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[Review] Random Violence: Corporate Osaka Edition

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Joined: 03/23/2011

I don't play video games often, but I have played my fair share, especially in college. One of my favorites - even to this day, was X-Com, Alien Defense - a game I still wish I could play today. Arming my marines with different combinations of weapons and then attacking the enemy in a turn based system was some of the most fun I've ever had on a computer. So as soon as I started going over the rules for Random Violence: Corporate Osaka Edition (Reroll Games, 2006 - Kendrick Curtis), I immediately thought of X-Com, as the similarities were obvious. Players load up their characters with weapon and equipment and seek to accomplish a mission.

Well, the game does hit a vibe with me, and there were parts of it that were enjoyable. I didn't like the artwork, had to muddle through the rules, thought the components were a bit on the "cheap" side, and wasn't always pleased with the way my luck turned out. Still, it is great fun to equip your character(s), and the game is fast and fun - much easier than similar games (such as Frag). If you're looking for a tactical game that is tremendously easy and offers a lot of choices (although they aren't critical ones), then Random Violence might be something you want to check out.

Players split into two teams - one team taking the Interpol agent cards, and the other the corporate assassins. A pile of mission cards is shuffled, and one is flipped over- detailing the scenario that will be played for that round. Each mission denotes a certain map that is to be used and the budget for each team. Players use the budget listed and "hire" characters from their team (each character has a cost - from $500 to $850). Players then can spend the rest of their budget on weapon and equipment tokens that they can place on the equipment grid on their card (size varies for each character). Once all characters have been equipped, players roll a die and add the initiative of their character to determine who goes first. Characters are placed at various spots on the board (according to the mission card), and then the first player takes their turn.

On a player's turn, they may take actions equal to the number shown on their character card (from three to five). Players can use the same action more than once, except attack, which can only be done once a turn. The actions available are:
- Move: A player may move from one square on the board to an adjacent square in any direction (as long as nothing blocks it). Players can also move up or down stairs and ladders.
- Heal: A player may discard a medikit from their inventory and discard one of their wounds, or the wound of another character in the same space.
- Pick up: A player may add an item to their inventory if they are in the same square as it, and they have room in their inventory.
- Throw: A player may throw an item token to another character up to two squares away.
- Fall: A player may drop down from one floor to another but must defend against an automatic attack.
- Attack: A player may fire one of their weapons at another character that they can "see".
- Charge: A player may move into an adjacent square containing an opponent, attacking them with one of their weapons.
- Reload: A player may discard one ammo token from their inventory to reload a weapon.
Players can also "spot" opponents characters, drop cards, and swap cards around inside their inventory for no action cost.

When attacking, a player must be able to see the enemy, having a direct line of sight to their opponent. However, if there is any cover in between the two characters, and the target did not make any attacks the turn before, then the attacking player must make a "spot" check. The spotter rolls one six-sided die and adds it to their "spot" statistic, and the target rolls a die, adding it to their "sneak" stat. If the spotter scores higher, they may then attack the target. The attacker rolls a die and adds their "strike" (hand to hand) or "aim" value to it. Some weapons may add bonuses to the aim values at different ranges. The defender rolls a die and adds it to their "dodge" or "block" stat, comparing the final sum to the attacker's. If the attacker's total is higher, they have wounded the defender (two wounds if they've doubled the defender's sum). A die is rolled for each wound, and the matching number wound is applied to the wounded character. For example, a "1" is a foot wound, which subtracts one from a player's "health", "block", and "dodge" stats; while a "6" is a head wound, which subtracts three from all of a character's attributes, and cannot be healed! When a player's health is reduced to zero, their character is dead and removed from the board, dropping all equipment that they had.

There is a rather large variety of equipment that players can purchase at the beginning of the scenario with some examples listed here:
- Medikit ($50) - can be used to heal most wounds.
- Anti-Stab Vest ($150) - adds one to a player's "block" attribute but shatters (is destroyed) on a defending roll of "1".
- Katana ($250) - A hand to hand weapon that adds three to a player's "strike" attribute.
- Pyx Dominator ($400) - A rifle that adds three to "strike", has a four square range, but runs out of ammo (is flipped over) on an attacking roll of "3" or less.
- Hicks Birkdale ($200) - A pistol that adds one to "strike", has a three square range, and runs out of ammo on a roll of "1".
- Scope ($150) - Adds two to the range of a weapon.
- Small Riot Shield ($50) - Adds one to "block"; shatters on a "3" or less.
- Combat Fatigues ($50) - Adds two to "sneak".
- Alice's Metal ($100) - A dagger that adds one to "strike", can be thrown without revealing position.
- Silencer ($150) - Can be added to a gun so that it does not reveal the shooter's position.
- Helmet ($150) - Can be discarded to prevent one head shot.
There are twelve different weapons, five different armor tokens, and seven other types of equipment. Each token takes up one to six blocks on a player's grid and must fit completely in to be taken.

