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B-Sieged: Sons of the Abyss – Review

B-sieged-Board-GameB-Sieged (B-Sieged: Sons of the Abyss, to give it its full name) is a cooperative tower defence game from Cool Mini or Not. Players control heroes within the besieged town of Modhelm, who must work together to keep hordes of abyssal monsters at bay long enough for a messenger to make it out of the city with a request for aid, and back again with the reply.

What’s in the box? Not a lot of space!

As you’d expect from a Cool Mini or Not game, the B-sieged box is absolutely choc-full of stuff. There are 6 miniatures for the heroes the players control, along with dozens more for the various nasty beasties that are coming to get you. There are several large boards which depict the city itself and the surrounding fields where monsters attack from, as well as numerous decks of cards and piles of chits and tokens to represent the resources available to the heroes, and the skills they can gain.

Board-Edge-Board-GameThe biggest problem with a box this full, is getting everything in it – once you’ve punched the tokens out, there isn’t really an obvious space to store them in, and the box insert seems more of a hindrance than a help. The minis themselves are good quality, as you’d expect, but the plastic trays which hold them feel a little flimsy, and stack slightly awkwardly. The B-sieged game boards themselves are a slightly lighter grade of card than other recent CMON games like Zombicide, and they seem a bit prone to warping.

What are the Rules?

b-sieged-Resources-Board-Game

The round-by-round Events and the 4 types of Resource card are both popular targets for house-rulers

Like most games, B-Sieged comes with a rule-book, telling you how to play the game. Slightly more unusually, especially for something so new, there is also an FAQ document available on the game’s official website. The FAQ is available as a stand-alone document, or you can download an updated version of the rulebook, which incorporates the changes and clarifications. Aside from trying to shed light where some things had been unclear, the updated rules provide options to vary the difficulty level of the game, generally making things easier on the players.

The printed rulebook for B-Sieged is poor. If you buy this game, before you even play for the first time, you should download the updated rulebook. Even then, it isn’t a brilliant document: the layout is strange, things are often in hard-to-find places, and even the index isn’t that easy to find, but at least it’s functional, and it will allow you to have a go at actually playing the game.

We’re B-Sieged. What do we do?

 In a game of B-sieged, the players control 4-6 heroes who each get 3 actions per turn which they use to keep themselves alive, fend off the hordes of attacking monsters, and try to clear a path for the messenger who has been sent to call for help, and needs to get back again.

Modhelm-Board-GameModhelm, the city at the heart of B-Sieged, contains 8 buildings which players can visit to gain resources or acquire new abilities, a giant catapult which can be used to lob boulders at the advancing enemies, and walls which you can stand upon to shoot out. Most actions are available to all heroes, but each hero will also have their own special power to assist with a particular task. You need to balance your actions carefully: not only is there never enough time to do everything you wish, but only 1 hero can be in a building at a time, so wherever you end your turn will then be blocked off for the rest of the heroes. Depending on the enemies in play, ending the round in the wrong place can also lead to your heroes being damaged or even killed.

Early each round, the game will spawn enemies, typically 3 or 4 per hero. When shooting at the advancing hordes, your basic attack is a single dice, needing 4, 5 or 6, depending on how far away the enemy is. It doesn’t take a lot to see that the odds of removing all of them this way are poor, meaning you need to find alternatives: there are upgraded weapons available, but it will cost you precious actions to look for them, and they may well be buried under cards you can’t use, or even cards which hurt you.

Most of the time then, your main option for thinning the ranks of the enemy is the centre-piece of B-Sieged, the catapult. It takes an action to turn the catapult, and another to fire it, causing somewhere between 0 and 3 hits on the back row of any field of attack. With the combat power of the average hero being so low, and the attack power of the catapult being (potentially) so high, a lot of games will come down to how well you can roll on the catapult.

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From left to right, “Kronhs” (Assault Troops), “Molens” (Heavy Troops) and “Gargohs” (Support Troops

Once each hero has had 3 actions, the enemies attack. The enemies in B-Sieged are divided into 3 types: Molens are heavy units who blast your heroes and the buildings of the city from long-distance, Gargohs are support units which target heroes from the middle row, and Kronhs are assault troops who will try to make it all the way into the city, to bring instant defeat upon the players. At the end of the round, existing enemies advance or attack (if they have advanced as far as their class goes), and at the beginning of the next, more are spawned based on a dice and a deck of spawn cards.

Too hard? Or just too unpredictable?

B-Sieged-Top-down-Board-GameOut the box, as printed, B-sieged is difficult. That much people seem to have agreed on. The question of whether it is too difficult, or too difficult for how random it is, or too random for how difficult it is (etc) is where people are divided.

