We received a review copy of Raid on Takao. We weren’t otherwise compensated.
Now, we do want to step back from the theme of Raid on Takao, because it’s so potent that it threatens to dominate any conversation about the game, and for a moment focus on the mechanics. Raid on Takao is a scenario-driven, fully cooperative game. Each player will control a survivor in the city, each of whom has unique skills, goals, and emotional baggage. Players will spend stamina points each turn to move about the city, search for supplies, clear rubble, and accomplish scenario-based goals.
Each stamina point spent allows the players to take one of three actions – moving, moving and searching, or moving and clearing rubble. Searching gets them gear and (hopefully) food, which is critical as the only ways to regain your spent stamina are to eat or to lower your own health. Gear can help you overcome the challenges of the wrecked city or keep you nominally safer from danger, which is critical because should any character die, then everyone loses.
In addition to their personal goals, each game of Raid on Takao will follow one of several scenarios. These present unique rules, challenges, and victory conditions for each play session. One scenario might involve characters dealing with ever-mounting traumas caused by the horrors of the war. Another might involve them trying to rescue lost zoo animals who might fall victim to the bombing. No matter what scenario you play, though, you can be sure that it will focus on ever-increasing loss and threats, and it will always be a struggle to keep everyone alive.
I meant it when I said Raid on Takao was a brutal game. The theme is just heartbreaking, and the game pulls very few punches – everyone involved is suffering and bedraggled, and the exercise can end in an instant, as a character finds themselves in the path of an oncoming bomber and just can’t get out of the way in time.
Actually, for as much as we liked the individual goals, they bring to light something of a weakness in Raid on Takao’s design. Each character has 3 goals, and these goals don’t change from game to game. That means that no matter what the scenario is, the Doctor will always want to go to one of two specific spaces on the board as soon as possible, or the Volunteer Soldier will need to make his way into the mountains eventually. It’s a minor criticism, but this lack of variety sits oddly contrasted against the different scenarios in Raid on Takao. On the other hand, the fact that there are 8 playable characters to combine with the various missions means that there is still plenty of variety to be found in the box.
And speaking of odd contrasts, there are a handful of elements in the game that seem strangely incongruous with the rest of the theme. Once per game, players can call on the blessing of three gods to evoke positive effects, and this is the only instance of anything remotely supernatural in the game. Also, there are animal buddies which confer on their owner unique abilities…at least until you decide to kill and cook them.
On the other hand, it does feel good when your plans come together. Accomplishing personal goals is great, and surviving round after round of brutal bombing and scenario-driven danger will make you and your group feel good, hopeful – with every turn you don’t give in to the despair, you come closer to making it out alive if not unharmed.
But then the bombers pass overhead, and it could all be over in an instant.
On the whole, we felt Raid on Takao was a pretty strong cooperative game. While it felt like there were some relatively minor missteps in its design, overall we really appreciated the thematic experience it delivered. For those looking for an intense, often tragic story of regret and redemption, Raid on Takao might make for a unique experience.
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