Preview Review of Bloc By Bloc: The Insurrection Game

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Recently I was given the opportunity to play test an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game is a game by Rocket Lee and Tim Simons, published by Out of Order Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be joining a growing rebellion as it spreads across a changing city landscape. They will have to work together to occupy all the state districts in the city before the military arrives and shuts it all down if they hope to succeed. The only thing is that each faction will have a secret agenda that they will be trying to accomplish which may hinder or even work against the other factions. In this case, the only winner will be them. There’s no telling who will be the winner and who will be a statistic.

To begin, the city must first be created. This is done by sorting the districts, repressed side face up, into 3 piles based on the letter located in the corner of the tile. Each district pile is shuffled both in order and in orientation. The Manifestation cards are shuffled and then placed face down in a 5 x 5 grid. The district tiles are then placed on top of the Manifestation cards beginning with the top tile from the A pile then the top tile of the B pile and finally the top tile of the C pile. This continues in an ABC format snaking back and forth from right to left until the final tile is placed in the 5th row and on the 5th column. The Countdown board is then placed next to the city with the Countdown marker placed on the 8 nights left space. The Loot deck is shuffled and placed face down next to the Countdown board. The loot tokens and barricades are placed next to the Loot deck. The action dice and reaction die are placed next to the city within reach of all players. A riot van marker is placed in each state district’s occupation site along with 3 riot cop cubes. The Police Morale board is placed next to the City. The remaining riot cops cubes and riot van markers are placed in the staging area of the Police Morale board. The Police Morale marker is placed under Timid on the track. The Police Ops deck is shuffled and placed face down next to the Police Morale board. Each player is randomly assigned one of the four factions and is given the matching faction board, occupation tokens and blocs. Occupation tokens and blocs are placed on their locations on the faction board. Players are also given a cheat sheet and are each dealt 2 loot cards face down. The Agenda deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 1 card. The remaining cards are returned to the box facedown. Players will then choose one of their districts as their starting location, placing their Start occupation token in that district’s occupation site. They then place 2 blocs next to their start occupation token. The first faction is determined via dice roll and is given the First Faction marker. Play now begins.

The game is made up of 8 rounds. Each round consists of 1 night. Each night has 2 parts; sunset and sunrise. In the sunset sequence, each faction takes a turn consisting of several actions, ending with drawing Police Ops cards. Once a faction finishes their turn the next faction in turn order takes their turn. Once each faction has taken a turn the sunrise sequence takes place. First let me explain what happens on each faction’s turn. Each turn is broken up into 3 steps; roll action dice, faction actions and Police Ops. The first step is to roll the action dice. To do this, the player counts the number of blocs that they have currently in the city. This number will determine if the player is allowed to roll 3, 4 or 5 dice.

The next step is faction actions. First off it should be noted that players are not allowed to take an action in the city unless they have at least 1 bloc in the district where the action is taking place. There are 11 different actions in 3 separate categories. There are basic, advanced and attack actions. Attack actions may only be taken by blocs that are in a clash. A clash is when a bloc is in the same district with either riot cops or riot vans. Basic and Advanced actions are only taken by blocs that are not in a clash. Basic actions take an action die of any value to be used. The basic actions are movement, barricade district, barricade occupation and dismantle barricade. Movement makes it possible to move either 1 bloc or several blocs together in the same district, mob style, to another district by spending an action die of any value. Barricading a district, barricading an occupation or dismantling a barricade also require an action die of any value to take one of these actions. To barricade a district, a barricade is placed between two adjacent districts. As for barricading an occupation, the barricades are placed around the occupation instead of between districts. Dismantling a barricade simply returns the barricade to the pile.

To use an advanced action, an action die that is equal or greater than the difficulty of the district where the action is taking place must be used. Once the advanced action has been taken, the player must make a reaction roll. This reaction roll determines if the cops show up, a police ops card is drawn and resolved or possibly nothing happens, among other things. The advanced actions are looting, occupy a district, swap occupation or destroy occupation. Looting requires a district with a shopping center and for the player to have a bloc or blocs in that district that aren’t in a clash with the police. A loot card is drawn and a loot token placed. The first time a shopping center is looted it is sprayed with graffiti. The 2nd time, it’s burned, making it impossible to loot afterwards. To occupy a district, the player must choose a site that has at least one of their blocs present and that corresponds with their faction. They then take an occupation of their choice from their player mat and place it in the empty occupation site. Swapping an occupation is much the saw way except the player simply swaps the occupation of their choice from their mat for one of their already existing occupations. The player may also swap one of their factions for another player’s faction that is in a state or public district, as long as there are no barricades protecting it. Destroying an occupation allows the player to remove one of their occupations and return it to the game box. They may then draw loot cards equal to the difficulty of the district that it was removed from.

