Turn your table top into a battle royale arena in our Reload board game review.
Whether you realise or not, there’s a fair chance you’ve played multiple videogames that are based off board games. Hugely successful titles like Civilisation, Space Hulk, or even an entire genres of competitive card-based or deck-building games are based directly off or inspired by popular tabletop series. But what if a board game was to flip this concept? What if you could play a board game that looked like, played like, and completely felt like a videogame?
That’s exactly the concept of Reload: Fight for Fame, a brand new table top title from Kolossal Games that does everything possible to feel like a videogame. Drawing inspiration from the looter shooter and battle royale genres, Reload aims to offer fast-paced competitive gameplay, a vibrant aesthetic, and a plethora of loot to annihilate your enemies and dominate the competition.
So is this the board game that will have you putting down your controls in favour of dice rolls? Read ahead and equip yourself for our Reload board game review.
Reload Board Game Review – The Premise
Some people fight for sport, some fight for riches, but the combatants of Reload are fighting for only one thing: fame.
Set in a dystopian future, wealthy mega-corporations have moved on from investing in fossil fuels and bitcoin, and instead choose to funnel trillions of dollars into creating cybernetically enhanced clone soldiers. Their aim is to create the ultimate squadron, built for annihilation and the exploration of hostile environments to land lucrative contracts on behalf of their companies. But the ultimate soldier requires significant training before their first mission, and so the TV show simulation, “RELOAD”, was born.
Purpose built training islands have been created to simulate all the deadly conditions these soldiers will face in real life battle. Combatants are given a chance to participate in RELOAD and have their military feats broadcast live across the world. As this just so happens to be the most popular TV show on the planet, only the most capable and charismatic characters are eligible to compete and win fame for themselves and fortune for their corporation.
So it’s time to choose your player, drop in, and fight for fame in the world’s wealthiest battle royale simulation. Will you wow the crowds and earn the favour of the viewers? Or will your combatants turn you into a roast cuisine while they reign supreme? Well, let’s set up the game and find out.
Reload Board Game Review – Setup
This is arguably the most challenging aspect of Reload, as the game will almost certainly appear daunting for newcomers. Unboxing reveals piles upon piles of pieces, multiple detailed guidebooks that interact with one another, and a series of cards that offer little explanation for the uninitiated. Even while reading along with the guidebook, the initial setup may seem overwhelming even for seasoned board game players.
Don’t be surprised to spend at least the first hour setting up and grasping the core mechanics of the game, which we’ll discuss in further detail in the next section of the review. With a central island to construct, unique player cards to manage, combat dice to keep track of, and a series of equipment that interact with each player, this is undoubtedly a complex game with a steep learning curve. To add to the complexity, the game’s instructions can be difficult to decipher, as are the game’s symbols which adorn the player cards and equipment (rather than written descriptions of actions or stats).
But if you’re willing to persist past the setup stage of the game, Reload quickly becomes a satisfying and rewarding experience. Wrapping your head around the overlapping gameplay reveals a competitive and entertaining shooter with unique gameplay unlike any you’ll encounter in other board games. So how exactly does Reload set itself apart?
Reload Board Game Review – Gameplay
Four player characters feature in the first season of RELOAD (with additional available through an expansion). There’s Blitz, the swift and speedy cybernetic sprinter, Duke, the deadly and remarkable marksman, Dax, the muscular embodiment of human and cyborg balance, and Korat, the stealthy and mysterious daughter of Reload’s producer. Each of these characters sport unique style, strengths, and abilities to aid them in combat. Once a character is chosen, players quite literally drop into the map Fortnite style to begin the game.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the aim of the game is to fight for fame. Each player is given a “fame” bar which is filled by fulfilling certain requirements. Fame can be accumulated by collecting beacons and dropping them into a central hub, setting and activating/disarming traps, fulfilling achievements, damaging other players, and the final massive fame boost is when you force a player to “Reload” (essentially destroying them and causing them to respawn into the game).
Does the fame meter deplete if the player makes a Tweet in poor taste?
Two game modes are available, the first of which is a “free for all”, designed for 2 – 4 players where every player fights for themselves. Each player has a regular-sized fame bar and can attack at will or defend their own locations. The second game mode, which we personally found far more enjoyable, was the “team mode”, a 2v2 designed specifically for 4 players. This game mode feels far more strategic and allows players to assist and defend one another while earning additional fame tokens exclusive to the co-op style of gameplay.
Fame shared is fame doubled.
