I recently got the opportunity to try out Nanobot Battle Arena from Derpy Games. I like the sound of a theme that is a future where battles with Nanobots are a regular occurrence. It invokes my imagination to see a number of speculative sci-fi scenarios.
When you get set up to start playing, you’ll get a “character” card that will go with the colors of nanobots that you will use during the game. This card has a description on it about the type of nanobots that your scientist is using. At first, we thought that these cards were actually rules descriptions, but they are actually theme. The theme was neat, but it wasn’t clear that it was not a rule. Essentially, there are 8 types of actions in the game, and each color of bot is going to get a bonus of 1 to the associated action to its color.
The point of the game is to lay down all of our nanobots before anybody else can and to have the longest continuous chain of nanobots.
Each turn is as easy as Sentinels of the Multiverse. You lay down one nanobot, you play one card, you refill your hand to five cards, and then you’re done.
The cards are simple, with just a number, a color, and a name of the action. The rule book clarifies what each of the different actions does. It would probably have been helpful to have a little card that could be set on the table and explain the actions.
Features and Improvements:
The draw deck of action cards has to be separated every game to draw the starting hands for each player, because you are supposed to get a certain number of action cards with a certain number of actions on each card such as 3, 2, or 1. This is a big hassle for a game that should be a short and quick game.
I tried my best to plan ahead in a four player game and try to set up a big play to have a long chain. The big problem is, if its not going to bring you or someone else up to 15 nanobots, it doesn’t matter. Someone else will easily screw up your long chain before the game will end.
There is a suggestion that you can buy a number of extra boxes to make the game last longer. I can’t honestly see any beneficial reason for doing this. The game can just about go on forever with the limit of 15 nanobots if you’re playing with a few players. The ability for people to gang up on anyone that might be ahead makes it very easy for the leader to get torn down.
The game really would have benefited from a play mat. It is hard to keep track of where the nanobots are located in reference to each other once the chains are broken between different groups of tokens.
In the end:
Playing this game with more than 3 players is, in some ways an exercise in frustration. If you wanted to play a very casual game where everyone is drinking and socializing and you just wanted to occasionally do a few turns and just pass the time, this game may be suitable. What happens between your end turn and the start of your next turn will change so much that there isn’t much need to pay attention.
The rules are unclear in a number of small instances that add up to make the game need a number of house rules. Also, sometimes cards or rules use different words that mean the same thing, making for some confusion as to what happens to your nanobots.
What about with 2 or 3 players?
I found the game most pleasing with 2 players. 3 players would do at a stretch. This is a very light game, and you shouldn’t expect a grand strategy to really play out in this game.
The game says 14+, but after playing with 2 players, we came to the conclusion that the game would actually play best with 10+ instead. Savvy kids that are age 8+ may also be able to play. The basic rules are really quite easy, and it really has the appropriate level of tactics for kids that don’t think in that way.
With a few tweaks and extra components, this game could have a chance to be interesting for strategists and family gamers in smaller numbers of players.