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Cardboard Children - Frag: Gold Edition

Headshot With Dice

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“Oh, Rab!

“Please don’t recommend another game! My wallet can’t take it! And particularly not a game that is kinda specific to my PC gamer interests!

“Please, Rab! Don’t!”

Eat it, punk.

FRAG: GOLD EDITION

FRAG: Gold Edition, is a game from Steve Jackson Games. With it being a Steve Jackson Games thing, obviously it looks really lo-fi and kinda cheap. With FRAG the looks sort of work, because it looks like a PC arena shooter from the 90s. And it plays exactly like that too. Which kinda sorta makes it, when you’re in the right mood, one of the best board games EVER.

You start by choosing your little plastic dude, in your favourite colour. Then you take a dry-erase of that same colour. Then you use a pen to fill in your guy’s stats. You have seven points to spread over the attributes of HEALTH, SPEED and ACCURACY. Health is how tough your dude is, and how long it takes for him to be fragged. Speed is how fast and far your guy can move. Accuracy is how good you are at shooting and also how many attacks you can bust out per turn.

The board is like this big ugly arena with rooms and pools of acid and doors (some of them one-way) and little icons that represent GEAR and WEAPON pickups.

On your turn you roll dice for your movement according to your speed and then start sprinting around the map. If you put, say, four dice into SPEED you are going to be going crazy fast. Imagine your rolled four sixes. That’s (counts on fingers…) 24 spaces in one movement. But maybe you only put one die into SPEED. That means you are going super-slow (but you probably have massive HEALTH, so you’re like a TANK up in here). It’s cool that you have that little bit of control over the type of dude you are. If only you had that much control over the dude you are in real life…

So you move. If you run over any of those gear or weaponry icons, you roll a die for each one you’ve touched. On a 4-6 you get to take a card from the appropriate deck. New weapons are good. Stuff like rocket launchers and flamethrowers and needlers and shotguns. The gear can be things like armour or exoskeletons or speed boosts. Ooh mama.

Then you attack. If you have another player in line-of-sight, you count out the range and have to roll at least that number using your accuracy dice. If you hit, you roll your weapon’s damage rating, and divide the result by your opponent’s roll on their Health dice. If you roll right, you FRAG your opponent, and they drop all their gear and stuff right on that spot. You mark off a frag on your board. And on the dead player’s next turn they will respawn in a random location.

How fun is that? Sounds great, right?

And it is. It’s the type of game you put out on the table and then everybody just sighs. “This looks BAD.” But then the game kicks in and you start chasing each other around. Six of you, sprinting and dashing and launching rockets at each other. Trash talk. Threats. Opportunities to roll BIG HANDFULS of dice. Then it’s all totally like “This is RAD”. Except nobody actually uses that word. It’s awful.

There are these “SPECIAL” cards too. You start the game with one in your hand, and they are cards that affect the actual code of the game. Haha! No, seriously. They’re like cheats. Just last night an absolute shit of a person used an instant frag on me. I was just DEAD. No rolls or anything. Nobody scored anything for my frag – she only used it to stop me scoring a winning frag on someone else. “Hey I just exploded! HAXXXXXXORZZZ!” But wait – I had my own special card. I used it right after I respawned. It’s a hack that allows me to access the code for 30 seconds, to take whatever I need. What this means in THE REAL WORLD is that I have 30 seconds to search through a deck of my choice for something I like. I found this big heavy cannon that I used to get my revenge. It was –

It was beautiful.

See, FRAG is about as straight-forward as a board game gets. But there’s something really impressive about how closely it nails the feel of a PC arena shooter. As I was playing I was seeing how you could easily have a capture-the-flag variant, or a king-of-the-hill type thing. The game’s rules just totally work. It becomes second-nature stuff within minutes. And then you’re all just boosting around shooting the shit out of each other. It’s so unfussy.

There are two maps – one on each side of the massive board. There are little chits for “bloodstains”. Yeah, when you get fragged you leave a pool of blood on the floor. If another player runs over that they can take it as a medpack that heals 1 health. That’s cool too, huh? There are little chits to track dropped stuff. So someone gets fragged while carrying a portable nuke. That nuke drops where they stood. Mark it with a chit, then everybody chases after that thing because IT IS A NUKE. There are little bullet chits to track your ammo on your weapon cards. Yeah, they can run out of ammo. Sickening.

My favourite weapon in the game is the Beam Pistol. It has five ammo, but you can choose to discharge as much ammo as you want in a single shot. Each extra ammo spent is another die into your damage roll. You can turn that 5 ammo weapon into a one-shot weapon if you like, blasting lots of dice at your opponent. I think I just love it because you can almost hear it charging up to fire. One die- two dice – three dice – BWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMM – KRAKOW!!!

Heid aff.

Deid.

FRAG.

I really miss arena shooters. Unreal Tournament. Quake III. All gold, as far as I’m concerned. FRAG is that experience on a table. It’s a brilliant way to wind down after some thinky board games.

Sometimes you just want to fire thousands of dice at your friends until their heads go pop, you know?

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Robert Florence

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