New Game Weekend: Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia

bsboxAfter a week away on vacation I returned to Brooklyn and the Metropolitan Wargamers club in Park Slope this past weekend. The club was packed on the Labor Day weekend with lots of different games hitting the tables. I paired-off with one of my fellow members to try out his new copy of Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia.

Based on the latest game in the long-running Bioshock video game franchise, this 2013 boardgame is at its root an area control game. Players choose to play as one of the two factions – the Vox Populi led by Daisy Fitzroy and the Founders led by Zachary H. Comstock. The game plays in a one-on-one two-player game or in a four-player team version of the game.

Play begins with each faction placing their starting miniatures and Turret and Home Base building markers. Each turn begins with the draw of a victory point mission card followed by a World Event Card which kicks off a secret vote with each player committing influence points from their hand of five Action cards. Winning or defeating the vote varies in importance, as the neutral Booker and Elizabeth characters advance to different spaces on the board and other game-changing events are put into play.

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The winner of the vote also receives the first turn marker which is key to controlling the flow of the game. Starting with the first player, units are purchased or Action cards are upgraded with Silver Eagle coins. Action card upgrades give you greater influence in votes, stronger combat values or more purchasing power in subsequent turns. The player then moves up to four units to adjacent squares or takes a chnace gliding to neighboring territories across the Skyline. Most units move one space but the Founders’ Songbird and Voz Populi’s Airship models each move up to two spaces. Skyline moves are achieved through rolls of special dice sliding you to the next node or risking a fall into thin air with each roll.

Combat occurs next. Common, Special and Leader units each carry a different die value, with different colored dice being rolled to resolve combat situations. Loss of a combat results in a figure being removed. Playing Action cards and upgrades add to combat effectiveness as do the special Turret markers. Conquering unoccupied spaces earns additional Silver Eagle coins, and controlling all spaces in a territory earns victory points. Destroyed units are removed from play or returned to Home Base safe havens. A mix of controlling territories and completing missions of combined actions wins victory points, and the first player to ten victory points wins the game.

There’s a lot going on in this game, and well-played plans and strategies are forced to change as world events switch from turn to turn. In my first game, I found controlling the first player spot was key. However, controlling the first player role means spending lots of cards which can come back to haunt you in a heavy combat challenge later in a turn. As the game advances, the heroine Elizabeth moves along a timeline track which also alters how the game plays out. Her protector Booker is also a big spoiler in swaying votes and possibly attacking each faction at different points in the game. Unlike most area control games where occupying and defending a won territory is often enough to ensure victory, the Skyline allows an opposing player to drop right into or behind your defenses and attack.

For a bit more of an intro to the game’s actual gameplay, check out the video below from the alwyas-entertaining Watch It Played video series.

If you aren’t up on your Bioshock Infinite video game lore, I could see some initial challenges in wrapping your head around the interplay of the characters, factions and events in the boardgame. I’ve spent quite a few hours watching my son work his way through the spectacular action and storyline in the video game, making my understanding of the boardgame’s narrative a bit richer from the get-go. Whether you’re a fan of the video game already or just interested in a really rich and challenging area control board game experience, you should hop the next airship back in time for the floating nation of Columbia.

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