Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia evokes comparisons to Risk, if Risk were quicker to play and had random time altering hiccups thrown in along the way. Not to say that I don't love Risk, but those familiar with it know a normal game can take quite awhile to complete, and SOC trims off some of the excess. It's a fun ride, even without previous experience with Bioshock Infinite proper.
The game puts 2 to 4 players in control of the two main factions, The Vox Populi and The Founders, with Booker and Elizabeth acting as a meddlesome third party throughout. Both factions are vying for control of the city in the clouds, and to lay claim to Columbia you will have to manage your diverse army while trying not to spread yourself too thin. Thanks to the skyway mechanic, that is something not easily avoided, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Like most boardgames, you start out by drawing a set number of cards, which in this case consist of units and tonics (the potions that give you your various powers). You also draw from one of 5 commanders, each one with a separate ability. As Jaydot has mentioned on the show, if you didn’t agree with the racial themes that Bioshock Infinite deals with, then it might be a bit hard to play as The Founders, or play the game at all, but if you just approach it as a game with red and blue factions, you can have a great deal of fun with it. Not trying to bring everyone down, but since there have been very heavy reactions to the game's racial overtones, I thought it was worth mentioning.
Once your cards are picked and your units placed, it's on to learning the board. The board is setup into 6 territories, each one with a set number of smaller areas that need to be taken over to conquer the entire territory. Much like Risk, once you have a territory under your control you get an additional number of units to place on your turn.
As for the units themselves, there are several different types to pick from, featuring popular characters from the game like the handyman, boys of silence, etc. I won’t bog you down with specifics here, but if you want an idea you can grab the rules and setup pdf. In addition to units, you can invest in things like turrets and alarms that help you defend an area. Of course the big boys –The Songbird and The Blimp – are present as well and have special abilities in addition to their high movement and attack value.
All units, regardless of type, can move along the skyway, which comes with its own challenges and is one of the more unique things about the game. You can move as many spaces on the skyway as you want, but each time you move you must roll a set number of dice, and if you don’t clear them, then that unit is lost completely, and you can only move one unit at a time. Once you get the hang of things, battles go much faster than in Risk or other games of its ilk, and since the territories and armies are limited, a game can be completed in just a few hours, something that is unheard of in other games.
Combat remains entertaining throughout, and you always have an incentive to attack and keep the pace up, as even if you don’t win a battle you might still be able to qualify for an upgrade or a key. These are used to level up the abilities of your units and unlock their secondary abilities, which open up huge advantages in combat. There is a voting system in the game as well, which takes place on every turn. Both factions vote on a bill, which can affect gameplay in a variety of ways. This is an interesting mechanic, but to me, it never quite reaches its full potential, as by the end of the game Daniel (my buddy who has the distinguished honor of being the one who has to play games with me when its time for review) and I were just either letting them pass or ignoring them completely. It doesn’t really hurt the game in any way, but it didn’t add anything to it either. Aside from that minor nitpick, the game is fantastic fun, and I would definitely recommend Siege of Columbia to anyone who likes strategy and army management in any way, and for fans of Bioshock Infinite in particular, it's a no-brainer.
If you like what you see, then head over to Plaid Hat Games to grab yourself a copy from their online store.