13th Mar2019

‘Terminator: Rise of the Resistance’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

term-rise-box

The Terminator series of movies has certainly had its ups and downs. The first movie and it’s blockbusting sequel are considered among the greatest sci-fi/action movies of all time by many, but the third and fourth movies in the series (Rise of the Machines and Salvation) are perhaps better off erased from the history books. I personally enjoy 2015′s Terminator Genisys thanks to a story that breaks the series norm by powering up the human defenders in a way that makes the action sequences much more exciting than in some of the other movies. That’s fitting, because both the artwork and gameplay portrayed in Terminator: Rise of the Resistance (which is today’s board game review) match the movie perfectly.

Indeed, whilst Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor is absent (because the game takes place entirely in the future) several other cast members are present, with artwork that matches their on screen persona to a tee. Jason Clarke is clearly present in his role as John Connor, whilst Jai Courtney appears as Kyle Reese. Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, is present and correct in the role of the T-800 Guardian, whilst Matt Smith’s likeness as Alex is just about there, albeit questionable. Each of these characters is playable in the game, which supports from one to four players and is entirely cooperative in nature.

The players simply choose their characters and then pick a scenario from a deep, detailed and fairly varied list as depicted in a separate scenario book. The rules that you’ll need to learn and teach before setting up a specific scenario are probably about midweight in comparison to other miniatures games, meaning that you’ll pick them up in no time if you’ve chucked dice and applied modifiers before. Complete novices will find Rise of the Resistance to be a bit complex in the beginning, but a tutorial scenario is included in order to ensure that rules are introduced relatively slowly.

It is actually the scenarios that make Terminator: Rise of the Resistance as good as it is, thanks to the way in which they enhance the core mechanics and bring them to the fore. Objectives include moving through buildings to access terminals, escorting important characters and, on several occasions, piloting one of the improvised trucks that are seen during the various future scenes from the Terminator universe. Piloting the trucks whilst holding off wave after wave of T-800′s and Skynet drones is just amazing, thanks mostly to the number of enemies you’ll face and the ease with which the hero characters can dispatch them.

Every player character has some unique skills of their own, but most games will also have the players choose one or two classes (such as sniper or enforcer) that add additional bonuses during combat or under some specific circumstance. Combine these player and class abilities with those of both starting weapons and items found during the game and you can imagine how the complexity ramps up. You will find yourself attacking with a weapon that has perhaps one or two modifications to the base roll thanks to various enhancements, but thanks to the relatively simple core gameplay and the reasonably intuitive player and item cards, it’s not too hard to keep track off. Playing as more than one character in the same game is where the problems tend to arise, which is more or less just a solo player issue since almost every mission is best with at least two characters in play.

Terminator: Rise of the Resistance is delivered entirely on a modular board that features a good variety of pieces in different sizes and shapes. There are both indoor and outdoor locations and the way in which the scenarios use them to create both densely packed maps and longer, thinner ones with enemies on each side is very good indeed. The boards are all double sided and good looking, but I found that they warped after a few hours into the first game. Miniatures are of a good quality, with decent variety among the enemy T-800 figures and some distinct plastic models for the players. Skynet drones and other enemies feature less variety, but overall the number and quality of miniatures is good.

The manual is very good, with detailed rules and examples that are never so verbose that you will simply get bored of reading them. As I mentioned earlier, the scenario book is especially good, thanks largely to the scenarios themselves, but also because of the way that the book delivers them in good, readable detail that makes them easy to set up. These are complex situations that have lots of flavour text and unique rules depending on the placement of tokens etc. Despite this complexity, it’s very easy to understand what needs to be done to get the game up and running and then to make it happen in a way that doesn’t rely too heavily on stopping play to check on a specific event.

Because Terminator: Rise of the Resistance is fully cooperative, there is no need for “dungeon master” or similar, and as such there is no secret information really. This again ensures simplicity, but the game has some nice ways of randomising exactly how progress will be made through the game thanks to various decks of cards that are loaded based on the given scenario. Enemies will tend to enter the map based on the dice rolls of the players, so the level of difficulty will also change from game to game. On that note, there are specific rules for making the game harder or easier overall, but I didn’t find the need to use them.

Whilst I don’t feel that it would be that useful to deep dive into a specific turn simply because there is a lot of freedom to act as needed in Terminator: Rise of the Resistance I will say that on the average turn, a player will make use of four dice that are rolled and then allocated to actions. Different dice rolls can affect items or weapons in certain ways, which is a feature I really like. Most miniatures games have a fairly rigid combat and movement system that is based on the mythos surrounding each character and whilst Terminator: Rise of the Resistance does this through the unique skills and classes, it also uses the dice roll aspect to provide some tough and powerful choices.

Examples might include players needing to make the choice between dashing into a doorway for cover (or to reach the next objective) or adding the ability to re-roll their attack dice on a primary weapon. Clearly, both of these options have advantages over the other, but the player is free to choose between them based on their own preference. As a result, Rise of the Resistance often results in games that are closely won or lost thanks to those exact choices, and not only because an actual attack roll went badly wrong, or simply because a character with a movement of four had no way to get to where they needed to be.

Terminator: Rise of the Resistance is one of the most thematic and fun miniatures style board games that I’ve played in a long time, and it’s made even better because it draws inspiration from what is perhaps the most unique (and not necessarily the best) Terminator movie. Like GenisysTerminator: Rise of the Resistance is an action packed thrill ride that has lots of personality and never takes itself too seriously. It does layer the rules in as players progress, but I felt that it did so in a way that was well handled and unlikely to cause problems for the average gamer. An excellent addition to any collection.

**** 4/5

Terminator: Rise of the Resistance is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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