Cross Hares: Testing Ground
1A Games, best known for its reboot of the World War II tactical game Tide of Iron, now offers a new game that it describes as “A classic trail based strategy game with modern day twists.”
Cross Hares: Testing Ground takes players to a fantastical world of nuclear fallout, bizarre events and … bunny rabbits. Two to four players take on the roles of rabbit heroes that possess different abilities and characteristics. A bunny may be a scientist, a soldier, a hunter or more, and each has different items and skills it can upgrade to in the game. Players may use either a cardboard standee or a plastic mini for their character on the board.
Players start in one of four different starting zones that connect them to the track. Some are longer than others but have potential for good things to happen along the way. Players roll dice and move that number of spaces along the track. The D6 also has a “?” research symbol that, if rolled, allows players to roll a research dice. Players may gain certain advantages by rolling the research dice, including the chance to go on an adventure. During an adventure a card is consulted that allows players to make choices and roll dice for more abilities or penalties.
Different spaces contain various pitfalls and possibilities. Some spaces require players to draw a card from the Strong Hold deck, which often provides advantages and bonuses. Other spaces require players to draw from the Testing Ground deck, which includes nasty surprises or enemies looking that must be defeated. Some spaces require players to draw from the Event deck in which the current event card must be consulted and resolved. Other spaces give players more skill and item tokens for their player board, which allow them to select upgrades.
When players land on the same space they may attack, in which case the highest die roll on a standard D6 wins. Players may use their skills, items and cards for bonuses, however, mitigating poor dice rolls. The goal of the game is to reach the factory at the end of the track and defeat it with a dice roll.
The artwork and story for Cross Hares is really fun, albeit dark and eerie. Designer Jesse Labbé is also the artist, something that one rarely sees in board games. The rulebook is also fun and easy to read.
The problem with Cross Hares, however, is that it offers players few choices of real significance in the game. Virtually everything in this game revolves around dice rolls, with little in the way of meaningful player engagement. The Adventures, while generally fun, come up too rarely, and really they too can be too reliant on dice rolls. The game feels very much like a traditional roll-and-move game like Candyland or Chutes & Ladders, with very little in the way of innovation.
Experienced players will be turned off by the lack of meaningful choices, while the game is perhaps too dark for young children. Therefore, it is hard to understand just who the intended audience for Cross Hares: Testing Ground is.
Cross Hares: Testing Ground is recommended for ages 10 and up and plays in about an hour.
Spells of Doom
In Spells of Doom, a tactical skirmish game from Greece-based Drawlab Entertainment, two to four players take on the roles of great, magical heroes as they fight for control of a mythical kingdom. Each player picks one of four epic heroes that represent Earth, Fire, Nature and Death. The game takes place over the course of three rounds, each with six turns.
Heroes are set up on the board, along with a number of magic shrines, and each takes five cards from their unique deck into their hand. On a player's turn, he or she may move the hero up to its speed value, may attack an enemy, may play cards, may spend mana — the game's currency — to upgrade hero abilities like attack or armor, or may spend mana to capture a magic shrine.
Some cards have special abilities like increasing a hero's speed, awarding a hero more mana, spawning creatures like knights, dragons and bears, and allowing special attacks. Each player has a Spells of Doom attack, a special attack card that can really deal damage to enemies. Players can also build defense towers to attack other players or mage towers to heal friendly units.
Scoring takes place at the end of the 6th, 12th, and 18th turns, and players add up how many magic shrines they possess and score that number of victory points. Players also gain four victory points for killing enemy heroes, though those heroes can respawn. At the end of the 18th turn, the player with the most victory points wins the game. In four-player games, players work as teams and share their scores.
Though the rulebook is a bit confusing at times, Spells of Doom is a quick and engaging tactical skirmish game. The game really shines with its unique and fun cards that allow for asymmetrical play, and in the way players must budget and use their mana wisely. How players use their cards and mana is just as important as movement and attacks on the board, and really draws players in.
Spells of Doom is recommended for ages 12 and up and plays in about an hour.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org