# of Players: 2-4 Players
Best with: 2 Players
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Avg. Play Time: 2 hours, 3+ your first time through
Parts: Board, 15 dice, 2 player sheets, 3 timeline cards, 52 plastic “units”, 73 silver eagles (money), 36 cardboard structures, 16 territory tokens, 14 key tokens, 40 upgrade tokens, first player token, 5 destruction markers, 20 victory points, 1 Elizabeth marker, 159 cards, turn order track, & rulebook.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
I’d been wanting to play this game for a while because of my love for the Bioshock video game series, so when Card Kingdom had a 40% sale, we snagged it. Then we both got the crud going around and didn’t manage to play it until now. The game plays like a twisted version of RISK, with players playing as either the Vox Populi or the Founders. While trying to gain influence before the other, you’re also trying to avoid Booker as he attempts to rescue Elizabeth.
General Mechanics: There are three main phases to a “round,” starting with the World Event Phase. In it, a world event card gets turned over. Players will vote on whether to pass or fail the edict (which includes Booker voting). The results of the vote decide whether something happens and then, if necessary, both Elizabeth and Booker will move or fight a player in combat. The vote also determines which player goes first. The next phase is the Player Turns Phase, where the first player will exchange cards for money, buy or upgrade units or structures (structures are strongholds, turrets, & alarms, which add additional dice to rolls), move units, and possibly fight other players (or Booker) in combat. After all players have cycled through this, the last phase, the Refresh Phase, begins. In it, players will discard any cards they wish and refresh their hand up to 5 cards.
Like RISK, players will build up their “units” to fight for territory control of Columbia. Completing goals and taking territories gains the player victory points. The twist comes from the inclusion of Booker and Elizabeth, who run around Columbia making trouble for the players. An additional twist comes from players trying to sway influence through various events that come up. Also, movement is hampered by the sky-lines, which adds further difficulty and combat to normal movement. Some territories can be destroyed, which also shifts the game’s dynamics.
How to Win/Lose: The first player or team to reach ten victory points wins. However, the game is also over if you run out of world event cards. Then the winner will be the one with the most victory points.
What I Liked: The artwork on the board was awesome. Since I enjoy RISK, I enjoyed that flavor of the game as well. Who wouldn’t love more Bioshock!?
What I Didn’t Like: This game has a major balance issue that has been discussed at length online, but I was hoping the Internet was wrong on this one. My husband went straight for upgrades that gave him copious amounts of money. I went for combat upgrades. Even though I had more troops, more territory, and better combat bonuses, I used them all: a) making votes benefit me and not him and b) fighting him, which meant I was always broke. Being broke means you have 0% chance of winning the game. Zero. Also, once someone has control of Elizabeth, they win. The game is pretty much unrecoverable. I don’t like spinning my wheels for an hour in an impossible to shift scenario.
I enjoyed the game, but the balance issue is a biggie. Not even the Bioshock theme could save me the frustration I felt for the last hour of the game. Still, I love the idea of RISK+.