As I noted earlier, B-Sieged has received a fairly early FAQ, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep some people happy and there are countless discussion threads to be found online suggesting tweaks, changes and just about everything short of tearing up the rulebook and starting again.

Zone3-Catapult-Board-Game

Osvith is firing the catapult, in an attempt to take out that Kronh. Unfortunately, 1 hit too many means he has killed the messenger as well…

B-Sieged comes with a pretty steep learning curve: there are things which seem like a good idea which can really mess you up – one thing you need to get your head around very quickly, is the “only one hero can be in a place at one time,” rule – so if the first hero ends his turn on the catapult, it’s effectively out of action for the rest of the round. Equally there are rules you can miss on a first pass- like your hero gaining +1 morale (essentially life) each time they kill an enemy.

The catapult is also subject to the whim of a dice: when you rotate it, there’s a 1 in 6 chance that it will jam, wasting your action. When you fire, it’s a 1 in 3 chance of missing altogether. The amount of variation in the catapult is massive, and there is very little you can do to mitigate it. This is part of the reason that I think the game plays better with 6 characters (it’s designed for 4-6 character controlled by anywhere from 1-6 players), as the greater number of times you roll the dice will tend to lead to things averaging out.

Overall, I don’t think this B-Sieged needs the swathe of house-rules that a lot of people are suggesting. There certainly are lots of changes which can be made, but I’d encourage patience: if you’re going to buy this game, commit to playing it half-a-dozen times or so, ideally with different hero combinations and hero counts, before you try to modify it, if you do, I think you’ll find that you already have a solid enough game as created by the designers, and that it needs a lot less changing than you might first have thought.

Where’s the Flavour? Not quite sure

Kronh-Attack-Board-GameB-Sieged looks like it’s going to be a very thematic experience. There’s a full 2 sides of A4 setting the scene, introducing both the dark forces of the abyss come to destroy you, and the key characters: all the six heroes in the base game, with allusions to one or two others available in expansions. The fact that you can never seriously hope to remove all the enemies from the board at once does mean that during a game of B-Sieged, you really do feel besieged, with a sense of clinging on until the messenger can get back, rather than simply “defeating” the enemies yourselves.

That said, a lot about this game feels slightly off. There’s a lot of complexity and even fiddliness to keep track of, which jars slightly with the cartoonish art and the heavy variance that comes from chucking loads of dice. It’s a lot more complicated than something like Zombicide, despite having at least as much luck involved.

The armies of the abyss themselves are a bit of a let-down. As far as I can tell, Molens, Gargohs and Kronhs have been made up by the designers of the game, and whilst the miniatures are well-made, I don’t have that much sense of what we’re fighting. The first big expansion for this game: B-Sieged: Darkness and Fury, offers Orcs, Goblins and Trolls to fight instead, and this feels like it might have been a better bet first time out, letting people learn the B-Sieged system whilst fighting some more familiar Fantasy staples.

B-Sieged-Heroes-Board-GameThe B-Sieged heroes themselves are rather hit-and-miss. Some have a real sense of personality, like Myriania the smuggler, who gets a random bonus at the start of each round, whilst others feel lacklustre, and blend into 1: A hero who has bonuses picking up a certain type of card often won’t be able to use their power each round and a Sorcerer who can go to the Sorcery tower is no different to a guy with armoury bonuses who can’t go to the armoury: just a generic character to play.

Changes needed? Just stick at it!

Osvith-Board-Game

One of the base-game heroes: his abilities are fine, but they won’t be doing anything for at least the first few rounds…

This game has attracted quite a lot of bad press after one very prominent reviewer commented that “I think there’s a good game in the box, it just wasn’t in the rules.” After our first game, most of my friends were saying the same thing, and after 2 or 3 games (as a reviewer, I try to keep an open mind) I was worrying they might be right.

If you play the game as intended, (with the updated rulebook), you have a fairly difficult game: certainly much harder than something like Zombicide or Pandemic. That doesn’t mean it’s broken though: provided you’re prepared to lose, and know that there will be defeats where you couldn’t have done much differently, it’s still a decent experience and it will repay the time you invest in it.

If you’re prepared to invest extra money into this game – something which won’t be for everyone given the price –  I think that the expansions have a lot to offer: personally I plan on picking up the Darkness and Fury expansion to replace the slightly anonymous lava monsters with Trolls, Orcs and Goblins, but the hero packs also offer you options with different hero powers. If you want to add in your own house-rules, that’s still an option for you, and there are many easy ways to do this, but don’t rush into it.

5 (100%) 3 votes
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James Phillips

I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler. I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.

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