Playing games at GenCon is good times. Playing games with pal NinjaSteve is that much moreso. Discovering a new game together? Well, you can guess where this is going. At GenCon this year we got to play Front Line No Komrades, a fun little screw-your-neighbor card game where you and your fellow players are scrabbling for survival as you scurry across the front lines, pursued by the Kommissar. It’s a tongue-in-cheek race for survival as you compete to not be the one get shot, torched, blown up, or otherwise ventilated.
Let’s be very clear. To win, you need to do more than just get out of the line of fire yourself. You need to actively shove your fellow players into the path of incoming cannonballs, attack dogs, lasers, machine gun fire, and more. The objective isn’t so much to avoid getting yourself killed, as it is to get everyone else killed before you yourself get mown down. It reminds me a little of playing Paranoia in that regard. There’s no room for being loving and supportive of your friends, it’s shove or be shoved out there!
Let’s take a look-see at what’s in the box…
You get one – ONE! – glorious page of instructions, glory be to the Motherland. You get three decks – the red Incoming deck, the blue Action deck, and then a third deck which actually has a bunch of things…
The black-backed cards include the Kommissar, who marks the end of the line of scurrying players, the target cards, which show where the incoming fire is going to land, and three cards for each of the ten characters. One card will represent your character in the line, one shows your character’s unique ability (in this case Boris eats his ham for a last minute HP boost) and a card showing your health. This is 1-10 for almost all players, with Oxna the Bear having two extra for 12 total.
As you play the game your ability card is positioned over the health tracker, showing your character’s current health. In this case, Mikhail has 7 health. Mikhail’s ability refers to his rank, allowing him to berate newly arrived komrades into less fortunate positions.
The Incoming deck shows the current threat. Each turn an Incoming card is flipped to show just what the players are trying to dodge this turn. The symbol shows the type of damage – Linear in the case of the arrow, Splash inthe case of the explosion on Tear Gas, and there is a third Special symbol as well. The second symbol shows where the danger is targeted. Kommissar’s Encouragement starts at the rear of the line, The Great Equalizer targets someone with equipment, and Tear Gas hits its target square for max impact, and people on either side of it for secondary damage. The third symbol – the blood drop – shows how much damage is dealt.
All these incoming threats sound terrifying, but the Action deck is your friend. Every turn players will have the opportunity to play equipment cards to boost their own defenses, and maneuver and event cards to manipulate the line, move the target card to a new position or other effects.
This is what the line looks like. There is always a open space somewhere in the line, such as the one in front of the Kommissar, which players can move or be moved into, or the target can be potentially shifted to. In this case, an incoming card has targeted Oxna. If Oxna’s player had the Trip maneuver card shown above, she could trip Ivan, forcing him back one spot. Since the blank space is currently at the back of the line, Boris and Oxna would slide back as well, and the new open space would be at the front of the line. If Oxna had instead played a card that moved her ahead (I have no idea why, but I think Oxna is a mama bear), she would take Ivan’s place and he would be shoved back behind her to where the target is currently set.
Each turn players will have the opportunity to play a card to affect the line before the mortar shell, cannonball, whatever hits, as they dive for cover. Hits will be taken, equipment will be pilfered, and in the end, only one will make it across No Man’s Land.
Front Line No Komrades plays 2-8 players, and takes 20 minutes or so. It’s a small box, easily packed, and scales easily for the number of players, making it nice and simple to throw into a bag to take to an event or to whip out on games night with friends. It’s quick and easy to learn, and there’s only a couple of card interactions that took more than a moment to work out. The game is nicely balanced, and all in all a fun screw-your-neighbor experience with entertaining art. I’m very happy to have brought this one home, and look forward to playing it some more.
You can read more about Front Line No Komrades at Anvil Eight.