A Must Have Game
One of the hazards of being a person who plays a lot of games is almost every game has a rule that can be “broken.” A broken rule allows the rule breaker to do something beyond what the designers planned for and results in that player having an unfair advantage in a game. These broken rules are completely legit in the game. In the spirit of fair play, though, most gamers simply choose to call out the break in the rules.
Reviewing OP Arena
Older gamers like myself will remember the channel/fireball combo or hordes of plague rats in early Magic the Gathering, which ruined the game for many players. However, imagine, just for a second, that a game was intentionally designed so that there were so many overpowered cards that every card would fall into the “broken” category in any other game. This is OP Arena, and the chaos is something you never knew you needed in your life.
Let’s start off with the story. You are a patron of the arena and you have an army of Dudes (the names of the players in the arena) at your disposal. The goal of the arena is to get to 30 victory points before other players to win the hearts and minds of the crowd. Your Dudes come from all realms of fantasy. Some you know, some you have never heard of and some you just feel bad for. They are all there for one thing, which is to fight for your glory in the arena.
While the story is simple, it really builds into the no-holds barred feel of the game. While there could be another added layer of depth, it is not really needed. This earns the game an 8.5 out of 10 for story, because the story of the game is you are writing the story as the arena patron.
Next we look at the art work, and OP Arena does not disappoint. This game has “fantasy convention” quality card art, which puts it in the upper echelon of card flopper art. The game is enhanced by simple, well designed tokens and gems for damage counters. Aesthetically, the game is pleasing and it only takes one or two rounds to understand what the parts do.
My only concern is the skill roll and the skills on the card. While this is not technically art, it falls into an artistic category. On one hand there is a skill roll, which allows players to get tokens (the yellow box roll). On the other hand there are the skills of the player’s Dude, which are at the bottom of the card. The two “skills” get confusing, but with a simple name change this can be fixed (token roll?). This is not a major problem, just something to note when explaining the rules. Other than that, the art is amazing, resulting in a score of 9 out of 10 in the Art category.
OP Arena is not a game where players just collect cards to win; players cards will die and will do so often. This means mechanics that kill other Dudes and mechanics that go into effect when another Dude dies are invaluable. However, players also need to look at the rolls they and their opponent make.
This means each player is simultaneously looking at 4 mechanics during basic game play. Mechanics make or break a card game. Luckily, the process works seamlessly together. The only problem encountered was people jumping the gun on response items.
The other level of mechanics is how Dudes die. They can be killed outright, killed by damage, or simply discarded. The interesting level of mechanics here is there are different victory points awarded for each of these causes of death. One would think this would be complicated. It is not, as it works seamlessly.
For having complex, simple to learn mechanics with seamless integration that actually adds to the storyline, I am pleased to announce the first 10 out of 10 I have given for mechanics.
Strategy goes alongside mechanics in making a great game. OP Arena has a lot of strategy. Players can play a control game, an overwhelm game, a slaughter game or a hide and respond game. There are several strategies that can lead to victory. The only caveat is since the game is a dual randomizer game, players cannot really plan for what they are going to do at the beginning of the game.
Each round, players draw new cards; even when familiar with the cards, they never know what they are going to draw. This can be frustrating for “pre-plan gamers.” However, the different paths to victory and the ability to change paths mid-course give this game a solid 7 out of 10 in strategy.
Novelty is another strong suit for OP Arena. While different games have created “broken” expansions for the game to make it a novelty, OP Arena starting off with all cards being overpowered is a novel idea. The balance of the game is as interesting, as the die rolls (whether it is a +number or a specific number) balances out the overpowered cards. Every card is overpowered, but since all cards are overpowered, it is a chaotic balance. This is a very novel approach and earns the game a 7 out of 10 for novelty.
“OP Arena is a Must Have”
OP Arena can be played with teens or adults and while people are drinking or sober. The jokes are fun on the first round, and the storylines during team-ups may be even funnier. OP Arena is a must have, and I mean a must have for board game nights with your friends. OP Arena earns a stellar score of 41.5 out of 50, making it a powerhouse in the world of card floppers.
The rules are easy to pick up, but make sure to read them, then try to play it through. It is very intuitive. While some of the jokes are off-colored, there is no foul language or items that should offend someone to make the game NSFW. I would not, however, take it to a church tea party! The match ups become fun, especially when people make comments like, “Your Pirate Taco killed my Filthy Zombie with its extra guac!” The game is fun and lighthearted. OP Arena is one you should have for your shelves.
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