BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia from Plaid Hat Games and Isaac Vega is a fantastic board game set in the same world as the hit video game.
The Siege of Columbia oozes with theme. From the second you open the box it looks and feels like BioShock. The art is beautiful and has a perfect balance of steampunk and grittiness.
One of the reasons the art and graphic design stand out so much is because there are a ton of components. There are cards, tiles, dice, miniatures, player mats, tokens, and just about everything in between. The game is so huge that it is shocking that it fits in the box as well as it does.
The production quality of all the pieces is well above par. The miniatures are sturdy and the card stock is one that will hold up. So not only is The Siege of Columbia a game that you will enjoy playing, but it is also one that is ohhhh sooooo nice to look at. Even the punchboard is pretty!
From first glance, BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia looks like a beefed up version of Risk or other light war games. It appears to be nothing but guys on a map. That’s completely wrong. Combat is a huge part of the game but it’s not a war game.
To win you need to be the first player to earn 10 victory points. The victory points can be earned through area control or they can be scored via objectives. The order in which the objectives appear changes every game and what’s really cool about them is that they are scored by the first player who completes them. That means when you get deep into a game it becomes a mad dash of not just trying to score your own points but to block your opponent from scoring.
One of my favorite things about the game was that each player had a deck of cards. Most cards represent a character class though there were others that allowed you to use them for different things. What makes all the cards special is that they could be played in three different ways. They could be used to boost your combat, thats the number in the red circle. They could be used to raise influence points, which is the number in the gold circle or they could be used to trade in for money, which is the silver circle.
The multi-use cards shifted the weight of the game so that it’s more about hand management and the choices you make then about simply rolling dice in battle.
For example, at the the start of a round an event card is played, which you can see above. Each player gets to vote on if the event happens or not and you vote by playing cards. If you play a lot of cards to make sure it occurs then later in the same round you’ll be gimped and will have less cards to trade for money or to boost your combat. So there is a great meta game in the opening of a round where you are trying to get in your opponents head and either beat them in a vote or maybe even trick them into wasting cards so that later you can attack them.
Compounding the complexity of knowing when to use a card and what to use it for is that each card type can be upgraded, which you can see in the retro player mat below.
If you get a key, you can unlock the special ability on a card or if you choose you add a +1 or +2 modifier to each of the card’s uses.
What’s really nice about the upgrade system is that it feels very BioShock-like. In the video game you play as a character and have the options of boosting your abilities in a huge variation of ways. So thematically it was great to see that in the board game you could do the same thing, but for all of your character cards.
Dice of course play a big part in the game. Each miniature is associated with a specific kind of dice. The lower class peons with square bases use a white dice which only goes from 0 to 4. The middle grade special guys with a circle base use a blue dice which ranges form 2 to 6 and the leaders, who have star shaped bases, get to use a red dice that ranges from 3 to 8. So whether you are attacking the city itself, or fighting your opponent you will constantly be rolling a near rainbow of dice.
The combat moves quickly and it’s not devastating. If you loose a battle you will get set-back a bit but it won’t be the end of the game for you. Because so much of The Siege of Columbia is hand management and area control, the battles become more of a fun exciting mechanic then a horrible stressful event.
Not only will you have to defend yourself from your opponent and the city, but Booker, the protagonist from the video game will be randomly traveling around the board trying to protect Elizabeth, another character from the video game. Booker is the great randomizer. Sometimes he will be a total dick and kick your guys out of a territory and other times he’s just kind of there. His movements are never the same it really helps the game feel fresh because you are constantly having to adapt your plans.
There are only two fractions in BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia, but the game can be played as a 2 vs 2 match. Unfortunately, all the games I played were 1 vs 1 so I can’t testify as to how it expands with more players. That being said, as a two player game it’s a blast to play. The games I played lasted about an hour and they were neck and neck until the end.
If you’ve not pre-ordered BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia, I suggest you do so or get a friend to pick it up for you at GenCon. The game is gorgeous, it plays great, and I’m promising you it will sell out fast. It’s that good. So get a copy while you can!