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Orcs Must Die – Review

Theme and What is it?

The castle is under siege. The enemy is pouring in. All that stands between the castle’s core, called the rift, and the enemy is you and a bucket load of traps. Set traps, fight the enemy, and save the day. Pony up suckers. It’s go time. 

Gameplay Mechanics

Orcs Must Die is a tower defense dice chucker. This review is going to cover both versions of the game, the Order and Unchained boxes which are the same except for the insert of different factions and the ability to play them against one another.

In both the co-op and versus modes the game takes place over three waves, each made up of three rounds. During the rounds players have to deal with a constant rush of Unchained or Order forces towards their rift. As players move around the map they fight orcs and place traps while keeping their gear up to snuff. In versus mode they also have to deal with enemy players invading their keeps.

There are several mechanics that work in tandem in OMD. A portion of the game is resource management. You only have so many skulls, the games currency, to spend on traps, upgrades, and gear. You have to be sure to get the things you need to defend the rift. When an enemy is killed you get a number skulls based on the type of enemy. Which means there is a limited supply.

The other resource you need to manage is stuff. You need traps, gear, and upgrades. Which do you buy and when. Sometimes you need to purchase single use items and gear because their cheap enough that you can use them now. If you’re really desperate it may be your only option. Finally, you have the resource of player powers. When do you use them, it’s not always the best idea to fire them off early, but they are so powerful that it can swing the tide between failure and victory.

A final resource is space. You only have so much space per room tile to place traps. Unfortunately, it never feels like enough. Which means now you have to decide not only what traps to buy but where to put them and when to replace them with more powerful traps. Every wave increases in power but so to do the traps and gear players have access to. Saving skulls to purchase bigger traps can be great but only if you can make it to the next wave.

The problem is that each of these resources feed into the others. You need the traps to kill the orcs to get the skulls to purchase the gear to kill the orcs to get the skulls and so on. Figuring out what to buy, when to buy, and if to buy can make all the difference.

In versus mode these decisions remain pretty much the same. You do have the additional decision of whether or not to stay in your own castle and defend it or invade your opponent’s castle in an attempt to help your forces get through faster. This makes for a more difficult game in a lot of ways. If you disregard your own keep it can cause the enemy’s minions to overrun your rift very quickly. However, every time a hero is reduced to zero health it deals damage to their rift. If you can get in and kill the enemy heroes it can cause their rift to fall without any minions getting through. However, you’re putting yourself in a position where they can kill you and damage your rift. However, if an enemy hero is weakened and you can get right up to them…

Initial Impressions

I’m a huge fan of the Orcs Must Die PC games. I enjoy the puzzley nature of them, the humor is on point, and I adore the feeling of progression. Pulling up my Steam account, I have over 500 hours tucked into the entire series. So when I heard there was going to be an Orcs Must Die board game, hell yes I was on board.

 

Beyond that I was excited to see the miniatures, the characters available, and a quick video tutorial and I was pretty excited by the whole thing. Then once the box arrived, and it was huge, I was even more hyped. I was ready for this.   

Game Build Quality

I am very happy with the component quality of this game. The cardboard is a nice thickness and sturdy. There doesn’t seem to be any warping or bent edges. The card quality is good with a nice thickness and a good finish. They are a little smaller than I would have liked but everything fits nicely into the box.

The insert is great. There’s room for all of the bits with extra space for expansion materials. There’s a plastic tray for the models and it comes with a handy reference guide so you can put everything back where it came from.

The models are decent quality. I wish the heroes were maybe a little bigger to allow more detail. The plastic is a little soft but the hot water trick works to get everything back in place.

The rules are clear and concise but the layout is a little odd. There are sections for things in the back of the book that I wish had been explained elsewhere. There are a couple of rules we had trouble with but there is a pretty robust FAQ section in the back of the book that answered most questions. Though there were two questions that were only answered a bit indirectly. I recommend watching a tutorial video or reading the rules at least twice before playing.

 

All told I was happy with the quality of the pieces.

Artistic Direction

I like the art. It has a cartoony quality that is in keeping with the PC game. I think some of the images may have been lifted from the games many art pieces. It gives the game a nice feel and look that I appreciate.

Fun Factor

The co-op version of the game is very much a group puzzle. Trying to figure out the best traps and upgrades to defend your keep can be daunting. There are multiple levels of map in the game going from easy to nightmare. I haven’t tried nightmare yet. If you want a solid puzzle this game will deliver it. However, that puzzle can be completely derailed by bad luck. What monsters come out each wave, what your dice roll, and several other factors can cause you to have some problems in the game. While it is possible to mitigate the luck a little bit, you’ll never be rid of it as a factor.

 

In versus mode the above factors are the same with the added human element. Now not only is luck working against you, so is another team. It can get fairly cut throat and vicious. While I realize that won’t be a big deal for everyone it is something to think about.

Age Range & Weight

The box says 14+ and I think that’s a good call depending on what mode you’re playing. If you’re playing co-op I think you could drop that to 10 or so, but they will need help. For versus mode 14+ is probably dead on.

 

That said the game sits in an odd place for game weight. If you’re okay with winging it then it’s not too heavy. You’ll get to throw things at the wall and see what happens and hope for the best. On the other end you can dig deep and analyze all of your options and really try and break this down. If you’re going for a full strategic win then I think you’re looking at a closer to heavy weight game. I think that stands for both co-op and versus modes.

Conclusions

As I said, I love these PC games. They translated pretty well to the board game for me. Is it a one for one exchange? No. There are a lot of differences between the two. None of them ever bothered me or stopped my enjoyment of the game. If you come into OMD looking for the same sense of humor as the PC game then I’m sad to say that’s mostly absent. There are moments shuffled into the card decks. It’s tucked away in the names of items and the effects of abilities. Some of the heroes don’t translate as well as I’d like. Gabriella is missing her charm powers but has her ability to set off traps.

Versus mode was okay. It’s not what I was looking for. It’s based on an old mode from the OMD Unchained beta where players would enter each other’s sides of the map and PvP. The mode was eventually removed because not a lot of players were using it. From my understanding the game was too far into production at that point to make any massive changes.

Still, I enjoyed the game. I like how the puzzle works. Trying to figure out what to do with what you have is fun for me. I’m hoping there will be a couple of more expansions in the future. I’d love to see rules for endless mode or the new sabotage mode that exist in the current run of the PC game.

 

If you get a chance to try OMD I say go for it. It’s worth the trip, the shove, and the bottomless pit. 

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