Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,
Inverarity
inverarity

From the Island of Unplayed Games: Berserker

This time we pulled Flying Buffalo's Berserker off the shelf.

I know for a fact I never played this before, because the cardboard counters were still uncut.

berserker boardgame

This game, designed by Michael Stackpole and Rick Loomis, is based on the classic novels by Fred Saberhagen about implacable planet-destroying robots waging a genocidal campaign across the galaxy, long after their creators were destroyed. The books predate the Star Trek episode Planet Killer, and while Saberhagen may not have originated this trope, he was certainly one of the first to popularize it.

Flying Buffalo also still runs the venerable play-by-mail game Starweb, in which one of the player options is the Berserker.

The board game is basically Ogre in space. One player plays the Berserker; the other plays Earth's defenders. The Berserker's objective is to reach Earth and destroy it; the defender's objective is to destroy the Berserker.

The Berserker has a number of robots with which to man guns, repair damage, and repel boarders. The defender gets a set number of points with which to build a fleet consisting of cruisers (able to slug it out with the Berserker, though they are much smaller and weaker), "c-plus" ships (which hurl long-range projectiles that "skip" across the map but do massive damage to the Berserker if they hit), and ram ships (which ram the Berserker and deliver space marines who board it and attempt to destroy it from the inside).

In the three games we played, using the recommended beginning fleet setup for the defenders each time, we found that it was almost impossible for the Berserker to win.

In the first game, my opponent played the Berserker, who adopted a "charge directly at Earth" strategy and was blown apart by my c-plus ships before even reaching the main body of my fleet.

In the second game, I played the Berserker. This time I tried outmaneuvering the defender's fleet, taking particular care to try to stay out of the line of fire of the c-plus ships. I was only partially successful, and I might have had a bare chance if not for a particularly awful string of bad die rolls. I did manage to get close enough to Earth to do a little damage before being destroyed, but even with better rolls, I don't think I could have won.

In the third game, my opponent played the Berserker again, and this time used the option to split off a Berserker cruiser to engage my fleet, while trying to copy my maneuvering strategy. A lucky shot from a c-plus gun took out the cruiser, and by the time the Berserker got close to my fleet, it had managed to destroy all my cruisers, but I then swarmed it with enough ram ships to obliterate it even before we started rolling for boarding combat.

Reading this account of the game, I really wonder how they ever managed to score a Berserker victory. We didn't even use the optional Earth industry rules.

Berserker was a bit of fun, but there is nothing novel about its mechanics and it seems extremely unbalanced to me, making it unlikely we'll try the campaign version.

Its rating on BoardGameGeek suggests my opinion is not unique. Nice to have if you are a Saberhagen fan (no doubt why I bought it way back when), but not really a winner.
Tags: games, reviews
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