To use an attack action, an action die that is equal or greater than the difficulty of the district where the attack is taking place must be used. The district must contain one or more blocs that are currently in a clash with police. A reaction roll must be made for the clash. The attack actions are to defeat 1 riot cop, kick out 2 riot cops or attack a riot van. To defeat 1 riot cop, the player takes an attack action and sends the riot cop cube back to the staging area on the police morale board. To kick out 2 riot cops, the player uses the attack action to move 2 riot cop cubes to an adjacent district. If they are moved through a barricade, the barricade is destroyed. To attack a riot van, the player uses the attack action, turning the riot van onto it’s side. The second time it is attacked in the same night, it’s flipped over. The 3rd attack that night will destroy it, removing it from the game.

The third step is the Police Ops step. This is taken at the end of the player’s turn. First the player checks the police morale track to determine how many Police Ops cards are to be drawn. That number of cards is drawn one at a time, resolving each one before moving on to the next one. Usually these cards involve moving riot cops into adjacent districts. This is determined by the card and many times by the Police ID of the adjacent districts as well. Barricades will stop the movement of riot cops. One barricade will stop 1 riot cop. Two barricades will stop 2 riot cops. Three barricades will stop all riot cops from moving into that adjacent district. Riot vans, however, are not deterred by barricades.

Once all the previous steps have taken place for each player, the Sunrise portion of the round takes place. In this portion, the cops unleash their attacks to cleanse the streets. This section is broken up into a sequence of 3 steps; police repression, district liberation and the next night. First there’s the police repression. This is broken down into several steps starting with all riot vans being repaired by setting them back to their upright position. Next riot vans attack everything in the district that they’re present in. They defeat all blocs, evict the occupation and dismantle all the barricades that are protecting the evicted occupation. Once that’s done, the riot cops attack. They start by defeating blocs in the same district with them. Each riot cop defeats one bloc. From there they use any additional attacks left over to evict occupations. However, barricades can protect an occupation forcing the riot cops to dismantle it at a rate of 1 barricade per riot cop before being able to evict the occupation.

The next step in the sequence is district liberation. Liberating a district provides a lot of very important advantages and boosts to the factions. It lowers police morale, allows a manifestation card to be drawn and it lowers the difficulty of the district. To liberate a district, it must be checked to see if there are any police present in the district. If there are, the district can not be liberated. The number of blocs in the district with an occupation must be equal to or greater than twice the difficulty of the district. If this occurs, the district is liberated. All the components on top of the district are set aside. The Manifestation card is picked up and the district tile is flipped over according to the direction arrow below the Police ID. The components that were set aside are now returned to the liberated district and the Manifestation card is resolved.

The final step of the sequence is the next night. At this point, the countdown marker is moved forward 1 night on the countdown track. The First Faction marker is passed to the left and a new night is started. The game continues until one of the end game events occurs.

The game can end in several ways. The Insurrection can succeed, fail or implode. For it to succeed, the required number of state districts must be occupied by one or more factions at the end of a full night. The number varies depending on the number of players. It fails if the required number of districts are not occupied by the end of the final full night on the countdown track. It implodes if any faction has no more blocs or occupations left in the city. In this case, all factions lose the game and agendas are ignored. Once the game is over, players check to see who won and who lost based on their agenda cards. Each agenda card has 2 options which the player must compete all the tasks for one of the options to win. Each card explains what they must do to win. Some require the insurrection to succeed while others require it to fail.

It should also be noted that each faction has occupation abilities that may be used during the faction player’s turn. Three occupations are identical across all factions while two are unique to each one. These are all listed in more detail in the rulebook.

