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[Review] DareBase

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  • Tom Vasel
    As a child and teenager, my all time favorite game to play at summer camps and with my friends was capture the flag . I have so many good memories of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2005
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      As a child and teenager, my all time favorite game to play at summer
      camps and with my friends was "capture the flag". I have so many good
      memories of the game, as there was just something exhilarating about
      taking the opponent's flag, and guarding your own. DareBase (Matt
      Worden Games, 2005 - Matt Worden) simulates this to a certain degree
      in a strategic two player game. The rules of this "team tag" game are
      different than the game I played as a child, but the concept was
      similar.

      The game includes a couple of mechanics that I found very innovative,
      especially the power cubes. Gameplay takes only fifteen or twenty
      minutes, yet that twenty minutes offered enough choices and
      back-and-forth gameplay that I was very pleased with the end result.
      As with his previous game, Castle Danger, DareBase is a homemade
      production, but well worth checking into if you're looking for a two
      player game with multiple choices.

      A small game board is formed from three pieces, producing an eight by
      eleven grid of squares, representing the field that the kids are
      playing on. Three spaces on each player's side form the "jail", and
      two other spaces represent the "base" of each player. In the middle
      of the board are two squares marked with small crosses that represent
      where the flags are initially placed. On the side of the board is a
      power scale with an arrow to show which direction is stronger and
      which is weaker. Each player (coach) takes five numbered player pawns
      and five matching power cubes of their color (yellow or blue). A
      scenario is picked from the rules (for purposes of my review, we'll
      talk about the "Steady Supply" scenario), and flags are placed
      accordingly - one on each of the starting cross spaces. Three six
      sided dice are rolled and placed next to the board with the smallest
      number immediately next to the board and the other two forming a row
      after it. The blue player takes the first turn.

      On a player's turn, they use the first two dice in the row. They may
      move one pawn a number of squares equal to one of the dice results.
      For example, if I have "2" and "4" showing, I can move pawn # 2 up to
      four spaces or pawn # 4 up to two spaces. If a player has doubles,
      they can move ANY of their pieces up to the number shown on ONE of the
      dice. Players can move orthogonally or diagonally (which counts as
      two moves). When adding a player for the first time, the coach places
      it on any space in front of their own end line, counting that as the
      first space of their move. When adding a player, the coach places
      their power cube on the power scale - on the stronger side of any
      power cubes already there. This represents fresh players coming onto
      the field, having more strength then those already running around.

      A player cannot move their piece into a spot that contains an enemy
      pawn, unless their pawn's power cube is higher. If this happens, the
      "captured" player and its power cube are removed from the board and
      placed on the jail space closest to their opponent's endline, shifting
      any players that are already there. This may release a player if
      there are already three players in jail. Pawns can also be rescued
      from jail if a coach moves another player onto that spot. Freed pawns
      and their power cubes are returned to the coaches, who may bring them
      onto the board on future turns.

      Players may also remove a player from the board if they have it on
      their own endline, so that they can have it re-enter the game on
      another turn, with the power cube in a better position. If a pawn
      moves onto a space with the flag market, they may pick it up
      immediately, although they cannot drop it on the same turn. The first
      player to get two flags to their opponent's bases wins the Steady
      Supply scenario.

      After moving a pawn, the player picks up the first die, rolls it
      again, and adds it to the end of the line. The next player now uses
      the first two dice in line for their movement, etc. Once a player has
      completed the goal of their scenario, they are the winner!

      Some comments on the gameā€¦

      1.) Components: The game is packaged in a video cassette case, with
      handpainted wooden pieces, each with stenciled numbers on them. The
      flags are wooden discs, and the board is three pieces of laminated
      cardboard. They fit together to form what looks like an actual
      playing field. All of the components are handmade but are very easy
      to use, and the wooden bits are chunky and easy to move on the board.

      2.) Rules: The rules come on a fold-out sheet with six pages. An
      insert is also included which lists four scenarios to play. The rules
      are fairly easy to understand, although I did have to go back and
      check them a couple times, and we made several mistakes our first
      game. However, the game is simple to play and learn, and I've had no
      problems with it since.

      3.) Power Cubes: I really enjoyed the mechanic of the power cubes. A
      player has to constantly adjust their strategies, as new players come
      out onto the field, each stronger than previous players. This keeps
      some dead strategies from occurring - a player can't continually guard
      their base with one player, because the opponent can simply bring on a
      stronger pawn, rendering their opponent's defense worthless. This
      very simple mechanic works well in the game, and greatly increases the
      strategy. I would like to see it explored in other games - it's a
      brilliant idea.

      4.) Dice: Dice are random, but each player uses the dice in the game
      - just in different combinations. A player always has at least two
      choices each turn, and must maneuver their players as to counter their
      opponent's pawns. Yes, getting double sixes is the best possible
      choice; but your opponent will also get at least one six on their
      turn, so the luck evens out. A similar mechanic is found in Magic
      Hill, a game where players move their pawns using cards. Here, the
      dice are more random, but the playing field allows more choices. The
      dice may make DareBase sound like it's a much more random game, but
      games play out more like an abstract strategy game.

      5.) Theme: The theme in DareBase is essential to understanding why
      the pieces move in the way they do. It explains the power scale, the
      flags, and since most people have played capture the flag at one point
      in their life - the mechanics. This theme not only draws in people to
      play the game but helps them understand and adjust to it. Strip the
      theme away, and you have a pretty interesting abstract strategy game.
      However, the theme added in makes DareBase an excellent game.

      6.) Time and Fun Factor: Games are fast. Players move pieces, move
      power cubes, roll dice, repeating. This simple system offers a lot of
      choices, but games are decided fairly quickly. A player must attempt
      to complete the goals of their scenario efficiently and quickly, and
      one mistake usually gives the game to the opponent. Because the game
      is so fast, several can be played in a row, and the game is fun enough
      to encourage that. I enjoyed all four scenarios but liked Class
      Capture-the-Flag the best, simply because it was the most fun for me
      for nostalgic reasons.

      DareBase doesn't have the glitzy components of many of the games that
      I play; and it may fly under many people's radar, since I haven't
      heard any buzz about it from others. But don't overlook this fun
      little game. Castle Danger was an interesting game; but this second
      effort by Mr. Worden is an excellent one, incorporating a few clever
      mechanics into a simple game. While it may not often be noticed on my
      shelves due to unassuming packaging, it's a game I won't easily
      forget, and because of its speed of play, will probably see the table
      often.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
      www.tomvasel.com
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