One of the most popular genres in video games is the First Person Shooter (FPS). FPS games first appeared on the market with Wolfenstein 3D way back in 1992. While not the very first FPS game, it was one that really brought this budding genre to the forefront. Today, gamers have a wide range of FPS games to play. Games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Titanfall allow you to quickly get in your deathmatch fix.
So why is this relevant to a board game review? Because today we are going to be looking at Adrenaline, a new board game from Czech Games Edition that seeks to recreate the feel of a FPS game on our tabletops. Did they succeed where others have failed? Let’s find out.
Adrenaline is an area control and resource management game for 3-5 players that takes about 60 minutes to play. Adrenaline plays best with 4-5 players.
Your goal in Adrenaline is simple. Shoot your opponents and try to score as many points as possible. Each round players will be moving around the board, picking up weapons and ammo, and trying to shoot as many other players as possible.
And as with any good FPS game, the action doesn’t stop when someone dies. They dust themselves off and respawn right away, ready to dish out (and take) more punishment. Players earn points for shooting their opponents, and can earn bonus points for getting first blood or the kill shot. At the end of the game, the shooter with the most points wins.
For the most part, I had zero issues with the components in Adrenaline. The game comes with 2, dual-sided game boards that can be intermixed to create a map ideal for each player count. The map contains 3 spawn points, locations for weapon and ammo pickups, and kill tracker.
Each of the “heroes” in the game comes with a dual sided tracking board and a custom miniature. The minis look great and are colored coded to match the tokens and player board. I will note that the heroes are different only in appearance. Some unique player powers would be a welcome addition in an expansion.
The weapons in the game come in the form of weapon cards. Many have either a bonus effect that can be activated when shooting, or even an alternate fire mode. I will say that the weapon cards are fairly icon heavy and definitely have a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, the game comes with a rules sheet that fully explains every gun.
How To Play:
There are actually three ways to play Adrenaline: Deathmatch, Domination, and Turret. We’ll just talk about Deathmatch here, but if you want the full lowdown on the rules, you can download a PDF here.
To being the game, the first player draws two power up cards and discards one. The card discarded will determine where their hero spawns.
On a player’s turn they can take two actions (repeats are OK):
- Run Around: Move up to three spaces (no diagonals)
- Grab Stuff: You can move one space and pick up either a weapon or ammo. For ammo, you collect the cubes/card listed on the ammo token you grab. Usually either 3 ammo cubes or 2 cubes and a power up card.
To grab a weapon, you have to pay a cost. Each weapon has an ammo cost. The top ammo cube on the cost is free when you grab the weapon, but any other ammo cost must be spent.
- Shoot People: To shoot, you play a weapon card from your hand, choose a target, pay any additional costs (if required) and hand out damage tokens.
Each player has a damage board to track their damage. Once it’s filled, they die and points are awarded. Whoever has the most damage tokens on the board gains the highest payout value, with the player who has the next most getting the second highest payout, and so on. Also, the player that hit first gets a bonus point for first blood.
The player that made the kill shot gets to put their damage marker on the skull track, replacing a skull token. The skull token is then added to the killed player’s board, covering up their highest kill payout. This means that players are worth less points over the course of the game, discouraging players from ganging up on one person.
At the end of the turn, the killed player respawns by drawing a power card and discarding one. The active player can also reload any weapons by paying their full ammo costs.
Once the last skull token is claimed, there is a final frenzy round where players have boosted actions. After that, the game is over. The skull track points are paid out (again, area control) and the player with the most total points wins.
Adrenaline is quite the unique game. You see a first person shooter board game, with minis, guns, and blood drops, and you immediately think: “Ooo, a cool new tactical minis game”. Yet hidden beneath the rocket launchers and tag-back grenades is actually a eurogame at its heart.
That’s right, Adrenaline is not really a combat game. Well OK it is, but it’s so much more than that! Adrenaline is actually a cleverly disguised area control game where the players themselves are the areas being fought over. Add on to that the fact that there is some serious resource management in Adrenaline (players must manage their ammo and weapon reloading) and you have a game that’s definitely a eurogame at its heart. And that’s not a bad thing in any sense.
Regardless of whether you are looking for a euro game or a minis game, what Adrenaline does is absolutely capture the essence of what it feels like to play a FPS video game. This is accomplished because designer Filip Neduk stripped down the rules to only include what’s necessary. So combat is fast, furious, and frequent.
I like that Adrenaline did away with the dice rolling. There are no misses in the game. You shoot, you hit, and you do your damage. It’s easy, intuitive, and turns flow by really quickly. Too many games seemed to get bogged down by rolling attack dice, rolling defense dice, comparing results and leaving a lot up to luck. Not so with Adrenaline.
Thematically, FPS fans are going to have a lot of fun with Adrenaline. Many of the weapons are pulled straight out of video games, and act like you’d expect them to. For example, the Rocket Launcher has an area attack and can even be used for a rocket jump, while the rail gun can even shoot through walls.
As much as I love Adrenaline, and I do love Adrenaline, it’s not a perfect game. First, despite the easy to learn rules, the game still has quite a bit of a learning curve. This comes in the form of the weapons, which are super icon heavy. Thankfully the game includes a thorough guide that explains how each weapon works. The down side is though, early turns are going to be somewhat bogged down as players try and figure out what each available gun actually does.
Yet much like learning to play a musical instrument, Adrenaline only gets better the more you play it. Once you become accustomed to how each of the game’s weapons work, turns will go by very quickly. Things start to click and you can pick up the machine gun, look at the icons, and know who you can blast away.
My other concern with Adrenaline is with the player scaling. While the game plays OK with three, it doesn’t really start to shine until you get to 4-5 players. While the game does include rules for using a “bot” player, it’s defiantly not as fun as with more players.
Yet if you can learn the weapons and deal with the player scaling, Adrenaline will reward you with some incredibly fun and addictive game play. I find myself trying to figure out the best weapons to get and how to combo them off each other. For as simple as a game as Adrenaline is, I’ve found the replay value to be fairly high.
I can usually tell in the aftermath of playing a game just how much I actually love it. Usually, the next day I will still be thinking about it, my strategy, and even how quickly I can get it back to the table. Adrenaline was one of those games for me. From my very first play, I immediately thought “I need to play this again”. Even now, after many plays, I still keep pushing to get this one back to the table. For me, that’s one of the hallmarks of a great game.
So even though Adrenaline isn’t without its bumps, the learning curve of the guns, the fact that there isn’t really any defense per say in the game, I still find myself loving every minute of the game play. Heck, I even painted the minis in the game.
So yes, Adrenaline is a game that will be staying in my game collection for a long time. I think this is a game that will have a board appeal. Minis fans will enjoy the combat, while the eurogamer can have fun with the area control and resource management. I’d love to see CGE give us an expansion with more weapons, power up cards, and even some unique hero powers. Adrenaline is defiantly one of my top games of 2016, give this one a look today.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A game that expertly captures the essence of a FPS deathmatch, and surprises us with its clever eurogame mechanics.
• Weapons have a learning curve
• Not much in the way of defense
• Needs at least 4 players to shine