As a casual board game fan, new games can be super intimidating. Is it going to be easy to pick up and run with like Unmatched? Or are you going to spend hours trying to understand a complex rulebook? The good news is Reload isn’t too hard to pick up, but that is not thanks to the rulebook.
Reload is a battle royale set in the future. Basically a bunch of clones have been created and they need to fight each other to the death, repeatedly. Why? Well for fame of course. There are crowds watching the show, and the clones gain fame for their many actions.
It’s an interesting setting, but it’s the way the game uses this that is truly brilliant.
The general gist
As mentioned, the gist of the game is you need to get fame. Get enough, and you win. Have the most when the game ends, and you win. It is that simple. Well simplish. Gaining fame is achieved by multiple action types. Defuse someone’s trap, get some fame. Fail to defuse a trap, they get some fame. Damage your opponents limbs, get some fame. Knock out the last of someone’s health and force them to reload, and you get heaps of fame.
The fame is tracked in a long and colourful fame tracker with an indent that you place the little arrows in for each action. When you first open the gamebox, the little fame tokens are incredibly numerous and so this seemed terrifyingly intimidating. Once you realise how this works, it makes the game way more awesome as each person’s fame tracker winds up filled with their colourful array of actions that they completed throughout the game.
There is another cool system where three random cards are flipped. These are what the flavour of the battle is for the crowd. Complete these tasks and you will get a bonus achievement. This is an awesome little bit of spice that makes every playthrough taste a little different.
One excellent design choice is the map system. The board that you play on is made up of hexagon tiles. The game comes with a book of different maps which varies the combination of tiles and the size. This is clever because with eight different map configurations out of the box, you will immediately have eight unique games before you have to reuse a map.
The maps include the tile configuration, as well as tokens such as portals, walls, and item drops. The obvious thing this means is you can create your own maps, and even using functions within the game you can make the same maps different giving so much replay value.
Event cards take place which also acts as the game’s timer. If nobody has maxed out their fame by the time the last one is drawn the game ends and the player with the most fame wins. This is another nice little detail that feels a lot like a battle royale, but also varies up the game. A nice little earthquake, or the radiation spreading throughout can certainly throw a spanner in anyone’s plans.
The combat was initially the hardest part to get my head around. This isn’t because it is overly difficult, but because the rule book is. Basically on your turn you grab your dice. You can use the specific dice to fulfill specific actions like moving. Any dice you don’t use on your turn go into your defense pot. If you get attacked you only have your defense dice left.
When you and your attacker roll your dice, the dice go highest to lowest. So if you have done too many actions then when you are attacked then you have a good chance of being slammed. You reload when you run out of health, but your opponent gets a pretty sweet boost with the large Reload token. Balancing the number of moves you use to gain items and achieve goals, with ensuring you don’t get smashed in a battle takes a while to get the rhythm of.
When it comes to the game itself, I am happy. When it comes to the package, I am mostly happy. The first issue is the rule book is hard as hell to read. I wound up watching some YouTube videos to get the hang of the game, and even after that I still found the rules hard to read. This isn’t ideal, but given YouTube exists, it isn’t a deal breaker.
The other thing that got under my skin is going to seem petty, but it annoyed me. The insert for the game is great in that it gives you separate spots to place the cards and each of the tiles. This means the game is almost ready to go when you open the box. The issue is that it doesn’t have a slot for the fame tracks. I wound up balancing them on the top of the box on top of the massive square rule book.
A weird little aside, that may or may not be a major is the minifigures. They are made from a plastic that you can heat up and shape. This is apparently to stop the figures breaking, but does mean you need to do this when you first open the game as all of mine were at weird angles. Hopefully this means they are more resilient and may be harder to break. I am not sure and only time will tell.
Reload is a great game. It is cleverly designed to make for an interesting battle royale which is true to the genre and fun to play in its new medium. The artwork looks amazing, and the premise works. Some tiny design issues in the final product are all I can knock it for. If you use YouTube to learn the rules, you can save yourself some stress.