As if the sheer, overwhelming power of my writing wasn’t enough to leave you punch-drunk, staggering across the page with confusion, this week I’m going to serve up short reviews of two totally unrelated expansions. First is Power Up for the acclaimed family game of giant monster ultraviolence, King of Tokyo. Second is the Slave I ship for the acclaimed geek’s game of small fighter ultraviolence, X-Wing. So if you own one and not the other, please do skip accordingly.
Power Up brings to King of Tokyo exactly the one thing that I always felt was missing: a colossal panda. Well, actually that’s not what I had down as absent, but there does seem to be one in the box, threatening you with a vast cane of bamboo as you open the lid. Which makes you appreciate the thoroughness of the mad scientist who not only bred a gargantuan panda, but thought to breed some gargantuan bamboo to feed it. And give it a prop to smash cities with, obviously.
A seventh cardboard figure means you can now play the game with seven players. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, mind.
Anyway the thing I actually thought was missing is underneath the panda: a way of personalising all the monsters (including the new panda) so that they play differently. This consists of a deck of ten power up cards per monster. Each time the controlling player rolls three hearts they get to take one of these cards which usefully gives some value to heart rolls by players who can’t normally use them due to being in rude health, or in Tokyo.
The abilities on the cards can be one-shot or permanent and follow a distinct theme. So Alienoid gets lots of abilities related to the main deck in the game, while my beloved Cyberbunny has a number of powers related to energy cubes.
It’s exactly what was needed in terms of filling a gap and managing to do so without adding any real weight to the simple rules that were such a big part of the base game’s appeal. Unfortunately the addition of lots more cards and powers to track in the game seems to phase more casual players, although it won’t bother the hardcore crowd at all.
There are some issues with the abilities themselves. Most are fine and add to the charm and mayhem of the game. But some have the regrettable consequence of slowing down the game, or prolonging it past its welcome point, either by offering easy healing or nerfing the victory points of other monsters. How much this becomes an issue depends on what cards come out and how many you’ve got playing. Another reason to avoid seven people round the table.
So in conclusion, Power Up works brilliantly for the hobby gamer crowd and smaller player numbers. If you’re using it as a family game, or a mass participation game then not so much. While I’ve had a lot of fun with it, I can’t help feeling it’s a bit of a missed opportunity. A bit more imagination and variety in the card effects and it could have been essential.
On then to the Slave I ship for the X-Wing miniatures game. I originally passed on this because I’ve never liked the aesthetics of the ship design. Having now seen, unboxed and lovingly cradled the miniature itself I still don’t like the aesthetics of the ship design. The deliberately patchy paint job doesn’t help either. It looks like a badly maltreated hairdryer.
Whatever it looks like, what it actually is on the game table is a much-needed tank. One of the things that disappointed me about the other wave 2 releases for X-Wing is how they didn’t really add anything new to the game mechanically or tactically. Turns out that Slave I is the ship that does.
What it allows you to do is build very powerful fire platforms, something that’s been lacking in the game thus far. Tool up a heavy laser cannon for a big 4-dice attack and add gunner which permits a primary weapon attack if the secondary fails. Although since a 4-dice attack is unlikely to miss, you may not want the safety net. They’re expensive additions - 12 points in all - but the result can be devastating volleys of accurate fire.
It’s about time the Empire got something like this. All those niggling little TIE fighters have their charm but it felt like the Dark Side really ought to have something big, bad and nasty that ate X-Wings for breakfast. Now it has. And you get at least one big-name character too, the intergalactic bounty hunter Boba Fett.
There’s another surprise in the package in the form of a cool scenario which allows the Rebels to build a super-ship which breaks several of the usual modification rules, and then tasks the Empire with destroying it to win the game. I haven’t bothered that much with the scenarios in the game thus far, most of which add mechanical detail but not great interest. This is different: putting together overpowered builds is fun, as is the tension created by having a single success or fail win condition.
It seems that the least lovable ship in wave 2 is actually the best. Highly recommended to anyone who plays X-Wing regularly, and can stand to have the repulsive-looking thing on display in front of their friends.
And that’s a wrap. Stay tuned for next time, when I shall attempt to review the entire back-catalogue of West End Games, one line per game, whilst drinking Margaritas through a straw and balancing on a unicycle.