Thank you for checking review #104 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An overview of A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game
A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game is a board game designed by Jesse Clark, Sarah Como, Breeze Grigas, Ryan “The Boulder” Richford, and Tom Wozencraft that is published by Zephyr Workshop. The box state it plays 2-6 players and has a playtime of 20-120 minutes.
Who doesn’t love combining robots? A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game is the world’s best combining robot tabletop game! Using themes from all your favorite giant mecha shows, it takes elements from popular tabletop wargames and streamlines them to make a game with the same depth of strategy without the high learning curve, distance measuring and long play times. Players build teams out of five robots to duke it out against other players’ teams of five. It’s designed to be easy to learn, affordable to buy, and quick to play, setting it apart from other strategy games.
There are five different classes of robot: Assault, Evasive, Guard, Intel and Support, and dozens of robots in each of those Classes. Each Class has its own way of playing and interacting with other bots, and you can make a team out of any five of them for an infinite amount of possible strategies!
The main mechanism of the game is teambuilding. Each robot on your team shares energy with each other, so moving and attacking with one will limit what the rest of your team can do during your turn. Certain compatible robots can combine into greater forms, too! If your team is built correctly, you can unite all five of your robots together to form something right out of your favorite giant robot cartoon!
The first thing about this game which made me go “huh, that’s a clever twist” is the way in which the abilities rolled for. Some abilities function as you would expect, where you roll X dice and anything Y or higher is a hit. But there are a fair number of abilities that veer from that trajectory, having you roll X dice and it only hits if ALL of those dice are Y or higher. Most of the time that target number is 2 or 3, but if you’re rolling 3-4 dice there’s still a pretty good chance you miss. I like that clever twist so much that it still delights me after all of these plays.
What amazed me next with this game was the combining mechanic of the robots. Off to the side, each team has a handful of combined-level robots that you can merge adjacent robots of the proper class and name to make them into a bigger and, theoretically, stronger robot. It takes a lot of energy to make the combine action, but it accomplishes two things: it heals the robots completely in the process of combining – so if you have two robots near death this allows you to get a “free heal” in the process – and most of them have a COMBINE keyword trigger that activates on the new robot on the turn it combines. Effective planning can allow you to not only have the necessary robots in position to combine, but also to hit your opponent hard when they do. That is the sort of planning that many skirmish games lack and that I absolutely love in this game.
Third was the sheer amount of variety in this box. I’m talking robots (100 of them!), commanders (over a dozen of them, each with their own unique ability), abilities (not to mention how each attack is unique), and the freedom to construct your own robot teams with any commander you choose. You’re going to use at most one commander and maybe a dozen robots (including combined robot options and a small sideboard) so there are a ton of options in here. All five classes of robots feel different from each other in terms of stats and strengths, and even within each class the variety between robots is pretty wild. You could play with a different line-up every game and it would take quite some time before you had to play duplicate teams.
The artwork and flavor text in this game is surprisingly rich and immersive for me. I really enjoy the color palette used in the game, and have found myself really appreciating the artwork for the various robots (and how different they all are, even ones that are similar have some nice differentiating features) – especially the cool combined robots. You also get a sense of the commander personalities from the little backstory on their card and the flavor text on the robots, making this a game that you could immerse yourself into – and I really want to immerse myself into writing the lore for this game.
I don’t often talk about components, but I like the decision to go with standees here rather than make this game cost a million dollars to get miniatures. The standees maintain the bright and colorful artwork that is so delightful from the game, and there are even some handy spots in the box insert to store groups of the standees together (an easy way to keep a constructed team in one spot!)
I feel like the map is a pretty good size for a 2-player game. There is enough distance that you aren’t in the thick of things turn one (usually) but they are close enough that it never feels like the movement-into-range is a long part of the game. And because the robots have a varied amount of movement range, anywhere from 2-5 being the most common spread – although some can move twice and there are even a few that cannot move (but can be dropped on the map mid-game).
The publisher is very supportive of the game and have regular twitch streams, holds tournaments, is having their first seasonal league play for the game, and has a good and active presence on their Discord channel and social media. It is great to see such an active designer and reassuring to see how actively they are supporting this project. It was definitely a project of love from them – you can see that from what comes in the box and feel that from the experience in the box.
