There a couple of big trends in the world of board games: zombies, superheroes, and anything with an 8″bit video game ascetic. The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade falls into that third category. In The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade, 2″5 players take on the roles of spaceship pilots in a recreation of classic side scrolling shooting games such as Space Invaders, Gradius, and Ikaruga.
The game comes with a set of five trays that are set up horizontally and are used to hold cards representing the various threats that show up in shooters that the players will have to deal with: asteroids, black holes, and of course alien warships. Players spend their turns dealing with the various threats, gaining money to use on upgrades to their ships, gaining victory points, and basically dealing with whatever’s on the board. Once each player has taken their turn, the bottom tray of cards is removed, with any players that are still on this tray being pushed onto what was the second row of cards, which is now the bottom row. The tray that was just on the bottom is moved to the top, and a new set of cards is revealed. It all simulates a top down scrolling shooter in a brilliant and “so simple I can’t believe no one’s done it before” manner.
The gameplay in The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade is a blast. The game totally captures the feel of the games it is emulating, from the way you play it to the ascetics of the game art and pieces. There are lots of little rules that remind you of the classic side scrolling video games, and you can tell that the creators just get it. There is also a PvP element to the game that makes this a successful board game as well, blending the two worlds together.
My only real complaint about the game is that there are a couple of cards that need to be reworded, as a few of them caused some confusion among the group. I know it is something that will be addressed in further printings, but it is a little annoying. Also, while some of the components for the game are nice, including the resin score trackers and some descent plastic ships, other components such as some of the cards and the game trays feel a little on the cheap side and make it feel like the game could be a little on the pricey side for what you’re getting. The trays especially just feel not as solid as I would like, especially since they are the central component to the game. Finally, it took me a solid weekend to remember the actual name of the game. These are minor annoyances that don’t detract too much from a very solid game.
A few annoyances aside, The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade is a very good game. If you have any fondness for shooters this is a must buy, and if you’re looking for a fun new game this is one to check out. From game design to art design, they got this one dead on, and I can’t wait to play many more times.
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