District 9: The Board Game-Weta Workshop-Preview

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Scour for alien tech, quell alien riots, face down competing factions.  Will your faction survive and prove most lucrative?

John Doe

MeepleGamers

8.6/10
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Theme and What is it?

8/10

The aliens have occupied District 9 for years since they unexpectedly appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa.  Poverty, crime, chaos are the norm in the slums of District 9 giving cover to many lucrative, yet dangerous secrets.  

You play a faction scouring the district for alien tech while quelling riots and encountering with other factions. Will your faction survive and prove itself victorious in claiming the most alien tech before all hell breaks loose?

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Gameplay Mechanics

8/10

Goal

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The goal of the game is to be the faction that has the most Victory points from collecting  the most valuable alien tech and other sources by the end of Day 3.

Setup

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Players choose a faction and take the associated components, shuffling the Faction decks.  Establish the First Player/Game Manager by drawing cards from the Faction Deck, highest value goes first, and given the Puddi Bag.  The district game area is composed of tiles laid by the players, starting with the First Player, following specific rules for how they fit adjacent to each other.

Prepare the Event, Unrest, and Mech boards. The Event deck is shuffled and placed near the game board. Finally, players shuffle their Faction decks again and each draw five cards for the starting hand.

Turns

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Turn/Round Overview

The game is played over the course of the three days from the movie.  Day 1 is concluded when Wickus and the Canister are in the same zone. Day 2 is concluded when Wickus and CJ are in the same zone.  Day 3 is concluded when the Mech is destroyed, ending the game.

During each day, players take turns and perform actions during those turns.  When all the players have taken a turn, a round is concluded and the Wickus Phase is executed.

A player’s turn consists of the spending Influence, performing Actions and Orders (these are performed in any order as the player decides), resolving a Day Event, and refresh your hand.

Spending Influence

Spending Influence involves counting how much Influence a faction has from its allies, equipment, District Booster card, and tech.  You then spend this Influence on playing Ally and Equipment cards from your hand to your Vehicle or recruiting a Deployable Ally (any Influence modifiers gained by these new cards isn’t taken into account until the beginning of the next turn).  Increase your Vehicle’s Strength and Defence as applicable due to any of the new allies and/or equipment. You may spend up to the amount of Influence you currently have but Influence is not carried over to other turns.

Play an Action

Playing an Action is done once per player’s turn.  They are on the bottom, requiring to turn them around to read.  Using one of these cards for their effect does not cost Influence but requires the spawning of Prawn (number indicated on the card) as payment to do this action.

Execute Orders

A player may execute up to three Orders per turn, in any combination and the same Order can be executed more than once per turn.  Players may execute the following Orders: Move, Evict, Claim, Engage, and Bank (can only be performed during Day 2 and 3).

Performing a Move Order, a player can move its Vehicle up to two zones for a single Order, unless equipment or other conditions allow otherwise.

When the Evict Order is executed, a Tech Tile is revealed, Prawn are spawned in that zone (possible as hostile), and the player gains the Tech Tile.

The Claim Order allows the player to pick up a face-up Tech Tile in a zone, causing Prawn to be spawned in that zone.

To rid a zone of Prawn, attack other factions, characters, or the Mech, the player executes the Engage Order.

The Bank Order is how a faction saves its most important Tech and Mech Tiles at its base zone (up to three tiles) or Outpost (one tile).

When a player refreshes their hand, they may discard any number of remaining cards and then draw back to five cards.

Wikus Phase

During the Wikus Phase, each player draws two Wikus cards, selects one to put in the Puddi bag, and discards the other card.  Another card is taken from the Wikus deck to be put in the Puddi bag. The player currently holding the Puddi bag draws a card and the instructions are resolved. A second card is drawn and resolved, then the remaining cards are removed and put in the Wikus Discard pile.

When Day 3 arrives, there is no more Wikus Phase and players just continue their turns as normal — collecting Tech Tiles, fighting the Mech, characters, and the other factions — until the Mech loses all of its damage tiles and the game ends.

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Initial Impressions

7/10

The game seemed a bit much — all the pieces, cards, tokens, etc., all the possibilities causing decision lock — but things eventually cleared up.  Being that this is a preview for a game that isn’t completed yet this isn’t wholly unexpected.

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Game Build Quality

8/10

The components are comprised of multiple types and sizes of cards, miniatures, tokens, and game board tiles, and indicator cubes.  This is a preview set but the vision is there in all the pieces even though they aren’t production quality. 

The colors of the miniatures will be more vibrant and made of more sturdy material.  District board tiles and tokens will be of a robust cardboard stock found in games with other similar components.

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Artistic Direction

10/10

The main artistic components are the miniatures, component art, and rulebook art.  The flavor and style is consistent throughout all pieces and are highly reflective of the movie.  

The shots from the movie aren’t used specifically, except conceptually the downed drop ship, and all the art is either computer drafted or based upon free-form compositions based upon the movie or the theme of the movie.  

The district area tiles have little variety in color but its the slums of the district, there isn’t much to differentiate it. This is Weta Workshop, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in how the game looks and feels.

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Fun Factor

9/10

Though our game took us much longer than a typical game play should, we had a good time the whole way.  It was nice to play a game based upon an IP, but not as a rehash of movie events with the main character(s).  

In spite of that, the movie’s story plays out in spite of what we were doing as factions and it caused us to be incorporated into the final battle scene of the movie, which is ever bit as climatic on the screen.

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Age Range & Weight

10/10

The age range is 14+. This is not a simple game, coming with plenty of rules and exceptions for the different days.  Though each player has the same things to do each turn, each round, each day, the players play differently each time as the randomness of card draws greatly impact how it evolves.  

The age range is certainly appropriate for the strategy and complexity of the ever-shifting nature of the game.

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Conclusions

8.6/10

Playing the Game…

In the beginning when looking at the demo at GenCon and the game playthrough on the previous Kickstarter, it seemed a little overwhelming and kludgy with all the options with this extra bonus or that extra Order tacked on.  It didn’t feel so bad after getting some help from Weta upfront and finishing the game playthrough helped clear things up going into the game. After completing the game, it makes so much more sense now and can’t wait to see the cleaned up rulebook.

The mechanics took a little bit to adjust to but since you do the same things each turn, each round, each Day, executing your turn goes faster.  Despite issues — pretty minor overall — with the rulebook, my group and I felt that the game was well-balanced and engaging.

Highlights

Features I liked most were the Unrest board and Mech. The Unrest board and potentially overwhelming numbers of Prawn that a sense of urgency to things in a similar fashion to other escalating threat mechanics. The Mech was basically this massive, powerful Big Bad at the end of a game that just walked around, stomping you down. With the players’ capability to cause critical damage to the Mech in their own defense, the Mech threat slowly diminished but only just in time for everyone.

Finally, there had been some talk previously about each of the factions looking different but playing the same and Weta did make a change to include starting District Boost cards for each faction.  None of us felt that after playing the game that asymmetric faction abilities/effects were absolutely necessary to the game even though we did play with those starting District Boost cards. It might be more thematic to include but it is something that can be added as an option or expansion in the future.

District 9: The Board Game-Weta Workshop-Preview
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