Over a decade ago, The Matrix movies wowed audiences with a thrilling tale about a dystopian future where humanity is trapped within a digital world and the stories of the people that save them. Although the story was interesting for its time, the roots of it go back to cyberpunk stories. Cyberpunk is a setting that is all about dystopian futures, amazing technology, and brilliant hackers. Enter Renegade, developed by Richard Wilkins and published by Victory Point Games.
Renegade is the tale of a society where government-mandated neural implants have linked nearly every single person in Sapporo, Japan to a Super Massive Computer called Mother. Unfortunately, Mother has become aware and trapped most of society in a dreamlike state from which there is no escape. The titular Renegades are technologically-adept heroes who have managed to avoid being trapped in this world and set out to free humanity from the grasp of this evil machine.
Gameplay takes place on a modular board comprised of five pieces; each piece has six numbered hexes on it. These board pieces, once combined, make up the "server" where gameplay will be taking place. After players have chosen their characters and set up the server, you select from one of many available A.I.s to fight against. Each A.I. presents different levels of difficulty in how strongly they will fight back. Renegade is a game that isn't insomuch about winning as it is about how much you don't lose.
After you've chosen your opponent, you draw three countermeasure cards at random. Rated Copper, Silver, and Gold, you must attempt to complete the goals in three turns. Success or Failure will determine the future of the game, and ultimately your final score depends on how many of these goals you have cleared along with your general progress in other areas. In addition, the A.I.s will be constantly placing enemy Sparks on the board; if the in-game supply of Sparks runs out, you become overwhelmed and the game ends. In short, Renegade is all about the balance of accomplishing the goal of the countermeasure card you're currently facing while trying to keep the number of sparks down to a minimum.
Before Renegade, I had played Chariots of Rome by Victory Point Games. I was once again met with a pretty detailed rule book that initially made my head swim. Victory Point Games detailed everything very well and it took a bit for me to absorb it, but once I had spent an hour or two poring over the rules and learning by doing, it all made absolute sense to me. Much like Chariots of Rome, I got the impression that this was a very carefully and lovingly crafted game. What's more, it's challenging.
There are four available Renegades in the game, each associated with one of four colors. Each color more or less represents an ability. Infect (Red) is a dice-roll battle system where you eliminate Sparks through brute force. Modify (Yellow) is a trickier sort of elimination where you convert Sparks into helpful Contaminants. Move (Blue) is, quite simply, how you get around the game board (and what you bring with you). Finally, Shift (Green) lets you push tokens off of your tile and on to an adjacent one.
These abilities require Contaminants (player-created tokens) on the board that you create by spending energy from your hand. You have fifteen cards in your deck and you must make the best use of what you have in each turn. Much like any card game, it is entirely possible to not have the right cards for the job and it is also entirely possible to lose a round (or even the game!) because of a stroke of bad luck. In my group's second game, we failed to complete a goal due to lacking a single point of green energy right at the end - that cost us 25 points towards our final score.
Renegade is also a game that gets harder with more people. The Countermeasures scale for the number of players, so it is actually ill-advised to play a game with four people. Of course, I thought it would be fun to see what would happen so I did exactly that for my group's first game. In short, while we more or less managed to survive it was a massacre in the end - failing a particular goal resulted in a deluge of sparks flooding the board, exhausting the supply and costing us the game. I wholeheartedly concur with the game's assessment having experienced it myself - play a few solo rounds to get used to the game and how it works; trying to play Renegade without knowing what you're doing would be like entering a World of Warcraft raid with complete newbies and vastly inadequate gear.
My tabletop group played a four-player game and a two-player game. I knocked out a couple of solo runs myself. Did we have fun? More or less, yes. It's not necessarily my cup of tea, but I can immediately see the appeal of a game like Renegade. Most of my group had a fun time with the game, save for one person who didn't really enjoy the style of gameplay. I think, in particular, players who enjoy the Pandemic style of games will find something to love here.
As for myself, I own very few games that can be played solo. After I complete a preview or review, I tend to put a game away on a shelf until one of my friends feels like playing it. There's definitely something enjoyable here, and I think Renegade will be sitting out on my desk for just a while longer - I just might dive back into this wonderful little world. If Renegade sounds like the sort of game that you would be into, you can find more out about it at Victory Point Games' website or check out the game's Kickstarter Campaign.
What do you think of Renegade? Does it sound like the sort of game you would be interested in playing? How fond are you of Pandemic-style games? Let us know in the comments below!