I used to play a lot of Goldeneye in my youth – the James Bond first-person shooter game on the N64. But my love of this game never translated into a love of computer games – the tactility and social aspect of board games totally eclipses anything a flat flashing screen can offer me. Even when I heard of Czech Games Edition’s board game implementation of a first-person shooter, Adrenaline, I wasn’t bothered… Until I actually played it.
I assumed it would be laden with dice and complexity – in reality there are no dice, and the game plays as a fast, streamlined jaunt in an arena with an array of weapons – but the game is not what you’d expect – it’s a kind of area control Euro where the area you’re trying to control is not the arena itself but the damage you inflict onto your opponents – it’s a tactical battle royale where you’re trying to think creatively in scoring the most damage to your opponents using weapons such as rocket launchers, shotguns, power gloves and electroscythes (whatever they are!!).
Team Play DLC
The base game of Adrenaline plays three to five players and includes a couple of play variants to the base game skirmish mode, but fans have quite rightly called out for an expansion, and Czech Games Edition eventually supplied it. For me, I would have been happy with a deck of new weapons, but this expansion goes a little further.
At first glance, most noticeably is the edition of the new bright orange character, Echo, who expands the maximum player count to six.
A criticism of the base game from some quarters was that despite the characters having very different looks and bios (in the rulebook), they were all exactly the same in ability as each other – this expansion has chosen to give these characters their own character-specific abilities and weapons.
Then there is the addition of team play rules, where you play a three vs three team battle which also now means you can now choose to play with only two players (who can each control all three members of their team).
The individual abilities are very thematic to the characters and give them a sudden shot of personality. For instance, the yellow emoji robot, :D-struct-OR, is able to buy upgrade cards and spend them on either dropping bombs akin to the old computer game, Bomberman, or he can fold up into a wrecking ball and roll into his opponents!
The green reptilian, Sprog, can spread nasty venom onto his opponents, which come in the form of wonderful translucent plastic skulls. New girl Echo can hack ammo tiles and use them as either bombs or teleporters. Banshee can force opponents to shoot each other with mindcontrol, Dozer’s overload can cause cataclysmic damage (once his batteries have fully charged!), and Violet can use her nanobots to perfectly time when she wants to deal marks or damage.
Some of your individual abilities might require you to take adrenaline actions, effectively reducing your total life energy in order to enact these awesome abilities – but it’s usually worth it!
One thing I’d say is that these individual abilities and weapons can act as a bit of distraction and reduce what made the game so great in the first place – the focus on racing around the arena to pick up weapons and unleashing them in a torrent of fury! I found myself obsessing with my personal abilities and weapons and not focusing on the bigger picture.
People were crying out for the expansion to include a two-player mode, as Adrenaline couldn’t cater for two players. The new team play mode splits the combatants into two teams of three (all team members attach their team-coloured clip-on base), which you can play with any number of players from two to six, and teams don’t necessarily have to be even – for example, a team of three would each have their own character, while a team of two would have their own character each plus a shared character.
You essentially take turns as a team, so all three characters can take a single action, and then it’s your opponents’ turn. The base game’s run around action has been removed from the team game but you can still move one square and grab, shoot, use an unlocked adrenaline action, or you can pay for an adrenaline rush and use an adrenaline action.
Damage in the team game works very differently – essentially you use them in the opposite way to normal – the colour of the token indicates which character should receive the damage. i.e. Your damage board will only contain damage in your own colour. And you don’t deal damage directly to the opposition’s boards – damage goes onto the team’s damage buffer board (which reminds me of a tumble dryer!) and the damage accrued remains in the buffer until the end of the opposition’s turn and is only dealt to players if there is a total of six or more damage in the buffer at the end of the turn.
It might sound confusing, but in practice it works really well and can lead to some very tactical decisions on whether to do damage to flush the buffers or hold-off until the next turn – “why hold off?” you might say, but the team game comes with three buffer reward tiles, only one of which is drawn at random during setup and give your team additional rewards depending on whether they damage one, two or three opponents when the damage buffer is emptied. So, you might prefer to only damage two opponents this turn because the buffer reward is more preferable to your team at that moment in time.
Winners are decided after eight kills, and just as in the base game, it’s not always obvious who the winner will be.
Final Thoughts on Adrenaline: Team Play DLC
For me, in the free-for-all games the individual abilities and weapons slow things down and create an extra layer of complication and distraction for players, but in the team game all three abilities of your team members activate every other turn in the game (rather than having to wait for five other people to have their turn before being able to activate), meaning they become more important and you can find some decent synergies between team members and their abilities for some killer combos.
I think if I’m playing Adrenaline as free-for-all, I’ll generally play the base game, but when playing team play I think the character-specific abilities and weapons are a must.
The team game is where this expansion shines, and while this may add a lot of complication to the game it plays quickly once everybody knows what to do. Plus you can get started quickly as more experienced players can help their teammates, but one must be aware of helping too much, potentially quashing their engagement and becoming a dreaded “alpha-gamer”.
Overall I’d definitely recommend this expansion to fans of the game, with the caveat that sometimes you might just want to play the base game, and that’s OK! If you’re new to Adrenaline I’d suggest getting familiar with the excellent base game before procuring this expansion.