In the not so distant future, mega-corporation are developing cybernetically-enhanced clone soldiers for exploring other worlds. On custom made islands which include all of the dangers and challenges these soldiers might face, the corporations train their clones as well as use these demonstrations to win lucrative government contracts. In order to help fund this expensive research and development, these corporations have teamed up with media moguls to create the biggest TV show on the planet, RELOAD. Now these clone soldiers compete against each other for fame while winning their corporations a fortune.
What Is Reload?
Reload is a battle royale themed game for 2-4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 60 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $29 for a copy of the base game without any stretch goals. For a pledge of $39, you get the base game, all the stretch goals, and the capture the flag mode. Finally, the all-in pledge level, which is $59, includes everything from the other levels plus a new game mode that let’s you play with 5-6 players as well as new characters. The new game modes include new map hexes. Reload was designed by Francois Rouzé and Jean-Marc Tribet, published by Kolossal Games, with illustrations by Jacqui Davis.
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Note: My review is based on a digital prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
The base game of Reload includes the following:
- 4 character boards
- 4 character miniatures
- 4 character reference cards
- 4 frame tracks
- 116 fame markers
- 77 equipment cards
- 29 island hexes
- 24 traps (6 per character)
- 20 event cards
- 18 toxin tokens
- 15 walls
- 23 supply box tokens
- 6 stun tokens
- 6 heavy tokens
- 4 hideouts (one per player)
- 4 player aids and reference cards
- 4 PORTAL tokens
- 20 black action dice
- 4 white shooting dice
- 8 achievement cards
- 1 achievement board
- 1 green boost die
- 6 zone markers
- 1 map book
- 1 rule book
Reload comes with four unique characters. Each has their own miniature to play on the map, a character board, and a reference card with more information about that character. The character board lists the actions available to that character and is where the black action dice are placed as they are used. The board also contains spots for recording damage taken, equipment that is currently equipped, and much more. The all-in pledge level includes additional characters plus even more characters may be released as stretch goals. The character boards are two-sided. The basic side has all characters with the same values and is good for learning the game. The advanced side provides for asymmetrical gameplay since the characters each have some different values and abilities.
A number of different islands can be created from the 24 island hexes. The included map book provides instructions for how to set up these islands for the game. There are nine different types of tiles. Each hex contains icons that provide information as to what types of actions can be taken, or not taken, on that hex. Not all types of tiles are available on all maps. Additional types of tiles may be released as stretch goals during the campaign.
Each player, or team of players, has a fame track. This is essentially a scoreboard for the game. As players earn fame, they place different types of fame tokens on the track. Some tokens are longer than others representing earning more fame. For example, causing another player to reload will earn you the most fame represented by the longest fame token. Fame can also be earned by uploading a beacon, injuring another character, building a trap, healing a teammate, and more.
The achievement board provides ways in which players can earn additional fame. The three achievement cards in play on the board show the currently available achievements. Some are awarded instantly when a player completes the requirement such as earning an injury or trap fame token. Others award at the end of the game for the player with the most of certain requirements. Completing an achievement earns a player an achievement token to put on their fame track.
Equipment cards can be weapons, armor, or other items that are used by the characters to help them during combat or other times during the game. Each contains icons describing how it is used and what it does. The player aid card provides descriptions of the iconography on the cards. Equipment comes in three different levels. There are 32 1-star equipment cards, 20 2-star equipment cards, and 15 3-star Ex-Tech equipment cards. The more stars, the more powerful the equipment. 1-star cards can be acquired from both the village and warehouse hexes. 2- and 3-star equipment cards can be gained by picking up supply boxes.
Event cards are drawn at the end of each player’s turn beginning the second round. Not only do they act as a timer for the game, but also introduce random events. Some place toxin tokens at the edges of the map while others can send in supply drops with equipment. Characters who end their turn in a hex with a toxin token take damage unless they have some type of protection such as a hideout.