This game has a good play time, which is only made better by quick setup and teardown times as well. This is an easy game to get to the table – at least with two players – and one that I would gladly reach for whether in an evening after work for a quick game or for an afternoon of playing where we construct teams and clash in a best-of-three series. The game never overstays its welcome at two players and is one I’m always ready to set up and play again.
Like any game with dice-based combat, you’re going to be at the mercy of die rolls. Most of the time they average out, but I’ve seen streaks of luck in both directions and that can swing even the best of games. As a whole this actually does a good job of having a nice spread of things, and even some abilities to trigger reroll opportunities if you save the energy for that purpose. But know that there will be times when the dice might have a different opinion about how a certain attack should go and you may not like it.
The rulebook is done well enough, especially for a first-time player. It is pretty intuitive in how it flows from one idea to the next along the way, and I found it was really easy to learn from. However, as a reference for players who know the game it is not a very good tool because the items are not ordered in a way that makes sense for looking up. A second book might be appropriate here, in more of an indexed style with references to key concepts and organized in a way that makes it a good reference guide. The game does have a set of reference cards (but only one set from what I can tell) and they are nice, but the information is spread out and even that won’t cover everything needed.
There are a lot of abilities and icons to keep track of what they do. This is hard enough to do with your own team, and even moreso when trying to figure out what your opponent can do. I’ve had a game snowball out of control through my own fault for not realizing the abilities on the other side of the board. A reference sheet instead of the single set of cards would help, so each player could have a one-stop spot where they could at least see what the different attack types, the different keywords, and the commander abilities can do (with attribution to what commander comes with said keyword). The game is small enough on the table that a single cardstock sheet per player, the size of the rulebook, or even close to box-sized, would be a welcome addition that could hedge off a lot of potential for frustration and reduce the amount of rulebook flipping or card searching to try and figure out what X means.
When I first heard about A.E.G.I.S.: Combining Robot Strategy Game from my friend, I was lukewarm about the idea at best. Sure, the theme of using robots that combine together to fight the other person is a neat concept that you don’t really see very often, but usually games like this from small, unknown designers and publishers are bigger misses than hits. I remember picking this up for him last year at Gen Con and waving aside the offer to try the game – I was just there to pick up the game stuff for my buddy and nothing more. If I could go back to Gen Con last year, I would sit at that table and play the game because it is seriously a diamond among waves of games in the market. Between the interesting mix of robot abilities (and how you need to roll for them to succeed or fail), the way each class of robot feels different from the other classes, and the feeling of power when combining robots at just the right time…this game delivers an experience that genuinely surprises me still. Those things alone would make this a really good game.
However, the best part about this game is that you get more than just the modular teams. You can make your own teams and come up with wicked combinations of robots that are not mentioned in the pregenerated teams. Taking dozens of commanders, of which you choose one, and grabbing 5-7 basic and up to 5 advanced robots and pitting them against your opponent takes this game to a brand new level that I hadn’t expected. That is what helps to separate this game from the rest of the pack, placing it about on par with the Skirmish mode of Star Wars: Imperial Assault as one of my favorite skirmish-based game experiences for two players.
The best traits about this game are the quick setup (if you have teams prepared), the fast turns and play time, the insane amount of customization and replayability, and the fun that comes from tactically upgrading your units mid-battle. I really enjoy the artwork in the game as well, and the variety of commander characterization (coupled with the nice flavor text on some of the cards, too) to the point where I want to have a shot at sitting down and working on the worldbuilding and writing some of the lore for this game world. It has hooked me in enough with those small details that I just want to explore what else there is in this robot-filled world.
If you find yourself at Origins (Booth #154) or Gen Con then learn from my mistake and take Breeze up on his offer to try his combining robot game. You might find that, like me, it far exceeds every expectation you could have had walking into the game. It is a fast and fun game that punches in with an experience far greater than its colorful theme might indicate.I know I’ll be looking for any excuse to get this game to the table more often, starting with participating in their summer league.