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COMPONENTS
Since this is a prototype copy, I won’t get too detailed about the parts as some things will probably change. With that said, there is absolutely a ton of stuff that comes with this game. I mean seriously. There are wooden faction blocs in 4 bright colors, as well as wooden barricades, riot cop cubes, riot vans, a police morale marker and a countdown marker. That’s just the wooden pieces, which by the way look great. Other than maybe making the faction blocs and cops into meeples, I really like the wooden pieces. Moving on, there are the large district tiles which I’m told will be on thick high quality chipboard instead of the cardboard that I got. Still, the tiles are good quality. There is also the first faction marker as well as the occupations that are colored wooden markers that have stickers on them telling what each one is. There’s also several small grey action dice and 1 normal sized white reaction dice. Their are loot tokens, faction mats for each of the 4 factions as well as the police morale board and the countdown board. These are cardboard. Finally there are the stacks of cards. There are loot cards, police ops cards, agenda cards and the large manifestation cards. I’m told that these will be full color with revised illustrations and designs that will come on high quality playing card stock. Personally, I like the shadow style artwork that’s on the cards now. They give this really cool minimalistic feel to them without overloading your senses with over the top graphics. In any event, if you read through all this, you can tell they’re not skimping on the components. There’s so much here and even in the prototype you can tell that quality will not be an issue. I’m really excited to see where they go with this one. I’m sure that the components will not disappoint.
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RULEBOOK
The rulebook, much like the components is also in prototype form. I’m told that this is pretty much the final draft so it should be pretty darn close to what will come with the game. That said, the rules look great. Every aspect of the book is laid out in such a way that it’s impossible to misunderstand anything. I found that everything was easy to read and the design is great. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. Every step and sequence of gameplay is painstakingly detailed so that everyone should be able to learn the game fairly easily. There are several really great sections in the book that highlight various aspects of the game. There’s a great section detailing the different agendas and how each one works. There’s also a detailed section on each of the occupations abilities. The rulebook even includes variants for the first game played as well as playing a 2 player game. There’s even variants for increasing or decreasing the difficulty levels and for playing cooperatively. All in all, I’m really impressed with the rulebook and found it to be well written and designed.
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GAMEPLAY
This is a really amazing game. It’s a bit of a beast though. I mean, the game devours table space. There’s so many things that have to be set out on the table. In some ways, the setup reminded me of games like Zombicide or Ghostbusters. Of course, the game plays nothing like either of those. It’s a very strategic game that is semi-cooperative. You alone can accomplish quite a bit, but you won’t be able to do everything that you need to do. You will definitely need the help of the other players to help you take out those riot vans, which incidentally are quite annoying. Barricades will be a must. You’ll find a lot of times having them up will save your bacon more often than not. Teamwork is the key to victory, however once you add in the agendas, that may go right out the window. This part of the game will give that traitor feel like in the game, Dead of Winter. There’s really a lot of choices and a lot of options for each player. AP prone players need not apply. It’s not a brain burner but there will be times when you have so many things that you want to do and too many choices to make. I really enjoy that balancing act of working together but not really knowing if I’m helping or hurting the other player. The game has a really great theme to it that really comes through, at least for me. When the sun comes up and those cops start moving in on your blocs and occupations, you will fill that tension level start rising. As I’ve mentioned earlier this game will definitely appeal to wide variety of gamers. If there was anything negative I had to say about the game, it would be the length. This is not one for the faint of heart. You will spend in excess of 2 hours playing this one. Some game sessions will even stretch into a third hour. Still, the game is great fun and is one that I enjoyed quite a bit.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game is a game that combines several different mechanics into a fully immersive and thematic world of protests and riots. The game is quite long and play times usually last over 2 hours. The theme and artistic style of the game is really great, even in prototype form. It’s quite a large game and will take up quite a bit of table space. I really enjoy the many options and choices that the game provides, however AP prone players may find it a bit daunting. Fans of games like Dead of Winter, Zombicide and Ghostbusters may enjoy the similar play styles that appear in this one. The social and political aspect of the game don’t really feel that overwhelming so if you don’t like games of that style, this one should not bother you either. I would highly recommend this game. It looks really great and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product. I feel that the designers have really thought this one out quite well. It’s definitely one worth backing on Kickstarter or picking up in retail. Color me impressed.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this game, please check out Out of Order Games at their site.

http://outofordergames.com/

You can back this now on Kickstarter by following the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1604844025/bloc-by-bloc-the-insurrection-game?ref=users

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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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