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Monday
May132013

Stack & Attack Review

Review: Stack & Attack

 

In their own words: “In 'Stack & Attack', you take on the role of a Stone Age Neanderthal who worships the gods of Earth, Sun, and Wind by stacking stone towers to the sky.”

 

Components: The game features attractive box and card art. The box is nice and sturdy. The cards are of okay quality. They look and feel good, but they shuffle poorly—a fact mitigated by the fact that the hands are so small that players will usually be pile shuffling anyway. The stacking boards are thick and work well, but the sticky mesh between the two halves to allow them to fold and fit in the box feels and looks a bit like a cheap fix. Overall, though, the game looks good on the table.

 

Game Play: Stack & Attack is a small deck-building game that puts the players in the role of neanderthals as they attempt to build a stone tower high enough to please the gods (the magic number is 15 arms of height, apparently). It is the second game I've been provided a copy of recently that purports to be a deck-builder but seriously alters the base mechanics of that genre (Shadow Days was the other—a review of the finished product is coming soon).

Everything that is in the box   

The setup of the game feels very familiar. Players get identical starting hands of cards (all representing rocks of different sizes). Then, like Ascension, a single draw deck is placed between them and the initial set of cards available to buy are dealt onto the table. The first change to the formula is obvious from the start: the cards have a cost but no “gold” value. Instead of using the cards to buy new cards for their deck, players spend some of the four action points available to them.

 

The starting hand for all playersThis leaves the player with some decisions to make each turn. Does she use her points to add a rock to her stack? Should she use those points to buy a needed card from the tableau? Instead of those, should she use her points to throw a rock at her opponent's stack in an attempt to knock it down a bit lower? As the game progresses, players get to add action points through cards and/or building to certain heights.

 

Play goes back and forth until one player has built his tower to fifteen arms in height.

 

My Take: I love the theme of the game, and the art is a lot of fun. The game certainly works. Each turn goes quickly and the entire game is over in between twenty and thirty minutes—perfect for a filler. The game is very accessible. I could teach it to even non-gamers in just a few minutes. My four-year-old probably could play the game though the lining the cards up on the stack card would be an adventure. Despite that simplicity, there are interesting choices to be made. Because of this, I could see this game getting some play at my family game nights and with students and non-gaming co-workers.

 

Unfortunately, my more strategy-oriented game group had some issues that will probably keep the game off the tables there. The first issue was the fact that players reshuffle their entire decks and re-draw after each turn. This means, unlike in Dominion, Thunderstone, Ascension, and all of the other deck-builders we play, that it is possible to buy a card and not get to play it, ever. Still, deck sizes don't really grow that large, so it isn't likely a problem in most games. The bigger problem is how attacking works in the game. With the limited amount of actions available, going for an attack that had much chance of succeeding meant skipping building or, at least, barely advancing your own tower. If the attack was successful, that meant players that were not involved in the combat gained ground on the defender and the attacker. In a three player game, this was like handing the win to the neutral player. The fallout from that realization was that no one wanted to attack, which turned the game into a race to stack cards which, unfortunately, because of the constant reshuffling, highlighted the prominence luck takes in the game. I'm going to force the game to the table at least once more, but unless more plays reveal strategy we have missed, I don't think this one will stay in the group's rotation.

The gods favor player three 

Review Score: I'm tempted to give one of those split reviews—one score for family gamers, another for strategy gamers—but I think I'll average the two instead. So, it is likely a three star game for families and, at best, a two-star game for more hardcore gamers. Two and one-half stars seems about right for the game.

 

2.5/5

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  • Response
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