Most of the game’s mechanics are centred around 5 dice, each of which can be assigned to certain actions on a player’s character card. Rather than rolling dice, players may choose up to 5 actions with pre-determined values. This includes moving around the map, picking up items, setting traps or constructing barriers, or healing damage points. Every action matches up with a certain value, and lower value actions (such as picking up items) may potentially leave the player vulnerable during the game’s next step: combat.
Where we droppin’, boys?
Engaging in combat can be done upon entering the same tile as another player, or by activating a ranged weapon if equipped. Any dice that have not been assigned to an action are rolled against each other, with a skull marker representing damage. The lower your dice values, the more likely you’ll sustain damage from an attacking player. Each subsequent damage point consumes one of your dice, with four damage points forcing a player to Reload and temporarily leave the game.
Combat gets particularly exciting when equipment is added to the mix, which can be found scattered across the island. Picking up equipment may reward the player with useful consumables to boost dice rolls, defensive armour and headgear to block attacks, or powerful melee and ranged weapons that enhance or sometimes even completely modify dice rolls. Picking up a three star sniper and one-shotting a player from the other side of the map is unbelievably satisfying and helps the game progress rapidly.
I don’t think I’ve ever played another boardgame where you can just straight up shoot another player in the face with a shotgun.
Lastly, there are two win conditions that end the Reload match. The first is triggered if a player completely fills their fame gauge through completing in-game actions, and the second occurs when “toxin” spreads across the entire map. Event cards are drawn at the end of each player’s turn and often cause toxin to begin appearing throughout the island’s locations. Ending a turn in the toxin will damage a player, but once the toxin spreads completely, the game is over and fame is tallied.
Reload Board Game Review – Presentation
From the moment you slide open the lid of the box, it’s noticeable just how stylish Reload is across all of its components. Every single piece of the game carries a futuristic yet vibrant aesthetic, channelling games like Borderlands or Fortnite through not only its environments and characters, but even its equipment and tokens. It’s incredibly visually pleasing and looks great once the entire board is set up and player cards are packed with ridiculously powerful equipment.
Overall build quality is quite impressive too, with almost every piece of the game feeling quite sturdy. Cards are given a nice glossy finish, tokens feel satisfyingly solid, and the island itself is made from hexagonal pieces akin to Catan. Even just popping out all the components of the game when you first start playing is incredibly satisfying and gives you an immediate feel for Reload’s overall quality.
You won’t believe how satisfying it was to pop all of these out.
There were only two minor criticisms with regards to the game’s presentation: player tokens are easily bent/misshapen, and the island map would benefit from an outer ring to prevent pieces from moving around unintentionally. However, neither of these are a deal-breaker in an otherwise beautifully designed board game.
Our Final Thoughts
Reload claims to be a low to medium complexity game, when in reality this is a table top experience that requires some serious thought. This is not an experience designed for boardgame casuals who dabble in Monopoly or enjoy a game or two of Uno – this is a game catered towards players with dedication and persistence. If you’re willing to persist and piece together the game’s mechanics, there’s considerable fun to be had.
Multiple interacting and overlapping mechanics mean you’ll need to pay close attention for the first couple of matches. Where the game advertises a 30 – 60 minute play time, this is more accurate for players who are already well-acquainted. The heavy use of icons and need to refer back to the game manuals to interpret them can slow the game down considerably, but will eventually become second nature the more you play it.
To its credit, Reload is an entirely unique board game. There really is nothing else quite like it. Traversing the map and performing actions feels somewhat similar to existing games, but the unique fame system and dice-based combat craft an entertaining and strategic experience that plays surprisingly like a fast-paced shooter.
With a steep learning curve and mechanics that require some serious thought, Reload may seem quite daunting upon first impression. But for dedicated players fond of unique table top experiences, there’s a wealth of creativity to be uncovered amidst the frantic race for fame. Reload is a colourful and enjoyable experience if you’re willing to put in the effort of unravelling its mechanics, and is definitely best enjoyed alongside a team of seasoned players who can show you the ropes. Give it a shot.
So, why should you play Reload?
- Clever and unique fame and dice combat mechanics
- Beautiful and vibrant presentation with impressive build quality
- Entertaining co-op mode that brings out the best in its gameplay
- You want to play a board game that feels like a videogame
- You’re used to board games with complex mechanics
But why shouldn’t you play Reload?
- Poorly explained instructions can make setup challenging
- Numerous gameplay mechanics that are difficult to decipher
- Want a simple game you can easily jump straight into? Reload may not be your best choice
A review copy was kindly provided by VR Distribution and Double Jump Communications for the purpose of our Reload board game review. Keep an eye out in future for more of our board game reviews, and be sure to join our Discord to find out as soon as they’re live!