Wednesday, January 8th, 2003 at 12:16am by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner
The latest card game incarnation spawned from the Bionicle franchise was released into the wild just a couple of short weeks ago. BZPower first brought you the storyline details from the instruction manual back in mid-December, and promised that one the decks hit the stores we'd have a review for you. And here it is.
Note that for this review, I am going by the "Red Deck" version of the game. All decks seem to be virtually identical save for the substitution of pairs of Toa and their corresponding cards in the game deck.
Plopping itself in one specific point in the Bionicle storyline, Toa Nuva Reconstruct has a very straightforward objective: to re-assemble the Toa Nuva after their having met with a mysterious destructive tornado.
The game takes place almost immediately after the defeat of the Bahrag twins, and shortly after the Toa Nuva have emerged Nuva-fied from the protdermis.
Two Toa Nuva are put in direct competition to be the first to collect the seven body segments (two arms, two legs, head, kanohi nuva & tool), all the while preventing your opponent from doing the same.
The package consists of a pair of identical glossy game mats (with a playfield on one side and the instructions in four different languanges on the other), a small plastic card tray (which is not used in gameplay, but for storage) and a shrink-wrapped deck of 50 game cards.
If you're at all familiar with the quality of Upper Deck Entertainment's card games, then you already really know what the expect from the cards.
Much like the CCG and the McDonald's Bohrok Trading Cards before them, the cards are quite attractive. Also, like the games before them, much existing Bionicle imagery was recycled and used for artwork, but this time around, no more snapshots of sets. We're instead treated to all CGI-rendered artwork, including rendered views of the various Toa Nuva pieces which must be reconstructed.
The cards come in two basic varities: Toa Nuva part cards and Game Action cards.
Each Toa has seven unique part cards (seen on the left) which you must collect in order to reconstruct your Toa Nuva during the course of the game. The remainder of the deck is stocked with Game Action cards (on the right), which show the silhouettes of Toa Nuva pieces which can be gathered or taken away, or a stop sign which is played to overrule a card played by your opponent.
The game mats are of passable quality, but would certainly benefit from a trip to Kinko's for lamination. They come out of the box well-wrinkled having been folded from their 30" x 11" glory to fit in the 3" x 5" box.
That's all there is to it -- but as I'll explain later, if you only use what comes in the box, you're not really enjoying the game to its fullest, despite initial impressions.
TNR is a pretty simple and straightforward game when it gets right down to it. In comparison to the other two existing Bionicle card games, if the CCG were considered a 10
(on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most complex) and the McDonald's Bohrok card game being a 1, TNR would fall right around a 2.5.
There's not that much to think about as far as strategy goes. Your play choices are limited to just a couple of different options on each turn, and while a great deal is left up to the luck of the draw, there is still just enough decision-making left open to the player that you don't feel completely at the mercy of chance.
Play starts with each challenger gathering his seven Toa Nuva part cards in a pile, and shuffling the remaining deck of 36. Each person is dealt three cards and the rest becomes the draw pile.
On your turn you draw one game action card (giving you four), after which you have the choice of either playing a card enabling you to move a part card from the pile to its corresponding location, or playing a penalty card on your opponent, forcing him to move a part card from its place on the mat back into his part card pile.
(Note: The instructions do provide an "advanced" addition to the rules giving you the third option of exchanging one of your game action cards for another of the same border color in lieu of taking any sort of action. Much like in Scrabble where when presented with no good tiles you can choose to forfeit your turn and exchange letter tiles.)
The only real diversion from this ping-pong gameplay, is the stop card. Seen in the bottom of the right column of cards in the image above, the stop card can be played immediately when your opponent attempts to play a penalty game action card on you (much like a Coup Fourre in the classic French car racing game, Mille Bornes.) Playing the card negates your opponent's card, and thus his turn, giving you the essential effect of having two turns in a row.
The winner is simply the first player to move all of his Toa Nuva part cards from the part card pile to their location on the mat.
Now, that would be the end of this section, were it not for the the variation of gameplay suggested in the instructions: that of using actual Toa Nuva figures instead of Toa Nuva part cards. The Toa Nuva part cards can be left in their piles or taken out of play entirely, and then you each tear your Toa Nuva into the appropriate pieces, place them on their spots on the mat, and put your Toa Nuva's dismembered, decapitated torso on the oval in front of the draw pile. The first time I played the game, I just played with cards. The second time I played with the Toa Nuva toys; and I've never played this game without them again.
I first must admit that I thought this version of gameplay was nothing more than a feeble attempt to make the game more Bionicle-esque by simply replacing cards with Toa Nuva arms & legs. It was already my feeling that sifting through the part card pile to find a particular card only to move it inches away was a redundant and unnecessary. I figured the task would only be made more laborious with the prospect of actually needing to click parts together (and apart) on every play.
It's at this point that I'll happily eat my words (or in this case, my thoughts) and admit that I was dead wrong. As it turns out, playing this game without using your actual Toa Nuva figures is a travesty and crime against nature!
Here's why. Collecting cards, and making your friend put cards back is only so much fun; almost as much fun as sorting socks.
It turns out that my miscalculation about how adding the toys to the equation was not only inaccurate in only considering how much I'd enjoy building the Toa, but in not realizing the real fun is forcing your opponent to tear his apart!
You see, you'll find yourself actually empathetic for your poor shattered Toa, as you try to help him regain his limbs along with his dignity. As he lays there, a helpless torso, you first add an arm, and then maybe a leg. Once a second leg is added he can at least stand, although he's still headless. What's this, your opponent's Toa has both legs and is standing too? Slap a penalty card on him and again his pathetic Toa is forced, one-leggedly, back to lay embarrassingly on the mat! Muh-wha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
I think you get the idea. This is particularly fun when your challenger has been trying for some time to achieve a particular body part. As he gloats and works to click an arm or leg back into socket, you can sit calmly until it's firmly in place, and then quickly deflate your unworthy adversary's ego by telling him he's now required to snap it right back off and return it to the mat. I know I'm going on & on about this, but I simply cannot overstate just how much more fun this game is with the inclusion of your Toa Nuva figures, particularly if you're playing with a friend who also enjoys Bionicle.
This is virtually a null subject for TNR. You gain no advantage for your choice of Toa Nuva (they're all equal for the purpose of the game), and each player has a fair shot at winning.
Even players of different ages or skill levels will find the game evenly balanced, since there is only a small amount of strategy or planning; as long as you understand the rules and can pay attention to what's going on, you have a fair chance of winning.
FUN & REPLAY VALUE
This one's easy; and it depends on how you decide to play the game:
WITHOUT THE TOA NUVA FIGURES: Only moderately entertaining and worth a play or two. You could probably have just as much fun raking the yard.
WITH THE TOA NUVA FIGURES: An uproarous afternoon of adversarial Toa Nuva dismantling and rebuilding! Don't you dare ever play this game without the Toa Nuva figures, do you understand? I mean it! You'll pull this one out time and again because it's a hoot, it's easy, and a single game only takes 10-15 minutes, but you'll never play just one.
If I've done my job to this point, my final evaluation should already be obvious, so I'll recap it here for those of you who just rocket straight to this part of the review instead of reading all of my witty prose.
Toa Nuva Reconstruct is, out of the box, an adequate offering into the Bionicle gaming family and can offer a brief and simple bit of card-playing entertainment.
But add in the Toa Nuva figures and a friend, and you've got yourself a full afternoon (or day) of mean-spirited yet good-natured competition that will keep you laughing and playing again & again.
This one's a keeper.
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