|Demons vs Christian zealots? Poppy will have some of that!!!|
Well it's a game that many readers of my blog and personal friends have suggested I should get for review. It's been described as a 'dungeon skirmish game' also as a 'sort of dungeon crawler' and a 'wargame on a board' by various people I know and respect, who are normally far more eloquent. I can see elements of all three statements in the game if I'm honest, although for me it certainly has felt more like a skirmish board game. Claustrophobia is produced by Asmodee, the company originally behind the Hell Dorado wargame, and this game too is set in the very dark Hell Dorado universe. So I was very keen to get on and play the game.
It is a board game in a box, what can I say? I'm addicted. Given the price of the game, and the fact that the miniatures are pre-painted I think there's a fair amount of stuff in the box. There are 36 floor tiles, single sided but seriously 36 is more than enough and they're a decent size too. There are about 50 or so card tokens, 17 pre-painted miniatures, 5 reference cards for the human faction (the Westerners), 5 plastic stands for those reference cards, and 13 dice split between 1D10 and 12D6. There are also 25 plastic damage tokens that you stick into the player reference cards to denote wounds. Finally we get a rulebook, a vitally important component to any game!
Gameplay 8 out of 10
|And so the game begins, already my coffee table looks way too small|
Claustrophobia is a two player adversarial game. In this respects it's more like a wargame with two players pitting their wits, cunning and guile against each other. There are two factions the Humans, or if you're familiar with Hell Dorado lore, the Westerners and the Demons. There are some interesting play mechanics though, involving differing statlines and dice rolls for the Westerners. Each warrior has 6 different statlines numbered, unsurprisingly, from 1 to 6. At the start of each round the Westerner player rolls a number of D6 equal to the number of warriors they have, so if I had 5 warriors that would be 5D6, I'd then be able to take the numbers I'd rolled and apply them to each individual warrior choosing which statlines I wanted to use for them. At first I wasn't sure about this mechanic, but you see as your warriors take wounds you have to 'block' off certain statlines, meaning there is a serious amount of thought that has to go into your planning and choosing which lines to get rid of. When things get a bit tight making the right decisions becomes vital to your success. A blocked statline can't be used, and if you don't roll a number that can be applied to a warrior they're useless for a round. Nasty. Once all statlines are 'blocked' a warrior is dead.
|And so the Westerners already get split up|
|Two quick runners make an early, daring break for home!|
|One man down, another badly injured and the Priest about to get curb stomped. It's not looking good for the Westerners|
|One of those early runners bites the dust|
|With the exit revealed it's close but...|
|...Definitely no cigar as the priest finally gets slaughtered|
|As those miniatures come packed in the box|
I don't mind admitting I was a little surprised when I opened the box to find that the miniatures were pre-painted. Now don't get me wrong, these aren't likely to win any painting competitions, and I could do just as good a job half asleep. But, if you view them as a neat base coat over which to do some further shading and highlighting they're not that bad you know. It also made a bit of a nice change putting painted miniatures down to play a board game, so I actually appreciated it. It's not something I'd go out of my way to find, or look for in a game I guess, but here with Claustrophobia it kind of works. The miniatures themselves are also actually quite nicely detailed, and are a significant step up on a lot of the usual board game miniatures you find. It would have been nice to have had a little bit more variance I guess in the troglodyte miniatures but it's not too awful.
|Two piles of those detailed floor tiles|
|The rulebook with a few other game components|
The final piece of the design work is the rulebook. Often I skim through such things, desperately seeking to get to the end of them so I can put them away in the box, their rules absorbed. As long as they're neat and suitably well laid out I'm not all that bothered about the rulebooks to be honest with you. But, I have to say for some reason I found the Claustrophobia rulebook a particular pleasure to look through, I can't really tell you why. Yes it's full colour with some nice pictures in it, but so too have been other games rulebooks. It was accessible and easy to navigate, again other rulebooks have been too. My only option left to explain my feelings is that I quite like the design aesthetic, with the stained parchment look of the pages and just how many bright pretty pictures and diagrams there were. I hadn't really noticed or thought about it before, but the first interaction with any game product I guess is always the rulebook, so it's nice Asmodee took their time and lavished some attention on it.
|Those pre-painted miniatures|
I really can't grumble about any of the components really, and of late I've been given plenty of course to whinge about a fair few things. So it's nice to be able to once again be positive about something. The playing cards are a really good quality, easily comparable to the best Fantasy Flight Games and Wizards of the Coast produce. The card tiles, tokens and other components are all made out of a sturdy, thick card that feels solid a durable enough to me to take the ware and tare of daily gaming. Plus if you look after the components it should see you right for many, many years to come. The miniatures are also a decent enough quality too, with enough detail on them to make more than passable wargames pieces. They're plastic and although it feels like the rubbery plastic many board games miniatures are made out of it is a firmer or denser form of the stuff. They retain a fair amount of surface detail too and don't flex wildly.
Service 9 out of 10
As I've said, I had one or two issues with some slight damage a while back with OG Games and since pointing it out to them they've been great. They also kept me well informed while searching for this game. Loads of places had sold out and I was beginning to wonder if it had gone out of print. OG Games chased down the facts and found out more would be being made available to market soon, and it was a short term supply glitch. They asked to be kept informed and let me know when they were close to becoming available. They even sent it straight out to me as soon as they got it in. Maybe that's standard service, but I appreciated their effort any way.
Price 9 out of 10
It's recommended retail price is £39.99, and I think that's not bad at all for a well produced board game with interesting play mechanics and slick design. OG Games sold it to me for £34.99 though, so that's even better isn't it? I think it's a good price for a game, and it sits right at that impulse buy range for most people... especially if you have a job!
Overall 8.5 out of 10
I'm glad I stuck at Claustrophobia I really am. Because for a little while it did perplex me. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it as a challenge and a game. But, it does have a nice ebb and flow to it and certainly deserved me giving it more time. It can get frantic and panicked quite quickly and on the whole produces tense skirmishes that go right down to the wire normally. I still think the game takes up maybe a little bit too much space at times, and as a two player competitive game it does have somewhat limited appeal I guess, given that most of my friends are wargamers like me. However, given that the game is so quick to get through, games lasting no longer than 30 to 45 minutes it is somewhat quicker than most wargames I own. Peace out!