This Adrenaline Review digs into the first ever “First Person Shooter” board games that I have ever played. I’m not a video gamer, but I was super intrigued as to how the FPS concept would translate into a board game.
Your molecules jam together and you find yourself standing in an empty room… but you quickly decipher from noises down the hall that while the room may be empty, the building is not.
Your body surges with adrenaline as you remember why you are here. You’ve been placed in the arena with one simple mission. “Kill…. or be killed.”
3 weapons lay along the wall. Ammo is strewn about the room. The oddly metallic footsteps in the hallway are getting closer. You quickly grab the rail gun, load it with some ammunition that was strapped to your body armor, and then scramble across the floor to pick up some more ammo.
Clank Clank CLANK
What appears to be a :D-Structor-or Bot swings around the corner and before you can react a sledgehammer crashes down on top of you. Bleary-eyed you look up… only to see the a strange, almost emoji like, face smiling eerily down on you. It begins to raise it’s hammer again.
“Not today you smirking hunk of scrap-metal!” You scream, leveling the rail-gun at it’s un-changing grin.
A deafening explosion fills the room. Fire and shrapnel tear into your body armor. Disoriented, you realize that it’s no longer just you and the bot.
Tink tink tink…
Another grenade rolls in from the door behind you.
Looks like there are more people who want to see you on the “be killed” list.
It’s gonna be a long night.
What is Adrenaline?
Adrenaline is, in my experience, the first of it’s kind in the board game industry. It’s a first person shooter game… on cardboard.
Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify that I do know the difference between “first person” and “third person.” While Adrenaline technically falls into the “third person” category it is based on the concepts of a FPS game. So… that’s why I don’t feel bad calling it an FPS board game.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about how this game works.
In Adrenaline, your goal is to run around, pick up guns and ammo, shoot your guns at other players characters, re-load your guns, run around and pick-up more ammo, and shoot some more.
It sounds like it could be boringly repetitive. And, I have to admit, that when I first heard about this game in mid 2016, I didn’t think it was going to be something that interested me. That changed when I watched it being played. As I watched the game in action I quickly realized that Adrenaline was about so much more than running around, grabbing things, and shooting.
Adrenaline sets itself apart by presenting the typical “Area Control” mechanic in gaming in a whole new way. Usually when you think of area control you think of dudes on a map giving you control of that space. And then at the end of the game you win or get points (or some such) by controlling the most spaces.
In Adrenaline, it doesn’t matter if you control a space on the map. However, it is all about how much you control the damage to other players. Let me dive into that just a little bit.
Each player has a board with 12 empty spaces in front of them. Every time you inflict damage on another player, you place a “blood” marker on one of the spaces on THEIR board.
Whenever a player receives their 11th (and possibly 12th) blood marker – they are dead and their player mat is scored. Whoever hit them first receives 1 point, and then whoever hit them the most receives 8 points, 2nd receives 6 points, 3rd – 4 points, etc.
Then, much like a video game, the dead player re-spawns on the board with an empty board ready to seek revenge. Or if you’re like me in an actual FPS video game… to be more target practice. (This doesn’t happen in Adrenaline though. For more on that – see the “What I Liked” section a little further down.)
There is also bonus scoring at the end of the game based on how many kill shots each player made.
It’s this scoring mechanic that really makes this game exciting. Sometimes it might be easier for you to shoot one player, but it might be more beneficial for you to wait a turn, load up another weapon, and then get the kill shot.
And I haven’t even touched the weapons yet.
This game comes with 21 unique weapon cards. These weapons (which characters can carry up to 3 different weapons at any given time) allow you to do things like, target multiple players, shoot through walls, shoot a player you cannot see, give extra damage to a player, give a player damage, push them a space a way; just to name a few!
Adrenaline Game Specs:
Price Range: $60-70 You can buy it HERE.
Players: 3-5 (Note – for 3 player games it is recommended that you play with a varient that adds a “bot” to the game)
Style: Area Control/”FPS” Simulation – 100% player to player interaction
Estimated Game time: 60 Minutes
Geek Level: Intermediate
What I Liked About Adrenaline
- Unique, Unique, Unique: I can honestly say that I do not have another game like this one in my collection. Of course almost every game has it’s unique strokes here or there, but this one feels “different” to me on a bigger level.
