Robotech: Force of Arms by SolarFlare Games Review

Theme and What is it?

Robotech: Force of Arms takes you back to the ‘80’s cartoon series where the Earth is fending off an invasion by the Zentraedi. In this two-player game, you are either the Robotech Defense Forces (RDF) or the Zentraedi dueling with spaceships and fighters for the fate of the planet and secrets of Protoculture. Play your fighters and tokens to advance your strategy to defend your starships and attempt to capture your opponent’s.

Gameplay Mechanics

Goal

Save the Earth or destroy it by earning the most victory points from the claimed starships during the Scoring Phase.  In the event of a tie, battle again for supremacy!

Setup

Separate the starship cards and Empty Space card from the rest of the cards.  Shuffle the starships and randomly place them in a 3×3 grid with the Empty space in the center.  Each player chooses a faction’s deck, RDF or Zentraedi, and the starting tokens.  Determine the first player by randomly pulling a fighter card and comparing them; the highest value can choose to be the first or second.  Finally, the first player chooses two adjacent sides of the grid to play fighter cards.

Turns

Instead of turns, players perform actions during four distinct phases: Tactical, Token, Hero/Command, and Scoring.

In the Tactical Phase, starting with the first player, each player moves a starship to a new place in the grid, trading places with the card at the new location (including the Empty Space cards).  Then two fighter cards are played face down, unless taking advantage of certain cards’ special abilities.  Play moves to the second player and goes back and forth until all the fighter cards are played.

In the Token Phase, starting with the first player, each player plays a single token gained during the Tactical phase.  These tokens include Attack, Defense, Ship Lock, and Spy tokens.  Playing tokens goes back and forth until at least all of the Attack and Defense tokens are played.  Ship Lock and Spy tokens don’t have to all be played at this time.

In the Hero/Command Phase, starting with the second player, each player plays either a Hero or Command card.  Playing the cards goes back and forth until one Hero and two Command cards are played.

The Scoring Phase is where you determine if all the strategizing and scheming pays off.  The Attack and Defense values of a given ship are compared.  These values are impacted by the adjacent fighters for both factions and tokens played upon them.  Whomever has the highest value will claim the ship and a tie will leave the ship on the table.

Initial Impressions

My son and I had a difficult time understanding the terminology in context of the game to start.  Some of the terms used early expected you to know what they meant without definition and after looking further ahead to see the card explanations some of the concepts still weren’t quite clear.  This game took us a couple of times to play to understand everything.  Otherwise the concept and art evoked the Robotech I remembered.

Game Build Quality

The game’s components and packaging are nice quality.  The cards are good playing card stock for holding up to shuffling and playing.  The tokens are a thick cardboard stock that would hold up to a bit of play without bending or wrinkling.  Punching them out was very easy.  The rulebook is a glossy-paged paper pamphlet.  The box is a sturdy cardboard with the cardboard form inside making use of the available space for easy storage of the components.  Two plastic baggies were included to hold the cards and tokens is a nice touch.

Artistic Direction

This is all about Robotech. The art is all based upon what you’d see in an episode of the show. I was kinda hoping to see some of the different conversions of Robotech’s mecha but ship and fighter cards are by no means disappointing. There is even a card for the conversion of SDF-1 for the fans.

Fun Factor

This is all about Robotech.  The art is all based upon what you’d see in an episode of the show.  I was kinda hoping to see some of the different conversions of Robotech’s mecha but ship and fighter cards are by no means disappointing.  There is even a card for the conversion of SDF-1 for the fans.

Age Range & Weight

The age range indicated on the box is 14+ and in the rulebook it says 8+.  Not sure which one is the typo, but my assessment is more towards the higher end of the range.  The first three phases of play can just be played without really paying attention but not developing a strategy at the start, even at the point of picking who is the first and second players, will have consequences on the end of the game.  Overall the game weight is based upon the experience and maturity of the players – younger and inexperienced players will be playing to learn the game while the older and more experienced players have an idea of how they want to approach the game from the get-go.

Conclusions

This is a two-player, low-component strategy game that can be played in about 30 minutes.  That makes it a great gateway for a teaching kids about how to think strategically against other players where card location is a key component.  This also makes a decent in-between game or something to play while waiting for the group to arrive.  My son likes the game and wants to play it with his brother and friends, which isn’t his typical reaction to games I have.  I hope he gets good use out of it.