TMNT Change is Constant and Cityfall from IDW Games come to retail out of a successful Kickstarter. Both sets are standalone core boxes for the Adventures Universal Game System and are compatible with each other for extended game options. Both sets feature your favorite characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop articles come in two halves. In Off The Shelf we will look at what's in the product along with covering how the game plays. This is followed by On The Tabletop where we talk about our first playthrough games and finish with feedback from the On The Tabletop team. The On The Tabletop playthrough articles catalog our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
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Off The Shelf
TMNT Change is Constant and Cityfall are both part of IDW's Games' Adventures Universal Game System. AUGS is a core component system that runs across several of IDW Games' tabletop franchises. It means that you will be able to mix and match heroes and villains from different sets.
While Change is Constant and Cityfall are the same system core sets, both are entirely unique experiences in terms of content. Change is Constant includes the 4 Turtles, Casey Jones, Baxter Stockmen and his army of mousers, Alopex, Old hob and an army of thugs and foot ninjas. Cityfall includes Splinter, April O'Neil, Angel Bridge, Slash, Old Hob, Shredder, Karai, Dark Leonardo, Rocksteady, Bebop and some elite Foot Clan units.
Having either Change is Constant or Cityfall provides a complete experience for the game, and each box has an Adventure Comic with linked scenario missions that can be played as a campaign or individual battle games. Having access to both allows you to mix and match heroes from both boxed sets (and other AUGS sets). Change is Constant also comes with a second Adventure Comic, which uses the components from both boxes.
TMNT CiC and Cityfall can be played in 2 ways. Co-operative with 1 to 4 players against an AI-controlled opponent. Using the co-operative method, turn order is randomized using a deck of initiative cards, with the player's characters and enemy units activating when their card is drawn. The enemies operate using a simple AI, moving towards (or away in the case of ranged weapon enemies) to the closest hero within line of sight, with ties being decided by a target priority (Thug Brawlers, for example, decide closest enemy ties by going for the hero with the highest life).
The alternative mode of gameplay is the competitive mode, where one player takes on the role of the enemies and plays against 1 to 4 players controlling the heroes. The heroes and villain take turns activating, with the heroes choosing which order they activate and the villain player activates his forces by playing cards from a hand of Villain ability cards.
The core mechanics for AUGS are action dice and dice sharing. Every character has 3 unique color-coded action dice. These dice, once rolled, show which actions a player can take each turn with their character. These actions are movement, melee attack, ranged attack, defense (which is a passive boost to the characters defense skill) and Chi (which lets a hero heal and then turn the dice to a face of their choosing). Some dice faces have 2 of the same icon or mixed icons of different types. Each character's unique dice give them benefits over their peers. Michelangelo has a double movement and Raphael has a double ranged attack, whereas Splinter, as a master, has several double symbols and mixed symbols.
Once the dice are rolled, players set them out in a line in an order of their choice. They then share their leftmost dice with the player on their left and their rightmost dice with the player on their right. Players can freely discuss, granting access to dice that their neighbors may need in order to be effective for the turn. This gives players access to 5 actions each turn (3 of their own and 1 from each of their neighbors). It encourages cooperation through discussion. If you rolled a lot of melee symbols, but no movement to get you into combat, you may need to get movement from your neighbors, or if you're about to get a pounding from a lot of enemies, they can help by giving you access to defense rolls.
On The Tabletop
For our test game, we played through the first 2 missions of the Change is Constant campaign. The first mission, The Skies Rumble, sees Raphael separated from the rest of the Turtles on a different map, facing Arnold, Casey Jones' father while the rest of the Turtles face wave after wave of thugs. Raphael, fighting alone, is unable to share dice with the rest of the team, and also has a focus of zero, which means he can't re-roll any action dice, so he has to rely on the dice rolled each turn.
The rest of the Turtles smashed through the waves of thugs, while I was taught a valuable lesson on teamwork (I see Splinter's hand in this). Unable to share any dice, I was left the mercy of my own rolls, which meant that I found myself constantly unable to do much. I would roll all ranged attacks, whilst being engaged with Arnold, so unable to use them, or high melee with no movement so would be unable to engage Arnold if I went first in the turn. While the other Turtles beat-down on the thugs, I was left wishing I had stayed with my brothers.
