Firstly you have my apologies for not posting this article last Thursday, something important came up and it needed my attention. It's also the reason I'll probably be taking some time in responding to your comments for the next few days. So sorry. Like my review of Dwarf Kings Hold: Ancient Grudge on Wednesday, I've held off reviewing this game for a few reasons. Firstly because I actually only got my copy a few weeks ago. Secondly because as with Ancient Grudge I playtested this game and thirdly because I wanted to make sure none of the above was biasing me. I accept the above facts will undoubtedly have an influence on me, I just wanted to make sure that what I wrote was as fair to the game as I could be. It is after all very easy to get swept up in new game syndrome, and potentially even more so if you've been close to the project. I also got given this copy of Project Pandora to review while I was at another playtesting event at Mantic, so it's a freebie in effect... except I'm taking it as payment for all the playtesting I've done for them over the past year!
It's a game in a box... I haven't said that on this Blog in a while! If you've brought either of the first two Dwarf Kings Hold boxed sets you'll already have a pretty darn good idea of what to expect from Project Pandora as a product. There are 24 full colour floor tiles, that are very reminiscent in shape to those you find in the Dwarf Kings Hold games, indeed while I was playtesting the game I actually used my Dwarf Kings Hold tiles as proxies. Obviously the Project Pandora ones have a suitably sci-fi feel to them. There are also some 70 or so colour card chits representing various things from Action Tokens to status effects. There's also a decent sized black and white rules booklet, which handily contains all the rules and 6 missions to play, very much like the Dwarf Kings Hold books it's 21 pages long. There are 10 plastic resin Veer-myn and 10 plastic resin Corporation miniatures. The corporation miniatures are made of roughly 4 components each, while the Veer-myn are roughly 5 pieces on average. The game also comes with 9 white dice. I'm going to point two things out here though I wish Mantic would consider for any future releases. Firstly the boxes, they don't feel like great quality, because they're not, they're flimsy and will get battered about a bit over time and people have to find less attractive, alternative ways of storing your games. I've seen people dismiss your games in shops because of the boxes. Secondly please include some bases!!! Some of your miniatures are quite light or off balance in their pose, so it can make it difficult to keep the miniatures upright during games. Some of your plastic bases would solve this problem.
Gameplay 8.5 out of 10
Firstly lets get the lazy comparisons out of the way, Dwarf Kings Hold in Space, no it's not that. Yes there are mechanical similarities, but whereas Dwarf Kings Hold is all about getting close and hacking your opponents apart, Project Pandora is about shooting them from afar. Yep you can get in close and attempt to eviscerate your opponents, but it's not the games core mechanic. The next lazy comparison is Space Hulk. Given the perception of Mantic as being a company determined to 'knock-off' Games Workshops ideas and IP, you know what, I can see why many would make the assumption, even if it is unfair, there is that perception out there. The fact that the game plays bugger all like Space Hulk, and that the over simplified view of what Mantic is actually doing should counter those lazy comparisons neatly. Both Space Hulk and Project Pandora are indeed adversarial sci-fi board games... true. But, so too is Earth Reborn and many other products out there, so it's just as likely to be similar to those products. So all I'm saying is this, if you are expecting Project Pandora to play like Space Hulk, or be a Space Hulk clone you'll be sorely disappointed.
|Mission 101 set up to run again.|
If however you approach the game with an open mind and a willingness to give the game a fair go I don't think many will be disappointed in the games it has to offer them. As I say if you've played the Dwarf Kings Hold games then I think many of the mechanics like Action Tokens and how the dice mechanic works will be very familiar to you, and you'll comfortably learn the game in about 30 minutes tops. For those who haven't played the Dwarf King Hold games it's not really a massively complex game in terms of mechanics and after an hour or so of playing and you'll have most of the game down. You draw action tokens that allow you to do various things like move two miniatures and shoot and what not, it's a little different to having the ability to move all your miniatures and not have to worry about such things. You resolve the actions on those tokens as you see fit, and although the mechanic is the same for both factions they both draw from different Action Token pools. In this way you are in a way forced to use the Action Tokens at your disposal in the best way possible, and although it can sound restrictive it really isn't and it adds a nice tactical element for players to manage and is genuinely a brilliant little mechanic.