Walls and hideouts can be placed by players as build actions. Unless a wall was built by that character, or a teammate, characters can’t move or shoot through walls. Walls can be demolished by using a build action as well. Each player can have one hideout on the map. When a player ends their turn at their hideout, or a teammate’s hideout, they take the lowest die on their defense track and return it to the defense pool. They also are immune to any toxin in the hex. If a player already has a hideout on the map, they can move it to their current hex by performing a build action.
Each player starts the game with six traps. Players can place traps on their current hex with a build action. Then when an opposing character enters that hex, they have to resolve the trap. To do this the play selects rock, paper, or scissors. The trap is then flipped over to see out it compares. If the player wins, the trap is disarmed and has no effect and the player adds two trap fame tokens to their track. If the result is a tie, the player is ensnared. The player can not take any more run actions that turn and the owner of the trap places one trap fame token on the track. If the player loses, the owner gets a fame token, the player receives an injury, and the owner also gets an injury fame token. If the trap forces the player to reload, the owner of the trap gets a reload token instead of the injury token. No matter the result, the trap is removed and returned to the owning player.
Each player gets 5 black action dice which are used to represent actions taken as well as to record damage taken. These dice also act as a character’s defense die for when they are attacked. The white shooting dice are used when a character attacks using a ranged weapon. There is also a green boost die that can be provided by an equipment card. It essentially gives the player one additional action, but doe not count as a defense die during an attack.
Reload also has several player aids. Some are are specific to individual characters, while others describe the actions characters can take, and provide information about the map hexes, equipment cards, event cards and iconography of the game. These are great for use while learning the game.
How to Play Reload
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to have the most fame at the end of the game.
Players at the start must determine the type of game they are playing: free-for-all where players compete against each other or team mode with teams of two players against two players. Next select a map from the map book and use the map hexes and tokens to create the map on the table. After randomly selecting the first player, who retains that position throughout the game, decide if you will be using the basic or advanced sides of the character boards. Starting with the first player, and then continuing in a clock-wise direction, players choose their character boards.
Place the achievement board to the side of the map. Assemble the fame tracks according to instructions depending on number of players and play mode selected. The first player fame track goes at the top of the rows of tracks with remaining fame tracks below it in the turn order of the players. Make stacks of fame tokens nearby for easy access.
Create three decks of equipment cards based on their number of stars and shuffle them. Shuffle the cards of the achievement deck and place it on the achievement board. Draw the top three cards and place them in the slots on the achievement board with an achievement fame token below them. Finally, shuffle the event cards to form a deck. Players each draw two cards from the 1-star equipment deck, place of the cards face down in their backpack slot and discard the other card. Each player gathers their character miniature, six traps, a hideout, three walls in their color, five black action dice, and place their fame marker on their fame track.
In Reload, the game is divided into rounds where each player takes a turn in order, starting with the first player. Each turn is divided into three phases: start, action, and end. Once a player completes their end phase, the next player begins their turn.
At the beginning of the start phase, players place all of their action dice which are not in the injury zone into their defense pool. If the player’s character is not already on the map, which is the situation for all players on their first turn, the player places their miniature onto the map on either the Central Tower or one of the six adjacent map hexes. They then roll two action dice to determine where they land. If both dice are the same or opposites (1-skull, 2-5, 3-4) then they land on their chosen hex. Otherwise, they move their miniature in the direction of one of the dice results as indicated on the map. Next the player selects which equipment they want to use for the turn. These are placed at the bottom of the character board. Players can only have 1 head, 1 torso, and 2 hands worth of cards equipped. Other equipment cards remain in the backpack face down. Equipment without a body part icon at the top do not have to be equipped but can be used directly from the backpack.
During the action phase, players assign their action dice to action slots on their character board. Some actions can be taken more than once. To perform an action, select a die from the defense pool and turn it so the die matches the icon on the character board. For example, if you wanted to use the first run action, turn the die to a 4 and place it down. Players can perform as many actions as they have action dice in their pool or until they enter close combat. Players are not required to use all their action dice and any unused dice remain in the defense pool. When playing with the advanced sides of the character boards, some players have additional actions they can take unique to them.
