The Cardboard Hoard: Review of A.E.G.I.S.
A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game is a tactical skirmish game where players face off in combat on a hex-grid map, each controlling five unique robots that are capable of combining with one another to form more advanced robots. This game has a bit of a history, so before I get into the gameplay and my thoughts on it, I'm going to give a quick overview on the story of its development to-date.
A.E.G.I.S. was originally self published by designer and artist Breeze Grigas in 2014, and then ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter with publisher Greenbrier Games in 2016. Breeze Grigas' Zephyr Workshop has now reworked that campaign, and is relaunching it this Spring, after a mutual decision to move forward without Greenbrier Games. The main change in the campaign reworking was to simplify the sale of game, having it contained in one core box, instead of two core sets, as it was during the first Kickstarter campaign. The new core box will feature all eighty robots, as well as some updated artwork and new, more colorful board artwork.
The robots of A.E.G.I.S. come in five types, one for each letter of the acronym -- Assault, Evade, Guard, Intel, and Support. Each robot type has strengths and weaknesses, some with more movement, others with more hit points, others generating more energy. Each robot is represented on a colorful tarot-sized card with all its statistics on the card. The art on the robot cards is reminiscent of Voltron and Gundam, and like those, these robots can combine to form more advanced unique robots under the right circumstances.
The robots are represented on the hex-map board with standees -- this is not a plastic miniatures game -- that show off the robot artwork, and the movement and combat is somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, with the notable exception that all of a player's movement and combat use that player's shared energy pool. So, if a player's team of robots produce 17 energy per turn, their five robots can not execute movements and attacks that surpass that number.
The robots have a myriad of special powers, from flight, to arcing attacks that shoot over obstacles, to attacks that can push or pull other robots to different hexes around the board. The robots’ attacks have varying ranges, with melee attacks requiring adjacency, and ranged attacks capable of hitting from as far away as ten spaces. There are also two different types of attacks -- one in which each die rolled is a success, and the other, typically more devastating attack, where every dice needs a success for it to succeed.
When a robot is knocked out, it no longer produces energy for its team. If a team no longer produces five energy per turn, they forfeit. Otherwise, last robot standing wins.
Once the iconography on the robot cards is understood, gameplay is quick and smooth. Which robots a player chooses to move and/or attack with creates their decision space each turn. It's a very tactical experience, as their will be melee units, long range units, units that can heal damage, etc., and how each of these are used is key. There's also the decision of when to combine robots -- one upgraded robot is not as good as two lesser robots, but they do combine to full health, so it is ideal to wait and combine two robots that are about to be destroyed. But wait too long, and one or both of them will get destroyed and the option to combine will be lost. As robots are lost, their energy production is also lost, which keeps turns moving quickly in later rounds.
Pros: The bright artwork and robot combining mechanism both do a great job of evoking the theme of the game. There is tons of variety, with 80 different unique robots that play and feel very differently. The game comes with starter robot teams to ease players into game, but players are also free to build their own teams. Plays with two, or with three in a free-for-all, or four in teams.
Cons: Combat is 100% dice based with very little mitigation, which will frustrate players that are rolling poorly. There is a great deal of iconography and keywords on the cards, which creates a learning curve. (I was told that the production copies of the game will have reference cards to aid players, but the prototype copy I had did not have this, and it caused a lot of rulebook flipping.)
A.E.G.I.S. is a solid next-step game for casual gamers, especially players of CCGs and LCGs that are familiar with "text on card" games, with enough complexity, tactics, and variety to satisfy a craving for a skirmish or dueling game, while playing in under an hour -- unlike the larger, more complex, and significantly more expensive miniatures war games.
Full disclosure: I received a preview copy of A.E.G.I.S. from the publisher, but have no financial interest in the Kickstarter they are running for the game.