Designed by Mark McKinnon, Wreck and Ruin is a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-inspired motors-on-a-map board game. Played over a number of rounds, 2–4 players take it in turns to control a number of different vehicles in an attempt to claim and hold various salvage points on the map.
If you walk past a table playing Wreck and Ruin it will instantly draw your eye, with the miniatures as the main attraction. Each faction is made up of two bikes, a buggy, an armoured car and 'big rig' truck. Even unpainted, the colour and size used are striking. The best part being that each miniature comes with a number of pin holes which are used to place mini fires and smoke. These represent how much damage the unit has taken and it does so in such a visually impressive way. There’s no need to look at other players' player mats or count a number of health tokens, simply look at your target and you can instantly see that it's already limping along half on fire!
Each turn, players receive a number of action points, which can be represented by the game's large action point tokens. For the more experienced gamer, we at first thought these unnecessary and initially tried to dispense with them. We found, however, that it became increasingly convenient to use them because some abilities can give or take action points between players' turns.
With a limited pool of actions and many different-powered vehicles to control, your first thought will be 'how can you balance all this?' This is where the game's action points system shines by making it feel fair. This is achieved by no vehicle being able to use more than two actions and neither action can be repeated, such as moving or shooting. If players start to run out of vehicles, either by spectacularly crashing off the board or laying in a burning wreck, the spare actions can be used to bring these back into play. Finally, if you are truly out of things to do you can always search for random scrap which will help you out in a future turn.
Combat is quick and simple: just what's needed when you have a swam of vehicles to control. Each attack is completed by rolling the number of dice equal to your attack value and matching or beating your target's Armour score. If you score any hits you'll place a burning peg in one of the holes on the target vehicle, which feels so much more satisfying than merely taking or handing over a hit token. To add extra spice, any natural 6 rolled will allow the attacker to gain an extra attack roll, which could in turn trigger another critical 6 hit. This means even the smallest of bikes could still come up against a big rig. Having the possibility of success, no matter how slim, always makes it enjoyable to see that crazed motorcyclist build up the courage to try to take out a giant big rig bearing down on several objectives. One standout moment for us was watching a single bullet hit what must have been the rear axle of the big rig only to have it veer dangerously out of control and flatten a friendly buggy which in turn exploded!
This is all achieved by what we considered the icing on the top of this game: the Crash and Burn table. Whenever a unit takes its final point of damage, you must roll on the Crash and Burn table to determine what happens. Most often, the vehicle will take a wild directional change and charge off before losing its momentum, where it will just lay as a burning pile of scrap. Unless, that is, you roll a 1, at which point something critical is hit and the vehicle will explode hitting everything around it. Such a simple mechanic can’t help but throw you into the theme: the high speed chase followed by hitting a rickety jeep and watch it crash off in a ball of flaming glory.
Although it obviously didn't prevent us immersing ourselves in the theme, some of the artwork lets the game down. The choice to go for a hyper-realistic look and feel has its ups and downs. This style of art appears harsh on the board and doesn’t have the cleanest edges on some of the tokens. Some of the pictures just appear 'busy' with too much detail crammed into a small space. Like most post-apocalyptic themed games, the board uses only a single bland colour to represent the blasted terrain. Although this undeniably fits the wasteland theme, we'd have liked to have seen a little more variation. The obstacles stick out clearly, mostly because they are different colour as well as being highlighted by a red board, but again they lack anything interesting enough to draw attention to look at. These are all minor gripes, however. Thoughts that might perhaps be taken on board if Dream Big Games ever do a second edition. The only true complaint we had was the cards: each card only carries text. We'd have liked to have seen individual pictures on each card to give them some character and make them easier to pick out in a hand. Perhaps some simple use of iconography would also have helped shorten some of the lengthier descriptions.
Despite being having the appeal of a miniatures game, it is refreshing to see the very reasonable price tag for Wreck and Ruin, as well as the accessible playing time. We found games could usually be completed in under an hour. Diehard fans of miniatures games and newcomers alike will still be at home in this sandpit of randomness. And we mean that in a good way. The dice rolls will give you many highs and many lows, which is what we savour in a good game.
Wreck and Ruin packs a lot entertainment into a small box and makes itself much more accessible than most modern games involving tabletop miniatures. It is clear that a lot of love has been poured into this game and it comes through in most places. Each play left us wanting more and we couldn’t help wonder how this franchise could be expanded. Could each faction have some extra unique units which further separate them from the others? More game types? More board layouts? If quick, crazy, random but entertaining chaos is your thing then you should definitely try this one!
(Review by Nicholas Dunlop)