Some actions are unrestricted meaning they can be performed whether an opposing character is in the same hex or not. Run allows a player to move to an adjacent hex. An activate action allows a player to activate an action on their current hex which can vary depending on the type of hex. Finally, the loot action lets the player pick up a beacon or pick up a supply box. When looting a supply box, the player draws three cards from the equipment deck with the same number of stars, select one card and then discard the other two. The player can equip it immediately if there is a slot or if the card in the slot does not already have an action die on it. Otherwise, the card is placed in the backpack. Ranged combat is the final unrestricted action and will be covered later.
There are two actions that are restricted, meaning they can only be performed if no opposing characters are in the same hex. The build action allows a player to place two walls on the sides of the current hex, place a trap, or build a hideout. There can only be one trap per hex. A build action can also be used to demolish one neutral or opposing wall. For the heal action, the player rolls one action dice and places it on the heal spot. They then remove one dice from the injury zone and return it to the defense pool. If they roll a skull, they can remove two dice from the injury zone.
One of the ways to gain fame is to injure other players and cause them to reload. There are two types of combat: ranged combat and close combat. Ranged combat requires a ranged weapon. These are equipment cards with an action space on them. Each of these has a range. A range of zero means the target must be in the same hex. A range of one is an adjacent hex and so forth. To begin a ranged attack, place an action die on the left most slot on a weapon and select a target which is in range. The active player then rolls the number of white shooting dice as shown on the weapon card. Place the results on their combat line on their character card, from highest to lowest. The target player rolls the black action dice remaining in their defense pool and add it to their combat line from highest to lowest. Both players place any skull results in their skull pool. Now players compare skull pools. If the attacker has more skulls, the defender takes one injury for each skull the attacker has in excess. If the defender has more skulls, the attacker removes one shooting die for each skull in excess. Now compare the remaining combat lines. Compare the top dice and then so forth on down the line. If the attacker’s die is higher than the defender, the defender’s die is placed in the injury zone. If the defender’s die is equal or higher, there is no effect. For every attacker die that is unopposed, the defender takes one small injury. Finally, for every shooting die that matches one of the action dice assigned to the weapon, the bonus effect of the weapon is resolved. Finally return all shooting dice to the supply and move any action dice in the skull pool to the defense pool. If the attacking player inflicted at least one injury on the target, they add one injury token to the fame track.
Close combat is a bit different in that both players are attacking each other. Both characters must be in the same hex for close combat. At the start of close combat, both players roll any action dice in their defense pool as well as any assigned action dice with a skull. After modifying their dice, usually as a result of a weapon, players place their dice on their combat line from highest to lowest placing skull dice in their skull pool. First players compare their skull pools with the player with the fewest skull dice taking one injury for each skull in excess. Next compare the two combat lines starting at the top. The losing die is placed in that players injury pool. If there is a tie, there is no effect. If there is an unopposed die, the player with out a die takes one small injury. Finally remove all skull dice to the defense pools. At the end of combat, players who inflicted at least one injury on their opponent add one injury token to their fame track, no matter how many injuries they inflicted in that one combat. Note that when a player engages in close combat, they cannot perform any other actions that turn since close combat ends the turn.
Each player has four spaces in their injury pool. When they take an injury, they place an action dice in their injury pool. Not only does this indicate how injured their character is, it also reduces the number of action dice they have available for actions and for defense. When the last slot in the injury pool is filled, the character reloads. If this happens during the middle of combat, combat ends immediately. When a character reloads, move the miniature onto the reload spot on the character board. Place all beacons the player was carrying in their current hex. All equipment cards are returned to their matching discard piles. The player draws two 2-star equipment cards and keeps one and returns the other. Finally that player that causes the reload puts a reload fame token on their track. Sometimes a player will receive a small injury as the result of a bonus effect from a weapon or an unopposed die on the combat line. When this occurs, that player turns their lowest combat die on their combat line down by one. If that die is already a one, then place that die in the injury pool. Any additional small injuries then apply to the next lowest die in the combat line.
