebook looks great.
7 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a fun game that’s really quite unlike anything that I’ve played before. It mixes in several different mechanics from deduction and hidden roles to bluffing, special abilities and hand management. There’s really quite a lot to it. That said, it’s not a very difficult game to play. Yes there is a fair bit of strategy involved in knowing when to tip the scales in your favor on a particular clone or when to place that final influence card without revealing your faction. It’s a very tight line that you have to walk. Of course you’ll need to use those character and clone abilities to ferret out which faction your opponents are working for. Like I said, it’s a very unique balancing act that you’ll be utilizing. As for the theme, I’m a big fan of the show and was overjoyed that there was a game for it. Unfortunately it didn’t completely scratch that itch that I wanted it to. Granted the game is fun and clever, it’s just that it’s not exactly what I wanted it to be. While the deduction and hidden roles aspect lend itself to the them rather well, the rest of it feels a bit off. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting it to be, but this wasn’t it. That’s not to say that this is a bad game, far from it. The game is actually quite fun. It’s just that fans of the show that pick this up wanting to explore the Orphan Black world will be midly disappointed. One good thing about the game though is that it’s fairly quick to play with most sessions lasting around 30 minutes. That makes this a great filler game. Fans of games like Mr. Jack or other deduction style games might enjoy this one. Even though it didn’t fulfill my desires for the theme, it’s still a really good game.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Orphan Black the Card Game is a very unique and innovative card game based on the Orphan Black televison show from BBC America. The game is rather short with most sessions lasting about 30 minutes. The components are really nice. I really enjoy the photo style card designs. The scoreboard is a bit plain but not really a big deal. The rulebook is a bit of a problem though with it taking a couple of read throughs to understand exactly how to play. Some things just didn’t seem to be very well detailed or explained in the proper way. Good thing is that this too isn’t a big deal. It just takes a little more reading. The game itself is really quite unusual but fun with several mechanics used in it. I really enjoy the deduction and hidden roles aspect of the game. These are the key thematic elements of the game that highlight the Orphan Black theme. Unfortunately it’s not enough that fans of the show will be satisfied with. Even though it fell a bit short of my love for the theme, the game itself is really enjoyable and fun. It’s simple enough that non-gamers should be able to play it after a bit of instruction. I would recommend this game for gamers looking for a unique and fun card game, but would encourage fans of the show to play it first. With a fairly small price tag though, this game is worth the price of admission, regardless.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out  IDW Games at their site.

http://idwgames.com/

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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