We are the heroes
Bit of an odd title to start off with I know, but if you have ever seen the Attack on Titan anime, it’s a translation of the last bit of the theme tune (which sounds just like Attack on Titan to me). See, you don’t just read my reviews for my thoughts on games… I like to drop the knowledge bomb at every opportunity.
If you have not seen the Attack on Titan anime, I’m not one to judge but I have to start straight off by saying that you need to have seen it before you play the game. It’s alright, it’s only 2 seasons and it’s definitely, definitely worth watching. Go on ahead, I’ll still be here when you get back.
All caught up? Good! Welcome back. I missed you.
Attack on Titan The Deckbuilding Game is my first foray into anything done by Cryptozoic Publishing. Their previous licences (most notably DC comics) just don’t tickle my pickle. I’ve always been more of a Marvel man you see and there’s only so many “Because I’m Batman” jokes I can stomach before my friends wouldn’t be my friends any more. Despite being old enough to know better, there’s always the potential for fisticuffs when people get annoying.
Attack on Titan was a very interesting and quite surprising intellectual property to turn up. Attack on Titan is such a good anime with a strong theme and storyline, it’s surprising that nobody has picked it up before. However, it does raise a million dollar question: “Does it do the show justice?”
Building something Titan-ic
I will go through this as spoiler free and without referring to in-depth parts of the show as possible, but if you have not seen the anime, I will have to give you a good idea of what it is about. Also, bear in mind, that as the name on the box suggests, Attack on Titan is at its core a Deck Building Game, and I am working on the assumption that you know how a deck building game works. If not, here’s a link to the rules to familiarise yourself with the way the game will play.
The different thing with Attack on Titan to most deckbuilders is that you have to actually move around to different sections of the wall, and you have to be outside of the wall to be able to attack a titan. Of course you have cards which enable you to do this, but I thought it was not only clever, but very, very, thematic.
The whole premise of Attack on Titan is that you (well, your character) has to defend “The Castle” (the last bastion of humanity’s royalty since the Titans have been attacking) from the roaming titular Titans. In Attack on Titan there are 3 walls separating the titans from the castle and in the game there are the same… sort of. The first 2 walls (Maria and Rose) have 2 wall cards each because they spread out in a circle outside of the castle, whereas the last wall (Sina) has only one. You win the game if you manage to defeat 4 archenemy titans and you lose if the titans kill your character or breach the castle.
You start off by randomly assigning (or choosing) a starting character which comes on an oversize card and loading their standee into the clip. You then need to place out the 5 wall cards with 2 tokens on each which represent the damage each section of the wall can take. You then fill out the wall with cards from the castle (the main draw deck) and draw your starting hand of cards.
As with any deckbuilder, you can purchase your cards from “the wall” but as well as making your deck stronger, it presents a problem, and the first fantastic thematic feature of Attack on Titan.
Titans are in the deck from the start. They’re shuffled in, and when one is drawn it automatically goes to the weakest point on the wall. This would be anywhere with a gap behind it, so if you buy lots of cards from one place one the wall, then that’s where the Titan will go. Not only that, most Titans have an Ambush ability which triggers when they’re drawn. This can vary from having to kill an ally in your hand (ejecting them from the game like John Mcenroe in a fit of red faced rage) never to be seen again, to doing damage to the wall which cannot be avoided. As I’m sure you can appreciate, that is bad news.
However, being part of the army and initiating the Attack on Titan is not all doom and gloom, you do after all have some tricks up your sleeves and some pretty epic equipment attached to your legs.
So what do you do if a Titan comes knocking on the (wall) door? Well, “normal” (and that term is used very loosely- they’re creepy looking) titans come in several sizes from 4 meters to 10 meters and have to be beaten in one go. They will all have an attack value between 2 and 5 attached to them and die assuming you can amass enough power to take them out.