After a scenario is over, the players who are still alive collect money for their reward and continue on to another scenario. Players can follow a defined scenario guide in the rules booklet or can simply play scenarios until they decide to stop; at which point the player with the most money is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: I really had a bit of an aversion to the artwork. Perhaps I'm not an expert, being a horrible artist myself; but it reminded me of the poor drawing from Splotter games. The art on the equipment cards was okay, but the people looked stilted and lifeless - slightly detracting from the game. All of the boards, cards, and tokens are printed on very thin cardstock - and only on one side. It's a bit of a chore to sort through all the pieces, since they are basically blank on one side. The battle boards themselves are laminated and double-sided, but they are in varying shades of blue; which while it might help more easily differentiate between walls and doors, etc., it gave the maps a bit of an abstract feel. The characters are folded tokens that fit in plastic stands, which work well; although it's nigh impossible to put two characters in the same space, and this is something that happens often during games. Everything fits inside a cardboard box, and bags are provided to store the different pieces. There is color, so the game has higher standards than perhaps Cheapass games, but it's still fairly low on the components scale.

2.) Rules: All the rules are explained in the six page booklet; but they are in a rather odd order, and I found myself constantly searching through them to find the exact rule I was looking for. Other than that, I did find the game very easy to teach to folk; almost everything was very intuitive, as the weapon and equipment tokens are rather clear.

3.) Time: One thing that I did enjoy about Random Violence was how quick scenarios tended to play out. People quickly moved around and shot at one another, and most likely a character will be eliminated after only five minutes. Normally this would be a bad thing, but scenarios are so quick that it doesn't matter much. Yes, it is possible for two players to play "cat and mouse" around the double levels of the Oil Platform, but usually aggressiveness will win out. No difficult calculations are needed; players simply roll dice and add, and hit points are small enough to be fairly realistic. When a player is wounded, they certainly "feel" wounded, because their stats decrease, etc. Either way, it often seems like players spend more time gearing up for a scenario than actually playing it.

4.) Equipment: To be honest, the best part of Random Violence is picking out the equipment at the beginning of the game. Should I take an inexperienced agent with lower stats, just so that I can give them better weapons? And what weapons should I take? Should a player concentrate on hand to hand weapons and good armor? Or should they take the sniper rifle with lots of ammunition? How many medikits? There's always a lot of silence before games, as players shuffle their boards around, trying to get an optimum setup before the game; and while none of the equipment is overpowered, certain combinations can really help when actually playing the game. Murphy's law usually seems to take effect, as players don't have the helmet when they get a head shot, or no medikits when they are badly wounded. The game leaves a lot of leeway here for expandability; I can see many folks designing scores of additional equipment for games. All of this equipment also gives the illusion of "leveling up", as players gain money from missions, allowing them to buy better equipment. I wouldn't mind seeing an expansion with dozens of new weapons and add-ons.

5.) Missions: A good amount of the missions simply come down to "kill everyone else". But some of them also include other interesting ideas, like protecting (or killing) a hostage, taking an important briefcase or disc, or using only close-combat weapons. The boards are varied enough to be interesting, although I found that players didn't really have enough actions to really do much more than the obvious (move close or behind cover and fire). Perhaps this will be expanded in a future expansion.

6.) Fun Factor: We did have a lot of fun loading up equipment on the characters, and then running around and attacking. Sometimes players would get frustrated about the rolling of the dice, and occasionally a scenario would end before one person would get to do anything. Still, for some quick fun, and a reminiscent look back at point based computer games, Random Violence was enjoyable for what it is.

That doesn't mean that I'm giving it a glowing recommendation, though. For $21 (the current price), I'm not sure that a gamer would be getting their money's worth, since the components and artwork are sub-par. There's nothing unique or compelling about the game - other than the diversity of equipment and the interesting, fun part of the game in which you equip your characters. While I had a good time doing that, I'm not sure it's worth it for me with games out there that do similar things and yet have superior bits. Random Violence is a bit mindless at times, which might strike some folks' fancy, but this should definitely be a "try before you buy" game.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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