The Laurels: Best Daredevil Games Of 2015

The Cardboard Republic has rolled out the first annual Laurels of the Republic awards, celebrating the best new games released in 2015 for each of the gamer archetypes. What follows are the finalists for one of those groups.

DaredevilLargeAlways the penultimate gamblers, Daredevils like living on the edge. This group adheres to the idea of high risk and high reward, never letting a silly thing like failure get in their way of possible victory – or a good time. This group doesn’t avoid or dislike strategy. Rather, they’re just far more willing to take chances for a better payoff, be it on the battlefield or the board room. Daredevils like to win, but they want to do it on their terms. They adore games giving them a wide variety of options to cross the finish line, and if they have to embrace a bit of luck to accomplish that, then so be it!

And with that, here are The 2015 Laurel Finalists for Daredevils:


Honorable Mention: Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment | Players: 2-4 | Play Time: 30-45 Minutes

portal coverThe Portal video game was never intended to catch on the way it did. Conceptualized as a one-off spinoff within the larger Half-Life franchise, the two Portal video games quickly went into the annals of digital gaming as some of the best puzzle-solving games around, both for their use of teleportation-based physics and near-perfect use of witty, clever, and well-written characters. Thanks to the likes of Cave Johnson, Wheatley, and the psychotic-yet-lovable GLaDOS, Portal took no time reaching high appreciation not just with video gamers but geek culture in general.

Ergo, when word came that there was to be a Portal board game – with assistance from Valve – anticipation was high. When it finally rolled out, however, the response was more temperate, namely because everyone expected the board game to behave just like the video game. And, well, it isn’t. Rather, it was designed to be the kind of game you’d find within Portal. And from that perspective, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game works.

In this Portal game, you have one objective: end the game with the most cake. Contrary to what you may have heard, the cake here is quite real, and it is the only thing that matters. Not the other player’s cake. Not even your own team members. Just the cake. Prevent it from being incinerated. Feel free to steal an opposing team’s cake piece and run towards oblivion though.

In this conveyor belt style layout, chambers are being constantly destroyed to make room for new ones (because Science!). Your goal is to ensure that your cake isn’t in the room when that happens by using your team of expendable test subjects to carry it to safety, all with Aperture’s iconic tongue-in-cheek brevity. For those that desire games with irreverence, this is a great example. Aside from the way the tiles notch together, it’s a decent and easily overlooked ‘take-that’ game of players being utter bastards to one another over cake. Strategy is still present though, even if the payoff isn’t guaranteed, which is why Daredevils find it so endearing. Portal: UCA is a game of constantly shifting area control and cardplay that, while often chaotic in nature, is less luck-based than you’d think. It’s just that here at Aperture, no one is safe and no outcome is guaranteed.

Unless you stand around too long – then you’ll definitely be given a tour of the inside of the incinerator.


The Nominees

2015 Daredevil Laurel Nominee


Nominee #5: Fief: France 1429

Publisher: Academy Games | Players: 3-6 | Play Time: 120-180 Minutes

fief nomineeYou are camped less than a day’s ride than your enemy’s stronghold, replete with overwhelming forces and the church on your side. There is no foreseeable reason why your side won’t dispatch your enemy in short order. Then the torrential rains move in, lasting for days and making you unable to fight. Morale drops. Disease spreads throughout the camp. The next thing you know, you’re the one being routed.

Such things happened throughout the Middle Ages, and so do they happen in Fief, an extensive and often unforgiving medieval playground. It’s not quite Game of Thrones brutal, but they’d probably be friends.

Fief 1429 is technically the fourth edition of the classic game from the 1980s, though aside from the name and premise, thanks to extensive component and rules chances since its creation it should be considered a unique game in its own right. Hence how it ended up qualifying here.

This game is all about trying to become the most powerful ruling nobles in 15th century France. All you need to accomplish that is a lousy 3-4 VP. Naturally, attaining those points is far easier said than done. Yet what makes this game so appealing is how dynamic the possibilities are in doing so. You could claim a royal title by raising an army and conquering Fiefdoms. Or negotiate politically with other lords to get one of your family elected Pope. Marry into alliances with other players. Backstab said alliances for financial or territorial gain. Tax the peasants into oblivion. Conquer your neighbor’s landholdings. All of these are viable courses of action, and due to the ever-changing feudal landscape, it’s almost a given that plans fluctuate. Whether that’s spurred on by you or another player remains to be seen. This says nothing of even the best laid plans being potentially undone by unexpected events, and those happen too. Such is life in these trying times.

