Review - Transformers Deck Building Game

I was fortunate enough to be a kid during the golden age of the 80’s toy lines, G.I Joe, M.A.S.K, Masters of the Universe to name but a few.  However, my favourite was Transformers by far! Those robots in disguise ticked all of my boxes, of which I had precisely two. Box 1 - Is it a robot? Box 2 - Is it also something else? Check and check! Despite them being my favourite toys, I didn’t actually end up with many Transformers back in the day, they were comparatively expensive compared to other toy lines. So as soon as I became an adult, I naturally began to overcorrect my deprivation by collecting them en masse and for a time it was good.  Then came the dark times of fiscal responsibility and gradually the collection was sold off piece by piece, but my love of the Transformers franchise lingered on.  So when I heard Renegade Game Studios were making the Transformers Deck Building Game, you can imagine my excitement!  But is it a good game? Let's find out! In the words of Optimus Prime, “Autobots, transform and roll out!” 

You’ve Got the Touch

Transformers Deck Building Game allows 1-5 players to either compete or cooperate to overcome 3 Decepticon bosses by navigating the Matrix, no not the Matrix of Leadership, this Matrix is essentially a grid of cards upon which the players move their characters standees, revealing cards when they can and, depending on the revealed card, either purchase it to strengthen their deck, resolve the effects of schemes or other cards or engage in battle if it’s an enemy.

There are three primary resources in the game: Movement, Power and Energon.  Movement is expended to move from card to card and also used to reveal cards, Power is used as a currency to purchase cards and overcome Decepticons, and Energon, which is depicted by awesome pink translucent cubes, is used to activate special character or card abilities. Play continues until either the players have defeated three bosses or when the Matrix deck is empty and a space needs to be filled. If either of these conditions are met, the game ends immediately and players tally up their VP’s to determine the outcome.

 

Transform and Roll… oh, I already used that line

It wouldn’t be a Transformers game if nothing transformed, so it’s fortunate that the developers thought so too! Each character has a double sided oversized card that can be flipped between that character’s vehicle mode, which is primarily used to navigate the Matrix using movement points, and their robot form on the opposite side which has special abilities, such as offering bonuses for every technology card in play, or +1 to power when in robot mode etc. 

In most cases, transforming costs Energon, which is also used to power character and card abilities. Managing this precious resource fits the theme perfectly as the struggle over Energon was at the core of the shows.  Running out of Energon and being stuck in vehicle form is less than ideal if a boss should ambush you in the Matrix.

 

One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall

The cooperative and solo modes are solid play experiences. Adding cards to your deck, balancing it out against what your allies have and the ability to assist one another in battle encourages team spirit. Having several characters in play and reacting to events that may occur on another player’s turn keeps players focused between turns and allows for more interaction throughout the game.  Solo play bends the rules a little, as there are no assists, but this doesn’t adversely affect the game.

Competitive play is a fun variant, but this was clearly made with the future Decepticon expansions in mind as competing against your fellow Autobots for VP’s just doesn’t feel right thematically. My only other issue with the game is one of mixed component quality. The tokens, and Energon cubes are all excellent, as is the artwork, however the cards themselves feel a little thin and flimsy for a deck builder. The cards are going to see a lot of use, so sleeving I feel will be a must here.

 

Auto-Likes

  • Extremely enjoyable deck builder

  • Variable difficulty levels

  • The artwork combines the traditional Gen 1 cartoon and comic style with newer designs from more recent iterations

  • Energon Cubes!

  • Fun combination of board game elements and deckbuilding

  • Fast and easy to learn

  • Can be played Competitively, cooperatively and solo

 

Decepti-Gripes

  • The cards feel thin and cheap

  • Limited character choices

  • No Autobot vs Decepticon PVP (yet)

  • Competitive mode seems weird

Freedom is the Right of All Sentient Beings

The Transformers Deck Building Game delivers on the genre’s core concepts while incorporating some interesting thematic quirks that, on their own would be welcome variations of traditional deck builders, but here are elevated further thanks to the Transformers theme.  Transforming your character for a fight, resuming vehicle form to retreat or explore further and collecting and spending the funky Energon cubes combined with the usual satisfaction of building a powerful deck of cards makes this game a must have for any fan of the franchise.  A few quality and game mode issues aside, this core set paves the way for future expansions. With a deep well of heroes, villains and lore to draw upon, the Transformers Deck Building Game is one I’m likely to return to time and again with future releases, but even on its own, it felt like a complete game experience. There’s definitely more here than meets the eye.


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