06th Apr2020

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall & Change is Constant’ Board Game(s) Review

by Matthew Smail

tmnt-board-boxes

As a child, I think I would have done just about anything for a Teenage Mutant Ninja (or Hero, as they were known in the UK) Turtles board game. At the time I was big into the likes of HeroQuest and Space Crusade, which were the early miniatures board games that very likely paved the way for a lot of modern games, such as the ones we have here. The two games that I’m reviewing today are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change is Constant.

Both of these games come in large boxes and feature a huge raft of miniatures, whilst also benefitting from consistent rules and iconography, as well as a storyline that spans both products. Change is Constant comes first in the chronology of the comics, and puts one to four players in control of the Turtles as well as popular loner Kasey Jones as they battle through Old Hob and Baxter Stockman. The second story reflected in City Fall is a little darker, with Leonardo having been captured by the Foot Clan, and the perhaps slightly less “active” team of Slash, April, Angel, Splinter and Old Hob (now a goodie) ultimately tackling The Shredder.

The hero characters are of course interchangeable between games, whilst it’s also a nice bonus that there is relatively little crossover in terms of miniatures between the games. The only characters that appear in both games are Old Hob and Leonardo (in both good and bad forms) and Karai and Alopex appearing as a villain in both. Even the minions between the boxes differ, with City Fall containing fewer human sized miniatures comprising mostly Foot Clan soldiers, and Change is Constant featuring way more miniatures, the majority of which are smaller Mouser models.

Both boxes contain a range of different (and double sided) modular boards, as well as a ton of tokens that demonstrate different kinds of scenery – including everything from rubbish bins to containers, roller doors and more. Whilst these vary from one box to another, the basic idea is consistent across the two, and there are of course a ton of further tokens that represent things like health, focus and so on that are completely identical. Several decks of cards (for each character) and then both scenario books (in the form of comics) and an instruction booklet are included in both games.

There are two modes to play both games, which include a fully cooperative (or solo) mode for one to four players, and there’s a competitive mode that supports two to five players. The former is more straightforward since enemy behaviour is simply controlled by iconography on the enemy card that dictates how it will behave when a matching initiative card is pulled. In the competitive mode, the player controlling the “bad guys” will instead use one of the cards that matches that kind of enemy to perform whatever move is described on the card.

Different decks of cards are used in each scenario, so the bad guys occasionally get access to more or less powerful sets of moves in the competitive mode, whereas in cooperative, all enemies of a specific kind activate when their initiative card is drawn, but the things they do tend to be slightly less powerful than those that are dictated by the deck of bad guy cards. In either mode, the action is all dictated by the initiative cards, which are made up of at least one card (and sometimes up to three or four) of each model (or group of models) in the scenario.

When one of the heroes (a turtle, Kasey, April etc) is drawn from this deck, the player controlling that hero will perform its full set of actions, which are dictated by dice that have been rolled. There’s a neat mechanic here in that each hero rolls three dice and then locks them in by positioning them in a line. The left and right most die in this line will pass on their benefit with the neighbouring hero, so each player actually has five die faces from which to choose and perform their actions. This mechanic introduces teamwork that feels quite thematically relevant to the nature of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it’s something that I really liked.

The actions available to heroes include attacks and double attacks, defence, movement, wild and a few others, some of which are unique to certain characters. For example, slash has additional damage symbols but fewer defensive options, whilst Donatello is more or less the opposite, with a weaker overall attack, but some opportunity to roll dice that cover both attack and defence. When activated, a player will use these symbols to dictate their turn, as well as the special move cards that were chosen during setup. Some special move cards are completely free, whilst others require dice to be spent in order to play them.

Again in both competitive and cooperative modes, the players will each have a clear objective in order to win the scenario. For the bad guy, victory will often come as a result of knocking out several turtles, but there are some missions that come with countdown timers where either side can win after a set number of moves. For the hero side, the objective will usually involve something a little more specific. For example, to defeat Baxter Stockman, you’ll need to activate four tiles at the same time to bring his defences down, then engage him directly. To repatriate Leo, you’ll need to defeat him.

There are some lightweight legacy aspects to both campaigns as well, in the sense that when a mission ends, you may be directed to one or another mission for your next fight. This usually happens depending on whether you succeed or fail, or indeed sometimes the manner in which you succeed. In the fight against evil Leo, for example, you may be able to defeat him and turn him back to the good side, in which case you can call on him as an ally for the next mission. These legacy features tend to be fairly minimal and never involve destroying cards or anything like that.

In terms of actual gameplay, both TMNT games flow really well, with a nice fast pace and a lot of action. The heroes are tough – often taking out at least one or two enemies in a turn, but the bad guys are capable of putting up a fight and I’ve found that the hero side will almost always need to use the broad skills of their side to ensure survival. Every hero character feels unique, and a minimum of about five or six skill cards (of which you’ll choose two or more) per hero gives lots of choice and allows for specific builds. Donatello can tank, Michelangelo can be built as a fast, damage dealing glass cannon, April as a healer etc.

These different builds and the many scenarios across the two games mean that there is a lot of content here, and it’s also quite a different experience playing these games competitively and cooperatively. With that said, I’d quite like a bit more scope for the bad guy player to build their own scenarios, or use the content from one box in scenarios from the other. This is something you can likely implement yourself after a few games, perhaps assigning different enemy groups a points value and building a pool, for example.

I should also mention that in both modes, there is the potential for enemies to respawn on a frequent basis, with the only exception being when you completely eradicate an entire enemy group and are able to remove its card from the initiative queue. When this happens, no more enemies of that kind will spawn, but until then, any you defeat will simply return to a reserve that will cause them to reappear on later turns. Again, this keeps the action flowing in both City Fall and Change is Constant in a way that felt very thematic and fun.

Another plus side for these games is the inclusion of a lot of quality comic book content. Both games deliver their scenario books as a series of encounters linked by a narrative, and whilst there are not pages and pages of graphic novel to wade through, there’s enough to give the players a sense that something bigger than each individual scenario is at play. A slight downside is that this can lead to one or two scenarios feeling somewhat mundane, but in general, even these less critical encounters feature some special rules or a boss fight that was good fun.

The general component quality is fairly high, but not the best I’ve seen in a miniatures game. The minis themselves are of good quality, with nice moulds and lots of detail, but the enemies (aside from Mousers) tend to have just one pose per group. The card stock is fine, with the graphics used to display the special moves and different heroes especially nice, but the tokens (in particular the pizza slices used for health) are too small and fiddly. The custom dice are really nice, and feel satisfying and heavy to throw and then line up.

Whilst I am not the fan of TMNT that I used to be thirty years ago, I’ve had quite the nostalgia trip playing through these games and I can see myself doing so again, especially if I can implement some ways to vary the experience further. That said, I’ve played the games more or less as two standalone boxes, and it might be interesting to see how the different heroes fare from one box to the other. As a side note, if you’re interested in just one box, then assuming it’s Turtles you want to see, make sure you pick up the Change is Constant box, since that one contains all four on the “good” side.

These are solid miniatures games that are good quality, not too fiddly to set up or learn, and lots of fun to play. You get a lot in the box (which is good given the high RRP) and the dice sharing mechanic is really fun. The inclusion of both cooperative and competitive modes that are truly different is also a nice feature, and whilst I’d say you don’t need both games, that is certainly the best way to see the whole story unfold as it is intended.

***½  3.5/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change is Constant are available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator

Off

Comments are closed.