|Kill one more and I win!!! Mwahahaha... bugger. Failed.|
|Mission 102 ready to roll, another favourite.|
Obviously I don't want to reproduce the rules here because I don't want any C&D orders, but they're as simple as they can be, and that's not a problem because they're not bland. It's actually one of the games strengths that they're so simple. I've not encountered anyone who had any problems grasping the rules, including my young nephews. This means that you can actually leave the game on the shelf for quite some time and pick it up and still know what you need to do, not every board game is that simple. But, like the Dwarf Kings Hold games there is quite a bit of tactical scope and it can take a fair bit of time to master all the subtle nuances, the ranged combat on offer here does keep you coming back for more and trying different tactics out. There are six missions to play through within the game, all of them offering increasingly complex and involved challenges. But, you'll still go back to the first mission, which is a training mission, time and time again. It is arguably the best mission in the game, as it's so simple. The aim is to kill as many of the respawning Veer-myn as possible before they drag the last Corporation soldier to their death. Then reverse rolls and see if yur opponent can beat your score. It's addictive.
|Things start getting tense on mission 102.|
Of the other missions in the game I really enjoy perhaps the second mission 'Knock, Knock' and the fifth mission 'Hit The Lights' are the others that keep me coming back because of the tactical challenge and the scope for doing things a bit differently. Knock, Knock is a really fun challenge to play as the Veer-Myn player as you're at what appears to be a disadvantage, but if you're clever you can really cause the Corporation player some headaches. Meanwhile as a Corporation player you have to be very careful to hold your lines and keep things tight and not allow your Veer-myn opponent to build their forces up up deliberately drag you away from the objective. Hit The Lights is a great challenge to the Corporation player as really the advantage should be with the Veer-myn player, and it's all about giving the Veermyn player juicy targets they can't resist going for and then whipping them away, a bit of rsk for reward, but you have to calculate it right. Because the game is so easy to run through and quick it's the sort of game you can play multiple times in one evening easily. Winner stays on, once again coming into play like it did with Dwarf Kings Hold when reviewing that series of games. It's certainly a quick and easy game to grab off of the shelf if you hadn't planned an evening of gaming, or your wargame of choice just ended early due to a ridiculously lucky dice roll on a stupidly powerful spell.
|Man Vs Rat.... Man wins!!! Oh yeah baby... hang on... I was the rat. Bugger.|
All in all I've found Project Pandora to be a fun and engaging game that like its stablemates is actually a great gateway product into the hobby for younger gamers, while retaining enough tactical scope to keep veterans interested. It's not as involved as some board games are that I play, with their complex rules that offer lots of depth in terms of mechanics. Project Pandora eschews that and looks to offer complex tactics on the board, and environmental effects like darkness, and the reactive mechanics do offer you that tactical depth while mainlining its accessibility. I haven't yet encountered the same levels of tactical arms race that occured with Dwarf Kings Hold, but I'm sure if I give it time it'll come. So it's a good game, and a really good intro point into the hobby for younger kids as I said, and I've found in general young kinds prefer sci-fi to fantasy, and the idea of guns is generally better received than swords. So it's arguably a better intro game for kids that the Dwarf Kings Hold games are, however while I've enjoyed Project Pandora, I've not enjoyed it as much as the Dwarf Kings Hold games. I don't know why but I didn't find the challenge quite as engaging, perhaps it's the ranged combat aspect of the game, or perhaps it is that the game feels a little bit more 'Hollywood' than it's stablemates. There's nothing wrong with that though, because it does mean that Project Pandora feels familiar enough to those gamers who have tried the Dwarf Kings Hold games to not be daunting, but also differs significantly enough to feel fresh and new.