Arch enemy Titans on the other hand are a different kettle of fish. Most have an ambush ability on them in the same way as a normal Titan, but it’s generally a little more devastating. But, the biggest difference is that more damage has to be done to them, and it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to do all of this in one go. The level one arch enemy (the Smiling Titan) needs 10 damage to be defeated; one of the level 4 arch enemy titans (the aptly named Colossal Titan) needs 40 damage to kill. Luckily, this damage can be accumulated over several turns, but beating an arch enemy in Attack on Titan isn’t just as simple as killing them. When you deal the killing blow, you have to draw a “Titans on Attack” card and deal with its effect straight away. Great! As if killing the damn thing wasn’t hard enough already!
Still(s) looks awesome
All of the artwork used in the game is licensed so it looks as if they have used stills for everything. To be fair to Cryptozoic, they have made good use of the money spent acquiring the license and I heard somewhere that the creators of the Attack on Titan anime are very fussy about who they let use it.
Mind you, as previously mentioned this is my first foray into this brand of deckbuilder and considering how integral to the game they are, I found the cards extremely flimsy. I have played a few cards based games recently and they’ve all been of pretty good stock, but the same can’t be said here. *SIGH* I’d best order some more sleeves…
Cards aside, the rest of the components which come with the game are really good. The card stock is sturdy and it all looks pretty life proof. That in itself made the card thing more surprising.
One last thing which really irked me about the Attack on Titan components in hindsight is really tiny. Actually, in real life it’s really tiny. You have damage counters to put onto arch enemy titans to keep track of damage between rounds which come in denominations of 10, 5 and 1. The 5 and 1 are ridiculously small. We’re talking 4 or 5 onto a 5p piece small. I will definitely have to find something to replace them with as I can see all of them ending up in the hoover sooner or later.
Swinging around Solo
Attack on Titan is one of the few games which I have ventured solo (in the interests of finding out for you good people). One thing which has been said about me since people have been old enough to make an opinion is that I am not the most subtle of folk so please allow me to let you know what I thought about playing solo…
It truly sucked.
Why did Attack on Titan suck so much solo? Well, you can get yourself another pair of characters to help you defend the walls, but they can’t actually do anything. They’re virtually human shields which you can move around to soak up damage from Titans instead of trying to take it yourself or the wall having to be damaged, but aside from this, they’re useless.
Never judge a game by its solo mode though. Playing Attack on Titan with real effectual other people is a fantastic experience. Because of the issues about making sure that the Titans come out where you want them and making sure that someone is there when they do means that player interaction is at a premium and being able to string together epic combos on Titans between 2 or more people is something intense, but rewarding; like chugging a quad-shot Mocha before work (or writing this review…*tweak*).
There’s something to be said about Attack on Titan’s learning curve too, there isn’t one. It throws you straight into the middle of the action and then spends the rest of the game spanking you and laughing in your face. I can’t say this happened in every game that I have played so far, but the difficulty can make the atmosphere tangible. It feels like you’re actually in the Attack on Titan anime, trying to save the people within the walls from the tyranny of the titans.
Attack on Titan or Lesson in boredom?
Despite the misgivings I have about the components which come with Attack on Titan, I will make no secret of the fact that I had a lot of fun playing it- with other people at least. It is one of the most thematic feeling games which I have ever played. I truly felt like I was zipping between the walls on my 3d gear, saving the city from Titans with my friends. I really felt the pressure when there was all of a sudden a 6 meter, 10 meter and arch enemy titan trying to knock the walls down with only 2 of us trying to stop them. I really felt like we were all doomed if one of the walls succumbs to the onslaught of a 30 foot beast of a… thing.
Attack on Titan is definitely a solid deck builder, but more than that it feels like a good foray into the Attack on Titan universe. It’s an opportunity to see how the other half live (in abstract terror I found) for an hour or two. I love the fact that you know in every quarter of a deck you’re going to see an arch enemy titan, but you never know exactly when that’s going to be, and if you’re going to have enough time to prepare.
So what do I think of Attack on Titan in general? Well, if you have not seen the anime then this will likely be just another deck builder with an interesting twist for you. Good, but nothing world shaking. If you have seen the anime though, then you will appreciate the finer nuances of how good, and how faithful Cryptozoic have created the Attack on Titan world and condensed it down into a card game.
I can’t give this game enough praise. I give Attack on Titan a Colossal (yes, I went there) 9 out of 10.
If you’d like to pick up your own copy you can do so here:
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.