Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- 8 Bit Box

Game: 8 Bit Box

Publisher: Iello

Designer: Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey

Year: 2018

8 Bit Box is a games console turned into a cardboard form. The base game gives you all of the necessary components to play the three games in the box, and future expansions will also feed off the same set of components.

8 Bit Box captures the essence of retro video games, with the three games in the base box being very reminiscent of some of your favourites like Pacman and Mario Kart. The dual layer controllers allow you to program all sorts of different movements, like speed, direction and other symbols, that can have different meanings in each of the mini games you play. A set of basic cubes and counters gives you everything else you need to explore the games in 8 Bit Box.


Gameplay

Pixoid is 8-Bit Box's homage to the 1980s arcade game Pacman. In it you play a pellet cube-chomping sphere Cube caught in a maze filled with ghosts. Players will take turns playing as either one of the 3 ghosts attempting to hunt Pixoid or Pixoid itself. Each turn you will use the controllers to secretly choose a cardinal direction to move in and how many spaces to move in that direction. Your objective as Pixoid is to avoid the 3 ghosts hunting you for as long as possible, and perhaps even chomp down on a cube or two for extra points. Every turn Pixoid avoids the ghosts they gain 1 point from a dwindling supply. Should the ghosts catch Pixoid by touching it then they will each gain a number of points equal to whatever was left in the supply. A game is complete when every player has had a chance to play as Pixoid.


Outspeed is 8-Bit Box's love letter to the 1990 Nintendo classic F-zero, with perhaps a hint of 1992's Super Mario Kart thrown in. In Outspeed 3-6 players will race their way along a rolling road, choosing which route to take every turn and managing their fuel supplies. To win the gain you want to be the last person standing, or at least at the head of the pack when the last card is drawn. Each turn players will be given a communal road card with up to 3 choices on it. Each choice will come with negatives (typically nothing or fuel consumed) and positives (typically fuel gain, movement, and access to items.). Players will secretly choose which of the 3 roads to take before revealing and gaining the rewards. Many roads are affected by which roads other players selected so there is a lot of tactical choices to be made along the way. At any one time there are 2 race boards on the table, whenever someone reaches the end of a board a new board is added at the front and at the back one is removed, along with any players slow enough to still be on it. To make matters more chaotic there are a selection of weapons that can be collected which can do anything from knocking players backwards multiple spaces, to preventing a player from passing through a space on the racetrack this turn.

The specific video game that Stadium pays homage to is tricky to nail down, but instead it's an ode to generations of olympic-themed video games. If I had to pick one I'd probably point to 1983's arcade game Track & Field. In Stadium 4-6 players are split into 2 teams. Each player in a team has an athlete with a finite amount of energy which they must ration out over the course of a series of olympic events. Everything from track and field to golf and mandatory drug testing are represented. Each round a new event will be revealed and the partaking members (typically everyone, but sometimes teams get a representative) will compete. Each event is different but they mostly involve bidding energy in order to obtain victory. In the simplest event the amount bid will determinate of victory and the valuable medals worth end game points. In others the energy will be used to roll and re-roll dice in order to perform tasks. After 10 events the team which has the most points in gold, silver and bronze medals is the winner!


Amy’s Final Thoughts


Way back in 1992 a new product was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - the Aladdin deck enhancer. Your typical NES cart contained a number of common electrical components in order to function. These parts were needed in every game and thus were in every cart, pushing up production costs. What the Aladdin deck enhancer did was produce a host cart which contained these common components, you could then produce a game in a smaller cart with less components that attached to the deck enhancer in order to function. With the new smaller games you had reduced production costs and could afford to pass the savings onto the consumer. A wonderful idea which unfortunately flopped, partially because 16 bit systems already existed and everyone now expected higher quality, and partially because the available games weren't very good. So does 8-Bit Box follow a bit too close to its video game predecessors?

Pixoid is a great concept, taking Pacman and deconstructing it so that the ghosts are actually player controlled constructs chasing down the 1st player is a great concept. Heck they even did it officially in Pacman Vs on the Gamecube. In practice the game is good, but too darn slow. Each round one of the players who starts in the opposite corner to Pixoid often feels like they aren't in the game at all. While one round of Pixoid is fun, in order to determine a winner you need each player to be Pixoid once and that takes far too long. I'd recommend playing Pixoid, but just play the one round variant filler game.

