Ironclad Board Game Review

Game: Ironclad
By: Konstantinos Iovis, Kostis Tolios, Ioannis Stamatis
Publisher: Alcyon Creative

Players: 1-3 (Cooperative)
Duration: 45-90 minutes
Ages: 13+
Time to learn: 60 minutes, including tutorials

Ironclad Board Game Review

Eagerly anticipating my first play. The instruction manual makes setting up easy!

Eagerly anticipating my first play. The instruction manual makes setting up easy!

Game Description/Game Play

Did you ever wish to live on board the USS Enterprise? Transporters, holodecks, and replicators available to provide you with your every desire and need? Well, wish no longer! Sure, your ship is the battleworn Ironclad instead of the sleek and shiny Enterprise, and life is a little more rugged than you expected, (this particular region of space is amidst a Cosmic Cold War, after all) but it's great! You aren't some mere Red Shirt. You're the leader of this little band of heroes and crew. You get to make the decisions. You get to "make it so". 

Ironclad is a beautiful campaign space expedition game, more in the vein of Star Wars or Firefly, in which you will direct your characters (Heroes) as they lead their crew on missions throughout the galaxy. Cooperative in nature, you (either solo or with 1 or 2 other players), will take over as heads of the vital sections of the ship: Bridge, Weapons, and Hangar. As a group you will make your way across the hexagonal galaxy, using the skills and abilities of each ship section's Heroes.

Being a campaign game, each play will be a different from the last with a new story, different goals, increased challenges, and added Heroes. It is vital to record end of game information in the included Campaign Log. This will let you pick up where your adventure left off the next time you set up to play.

The front of the Intel tiles, which must be resolved when you visit the sector on which they are placed face down. You can use a turn to learn what tile is waiting for you by using the "Recon" action. This allows you to turn over an Intel from a connected sector and prepare (or avoid) what's ahead. Or, you can make a blind jump and move to the next sector without seeing what's in store.  I also want to note how much I love the art in Ironclad. This is merely a prototype, and it's obvious that there is still some filler art. The art that they have is vivid in color and humor. The creators have also taken the time to create thick pieces for the game to make it an enjoyable experience. I can't wait to see the quality of the final product. If they have put this much time and effort into all of the prototypes, I have strong faith in their desire to create a beautiful, sturdy published game.

The front of the Intel tiles, which must be resolved when you visit the sector on which they are placed face down. You can use a turn to learn what tile is waiting for you by using the "Recon" action. This allows you to turn over an Intel from a connected sector and prepare (or avoid) what's ahead. Or, you can make a blind jump and move to the next sector without seeing what's in store. 

I also want to note how much I love the art in Ironclad. This is merely a prototype, and it's obvious that there is still some filler art. The art that they have is vivid in color and humor. The creators have also taken the time to create thick pieces for the game to make it an enjoyable experience. I can't wait to see the quality of the final product. If they have put this much time and effort into all of the prototypes, I have strong faith in their desire to create a beautiful, sturdy published game.

The Ironclad Mat. The player mat that you all share. Vital information for all.  *Thank you to whomever was assigned to hand-cut every single on of the pieces. Your hard work was noted and appreciated!

The Ironclad Mat. The player mat that you all share. Vital information for all. 

*Thank you to whomever was assigned to hand-cut every single on of the pieces. Your hard work was noted and appreciated!

Verdict

If you love Science Fiction shows, and you love board games, you absolutely have to check out Ironclad. You just have to. I have never attempted a campaign game prior to this, and I was intimidated by the nearly 20 pages of instructions. But, the more I read, the more I became giddy with anticipation to start playing.

This game is exciting! Imagine you are on the bridge of your ship still recovering from your past encounters and trying to figure out the safest course through space to reach your destination, when you receive a distress call. Should you answer? What if it's a trap? What is the state of your crew's moral? Can your shields handle the fire if someone attacks? Do you have enough ammo to fight back?

These are factors you get to consider as you make your way across the galaxy.

Then I started setting up the board. I love the vivid colors, the puzzle-like hexagonal tiles, the suspense of wondering what Intel and adventures are laying in wait for the crew's journey. 

Most importantly, the campaigns are a blast! We were given the first three scenarios to play, and I was sad to see our game end. Make sure not to read ahead, as the choices you make will have permanent game effects. This is a fantastic cooperative or solo game. We played both ways, and I can't decide which way I liked more. As a group, we had compromises to make from the start, as some of us wanted to take a job from the shady Cartel liaison, and some of us felt it prudent to agree to the assignment from the menacing Xavier. The lively conversations made us feel like we were in the Captain's ready room over a cup of Earl Grey.

Solo play was more relaxed and exploratory, since I knew that if I lost the campaign, it would be no big deal to just try again.

Setup for Scenario 1 of the campaign. Extra tiles are to the left and top left for readers to see how the pieces go together.  So many beautiful Cosmic Conditions. So much damage to be had...

Setup for Scenario 1 of the campaign. Extra tiles are to the left and top left for readers to see how the pieces go together. 
So many beautiful Cosmic Conditions. So much damage to be had...

Just a little side note for those who are concerned about the "nearly 20 pages of instructions" comment: the instructions are written in a way that will speak to fans of science fiction shows, with a large portion of the instruction booklet is comprised of scripted games for players to act out so they can understand the game through doing instead of just reading. I love this! I am one of the players that usually says, "Let's just play. I'll figure it out." 

June, do you mind if we call you Kaylee? Because you are most definitely an homage to Firefly.

June, do you mind if we call you Kaylee? Because you are most definitely an homage to Firefly.

Pros

  • High replayability. To understand the game, I played the first campaign several times. Since the Intel chits are randomly placed, the adventure from Point A to Point B or C will be different every time. 

  • Exciting storyline. Think Firefly: only you've defected in the middle of a Cosmic Cold War. You are accepting missions from all the fighting factions, and some of the missions are not neutral in the art of war.

  • The length of the campaign is listed at 15 hours. To me, this is enough time to feel like I've explored and immersed myself in the game. It makes the game worth the price. But it's not so long that it is overwhelming to fit into play. With each campaign lasting 45-90 minutes, it's completely manageable to fit a game in after the kids have been put to bed. 

  • The art. I also want to note how much I love the illustrations in Ironclad. This is merely a prototype, and there is still some filler art within the game. However, all of the major characters and cards are fully fleshed out, and they are vivid in color and humor. The creators have also taken the time to create thick pieces for the game to make it an enjoyable experience. I can't wait to see the quality of the final product. If they have put this much time and effort into all of the prototypes, I have strong faith in their desire to create a beautiful, sturdy, published game

Cons

  • We did not get to play the entire campaign, so I cannot vouch for the entire game experience. Tweaks are being made, and the final production quality is unknown.

Gateway Game Score: 3/10 (Those 3 points are given because there could be some non-gamers who would love this because of the theme.)
Overall Game Score: 9/10

This review of Ironclad was written by May Begamer, who hasn't geeked out this hard since the time she rewatched Deep Space 9 and realized that the last few seasons are actually the good seasons.