30 May 2022
Robots in…need of a service
Following on from their recent G.I. JOE and Power Rangers deckbuilders, Renegade Games have now put their stamp on the Transformers franchise, plunging fans into a one to five player clash of robots, playable both competitively and cooperatively.
In this base set, players will assume the roles of powerful Autobots, chosen from the six available in the box. Each Autobot possesses its own standee and oversized character card as well as one of the five identical starting decks begging to be expanded with all manner of Allies, Relics, and Manoeuvres. It’s also worth mentioning here that whilst there’s clearly cards evidencing the possibilities of playable Decepticons, players will have to wait for upcoming expansions.
Regardless of the chosen play mode, players’ aims are largely the same – defeat the Decepticons. At the start of the game, three Decepticon bosses will be seeded into the main deck, with their defeat triggering the end game. From here players will either share victory or tally up points to determine a singular winner.
Mustering up the strength to take on the likes of Megatron though requires the pretty standard deckbuilding fare of curating a powerful set of cards into your deck. Thankfully, Transformers Deckbuilding Game approaches the genre in a relatively non-standard fashion, boldly opting for a more dynamic alternative to the usual ‘card market’ of similar games. In its place the designers have come up with the Matrix; a central grid of facedown cards navigable by players’ Autobot standees. Consisting of several rows and columns of cards pulled from the main deck – its overall size dependant on player count – the Matrix essentially represents an ever shifting board waiting to be explored.
Despite being composed almost totally from cards, Transformers looks pretty fantastic on the table. As the central Matrix is explored and players’ decks grow, the screaming primary colours and dynamic art really comes alive – to a point where the original animated movie’s expansive synth and mammoth guitar tones begin to seep into your brain.
Furthermore, there’s some clever mechanical touches here. Constant exploration of the Matrix is incentivised through the risk of cards from the main deck being destroyed at the end of turns where none have been bought or defeated. This works as a neat timer as well as a decent thematic rendering of the Autobot’s urgent struggle.
But, as with Michael Bay’s handling of the franchise, there are some missteps here. For a deckbuilding game based on such an attractive intellectual property, it’s disappointing to see a rulebook – any game’s key point of entry – represented in such an obtuse and largely bland manner. Pages are mostly walls of text only occasionally broken up by illustrations that fail to grab attention in the way the main game does. Key rules seems to creep in and out of different sections – especially in regard to the subtle but frankly odd differences between cooperative and competitive modes – and there’s a general lack of focus. Actually learning the game required a glacially slow solo play-through fraught with flicks back and forth in the rulebook before I felt confident enough to tackle multiplayer. Sadly, even then, the actual gameplay too often descends into fiddly, circumstantial situations leaving the game feeling flat and somewhat impenetrable in regard to thematic and mechanical immersion.
Overall I’m left with the impression that Transformers Deck-Building Game was built with miscalculated mechanical ambition alongside an over-reliance on future expansions. Unfortunately, this potential need for extra content to provide a cohesive whole leaves a sour taste.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
One for the die-hard Transformers fans willing to shell out on expansions.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED G.I. JOE DECK-BUILDING GAME
A different feel but still possessing Renegade’s aesthetic polish.
Designer: Matt Hyra & Dan Blanchett
Publisher: Renegade Games
Time: 45-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 50 Starter cards
- 36 Basic cards
- 85 Main deck cards
- 6 Decepticon boss cards
- 10 Encounter cards
- 5 Reference cards
- 6 Oversized character cards
- 15 Tracking tokens
- 8 Reminder tokens
- 6 Player standees
- 40 Victory point tokens
- 50 Energon cubes
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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