Once a player has taken all the actions they can or wish to take, or have engaged in close combat, the end phase begins. Place all assigned action dice with numeric values on the combat track organized from highest to lowest. Place all combat dice not in the combat line or injury zone into the defense pool. If the player is in a hideout, place the lowest die in the combat line into the defense pool. Players in a hex with toxin and not a friendly hideout take one injury. Beginning the second round of the game, after a player finishes their end phase, they draw an event card and resolve its effects. The next player then begins their turn.
The game ends at the end of a round in which one or more of the game end conditions have been met or immediately if a player has filled their fame track and achieves Superstar status. The game end conditions are as follows: No beacons remain on the map or in any player’s beacon storage or if there is a toxin token in every hex except for the central tower. If no one ends as a Superstar, after awarding achievement tokens for completing achievements, compare the fame tracks of the players. The player or team with the longest row of tokens in their fame track is the winner. In case of a tie the player or team with the most achievement tokens in their track is the winner. If still a tie, then the player or team with the most injury tokens is the winner. Any other result is a shared victory.
Why You Should Play Reload
I did not have the opportunity to play a physical copy of Reload. Instead, I was able to play a digital version of the game on Tabletopia with Chris Hamm, one of the game’s developers, playing along and explaining the game in the process. I also had a chance to play the base game digitally with some of my friends. When I first heard about Reload, I was a bit skeptical. However, after playing it and delving into the rules, I can honestly say I love this game. The first time one plays this game, it is a learning experience. There seems to be a lot to take in. However, once the basic concepts are understood, it is more apparent how well the game flows.
I really like the way actions are taken and how they affect the player’s defense later in the round if they are attacked. Sure you can take as many actions as you have action dice. However, the more actions you take, the lower some of your defense dice. For example, using the run action to move to an adjacent hex sets a dice at 4. If you use it again, the second die is a 3. A third run action gives you a 2 for that die. Looting is great for gaining items, but will give you a 2 for the first two dice and a 1 for the third. These spent dice then go into your combat line at the end of your turn. By leaving some dice in the defense pool, you at least get to roll them and hopefully get higher than a 2. In addition, before someone attacks you, they can see your combat line and know what they have to beat to injure or even reload your character. This mechanic of using dice for actions and defense works smoothly and really reflects this type of game. The more actions you take, the more exposed you are to enemy attack.
On the topic of characters, playing with the advanced side of the character boards provides the character’s special abilities. Each is unique and requires a different way to play successfully. Korat gets to keep a 2 equipment cards when looting instead of just one. Duke gets to add 1 to one of his shooting dice–you get to pick which one which allows you to put it where you need to inflict the most injuries. You are going to want to get some good ranged weapons for him. Blitz has an extra run slot, plus the first two slots set the dice at 4. He is great for running around the map. Finally, Dax is good at evading as represented by his ability to take his lowest die from the combat line and place it in his defense pool to roll again later. If he ends his turn at a hideout, the gets to do that with his two lowest die. Therefore, with Dax, you don’t have to worry as much about some of those lower die in your combat line.
Looking at the different pledge levels that are available during the Kickstarter campaign, Kolossal Games is offering some great deals. The base game will be similar to the retail game and will definitely sell for more than $29 when it hits store shelves. The next pledge of $39 gets you the base game and all the stretch goals plus the capture the flag game mode with extra map hexes. From what I understand, these may include new equipment cards, new map hexes, and even new characters! These items from the stretch goals most likely won’t be available at retail, but only directly from Kolossal. Finally, the all-in pledge at $59 is a great value. It comes with everything in the lower levels plus the rumble game mode for 5-6 players as well as four more characters.
Finally, I am very impressed at how Reload maintains the theme of the game throughout. The art has a video game feel to it. The use of icons allows for information to be easily presented on cards and hexes without needing any text. The fame track looks great and is a useful visual way to see who is winning the game. No need to remember how many points you earn for various actions. Just grab the tokens of various lengths and place them down. Even death is not the end. If you take too many injuries, you just reload and parachute back into the game on your next turn. While you may have lost some items, you do not lose your fame. I can’t wait until Reload ships at the end of this year!
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Reload Kickstarter page!
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