Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Time to mooooove on to baaaaaatle with Livestock Uprising

Not since Animal Farm has there been this much animosity in the barnyard.  Livestock Uprising comes to us from Dog Might LLC out of the small town of Pinckney, Michigan.  Coming from small town Michigan myself, watching animals on the farm play, fight and destroy their homes is a rather natural concept.  In a theatrical twist to real life, whenever I play this game it brings back memories of childhood.  Now, its time to moove on to baaatle…let’s pork up and get this clucking review started!

For first impressions, this box is beautiful.  Bright colors and a wonderfully realistic art style cover the outside.  I love the visuals of this game.  The troop and player cards, as well as the player pieces, have this same art.  Overall, I feel this game deserves an honorable mention for art in the least.  I really enjoyed looking at the game as much as I did playing it.

On the box, this 2-4 player game has an age rating of 14+ and an average game time of 60-120 minutes.  On playing this with my family, my 10 & 12yo daughters had no issues picking up the concept of this game, and my 9yo nephew won his first game against his 13yo brother, father and myself.  The game time is rather accurate though.  A four player game will last at least 90 minutes, and longer depending on how competitive your group is.  Out of all the different player counts, four people will give you the best feel for the game’s concept and what I feel is the most enjoyable experience.  Three players can be just as engaging, as long as the group is competitive.  With just two players, this game can feel redundant and mundane, and the latter half of the game can be rather one-sided.

 So, how do get this game going?  First, you get to choose from four different factions:
  •  Chickens – “Clucking Fast”
  • Pigs – “ He Who Harvests, Wins”
  • Goats – “First Into Baaaattle”                                    
  • Cows – “We Will Not Be Mooved”

Each faction has a corresponding faction board, barn tile, 3 General cards (1, 2 & 3 Stars), 3 matching army tokens (1, 2, & 3 Stars), 3 Special Forces cards, and a super army token used for the endgame scenario.

The faction board uses both sides; one consisting of the cost to marshal troops and Special Forces for the first part of the game, and the other used to record the attach and defense power of your super army in the endgame.  The cost to marshal troops and Special Forces is the same for all factions. 

The General cards have no bearing on attack or defense.  Each General can control up to five troops, including Special Forces.  The troop cards are placed under each General card to indicate which troops that General controls.  The stars on the general cards are just to help with identifying which armies on the board control which troops.

The Special Forces cards allow different benefits for their respective faction.  A chicken General that controls a Special Forces card can move one extra tile each turn.  A pig General that controls a Special Forces card gains the ability to harvest extra resources depending on which Special Forces troop he has in his army.  The goat’s Special Forces have a higher than average attack power, while the cow’s Special Forces have a higher defense. 

I found that goats against cows are a very even game. Having an extra move for a chicken General doesn’t seem to add much of an advantage, except for escaping other players that seem to be focused on causing casualties. But if you add in the pigs and their ability to harvest twice as many resources in the first part of the game, you have a major advantage over the other factions.  Out side of a four-player game, where the other three factions can gang up, having the pigs in a game can cause a bit of an imbalance.

Also included in the box are:
  • Four six-sided Dice
  • 18 Command Cards – Each player receives 3 at the start of the game
  • 8 Battle Plan Cards – Each player receives 1 card once they form their Super Army
  • 60 Board Tiles – Each tile has either nothing, a harvestable resource, or an obstacle that prevents a player from moving onto that tile
  • 125 Resource Tokens – 25 of each Grass, Hay, Corn, Carrot, and Apple

The board setup is one of the aspects of this game I absolutely love.  I feel any game that can have a completely different setup every time it is played is one that is worth investing in.  Livestock Uprising is one of those games that I feel has re-playable potential.  You start with sorting the tiles by the number listed on the back and using the ones equal to and less than the player count.  A base grid is made, depending on player count, by randomly selecting facedown tiles.  Then barn tiles are placed adjacent to one of the outside edges of the starting grid.  The barns can be placed adjacent to each other, for a competitive twist.  Then the rest of the board is randomly filled in to its respective player size forming a square.  Honorable mention for the random board every game, and an extra special mention for the use of tiles.  I love open-ended tile boards, because most allow for altering of the designed shape. 

I’ve experimented with different styles, elongated, diamond, zigzag, etc, and I’ve found that each time you change the board shape, you open up the game to new tactics and a new level of play.  I feel that this could be a feature of the game, allowing for players to come up with their own unique board that they find most enjoyable.

