Translations of video games to board games have had limited success. In fact there are only a handful of games that have done it well. Gears of War comes to mind as one and Doom as another. Most of the time though you find yourself playing something that just has the art work slapped on and isn’t much of a game. This was entirely what I was expecting when opening the Uncharted Board Game from Bandai no less.
However much to my surprise this $20 game offers a lot of fun for the minimal time investment. It also manages to retain the flavor of certain aspects of the video game. Sure there is no jumping or solving puzzles. However shooting bad guys and searching for hidden treasure are present and drive this quick paced game of survival for 2-4 players.
The game comes in a small box with a useless cardboard insert so throw it away immediately. Inside the box you’re going to find a durable and useful game board. The turn sequence and some of the rules are present right on the board. Each player is going to get 6 search tokens (24 total), 1 victory point and health token. There is also a start player token as well. All of these pieces are card board and the quality is good.
Since this is a card game you’re going to receive a lot of cards, 190 to be exact. These are standard playing card size and good quality but I will sleeve mine anyway because this game will see some extended play. The cards are divided into several categories. You have Action cards which are broken down into basic actions, normal actions and special actions. You also have adventure cards which are broken into normal and special.
Characters cards which are just used for tracking life unless you play the “advanced” game and some turn reference cards. This game draws high marks because the cards have excellent art work but it doesn’t overshadow what you need to know on a card as things like cost are easy to identify.
The rule book is the smaller size, think old pc manuals and you can be up and playing in 15 minutes. There are also two variants in the rules, one a death match and the other a co-operative but I haven’t tried these because the base game gets the job done.
My only complaint with the game, aside from the insert, is the size of the print. The rule book and for that matter some card text is incredibly small. In fact I needed to download and print the pdf of the rules in order to read them. So you old timers beware.
Game play is very straight forward. You play cards from your hand to the table in front of you. These cards represent the actions you can use. You pay for these cards by discarding other cards in your hand. You’re trying to do one of two things on your turn. Discover a treasure by placing search tokens or kill and enemy. Both of these things grant you victory points and in the case of treasures usually another bonus.
A round is broken down into three phases. Phase 1 is called the recovery phase and you simply “stand” (un-tap) cards you used last turn. Phase 2 is Action phase and this is where the game is played. During this phase you can play 2 actions and then the next player plays 2 actions. You keep doing this until everyone has passed which moves you to phase 3, the damage phase.
Lets talk about the action phase. During the action phase you have a number of options. You can use a card in front of you by tapping it. You can play a card from your hand to the table by paying it’s cost. Now you can only have 3 cards of a color on the table so if you have 3 red cards in play and want to play a better red card you can do so but need to remove one of the cards on the table.
You can discard a yellow, blue or green card from you hand to play it’s special effect. Yellow allows you to place a search marker. Blue recover a life and green lets you get 2 extra actions during the current turn.
You can attack an enemy card in play. You do this by playing red cards to build up your attack points (ap) and if your AP is equal to or higher then the enemies health you kill it. This is an all or nothing type of combat, enemies don’t retain wounds. Killing an enemy not only gains you victory points it also gets you a special action card.
Finally you can pass but once you pass you’re out of the action round. The other players continue to alternate 2 actions until they all pass. Inevitably some players are going to have longer turns then others.
In the damage phase the enemy cards will deal damage to the players characters. You simply add all the AP of the enemy cards in play and then each player has the option of discarding cards to reduce the damage by 1 per card. This may seem like you never get damaged but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll be spending cards and really protecting cards in your hand so the enemies might deal 5 damage and you have 3 cards in your hand you want to play later. Do you discard them? Sometimes you have no choice. There is a fine balance between playing cards and saving them.
The game ends when a deck runs out, there is only one surviving player or everyone is dead. Games go fast once you know how to play, you can knock them out in 30-45 minutes.
While there is nothing really innovative about Uncharted, the game is well produced. The cards and rules are easy to understand. There is a lot of thought you need to put into your turn because cards are your main resource. They allow you to attack, defend and search. Figuring out how many cards to play and when to hold some is something you will learn after you die in your first couple of games. Unlike recent games I have played, this is not a mechanical game at all and requires a good deal of strategy and reacting.
This game came really close to earning a buy it rating. In fact it was close to a Max Pix Thumbs up award. I only hesitate because people looking for more of an Uncharted game may be disappointed. Searching for treasure and killing enemies are all part of the video game. As it collecting better weapons to kill more enemies, represented here by the special action cards. However much of the video game is about story, puzzle solving and well jumping / climbing. None of that is present here. So while I wouldn’t call the theme slapped on, this game could easily of been given the Tom Raider theme and worked.
In the end for $20 you could and probably have bought a lot worse games. If you’re looking for a fast, fun and somewhat unforgiving game then Uncharted is worth at least a try. Just remember dead is dead in this game, there is no reloading from a check point.