I’m not a video gamer, so I don’t really know what Bioshock is, or why Bioshock Infinite was such a big deal when it came out. But I do know what a big deal it is for Plaid Hat Games to be publishing
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is a new 2-4 player game from designer Isaac Vega that is being published by Plaid Hat. This is kind of license that one would expect another company, like Cryptozoic or Fantasy Flight. However, the makers of Bioshock apparently approached the Plaid Hat guys, who jumped at the opportunity. I listen to their podcast (I am a loyal Doug), and have been listening to them talk about this game for a while now. They are very excited, and with good reason – this is the type of thing that has major crossover appeal.
In The Siege of Columbia, players are fighting over the floating city of Columbia. This is not the focus of the video game, but Plaid Hat made a decision to play with the world rather than try to be a straight board game copy of the electronic version. The game comes with a board, 12 combat dice, 3 sky-line dice, 3 Elizabeth Timeline cards, 25 Vox Populi units (red and dark red), 25 Founder units (blue and light blue), 2 Gray Booker and Elizabeth units, 18 structures for each faction in the different colors, 16 territory tokens, 5 destruction markers, 73 silver eagles, 10 victory tokens for each faction, 1 Elizabeth marker, 60 Founder action cards per faction in the different colors, 4 leader cards per faction, 15 world event cards, 15 VP cards, a turn order track for four players, a first player token, 14 key tokens, and 40 upgrade tokens. They’re definitely earning the $85 price tag.
This game is a two-player game with a four-player team variant. I’m only going to be talking about the two-player version here. In the beginning, players either take on the faction of the Founders (blue) or Vox Populi (red), taking all the units associated with their side. Founders get to place a stronghold, Comstock, Songbird, and three common units in the New Garden of Eden; they also put a turret, Handyman, and four common units in the Hall of Heroes. Vox gets a stronghold, Daisy, Airship, and three common units in Fink MFG; they also put a turret, Handyman, and four common units in Bank of the Profit. Additionally, players shuffle up their action cards into a deck and draws a leader card from that set. A random Elizabeth timeline card is placed next to the board.
There are three phases to a round: World Events, Player Turns, and Refresh.
WORLD EVENTS: The top card of the World Event deck is flipped over. Players then vote on whether or not the event passes by playing face down action cards. These could be positive or negative votes. Once all have voted, the cards are revealed and Booker (the hero of the video game) will vote. This is accomplished by rolling a die and adding the total to the vote of the player currently behind in VPs. After all votes, the event is immediately resolved if the total is 0 or higher. If -1 or lower, the event is ignored. The player that played the most influence gets the first player token. Action cards are then discarded.
The World Event could cause Elizabeth to move on her track, resulting in a different effect. Booker will be placed on a space indicated on the World Event card, unless Elizabeth is on the board – then he will try to rescue her. This is accomplished by putting Booker in the same spot as Elizabeth and attacking any units that are there. Booker will also attack if a Booker icon appears on the World Event card. He rolls three red dice, and players being attacked may play action cards to beef up their own die rolls (equal to the number of units and stuctures they have in the location).
PLAYER TURNS: Each player takes a turn, taking the following steps in order:
- Produce – Play any number of action cards, collecting a number of Silver Eagles equal to the money value of the card.
- Recruit/Build – You may now recruit units, build structures, and purchase upgrades. To recruit, discard the proper number of Silver Eagles, then place the new unit on the board in any location you control. Structures are paid for the same way, but cannot be built in an area where there is already a structure. Upgrades are purchased for three Silver Eagles each.
- Move – Move up to four units to an adjacent location.
- Combat – If one or more of your units share a space with an enemy unit, it’s time to fight. Players both choose action cards, then roll one die for each unit and structure they have in the location. The loser must destroy the structure they have there and one unit, with the remaining units placed in a stronghold they control. If none exists, they are destroyed. If you move into the same location as Booker, you can choose whether to fight him or not. If the Booker symbol is on the current World Event, he’ll fight you.
REFRESH: Discard any number of cards and draw up to five. One VP card is revealed and put into play. These give you conditions that must be met to earn the points.
When a faction has 10+ victory points, they win. The game can also end if no cards are left in the World Event deck, meaning Booker and Elizabeth has escaped. Whoever has the most points wins, “but it is a flawed and hollow victory.” If a player ever has no units or structures on the board, he loses immediately.
This game seems interesting on a few levels. First of all, it’s exploring the world of Bioshock Infinite outside the trials and tribulations of its main characters, which may appeal to people familiar with the material. It looks like there are some area control things going on, as well as an interesting voting mechanism to see if an event actually happens. It’s almost like an auction as players are blind bidding their votes, but I like how an element of randomness is introduced to give the person in last place a leg up (Booker’s vote). The art and components all look very nice, and I look forward to hearing people’s impressions from GenCon. Hopefully, this is a big hit for Plaid Hat. Thanks for reading!
- BGG page for Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia
- Plaid Hat Games page
- Bioshock Infinite video game page
- Review from an Origins playthrough
- Dice Tower video review of the game