What would you do if you only had 20 minutes to save your town from aliens, mutants, and monsters? Grab your tools and dog, because we need to clear some rubble and find the brainiacs who will help us get rid of these pests.
Last Defense!, from Funko Games and Prospero Hall, is a 2-6 player cooperative game that plays in 20 minutes or less. Man, I really tied that theme and intro together.
Getting the game set up is pretty easy. Lay out the board, set out cards, and pick a character. Make sure to download the app ahead of time. It’ll be integral in not only randomizing where tokens are set up, but it’ll also allow you to set a difficulty level, provide a timer, and determine where monsters move and appear.
Once everything is set, players will do several actions on their turn: picking up tools, moving, removing rubble and/or trading if possible, and discarding down to 5 cards. These actions repeat until either all the threats are defeated, or time runs out. You’ve got 20 minutes to save the world! Get to it!
I have played a good number of cooperative games and generally enjoy the challenges they each present. Looking at the box and artwork, gorgeous as it is, I passed this off as being too easy. The rules are definitely easy to teach. The turn actions are referenced on each character card, which was nice for those first few turns. It’s pretty easy to set up and the game is over in 20 minutes or less. One of the games I played actually came down to the last minute which was nerve-wracking and entertaining. But…
I felt like the game lacked a little something more to put it over the top or to make it an impulse grab on a family game night. Typically, in a co-op game, the characters offer something different, usually a special power or action to help the team out. It gives players a way to uniquely contribute to the group goal and feel like they added something.
In Last Defense, this sort of exists but it fell short for me. So, whenever a threat or monster is at a location, the only way a character can enter that space, say to remove rubble and find a scientist that’s needed to remove a monster, the player must discard a flare tool. Unless, the monster is at a location on your character card, which is a special location for the player for… reasons. Like I said, this kind of fell flat for me and didn’t offer any real difference in playing as a certain character. Overall, it didn’t add much to the game.
In a game my niece and I played, we hit a point where we couldn’t do anything meaningful to move us closer to our end goal. Which was frustrating! We had two monsters out on two locations. There were rubble and potential scientists there who could help us clear out monsters. But because it wasn’t a space that was “special” for either of us and we didn’t have any flares drawn, we just had to sit there, discarding cards that might very well have been helpful for us in removing rubble. But we couldn’t see what was required to remove the rubble, because we couldn’t enter the space. This was frustrating, did I say that already? This might not happen in every game, mind you. Bad card draws happen in a lot of games. Sometimes you can do something about this, but not here. It was just tough for us because, not only could we do nothing besides continue to draw and cycle through cards, but the ticking timer just compounded the frustration.
I was also bummed to find the lack of strategy in Last Defense. Sure, you can share tools when you’re on the same space as another player and someone can quarterback the game, but it is essentially a game of matching tokens in a way that feels mostly solo. This probably piggybacks off the lack of character variability, but I think it’s worth pointing out. Games of a similar difficulty like Forbidden Island still offer strategy. For me, when the strategy is lacking, especially in a cooperative game, it loses an essential cornerstone that I look for in a game like this and hinders any future draw to return. Because what are you really trying to do differently?
Ok, before I move on to my so-so thoughts about the game having an app, one thing I liked that, as I said about the characters, was inconsequential: I got to play as a dog. It was a highlight because dogs are the best. I had a very up and down reaction when I thought I might be able to do something fun while playing as a dog, only to learn, nope, I can’t. I’m just as helpful as the old man. Sigh. #dogsrule #catsdrool
Ok so the game comes with an app. I’m not counting this for or against the game. Apps aren’t new additions to board games, and I know I should just deal with it. That’s fine. I think it’s just worth noting before someone purchases this game. The app does its base function well, which directs where the threats go, acts as a timer and makes for an easy way to pull out the rules in the beginning. We could get into the whole debate about the merits of a board game having an associated app, but maybe that’s a future article Tony will task me with.
Last Defense falls somewhere between an ok game and a good game. It’s not bad. In fact, as an introduction to a cooperative style game for someone, it might be the ticket. With its low rules overhead, great color scheme and artwork, and short playing time, Last Defense can offer something appealing to players. But if you’ve played your share of cooperative games as I have, there might not be much here that’ll offer a lasting appeal.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – An app-driven starter co-op that’s missing just a little something more to keep itself relevant or interesting
• Quality components and nice artwork
• It’s over in 20 minutes
• You can play as a dog
• Bad card draws, and monster locations can hamstring your progress
• Characters don’t really offer variability
• Lacks some strategy you tend to find in more popular co-ops
Somewhere in between:
• The game’s setup and monster movements throughout the game are app based