Our second mission, Lost and Found has Raphael reunited with his brothers, but on the other side of the map tiles, separated by Old Hob and a swarm of thugs. Overconfident through now having 5 actions a turn, I threw Raphael into the mob, hoping that he would be pushed below his wound threshold, and opening us his ability to reroll battle dice. Even with the support of his family, Raphael is no match for that many thugs and Leonardo had to pull him out. The early onslaught saw us on the backfoot, and eventually, Casey Jones, who took the brunt of the force over a couple of turns was defeated, ending the scenario for us.
Adam: I've always been a huge TMNT fan. I dragged my father to see the first movie 10 times at the cinema and had the soundtrack on repeat for a long time. I used to watch the cartoon as often as I could and then began watching Nick Turtles when that was released. I'd read the IDW comics a lot and consider TMNT to be my childhood franchise. My plan was originally to just cover Change is Constant, as the box had the core Turtles, but after playing it, I had to get hold of Cityfall as well.
IDW Games have done an incredible job of making the game accessible and easy to play. There is some complexity with the map tiles and the different options that scenery provides, but you can play without that if you're looking for a simpler game with younger players. Each Turtle feels unique, and I think that was the most important thing for me. They are essentially the same, with minor differences, and trying to capture that mechanically is something that deserves mention. I also love how the first real lesson is how important teamwork is. I literally got smashed going it alone in 2 missions and that just emphasizes that the cooperative nature of the game isn't just a buzzword for sale, it really and quite uniquely matters in TMNT Change is Constant.
I will 100% be playing this again. I rarely get to visit board games again after testing them, but I'm going to make time for this.
Adam is the righteous leader of the On The Tabletop Team and is an experienced tabletop gamer. He has played physical and online CCGs to a very high competitive level. He also has a background in roleplaying, board and wargaming and has playtested and produced content for several companies. A veteran tabletop writer who's favorite games includes Dark Souls the Card Game, The Legend of the Five Rings LCG, WarCry and Bushido. You can read his work here on TechRaptor and follow his exploits on Twitter - @StealthBuda.
Kit: I was a big turtles fan growing up. Donatello was "my" turtle, well until I found Casey Jones. What’s not to love about a hockey stick-wielding nutbar. So I was hoping for something special with this game, and boy did it not disappoint.
The models you get with the box are gorgeous like they’ve jumped straight from the comic source. The boards and card artwork is stunning.
We played the cooperative mode. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually felt like what I was playing was a cooperative game. As you roll your action dice, you would share 1 of them with the players beside you, so we were always discussing what each person needed and what we were individually planning per round. Each turtle has its strength and weakness, however, the weaknesses didn’t impact the core mechanics, you just weren’t as good at something as another character. The random initiative system works really well even for just being a card draw mechanic. My only concern would be when you’re not playing with a full group of 4, I felt it needs the full crew at the table playing.
All in all, I really enjoyed TMNT Change is Constant. It honestly made me feel like a kid again watching the Saturday morning cartoons.
Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently, his favorite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.
Alex: I really enjoyed playing TNMT Change is Constant, it was a shame we got beat down so quickly in the 2nd scenario and had to call time on the evening. The game material itself was high quality from the minis to the dice and artwork. Everything was tied together very nicely and added to the overall comic book theme.
The mechanics of the game were really tight too. The dice sharing mechanic made everyone care about other people's dice rolls rather than just their own and having your actions limited by the dice in front of you made the decisions every round different. The activation deck helped with that ensuring that players (and enemies) activated in an unknown order each turn.
Overall I would quite happily play TMNT Change is Constant again and would even think about getting it if I ever came across it in the shops.
Alex is your average tabletop gamer, with a shelf of grey plastic that he'll get to eventually, and even more shelves of board games that he'll definitely get to at some point. Alex is a prominent member of the Scottish Star Wars Legion community and travels to SWL events all over the country.
The copy of TMNT Change is Constant and Cityfall used in this article was provided by Asmodee UK.