Both Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight are well known for high quality components. 40K is one of the most beloved table top franchises and brands, offering the fans a tremendous play experience as well as a multitude of customization options with a seemingly endless supply of awesome filled plastic and pewter. Meanwhile, Fantasy Flight has come out with some power house games recently, most notably Star Wars X-Wing miniatures, again, providing a top notch table top experience and minis that are wicked cool to boot!
So, what is to happen when these two companies meet up on the table top arena for some board game meets 40K with a splash of Talisman nostalgia? Relic happens. Relic is Fantasy Flight's 40K space version of Talisman, a "sometimes" beloved table top game of questing and elvishness that many have at least seen, if not played themselves. Is this just Talisman with a glossy coat of paint and a few Imperial Guardsmen instead of some dark elves though? Let's fire up the boosters and take a look under the hood!
Relic, at the its core, is a role and move game with luck playing a major factor in the game. The board, which is both gigantic and beautiful (especially if you like pink) is set up with an outer ring, a middle ring, and an inner "spiral" ring. At the center of that spiral ring is an objective that will be different each game. Some objectives may be as simple as "be the first to the center" while some may require a multitude of feats to ensure victory is snatched from the space jaws of defeat!
The character pieces you'll be using are extremely unique. They are "bust" type statues of some of your favorite and well known races in the 40K universe. Each has a corresponding player card, which has a multitude of statistics. While, at first glance, this looks to be a confusing player card, after a read through of the exceptionally well written rules, it all comes together quite nicely.
Each player has a starting set of attributes, Strength (Red), Willpower (Blue), Cunning (Yellow), and Life (Green). Don't worry too much about lives though, in this one, you can hit 0 lives, come back, and just take a small penalty. Corruption is what you don't want. There are in game affects and cards that will cause you to draw and potentially deal with situations that could mostly hurt, but sometimes benefit you (rarely, but sometimes) that result in added corruption cards to your stash. Too many corruption cards and it's bye bye space opera!
After selecting a character, it is as simple as roll, move, fight, and gain attributes and levels. The engagement, different gameplay from game to game, and fun comes from the random threats you'll be encountering along the way. There are 3 colored threat decks, each corresponding to the Red, Blue and Yellow stats, that will throw enemies, encounters, events and allies your direction. Some will be challenging and at times, insurmountable, while others will be beneficial and even immediately impactful to your character's stats, helping you along the way.
As you progress, gaining levels, weapons (wargear cards), completing missions, and turning said missions in, you'll come across Relics. Relics, as aptly named, are powerful relics that will provide you big advantages in the game, and allow you to progress inward on your journey with less challenging odds against you.
It should be noted that you do not necessarily NEED to get a Relic to win the game, but they sure don't hurt having one hanging around! There's plenty of bad guys in all three threat decks, and the simple fact that those who share the same attribute will fight you as a pack, well, the more you're packing, the better your chances of survival are!
It all sounds easy, and honestly, it is, but the fun and engagement come from the high amount of randomness and luck involved not just with the cards drawn at specific times in the game, but in the dice rolling, which almost every turn and battle involve in some form or fashion. Those who may not like the "high randomness" in Talisman will feel familiar with this in Relic, however, thankfully, in Relic, there are many ways to gain allies, assets, wargear, and other cards, that will let you manipulate the luck in your favor. Of course, as with most games, there's no guarantee, but stacking the odds in your favor always makes the risks seem more manageable.
Component wise, Relic is, as should be expected, beautiful. Fantasy Flight has top notch card stock, art, boards, and player pieces once again. If you played Sky Traders, a game we reviewed last year, the player pieces will look familiar as well. If you like painting minis, while not the full bodied ones you may be used to, these are still highly detailed and exceptional looking for anyone's brushes to adorn.
Gameplay wise, the mechanics all work well together, but are still under the hood, driven by luck and dice rolling. Drawing a lot of large enemies early in the game can really lengthen your gameplay, which at normal pace, is already a long endeavor. Our 2 player games can go anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 and a half hours! 4 players, well, just get ready for a minimum 2 to 3 hour run. The downside to the latter is that there is a way (corruption cards) to be eliminated from the game. I don't know about you, but the thought of having to wait for 3 other players to play another hour could be a bit, well, bothersome.
Experience wise, Relic is a very enjoyable game. Even if you don't like luck driven engines, the names of the familiar 40K characters are awesome to face off against, and the setting and theme is just dripping off each card. The high amount of movement that happens turn to turn, not just with players, but with cards too, can keep you attentive to other player's turns, and keen to know what they are acquiring or using.
The game does lack a bit in variety, especially in the mission (quest) department. Missions are great ways to level up and gain attributes, as well as having 3 completed missions means you can get a Relic, but many are repetitive, with only small changes from one to the other, leaving wishing for more variety in the most core piece (acquiring Relic) in the game.
Overall, we have enjoyed several game plays of Relic, 2 or 4 players. We've found the game most intriguing with 3, allowing for some cunning moves and dastardly tricks, without feeling like we've been sucked in to the game for an overly long amount of time we didn't want to spend in it. Sure, it's long, but with more than one opponent, the time seems to go much faster, and in a more engaging way.
In the end, Relic is another Hit of a game from Fantasy Flight and the 40K universe of Games Workshop. Talisman Players may enjoy the more control the cards offer them over the lucky rolls and card draws, and new players will definitely enjoy a more mature take on a the traditional "roll and move" games. One nice thing we really found too, was that while the game wreaks of theme, you do not necessarily have to enjoy sci fi to enjoy the game. Many players we shared this with, who don't like sci fi, still had a great time playing the game. Whether you like sniping opponents from afar with highly specialized space weapons or you like going toe to toe with strong characters built for battle, Relic should be able to offer you a fair amount of options to satiate your desires... provided you don't mind strapping in for a long haul.
Final Score (Crit, Hit or Miss):
This game was provided to Crits Happen by Dragon's Lair Comics and Fantasy. If you are interested in obtaining your own copy, you can contact them at http://www.dlair.net for all your comic and gaming needs.