So as you know, one thing we're looking to do here at TGN Central is more in-house reviews, interviews and other articles. We've had a lot of fun with the giveaways (another one will be up soon), but today it's a game review.
Precarious @ Best has created a new, abstract-style board game called Cradle: Creator's Challenge. It's sort of chess-like, but involves dice for attacking and you can customize your figures during game creations. The group over there recently sent me a copy and I've had a chance to play a couple games, so let's get into it.
One small note: The photos below are of a pre-production copy of the game. The final look of the cards may be different.
Anyway, as I said, Cradle: Creator's Challenge is an abstract board game where you play a Creator, a god-like being who has been challenged by another Creator to come up with the greatest organism ever, pitting it against others in winner-takes-all combat. The game is broken up into two phases. Phase I is the creation of the board. Phase II is creating and battling your Creations vs. your opponent's.
So in Phase I, as I mentioned, you make the game board. Yes. Setting up the board for play is actually part of the game. Both you and your opponent have a stack of location cards. They are split up into 3 types: mountains, plains and seas. Each also has so many "dots" associated with them, representing how desirable that stretch of land is. To start, you shuffle your location cards and draw three. You then take turns placing a location card on the table. Each time you place one, you overlap another tile by 1 or 2 squares and you must play a card that has either 1 more or 1 less dots than the card you covered. After you play a card, you draw one, so your hand size is back to 3. Play goes back and forth until both players have played 6 cards. Your world (called the Flask) is now created. The next step is placing your Origin Points. They're where your Creations start out next to in the world. The defense of the Origin Point is equal to the number of dots on the location square it's placed. Best bet is to put it on a 3, as that gives you the best defense. Phase I is now complete.
Phase II begins with making your Creations. You get 3 and each one gets both a Body and a Soul card. Body cards dictate how your Creation moves (what directions and how many squares). Soul cards decide how much health your Creation has. Both also have special abilities that help your creation in certain types of terrain or other general bonuses. You can pair these up in any way you like, giving you lots of options for your Creations. When you've decided on your Creation's stats, you place them on the board. After that, you and your opponents take turns activating Creations in an attempt to outmaneuver and destroy your enemy. Attacking is rather simple. You start with 1d6 and then add any bonus dice given to you by your special abilities (up to a maximum of 3). You roll and for every 4+ you get a success. Each success against an enemy Creation deals 1 point of damage. When your Creation has no damage points left, it's removed from the table. You can also destroy enemy Origin Points. Attacks against them work a little different. For them, you have to make an attack and roll as many successes as dots the Origin Point is on (see how important those dots are now?) and one of your dice has to be a 6 (which is a critical success. It still does the same amount of damage, but can trigger other special abilities).
The last little twist are the Event cards. Each Creation has one attached to them. These are either a buff or debuff that comes from an Event Deck that's set off to the side. When the card takes effect, you discard it and draw the top card of the Event deck to replace it on that Creation. The discarded one goes to the bottom of the Event deck.
Last Creator with either Creations or Origin Points wins. So you can win by taking out both the Origin Points or all 3 of the enemy Creations.
So that's a general overview of Cradle: Creator's Challenge. But what do I personally think about the game?
Honestly, I really enjoy it. I really like how board creation is an actual part of the game. There can be real strategy to putting certain land types in certain areas and then making your Creations to best fit the environment you make. Usually the board is just a static thing or something there may be a few choices for in a game, but in this game, each one will be different as you'll almost never make the same board twice.
As for game play, the way Creations move and how they attack is simple to learn but can be rather complex during the game. You can set up areas where you trap an enemy in a corner, or get to a spot where you can attack them but they can't attack you, or where you get a bonus to your attack from where you are. Placement is very vital. My first couple games, I got my butt handed to me because my opponent was better-able to utilize the special abilities on his Creation's cards. I found myself rolling only 1 die or maybe 2, where he was almost always rolling 3 dice for his attacks. There's a lot of room for depth of strategy in this game.
I can't really speak for materials used, since as I'd mentioned at the top, I got a pre-production set. It'd be really unfair to judge them on that, so I won't.
There are a few things that I wasn't entirely a fan of, though, but they were fairly minor. One was that once a player gets down a Creation to their opponent, it can be sometimes hard to come back. In one game, I lost a creation on my opponent's first turn (I hadn't even gone yet) and from there on out, it was a struggle to stay in the game (it didn't help that my opponent's average on 1d6 was 5, but such is life sometimes). There were also some ambiguities in the rulebook with how some rules are written. We had to fudge a few things in a couple situations, since we weren't 100% sure what the intent was. I also think that the board could stand to be bigger. The rulebook recommends 6 tile places each player. I might try 10, as movement limits for Creations were high enough that most of the time, they could get where they wanted to go with no problem.
Cradle: Creator's Challenge is a game in its infancy, really. I see a LOT of potential for it, though. I see potential for adding rules for more players added to the game. I see potential for lots of more Body and Soul types. I see lots of potential for new Event cards. I see a LOT where this game can grow and expand. Don't get me wrong, as it is, it's a fun, little game. You can take it out and play it in 15min if you've got two players who know what they're doing. As I mentioned, there's a lot of room for depth of strategy when playing.
They are running a Kickstarter, which doesn't look like it'll make it, but I do hope this game sees widespread play in the future. If you get a chance, I really suggest you check it out.