Detail 7.5 out of 10
One of the things I love about Project Pandora is how colourful and bright the artwork is on the floor tiles for the game, there is nothing Grim or dark about them. They look bright, clean and crisp, and modern looking, there's not a hint of the 'gothic' about them. The artwork on them is as vibrant and fun as its stablemates in the Dwarf Kings Hold range, but there is a slight problem with this... quite often it can get a bit difficult to discern the lines that denote the games gridded squares. While I can understand the need to maintain the integrity of the original design work, I'd have preferred a far clearer grid myself. They're far from unworkable it just means that often you have to pay closer attention to the board than just a cursory glance telling you what's what. The tokens though are not only bright, with vibrant neon stylings, but are also exceptionally easy to read and are very clear as to what they are for. They're a bit of a design triumph for me and I really think they add to the atmosphere of the game.
|Two of the Veer-myn, probably assembled wrong!|
The next bits of detail I want to talk about are the plastic resin miniatures themselves. I've actually managed to see a fair bit of the Mantic range of miniatures, and I have to say that personally I believe that the Corporation and the Veer-myn are the two best ranges that they do. Starting with the Veer-myn they have a really savage and snarling look to them, yeah OK they aren't really anything new and you'll have seen stuff like them in the Skaven range from Games Workshop. But, nevertheless these are very well designed with plenty of steam-punk elements, with gas masks, vials and pistons. Not forgetting the fur! The Corporation Soldiers on the other hand look the very picture of the modern soldier. Neat well defined body armour and assault rifles. Combat trousers loaded with belts, buckles and bandoliers. I really like the Corporation miniatures, sure I like the Veer-myn, but I've always had a desire to paint a sci-fi human army in the vein of colonial marines from the Alien universe. Owning this game has really tempted me to paint a Corporation force for Warpath.
Quality 7 out of 10
I personally found attaching the arms, weapons and tails on the various miniatures could get a little fiddly at times as they weren't 'snap fit' and many of the contact points were quite smooth and flat. Now that's fine when putting plastic miniatures together with poly-cement as the joint is welded and they start to bond pretty quickly. That's not always the case with superglue, but otherwise these are damn fine miniatures, with plenty of detail that are well reproduced. These are perfectly good sculpts in true scale, and when compared to the quality of many other board games miniature components they are a step above in terms of quality. What isn't a step above are the card components yet again. I hate pointing this out with these Mantic board games, but so much of a board games appeal is based around the floor tiles and chits. It's these items more than anything else in a board game that need to stand up to the wear and tear of daily use. These are the components that really need to be top draw... and yet again... they're not. They're not terrible, but yet again they're far too thin for my liking and they suffer from the same dog eared problems that the Dwarf Kings Hold components suffer from after repeated use. I'd gladly pay a little bit more money if it meant the card components were made of better, thicker stock. As it is the glossy surfaced and plastic backed tiles are serviceable enough.
Service N/A out of 10
Obviously I can't really comment of the service I've received for this as I didn't pay for it. As always you'll know how good the usual service / shop is you use to buy your goods from. As for Mantic I've personally had really good service off of them in the past and wouldn't have a problem using them in the future.
|Three of the Corporations Marines up close.|
Price 8 out of 10
Obviously I didn't directly pay for my copy of Project Pandora, but I think my efforts and feedback to Mantic over multiple projects has to worth at least £34.99, possibly as much as £35.01 (you hear that Ronnie? You we me 2p). As to the asking price on Mantics website of £34.99, I think is perfectly reasonable for the product. You can find it various places for £31.49 though, and I'm sure if you really dug deep and delved into the Internets darkest recesses you could find it for even less. Fundamentally though it's a reasonable price range for a good solid little product, it's at impulse buy range for most people I'd imagine.
|The collection of Veer-Myn miniatures you get in the box.|
|The Corporation miniatures you get.|
For me Project Pandora is a quick, fun and highly tactical little board game. When I first heard that Mantic were doing a sci-fi board game I will admit that I was worried it would just be Dwarf Kings Hold in space... yeah so I'm guilty of that same lazy conclusions that many have jumped to. Yes there are similarities in terms of the mechanics and how Action Tokens work, but the way it's put together does actually lead to very different types of game. Whereas I find Dwarf Kings Hold games tend to be a bit more methodical and considered, Project Pandora is a little bit more dynamic. Often in Dwarf Kings Hold you see you know that you've made a cock up and it'll be difficult to get back on track, while I like that personally I know some people haven't been so keen on it. Those situations don't seem to happen quite as often in Project Pandora. Sure cock up still happen, and you'll likely be punished for them, but perhaps it's the fact the game seems more about ranged combat that you can get back into the fight a bit easier and claw things back. Conversly so can your opponent and this more often than not leads to far closer games, that remain tense to the last action. It's a thoroughly enjoyable romp that's not too expensive to buy, with some nice mini's. I like it. Peace out!