Kickstarter has a roster of some incredibly successful game launches and Sedition Wars: Battle For Alabaster is on that list. It started with a $20K goal back in June 2012 and ended up raising $950K, so it’s an understatement to say people were excited about the game. Now that it has shipped, it’s time to give it a review and see if it lives up to the hype.
First, it’s not entirely fair to call this a board game. It has a board and dice and more tokens and markers than you can shake a stick at, but it also has lots of miniatures. The core game comes with 50 miniatures to put together and paint which is an absolute steal.
Those miniatures came as a jumbled plastic bag full of arms, legs and torsos. I had to trim a bit of flashing before I could glue, prime and paint them but it was fairly easy. If you’re an avid miniature wargamer then this will be a familiar process, but to those new to the hobby this bag of bits will be daunting.
There are lots of cool components in the box in addition to a slew of minis. There are full-color character cards, over 100 game counters, slick looking green nano tokens and markers that clip onto the bases to show shields and infections on each model. I also got see-through green and blue embossed dice with Vanguard and Strain logos as a kickstarter stretch goal.
I found the quality of the models and character cards top-notch and I loved the dice, but some of the other components were disappointing. The clip-on markers, for example, didn’t clip on well to the undersides of the bases. Every time I lifted a model to move it the darn things fell off.
A bigger disappointment was the board itself which is made up of 5 double-sided, cardboard tiles. How you set them up depends on the scenario you’re playing which is a great mechanic, but the boards warped within minutes of taking them out of the box. One board was so warped that things wanted to slide in from the edges.
I tried setting them all under heavy books for a day in hopes that they’d flatten out, but no luck. Once I took the books off they were warped again in a matter of minutes. The art on these boards is also lacking. It looks good and is well-themed, but it doesn’t work well for gameplay. There isn’t enough of a differentiation between walls, hallways and windows so I was constantly double checking to make sure I wasn’t moving through a wall accidentally.
Despite issues with some of the components, playing the game is a lot of fun. It’s two-player with one person playing Vanguard and the other playing the Strain. Basically, it’s space zombies versus soldiers and it’s awesome. I played Vanguard and started with a crew of three hardened soldiers that I led into a facility overrun with nasty zombies.
Each model has a corresponding character card that lets you keep track of wounds as well as listing character stats and special skills. I was a big fan of a Samaritan Reaver who had a giant gun that I could spend a tactic point on to “Rock ‘N” Roll” and get 1D6 extra attacks. I rolled a lot of sixes. It was not good for the space zombies.
Another thing to note about gameplay is that it feels much more like a miniature wargame than a board game. The lingo on the cards in particular will completely throw someone who isn’t a wargamer. It assumes players know what they’re doing so if you’re playing with someone who doesn’t, then you should be prepared to slow it down and do some explaining.
What makes the game work, though, is the story. It’s space zombies versus soldiers! Even the rules, although tricky for beginners, set things up to create a story that immerses you in another world. It all feels just the way you’d expect it to feel if it actually happened.
The Vanguard soldiers, for example, are horribly outnumbered by the constantly spawning zombies but they’re much tougher and can take a beating. They’ve also got some powerful weaponry and can walk in and clear a room in the blink of an eye. The problem is that all the dead bodies lying around are fodder for the Strain so soldiers have to move fast or risk being surrounded again by newly risen Strain.
The Strain can also infect Vanguard soldiers and complicate things for the good guys. You never know when an infected soldier is going to succumb, so it’s a constant debate over keeping him alive and fighting or killing him yourself and cutting your losses.
The fear of infection will have you looking for dead bodies markers laying around the board. If you end your turn next to one, then there’s a chance he’ll be infected, rise up unnoticed and infect you. This will not end well for the Vanguard soldier.
There’s a palpable sense of urgency as you try to reach your objective before time runs out. If the Strain manages to turn enough dead bodies, your guys get killed, or get turned themselves, then the game is over and the Strain wins. No one lives to fight another day.
You can set up the scenarios so each successive game is part of a story arc, building from one game to the next rather than setting up the board with random die rolls. Although I started with a randomly configured scenario, I can’t wait to play through the campaign.
Overall, Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster is a combination of board gaming and miniature wargaming wrapped in a zombie-infested shell. The story and gameplay make up for issues with the game components, and the potential for new model releases down the line make this a game you’ll be playing again and again. It’s currently shipping to those who backed the kickstarter and you can expect to see it on store shelves sometime in January.