- No Target Practice Players: Let the record show that in the video game world I am the Hoover Vacuum cleaner of FPS games. That’s a fancy way of saying…. I really suck. Anyone who has played with me quickly realizes that I am a point factory for them – just find me and shoot me while making fun of how my animated avatar is running around shooting at the sky (see the “just one more thing” section at the bottom of my post and you’ll see what I mean). This does not happen in Adrenaline. In fact, Czech Games Edition actually put a mechanic in place that makes you worth fewer points each time you are killed, turning players who haven’t yet been dropped into much richer targets.
- Diversity of Weaponry: You’ll see in my “What I didn’t like” section a topic of how the first play of this game can be quite arduous as you wade through the options of the weapons in front of you. On first blush, it can be really overwhelming. BUT, it is the diversity of weaponry that is going to bring this game back to the table for me. I spent my first 3 or 4 plays just running around and shooting. It was on my 5th play that I realized that I should spend less time worrying about whether or not I’m shooting every turn and more time working up awesome weapon combos. I can’t wait to play some more…. (Insert evil laugh).
- The Yellow Character: Really, if you play this game with me – you’re going to have to be a different color, because I’m claiming the Emoji faced robot. Every. Single. Time.
What I Did Not Like About Adrenaline
- First Game: I don’t believe that every game has to be awesome and easy right out of the box. It is a good thing too or I might not have kept at it with this one. This game has a LOT going on: weapons, understanding line of sight, reload timing. Figuring all this out on the first play can make it seem like the game doesn’t have a good flow to it. To clarify, I wasn’t bored, but sometimes you feel like a game just should have ended sooner. I had that feeling midway through my first game. When you approach this game (and I suggest pretty much any game) take that first game as a chance to learn the mechanics and structure, and then hold your judgement after you have at least played it twice!
- Final Frenzy Flow Breakers: Once you’ve played the game a time or two you get into the flow of the game. The full game is played with what is called a “Final Frenzy.” The idea of this is to even out the scoring potential and to avoid any 1st player advantage. However, on that final turn your available actions change, so the last round sometimes feels a bit like the final 10 seconds of a college basketball game (Timeout… 2 seconds… timeout… 4 seconts… timeout… etc) as everyone works through their new available actions trying to maximize their final turn. Feels less like a frenzy and more like a “pensive plodding.”
- Final Scoring: I love it when at the end of the game you just total up your score chits in front of you and boom – a winner is declared. However, in Adrenaline, you have to spend time scoring each players mats, and then kill-shot scoring, and THEN total up each players score. Totally nit-picking here. But it’s not the smoothest final scoring system out there. To be fair, Adrenaline is not alone in this one, many of my favorite games have similar end game scoring procedures – it just happens to also be one of my pet peeves.
What I Really Think of Adrenaline (My Official Adrenaline Review)
The uniqueness of Adrenaline alone makes this a total keeper for me. But even if it were not unique, it has earned it’s place in my collection, and on my game table.
It’s too early to tell just how often I’ll be getting this game out, but the fact that I’ve played it a fair bit now and I’m still thinking through strategies for how I can play it better tells me that this game has a pretty permanent spot on my game shelf.
The potential issues that I can see that might cause me to choose a different game for game night would be theme, many in my group aren’t FPS or even area control type gamers, and the learning curve – I’d want to bring it out when I knew we had enough time to play it twice just so players got a fair look at the mechanics.
The cube pusher and bit fiddler in me loves all the detailed character pieces, markers, and ammo tokens in the game! And I have to say, it was a total beauty to photograph! (Stay tuned to my instagram account for more photos!)
Is it for you? As always, I’ll leave that for you to decide! But I’ll tell you this – if you have some FPS friends that you want to introduce to your hobby… I’d recommend this over a farming game every day of the week!
More About Adrenaline from Around the Web
- Want to know How to Play? Check This High-Quality Video Tutorial (by Watch It Played)
- Check out these awesome Custom Painted Minis that @BoardGameQuest did to upgrade their copy (Twitter Photo)
- The Official Adrenaline Web Page
Just One More Thing:
This IRL version parody of the Nintendo64 game GoldenEye just about sums up how good I was (or wasn’t) at FPS video games. I really just can’t stop laughing every time I watch this. 🙂
Disclosure: Some of the links in this Adrenaline review are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That aside, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.