Fief by far has longest playthrough time among the finalists, but it highlights that games of high risk and high reward don’t have to be short for Daredevils to find them engaging – so long as there’s plenty of room to pivot and try something else if their plans aren’t working. This game does that. With tons of material to work with and loads of variation to every playthrough, this is precisely the kind of serious game that this group would be comfortable enlisting in.


Nominee #4: The Grizzled

Publisher: Cool Mini Or Not | Players: 2-5 | Play Time: 30 Minutes

the grizzled nomineeGenerally speaking, Daredevils don’t tend to gravitate towards Co-Op games. Most Co-Ops require players to work together in a methodical and systematic way to overcome the challenge of the game. This usually means making decisions that lead to guaranteed results, and while there are plenty of times when the group has to take a chance, it is usually done with consensus for the greater good. Such games make it hard for this group to take individual risks without hindering – or even hurting – the group’s chances.

The Grizzled, on the other hand, provides a fair amount of leeway to that end. Because in this game, playing it safe leads to certain death.

Welcome to the trenches of France during World War I. It’s a bleak and barren hellscape with little to look forward to except the hope of seeing tomorrow. The only thing you can trust is the camaraderie with the rest of your platoon. Your entire focus is to make it to Armistice Day, which is hidden beneath a deck of cards. Throughout a series of rounds, players take turns as the team’s mission leader and must decide how daring they want to be by dealing from said deck. Players then take turns playing cards either depicting negative weather / battlefield conditions being faced or negative personality traits as your soldiers slowly succumb to the ravages of war. If your team lays too many cards down that match, the mission fails and survival becomes that much more difficult. However, the catch is that you can’t directly tell your teammates which cards you have. Fog of War and all that.

The Grizzled is an excellent example of a co-op game that rewards both collaboration and risk taking at the same time. Survival in this game relies on planning as well as gambles, forcing you to collectively push your luck without reducing the outcome of your choices to mere chance. When coupled with the game’s thematic illustrations and difficulty of success, it really sells the game’s somber premise. Especially in those cases where you can see the finish line but never quite make it there.

Which, mes amis, is often.


Nominee #3: Risk: Star Wars Edition

Publisher: Hasbro, Inc. | Players: 2-4 | Play Time: 30-45 Minutes

star wars risk nomineeSome will see Risk as part of this game’s title and pass it off as another licensed clone of the classic dice-based combat game – much to their detriment. Yes, you move units from one space to the next and combat is resolved by dice and dice alone, but Star Wars Risk is actually less Risk and more Star Wars. Namely, it is the direct descendant of the classic 2000 game Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit, including an overlap with one of the original designers.

Aside from being being available for a fraction of the price, Star Wars Risk pares down the Queen’s Gambit experience from a two hour battle over Naboo to a half hour(ish) skirmish to destroy the Death Star II, all while retaining much of the same basic charm of its progenitor.

In this (typically) two player game, you act out the final battle of The Return of the Jedi. One player takes on the role of the Galactic Empire whose goal is simply to wipe every stinking Rebel off the map. The other player is the plucky Rebel Alliance who must deactivate the shield protecting the Death Star and then blow it up. Oh, and then there’s the whole Luke v Vader bout. Both factions are fighting on multiple fronts, and it’s up to you to decide where and when to invest your turn’s energy via programmable action cards. Each round, both sides select a handful of cards and then alternate turns by revealing and resolving an action at one of the card’s depicted locations. Repeat until one side is dead.

The Force is strong with Daredevils in this one. While, yes, almost all actions involve moving units and / or rolling dice, the challenges faced and success rates for your choices vary depending on where you are what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s a light game with light strategy, but this game allows you to jump from one spot to the next with wild abandon while still providing a semblance of valued progression. The outcomes may indeed be largely luck-based, but Star Wars Risk gives that act of dice chucking a sense of purpose, and the card selection aspect keeps the game from becoming painfully repetitive…like a certain other game. If one must compare it to its Risk namesake, Risk: Star Wars edition is what you get when you extract the fun frantic feeling you get when rolling dice over the first 45 minutes, up the complexity a notch, and then set it in a galaxy far far away.


Nominee #2: Flick ’em Up!

Publisher: Pretzel Games | Players: 2-10 | Play Time: 30-45 Minutes

flick em up nomineeSomewhere out west lies a town so little that it simply isn’t big enough for the likes of two crews of gunslingers roaming her dusty streets. On the one side stands the baddest band of outlaws under six inches tall. They’re looking to take over this town by robbing banks, perform jailbreaks, causing general mayhem, and dealing with a posse of do-gooder lawmen in their way. On the other side is…those do-gooder lawmen. They’re out to protect their turf and the people under their protection.

