- 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
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
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 game…
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
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
"Real men play board games"