Outspeed is the best of the 3, it gives players a chance to make actual choices in secret with the controllers, but what works so well is how dynamic it is. Many of the route options will cost more fuel the more players chose that route, so you have to try and guess what your other players are doing each round. Recharging with fuel or collecting weapons often comes at the cost of a slower speed, running the risk of falling off the track. The weapons can change the tide of the game in an instant and it really captures that Mario Kart essence of being completely demolished through no fault of your own. The game itself is quick enough to play that you aren't too invested when this happens to you.

Stadium is the worst of the three, there's some mileage in the idea and with 6 slightly rowdy players really getting into the team vs team theme it could be fun. But as is too many of the events were simply roll a D6 and add to it the amount you gambled, or pay 1 energy to roll a dice, pay more to reroll and keep playing until your opponent gives up. The whole game is designed to bleed you of energy before the final events, but the final events aren't worth significantly more points, and since you typically have the same amount of energy in each team you'll probably find that it's the dice that pick the winner.

8-Bit Box attempts to create a system where you can use common components (cubes, dice, controllers for secret input) and combine them with games that only include the components specific for that game. In this way you can carry more games with you at one time as you aren't lugging with you 4 boxes each containing the functionally identical dice and resource cubes! To this end it does succeed, there certainly are 3 games in 8-bit box and they do all use common components. Unfortunately the parallels to the Aladdin deck enhancer continue. Not only are we in an era where a lot of board games are going ever higher in component quality which makes 8-bit box's generic bare bones approach somewhat unappealing (and some of the worse punch board I've ever dealt with as an aside). But also the games available lack enough depth and nuance to bring me back to them.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

There are a couple of elements to the 8 Bit Box concept that I really like. The first is how truly it represents video games. It really looks the part with its console, controllers and SNES-like boxes - and this look probably has an audience meaning that 8 Bit Box could introduce some new people into our hobby. The games themselves are pretty accessible, so it shouldn't scare away anyone who buys the game based no the aesthetic alone. Video gamers are surely a huge potential market for board games and tabletop games like this, as well as the great things we're seeing like tabletop ports to the Nintendo Switch, all seem like awesome moves to me.

The other major component of the 8 Bit Box concept is the three games you get in a single box, as well as the scope for future expansions with different games for your console. The three games might have different appeals based on the quite different mechanics, including bluffing, racing and push your luck. It's possible that you could take 8 Bit Box to a game night and please a few different crowds and player counts.

But, would I take 8 Bit Box to a game night? Probably not. Much like a compilation CD, there just isn't one game that could stand on its own two feet. Pixoid is perhaps my favourite and is actually a pretty great implementation of Pac-Man with some puzzliness and bluffing that caused a lot of laughter around our table. Outspeed was OK and our friends certainly enjoyed it. Stadium was just bad - with lots of mini games that mainly felt like variants on who can roll the best result on a single dice.

8 Bit Box is well presented, if a little poor quality in some of the components and it's good value for three games, because of some of the shared components. It's a interesting set of rules to work with for a designer, and perhaps there are some great games coming in the future, but right now I find it hard to recommend 8 Bit Box, except for as a gift to get some video gaming friends into the lighter side of board gaming.


You Might Like...
  • 8 Bit Box has a great, nostalgic look.
  • You can take one box to game night, carry three games and perhaps more in the future.
  • The games are all light-hearted fun and last no longer than 30 minutes.
You Might Not Like...
  • None of the games have a level of depth that satisfies us as regular board gamers.
  • In order to be able to play multiple games with the same components the components are very basic and not great quality.

The Verdict

5.5/10 8 Bit Box is a nice concept born out of a nostalgia for retro video games that we really relate to. We love its concept, but the games inside just don't live up to any of the great games in our collection. Whilst you get three games in the box, we'd rather just have one great game than a few mediocre ones.


8 Bit Box was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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