Shoot’em Up: Adrenaline Review

Adrenaline is a newish (2016) game that captures the feeling of first-person shooter video games in a tabletop format.  It doesn’t quite move with the same ferocity as a video game as it moves to the tabletop, but it’s about as good as a tabletop version is going to get.  I first played it at GenCon but we played it the other night and here is a complete review from then.

Overall feeling

You run around and shoot people, that’s the feeling.  You brandish big, bad weapons and unload them on your friends.  You kill, and get killed.  If that sounds like fun, then this game is for you.  There are choices and some strategy, but it’s not the most strategic of games, in part because things can change quickly, so whatever you’re planning for your next turn may not be there when your turn comes.

Setup highlights

The setup is one of the quicker and easier setups out there.  Deciding on which of 4 game board configurations to go with might be the most challenging aspect.  Then, “Get your stuff” is easy for each player, then you shuffle just 2 decks worth of cards, distribute them, and you’re good to go.

Theme and components

The components are solid.  The figures are very nice, and will be even nicer once they’re painted up.  Everyone loves transparent cubes, and they work well in this game as ammo cubes.  You take damage in the form of colored blood drops.

Weapons are represented as cards from a first-person perspective and it’s one area where they could have done a little better job.  The card graphics are very CG-looking and while I appreciate how that’s part of the theme, the CG just doesn’t translate well to the tabletop, especially when you’ve got such nice figures running around a nice board.  All of it delivers what it needs to deliver, but the weapons could be done in a more immersive way.

Interesting mechanics and game play

The mechanics are fairly simple, but we still found them challenging.  You can either move up to 3, move 1 and pickup, or shoot.  You’re like the hulk in that you actually get stronger as you take damage, for example, your “move 1 and pickup” action becomes “move 2 and pickup”.  Still, everyone wants to pick up and then move, which you just can’t do.  Going through the rules the first time on our own, we made some mistakes and had some misinterpretations early on that got ironed out as we went through the game.

It’s fun to pick up weapons and ammo, and to choose which weapon to use at which time, and which of your weapon’s 2 potential abilities you want to use it for.  That’s basically as deep as it gets in terms of strategy and decision-making, as this is more of a tactical fighting game than anything strategic, but there’s enough to keep you involved.

One fun mechanic is that you will get killed, but you just respawn on your next turn without losing much of anything.  Your opponents will score off the kill, so get back in there and shoot some people!

Do-Something Ability

You pick up weapons and blow people up with them.  You kill your friends and get killed.  You don’t build a farm or anything, but you do build an arsenal of weapons to unleash on your foes, and piles of ammo to reload them.

Replay Ability

Medium.  Here’s the thing, for all the fun of picking up weapons and shooting them off, the game doesn’t go as fast as it probably should.  I would expect this to change with more plays but not completely.  This is also a game where, once you play your turn, you mostly sit around waiting for your next turn, though you will likely take some damage during that time to keep you involved.  It takes a good 45 minutes to an hour to play through a full-length game of 8 kills, and that goes against the theme of FPS a bit.  It’s fast enough to play a second time, but probably the main reason the replay ability isn’t higher is because there isn’t much strategy and there are not multiple paths to victory for a game that takes as long as it does.  Shooting is shooting, and I don’t know how much I would actually want to keep shooting in a single night.  Each game, you’re going to shoot a lot, but probably won’t even remember who you killed or who killed you.  I would play it again and again, for sure, but maybe not over and over again in a single setting, which is what I thought it would be like when I bought it, but it just wasn’t quite that.

One good thing, the point total was extremely close for all 4 players, with all ending with either 18 or 19 total points in our game to 5 skulls.  It seems like there should be a bonus for getting the kill shot on someone but from what I saw in the rules, there isn’t.

Another thing that’s badly missing from the game is differentiated characters.  I get what they’re trying to do by having 5 completely equal bad asses, but it’s simply fun to have special characteristics and abilities that you can use, and that would be true for this game as well.  It’s an extra step I think this game would benefit from, and give it more replay ability because you’d want to try the different characters.  Here, they’re all the same.

Verdict

The 1670 group likes this game but the Geektopia group didn’t like it as much.  While not perfect, I personally love this game.  Adrenaline is a thrill ride shoot-em-up of heavy weapons and carnage.  It’s fun to pick up weapons, shoot them at your friends, and kill them at a high rate while they kill you.  It’s fun to play a game where you get killed, shrug it off, and respawn.  This game doesn’t challenge you with deep decision-making, it’s more just go-go-go, but for a game like that, with little strategy, I wished it moved just a tad faster.  Still, I love having a game with this type of dynamic, in contrast to most of the other games we play.  I will play Adrenaline any time.

 

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