Publisher: Victory Point Games
Game Designer: Nathan Hansen
Artwork: Nathan Hansen and Clark Miller
Ages: 13 & up
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Pew Pew! by Nathan Hansen began life as a board game homage to the old school arcade games from the 80’s and being a solitaire game it immediately caught my attention. Having spent beaucoup time and as much coin after school and on weekends feeding those glorious arcade cabinets, I couldn’t pass up a stroll down memory lane now could I?
Summary of Content
Pew Pew! is a pretty lite and compact game that plays in about 20 minutes or less and comes with 27 cards, 48 game pieces making up your space ship and seven enemy ships, double sided pew/missile tokens, 10 point markers, 10 death markers, a heart and mine tokens.
The tokens have simple art, going for that 80’s feel but unfortunately is off center on many of the tokens, which is unlike Victory Point Games whose token art I usually find top notch and well produced in their recent releases. Not so much on this one but even more of a letdown were the ship tokens.
The ship tokens will require some assembly, which isn’t explained in the instructions but also isn’t very difficult to figure out but you must be careful to assemble to ship pieces in the correct order and you must do so with care. The ship tokens are meant to stand up and be rotated clockwise in ascending order as denoted by the chevrons on the playing pieces during gameplay. Without this being pointed out in any assembly instructions, you may end up putting the pieces together incorrectly, so be aware of that.
Aside from that, the ship pieces were rather frustrating to put together because they need to be punched and slotted together using fairly small connection points. While I love VPG’s laser cut components, this is a little more intricate construction than the dice towers they make and unless you are very careful, you can end up tearing or bending the pieces when putting them together. It might have been a clever idea in the design stage but the finished product just didn’t accomplish what they set out to do.
One last thing about the ship pieces, the art on them is good and is centered. While the enemy ships are identical in look they do have unique colors to offset that. The player’s ship is a nice throwback to those old arcade games, both in look and perspective which I really liked.
Analysis and Evaluation
Pew Pew! takes about two minutes to setup and has a small footprint, just shuffle the 27 cards and lay out a horizontal tableau of four cards representing the downward scrolling nature of many arcade spaceship shooters. Each card is a facsimile of a generic arcade screen to get you in the mood, complete with stars streaming by as you fly through space at breakneck speed battling those hostile alien ships. The rest of the cards remain face down in a draw pile from which you will replenish the card closest to you after each turn.
You then place your ship in the central space of the bottom card with its full strength side facing you, put the alien ships in a draw cup and all of the other tokens within easy reach. You’re now setup to face the alien onslaught, all without dropping a quarter in the slot!
Turns are broken into eight phases where you spawn enemy ships, carry out your ships actions, move the alien ships, spawn missiles, move your pews (fired shots), move enemy ship missiles, move your ship token and finally check for victory conditions. Each step is clearly explained in the rules with effective use of graphic examples to assist you in following along and on the back of every player screen card is an easy to follow quick reference guide.
Enemy ships are spawned two at a time every turn and are placed on the farthest card in the tableau. After you complete your actions in the turn, the alien ships move and then fire using randomized move locations printed on the tokens. You will see where the ships will move before you take your actions but you won’t know where their missiles will spawn from because the ship tokens are turned to its next side after it’s moved. This introduces a little bit of surprise in every turn, simulating the arcade experience well.
Before every turn, you remove the bottom card and move your ship up to the next card and then draw a new card from the deck and place it in the furthest spot in the row. This brings the enemy ships and missiles closer to you as the next two ships spawn, a simple and effective way of doing some screen scrolling.
You’ll need to think through your limited moves and position yourself in the best place to fire on and hit the ships. At first that may only be a single ship but as the board fills up you have a better chance of hitting multiple ships due to heavier traffic and more pews on the board. When a pew and an enemy ship or missile is in the same space, they’re destroyed and removed from the card.
The game definitely gives you an old arcade game feel once the tableau becomes populated with ships, missiles and pews and you must puzzle out where those missiles and ships may end up. Your shots (pews!) start on the second card in the column but during the move pews phase, if they’ve not already destroyed a ship or missile, jump two cards up the stack to the top of the pile.
Any enemy that slips past you earns you a death marker, ten of those and the game is over just as it is if your ship takes three or more hits. Winning the game comes after you’ve destroyed ten enemy ships which isn’t always easy, a lot of your pews will become lost by running into enemy missiles or just flying away harmlessly into space. Just as in an arcade game, you’ll do plenty of strafing and scrolling.
Pew Pew! did allow me to reminisce about some of those old classic games fondly while playing due to the simplicity of the game and the mild chaos induced by the busy tableau, but it fell short on making it fun. I get what the designer was aiming for here and I appreciate and applaud the effort but it’s a hard sell to get into this game because there are no twitch reflexes needed. That is the greatest part of the arcade action experience, the intense focus and physical timing of your attacks.
In a board game, the absence of the physical actions for the player are definitely noticed and with it one of the most compelling aspects of the experience this game is trying to emulate which causes the game to fall short at pulling you in. In fairness, this is a tough thing to accomplish without making it a dexterity game.
Each turn becomes samey pretty fast after your first couple of turns because there are not a lot of things to do and the strategic decisions are pretty lite. It is designed this way to be a quick and easy game, which it is, but because of the limited options that are available; move, shoot, drop a heart or a mine, I really never feel very challenged and even worse, invested in winning.
A solitaire game needs to really engage and invest the player, even a lite one such as this because there are no other players involved. Without that, boredom sets in and the desire to play the game again in the future is severely lessened. Victory Point Games is probably my top go-to publisher for solitaire games; they have a library full of interesting and fun games to play that seldom disappoint but this is one of those rare occasions when one of their solitaire games did just that.
Pew Pew! is a quick, lite game that is easy to pick up and play and will resonate with fans of the old arcade games in look and feel, allowing you to revisit the games of your youth without needing the fast twitch reflexes of yesteryear. For that same reason however, the fun will be short lived because while the game is lite and briefly entertaining, the repetitive nature just doesn’t offer gameplay compelling enough to make you come back for more.
Aside from giving you a brief return to your youthful treks to the arcade, the game is just not compelling enough to make you want to play it more than a few times. After my first couple of plays, I noticed myself getting bored about halfway through and found it a struggle to finish on a couple of occasions. It’s a clever idea and again, I applaud the designers intent but I think revisiting arcade games is better suited to grabbing a couple of ROM’s and firing up MAME than putting it into this board game format.
Company Website: http://www.victorypointgames.com
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VictoryPointGames
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/VPGame
Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me.