Sunday, August 30, 2015

ChibiMob: A Review

I was asked recently by Marc Di Stefano if he could use some quotes from me in his current kickstarter campaign. This will be the fourth time that I am quoted in a kickstarter campaign :).

He also offered to send me a copy of the game that he is kickstarting, and since it arrived yesterday I played a few more games of it (ChibiMob) with Alison last night. We first discovered this game during a design contest (probably last year?), and have played it on and off since then. We were supposed to only play one game last night, but but we ended up playing more.

I thought that I would write up a review of the game (I just backed it on Kickstarter, so this seems like a good time for a review).

Overview:

Chibi Mob is a light-weight* strategic card game with elements of drafting, hand management, action point allowance, something like deck building, and a small amount of 'take that' in the last few turns.
*This game feels like an incredibly weighty light game. There are not that many rules, but there are a lot of options for both strategic and tactical play.

My wife and I both like the game, and it plays well with two players. The guys at work like the game too, and the game plays well with more than 2 players. This means that it has seen the table quite a few times (Which is some thing that not all games get, since I like buying games so much).

The game seems to take about 10 minutes per player, and it allows for 2 to 6 players. This means that it is perfect length for two players, and isn't horribly long for 6 players. An interesting element of the game is the modularity, which allows you to tailor the game to your desired game length. If you want a longer game, just add in more packs of gangsters.

Visual Appearance:

The cards are covered in crazy chibi mobsters that are both cute and sometimes menacing. I'll let the art do the speaking:


The symbols are mostly intuitive. The money, attack, and influence symbols are fairly easy to figure out (and are the most often used ones in the game). Some of the ally abilities are a little hard to figure out just by looking at the icons, but there is a reference card for each player that deals with that.

One thing that is a little bit confusing on the first play is that there are multiple attack and money symbols based on what mob you are dealing with. There is no in-game difference between the symbols, so perhaps they should be unified, but I do understand that it is a thematic choice to have them different.

Play:

Each player gets two starting goons and the starting bosses are laid out. Players take turns either playing their goons to: hit a boss (scoring points), pay off a boss to gain a new goon (add a card to their hand), ally with a boss, (gain a permanent ability), or they "pay" their goons to pull them back into their hand (no money is lost during this action, as money isn't consumable).

Every goon in your hand can be used for one of three stats, but otherwise have no other abilities.
The cards are two sided, and have the bosses on the back of them. The goons abilities are all pretty balanced, though certain goons are really good at one thing and horrible at all others (like the ninja with 6 attack, one money, and no influence), which makes them awesome in one particular situation and horrible in the others. The inverse is true as well: there are a few goons that are really well rounded, which means that they can help in any circumstance, but just not as good as a goon that specializes.

Hitting a boss:

Hitting a boss gives you points per attack the boss had, and all you have to do is exhaust enough goon cards from your hand to match the bosses attack value. This is a great way to earn points, but interestingly enough the points are not guaranteed to count at the end of the game because the last boss in the city is considered the 'kingpin', and any bosses of the same color as him are not counted if they were hit.

The 'kingpin' rule is one of the most strategic aspects of the game, because players are able to (by careful play) deny other players of quite a few points, or assure that they do not lose their own points.

Paying off a boss:

This action gives you an extra goon by matching or beating the bosses money score. This is a great way to avoid having to pay your goons so often. Each goon is worth 1 point at the end of the game, so this is not the best way to gain points, but it does help a little.

Ally with a boss:

Probably the most interesting of the actions as this grants you a permanent ability that varies in power based on the boss allied with. These abilities range from bonus stats to the ability to take extra actions or even score differently during the endgame. Alliances are worth 2 points each, so they are a moderate source of points.

Paying your goons:

Grab all your exhausted goons back into your hand. It seems like a good strategy to try to perform this as few times as possible during the game.

Final thoughts:

This is an excellent, quick game. Don't take my word for it, though. Print it up and play it yourself. I am a firm believer that that is the best way to determine if you should support a kickstarter campaign.