Bioshock Infinite was a big hit when it was first out early this year and soon after that the boardgame was announced. Fans have waited for the boardgame and we have had the chance to play it and see if it stands up.
BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is a twist on the universe but sticks very closely to it. Instead of playing Booker with Elizabeth as your companion you play as either the Vox Populi or The Founders. Booker and Elizabeth still play a role in Columbia but they have their own agenda and their own style of play which is not controlled by any of the 2 or 4 players that the game allows.
The Siege of Columbia is not centred on the war of the two factions, it is more the story of the video game portrayed in the body of a board game. You control a faction which is at war against the other but you are still delving into the world of Columbia behind the war.
It is full of little parts of the game which fans will love, from the miniatures you use as your army to the silver eagle coins you collect to pay for units and upgrades. All the other parts are wonderfully crafted and well thought out to have a role within the games design. The two special pieces of the game really stand out but none more so than the Songbird.
Whats in the box
|1 Game Board12 Combat Dice|
3 Sky-Line Dice
2 Player Reference Sheets
3 Elizabeth Timeline Cards
13 Red Vox Populi Units
12 Dark Red Vox Populi Units
13 Blue Founder Units
12 Light Blue Founder Units
2 Gray Booker and Elizabeth Units
9 Red Vox Populi Structures
9 Dark Red Vox Populi Structures
9 Blue Founder Structures
9 Light Blue Founder Structures
16 Territory Tokens5 Destruction Markers
73 Silver Eagles
|10 Founder Victory Tokens|
10 Vox Populi Victory Tokens
1 Elizabeth Marker
30 Blue Founder Action Cards
30 Light Blue Founder Action Cards
30 Red Vox Populi Action Cards
30 Dark Red Vox Populi Action Cards
4 Founder Leader Cards
4 Vox Populi Leader Cards
15 World Event Cards
15 Victory Point Cards
1 Four Player Turn Order Track
1 First Player Token
14 Key Tokens
40 Upgrade Tokens
Once you have set up the board, popped out all the coins and tokens and sorted all the cards the game is about to begin. And begin it does with a massive amount of rules and processes to get into to get the flow of the game going.
The Siege of Columbia goes as follows; you start your world event and voting, where each player uses their influence to try and sway to vote in their favour and at the same time the events of the world happen. For example Booker and Elizabeth move or the timeline moves causing different effects within the game. Once that is all over you have your player turns and whoever goes first is the person with the first player token. They can then start to build cash, produce units, upgrade, move units or go into combat. All these different values use the 5 cards which the player can hold at one time which calls for a balance of power on how the player uses their resources. Spend too much influence at the world event phase and you won’t have enough cards to use for getting money or going into combat. Choosing how you use your cards is very important and using too many cards or not enough at any stage can lead to a massive shift in power.
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia does well in balancing your use of resources but you also get help if you are the underdog. In world events Booker also has a say and if you are on the losing side his votes will also go to you making sure one player does not hold supreme throughout unless they plan carefully. Various areas seem pretty well balanced from the individual unit numbers to how the game flows nothing stood out as unfair or too over powered when we played.
It is not all about the cards though, some luck also falls into play with the use of dice, and it would not be a board game without them. The dice are used for different events in the game. They can be used for additional influence, combat attack power and special dice are even used to traverse the skyline. The Skyline allows you to travel great distances but with some big risk. Roll the dice each time you want a unit to travel the Skyline and if you get a thumbs up you are safe, get numbers and you have to pay that number in cards or lose that unit to the agonising fall back to earth.
As mentioned earlier you do not play as Booker or Elizabeth but they do have a big part to play in the game and the best bet, stay out their way. Booker and Liz are controlled by the world event and you are told where they should be. If though they are not together watch out as Booker will be mad and will engage in combat wherever Liz is on the board. If they are together you are safe and he won’t attack unless the world event cards tell you he is then no matter what you must fight him if you are in the same space. Booker does not play any cards but he does get to roll three red dice which in The Siege of Columbia are the highest dice you can get. Expect to lose men when you battle Booker. If you win though, Liz is yours and she does confer benefits depending on the timeline and the votes so there are benefits. Be careful though as Booker does come back next turn and he will be gunning directly to wherever Liz is located guns blazing.
Having Booker and Liz on the game board makes it feel very natural and a sure fire way to get players involved more with Columbia outside the video game. Seeing the story from another angle adds a whole new dimension and allows the player able to play an additional side of the game without needing it digitally. Booker is a hard ass and he should be, being the main protagonist taking down anything that stands in his way, he matches his digital alter ego but he is not invincible making it more fun for the players. Like the game though he will re-spawn meaning the action is never truly over.
When it comes to the cards you also have the option to upgrade their numbers. Each card has three different values: Influence, used to turn the tide of the political vote, Combat used to see who wins with the highest combat value and Coin used to gain money to buy units, structures and upgrades. Each type of card also has a special effect which can be used or unlocked for later use. The cards being used for any one “currency” means discarding it and as mentioned before you only get 5 cards a turn which makes them very valuable. To help with this you can upgrade your units which upgrades their values. Getting upgrades within the game is pretty easy. Win a battle, become first player etc. there are many ways but soon you will find your character sheet full of 1’s and 2’s adding even more complexity to an already complex game.
Complex or not the game does have a lot to take in and if you are not an avid board game player it might take you a while to get into the flow of things. Playing the game for the first couple of times we had to look at the manual a lot and did certain things in the wrong order but the game, even as complex as it is, does a good job. Take away one of the systems and the game might not fit as well in the Bioshock Universe. It does mean that if you’re looking for a quick simple game this is not for you. Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is for the board game fans who love the complex mechanics and intrigued game play or it is for someone who enjoys the battle of politics not just the battles within the infantry.
Winning the game is simple enough if you can get to that point. Collect victory points for completing certain tasks and when you have 10 points you win the game. Be aware though as the time line progresses if Booker and Liz leave Columbia both teams lose as you let them escape. It can be a real rush towards the end trying to win when booker and Liz are close to leaving.
Note: If you want the make the game quicker and harder draw two world event cards each turn. This does make the game move faster but make sure to collect those victory points to win before the last world event card is drawn. If this happens Booker and Liz are counted as gone and you lose!
Overall Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia sits in a weird place. Players who love complex board games will love this. Gamers who like the Bioshock Infinite universe will love the game brought to life in another medium and the little figures and props from the game will make any Bioshock Infinite fan’s day but if you’re not one of these two I would recommend trying the game before you buy it as you really have to sit down to play this game given that it could take a few hours just to pick up everything.
The game does have a 4 player mode which is where two people team up as a faction but it is recommended that you learn the 2 player game first as with 4 players the game is no more complex but a lot more happens each turn.
For Bioshock Fans and Boardgame Players
Should you buy?
For Casual Players
Should you buy?