I’m glad the designers added the command and battle plan cards.  With actions like allowing you to remove one troop from any army, stealing a bloodthirsty llama from an opponent’s army, or eliminating all sheep in all armies, they create a wonderful amount of chaos.  Some of the cards are really great and others are only good in certain scenarios, but they always lead to those wonderful player grudges we all love so much.  The cards are fun, but not complete game changers.  I’ve played games where I completely forgot about the command cards, and still came out on top.  I just really enjoy being able to slide that knife in the back and give it a little twist.

Once the board is setup, players place all three Generals on their barn and play starts with the action phase.  There are two things you can do on your action phase, move and/or attack.  During this phase, you’re trying to land on the resource tiles you need, so you can harvest them in the next phase.  Only one General can occupy a tile at a time, so things can get pretty hairy when separate factions are aiming for the same resources.  Each General can move up to two squares in any direction, and if they end on an occupied tile, baaattle starts.

When you attaaack another General (sorry for the bad puns, I’ll try to hold baaack the rest of the review), you add up the total attack power of the troops garrisoned under the attacking General and the total defense power of the defending General.  Players then roll a die to add to their attack or defense power, highest number wins.  I’m glad they added an element of luck to the battle.  I’m not a huge fan of games based solely on number count.  I always rooted for the underdog to succeed.  If a player loses the battle, they must discard one troop for that General’s army. 

After you have moved your Generals and finished chasing your friends around the barn yard, you get to harvest the items you land on, so long as you have troops that allow that General to harvest those resources.  The Generals alone can only harvest grass.  With grass you can buy sacrificial sheep, who allow the General that controls them to harvest hay.  Once you have some hay, you can marshal dynamite donkeys, which allow the General to harvest hay and corn.  This procession of troops and harvesting items carries out until you have a berzerker horses that allows that General to harvest hay, corn, carrots, and apples, and then you can marshal the ornery oxen, the most powerful troop in the game.

With each General only being able to garrison up to five troops, battling and losing becomes a strategic plan to remove the lesser troops, like the sacrificial sheep, from your garrison to obtain higher valued cards like the oxen.  Once you feel you have enough troops, your Generals need to make it back to your barn to form the super army.  This starts the end game scenario. 

Once a player has all three generals on their barn, and declares that they are forming a super army, they flip their faction board over and add up the defense and attack points of all troops they control.  Super armies roll two dice for attack and defense, as well as cause two casualties when they succeed.  If only one player has a super army, the rest are pretty much doomed.  It forces everyone else to form his or her super armies, and enter the end game scenario.  Players discard their unused resources, and remove their general cards.  They also draw one battle plan card to add to their command cards.

In the three and four player game, two super armies may join forces when attacking another player.  I think this is a great addition to the battle rules.  I also like to play this rule throughout the game.  I feel it allows for people to form alliances early on and for more strategic planning and backstabbing in the end.  But it is necessary for the underdogs to come out on top in the higher player counts. 

I once politiced my daughters into a grudge when I was losing.  They had it out for me and I wasn’t ready to call it quits.  I pointed out that I could add my attack power to theirs whey they attacked each other, bettering their odds at defeating the other.  I ultimately ran them both into lapse until I was strong enough to emerge as the winner. 

In just a two-player game, the end scenario becomes one-sided and the loosing player can feel helpless for several rounds until defeat.  It reminded me of those days playing Monopoly, when other player(s) had multiple houses and hotels, and your just there, cruising around the board loosing everything turn after turn.  If one player has an attack and defense of 23 and 26 respectfully and the only other player has an attack and defense of 12 and 14, there is no hope for the underdog and the last few rounds play out with loss after loss, and can make a person not want to play again.

Play continues until only one faction comes out on top.  Continuous chasing and battling is about a third of the game, and can be redundant at times.  With the end game “duel to the death” aspect, the game gets a 5/10 for the unevenness of the latter parts.  If you have a competitive group, this is a great game to add that fuel to the fire.  It’s better for the group of college friends than the family.
Overall, I feel this is a great introductory game for familiarizing kids and adults with the strategic gaming world.  You have many choices that offer a simple yet in-depth mechanism.  Outside of the one-sidedness of the end game, this scores an 8/10 for simplicity, art, and play.  I enjoyed this game.  It’s one worth adding to your collection, especially if you’re looking for something simple to get those interested hooked on the gaming world, and also for those once a month gaming nights with old friends when you’re looking to settle the score.

John Hernandez - Twitter @thebeardedpyro

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