All you’re going to need for this bite-sized brawl is a ready trigger finger, because in the Flick ’em Up! throwdown, it’s the only requirement for this dexterity-based feud.

With excellent production quality and highly flexible setup options, Flick ’em Up! offers a plethora of possibility, which is impressive given how basic of a premise the game has under its tall hat. In it, players take turns taking a pair of actions with one of their team’s five units. This includes moseying around town, shooting up the opposition, visiting town buildings, and trying to accomplish whatever else may be asked of them as a result of the game’s numerous gameplay scenarios. Or you can skip the printed scenarios entirely and just make up your own. When a gunslinger gets hurt, they take a damage. When they take enough damage, they’re shipped off to the undertaker.

Beneath all of the wooden pieces and highfalutin window dressing, Flick ’em Up! is, admittedly, a quick game about flicking a disk across the table and hoping it lands where you want it to. Yet what makes this game so remarkable is how easily it is to forget that and get swept up in the spirit of trying to save / take over the town. As with most dexterity games, the outcome is inherently unpredictable, but by mixing the epitome of a point-and-shoot mentality, a lighthearted western theme that often embodies confrontation, and the ability to customize goals as you see fit, Flick ‘Em Up! adds a layer of purpose and even strategy to that unpredictability in a way that bolsters decision-making while simultaneously reinforces its place in the genre. Pretzel Games took one of the simplest mechanics possible and created an invigorating game around it which can satisfy both dexterity gamers as well as those simply looking to put a little ‘wild’ back in the Wild West. It is for that reason why it so easily earned its spot on this list.


The Winner

2015 Daredevil Laurel Winner

2015 Daredevil Laurel – Steampunk Rally

Publisher: Roxley Games | Players: 2-8 | Play Time: 45-75 Minutes
steampunk rally winnerWhat do you get when you mix card drafting, dice allocation, vehicle racing, steampunk shenanigans, Nikola Tesla, and Marie Curie? Why you get Steampunk Rally: an explosive array of strategy, options, and a chaotic good time.

In this game, some of the most famous scientists and inventors of the last century have been asked to set aside their pursuits of knowledge and progress for a bit and come to the Swiss Alps for a one-of-a-kind geek-fueled street race.

Just think of how fun making that stack of invitations must have been.

Each player portrays one of those inventors. Through a mix of acquiring the right cards and dice to fuel your constantly changing engine (both literally and mechanically) this game provides incredibly open-ended opportunities while still having the freedom to adjust as you go. Over the course of several rounds, players will gain new machine pieces, generate resources, and allocate those resources to perform various actions, all while barreling forward any way they can. You’re also free to rearrange your machine’s orientation however you’d like too, should things start feeling too conventional.

However, since your machines are inherently unstable whirling, floating, crawling constructs, the further you move, the higher the likelihood pieces of your machine are going to fall off. (You built this thing for speed, not stability after all.) Your goal is to harness the powers of steam, electricity, heat, and a whole lot of gears to propel your fantastical creation across the finish line first.

You know those scenes in The Lego Movie where they’re building the vehicles while they’re escaping? That’s Steampunk Rally. With fantastic artwork, a high-energy theme, and the flexibility to build a machine out of parts as you see fit, the game provides a zany sense of adventure that’s both accessible and highly replayable. It wonderfully melds strategic elements like resource allocation and engine-building with a sense of unpredictability bordering on anarchy-lite, illustrating that just because a game has a bunch of Euro-style mechanics it doesn’t have to be a dull affair.

In this game, you’re in the driver’s seat over how you want to proceed on, well, pretty much every level, and so it should be rewarded as such here today.


Steampunk Rally Contest!

We thought about different ways to highlight the how great the winning title of the Daredevil Laurel is. We wanted to do something spontaneous and wacky, but too many of our options proved to be too dangerous, expensive, or had us winding up covered in feathers. It’s a long story. To avoid costly bills and potential litigation, and much to the dismay of Daredevils everywhere, in the end we opted for the most direct approach: providing one lucky winner with the opportunity to enjoy the award-winning game first hand. So let’s get to it!

That’s right! Enter below for your chance at your very own copy of Steampunk Rally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: In honor of their award recognition, Roxley Games has more than kindly provided a copy of this game for giveaway purposes.

Be sure to check out the 2015 Laurel Award pages for the other archetypes once they go live!

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