- At long last, my X-bugs order arrived from Italy this week! I cajoled Stacey
into playing a game. Here are my first impressions:
The rules are in English! Yeeha! Easy to understand. Easy to teach. A couple
of possible bits of vagueness in the descriptions of individual bugs'
special powers, but nothing major.
The theme is great. The idea is that alien insects survived the Roswell UFO
crash in 1947 and set out to take over the earth. There are two alien bug
armies: Flyborgs and Chitinians. Battling them are genetically engineered
bugs from the US and USSR, Usartropods and Sovietopters. (There is
apparently also a planned expansion of a third alien race, the Byfids, and a
Japanese army, the Samuracnids.)
The components are pretty nice quality. Reasonably thick plastic "winks."
Some assembly is required - attaching stickers to all the bits. The stickers
are nice quality - I don't think they will peel off anytime soon. The
artwork on the stickers is very good. Cartoony, funny. I particularly like
the Sovietopter Saboteur.
A tablecloth is required to play. I don't think I've ever seen that
particular requirement in a game before. Our tablecloth is probably a little
thinner than optimal, as it was difficult to get much height when jumping
our bugs. This could improve with practice, however. It also requires a
decent sized table - I don't think this will get much play at Barnes &
The basic gameplay is this. You roll three dice, which tell you which bugs
you can move this turn. (There are 6 or so different bug-types in each army,
each with different special abilities.) You move your bugs just like
tiddly-winks. Each army comes with a "squidger" that you use to plink your
winks. If you land on an opponents bug, it is eliminated (subject to some
special abilities, of course). If you land on an opponents "base," it is
flipped onto its weak side (or eliminated if it is already on its weak
side). Each army has three bases - lose them all and you lose the game. If
you land on a "resource chip," you can pick it up. Resource chips are used
to upgrade your bases.
Stacey fielded the Usartropods vs. my Flyborgs. The Flyborgs start with the
advantage of having all three of their bases start in the upgraded state.
But Stacey infiltrated quickly and got their Achilles heel early - one of
the Flyborgs' bases has to be on the upgraded side in order for any Flyborgs
to collect resource chips. She hit that base before I could collect enough
resources to upgrade it again, so for the rest of the game I would be unable
to repair any of my bases. D'oh! Meanwhile I was perfecting the ability to
land amongst a group of enemy bugs without actually landing _on_ any of
them! Fortunately for me, one of my bugs is the "Repulsor." When you roll a
Repulsor, you can either move it, or move the enemy bug that is closest to
it. I ended up using the second ability alot to keep Stacey away from my
bases. Eventually I managed to get a couple of my big bruiser bugs into
Usartropoden territory. I don't remember what they are called, but they are
two-sided (different pictures on each side of the wink). If they are lucky
enough to land on their "shielded" side, they have to be hit twice on the
same turn to be eliminated. I got pretty lucky and got a shielded one in
right close to one of Stacey's bases, with some backup from "Zealots."
Zealots are also two-sided. If they are on their "stinger" side, then any
enemy that lands on them is also eliminated. These guys together managed to
eventually take out all three bases. In the process I am quite sure I lost
more troops than I killed, but in the end, victory was mine!
Overall impressions: it was fun! Stacey is willing to play again, which is
high praise! It took a little longer than I expected (probably about 45
minutes), but I suspect that time will be cut down drastically as we get
better at controlling our jumps. (I believe the suggested time is about
twenty minutes.) I think it will also be even more fun as skills improve, or
if we get a thicker tablecloth!
David Fontes http://www.mmiusa.com/ookpik/