Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Designed by John de Campos and Philip Doccolo, Token Terrors: Battlegrounds is a Chess-like two-player strategy skirmish game where you are pitting your forces against those of your opponent on a 7 x 7 square grid. But this isn't another Chess clone or Fairy Chess variant.
For starters, Token Terrors: Battlegrounds is entirely asymmetric. It comes with seven distinct sets of pieces; mostly representing classic fantasy game races (inc. elves, goblins and, inevitably, zombies) but also including 'flying machines'. You start by drafting your army: you pick one of the races and take any number of pieces (from one to six). That race is now no longer available to your opponent, who then makes their selection from the other races still available. This continues until both players have selected a total of 10 pieces. You each place your pieces in a bag and draw five, which will be your starting line up. Tho' all the pieces are all similar-sized homunculi, they do have distinct differences so no playing 'feelies' as you make your draw!
You take turns placing your starting pieces out onto the grid, using only the nearest two rows. When each player has placed out their five starting pieces, you're ready to play - spending three 'command points' to order a unit to move, battle or activate one of its 'talents' (special abilities). You can also use a command point to 'enrage' your unit, which increases its 'threat' level (attack and defence strength) until its next turn.
You're trying to eliminate your opponent's army, but to succeed you'll need to manoeuvre your pieces into the optimal positions for attack and defence... Pieces all start off with attack and defence strength of 1; those with melée attacks can hit enemy units in orthogonally adjacent squares; units with ranged attacks can hit from two squares away but they can miss (the defender rolls a six-sided die and evades the attack on a roll of 4, 5 or 6). However, the differences between the unit types are not merely decorative - each has its own special capabilities affecting its movement and/or threat level, typically when adjacent to another similar unit. This means that by grouping certain units together you can significantly raise their 'threat' level to make them tougher opponents. In addition to your command points, players can also earn 'surge points' (recorded using another six-sided die) which can be spent to issue additional commands. Throughout this game, you'll variously be resting units (earning surge points), retaliating (hitting back at an attacker who is within range) and reinforcing (drawing more units from your bag).
Token Terrors: Battlegrounds is a captivating game. Tho' there's a dice roll to determine success or failure on ranged attacks, luck plays only a tiny part in what is essentially a game of skilful tactics. The drafting set up means that there's a huge amount of variability in the box, but inaptly-named publishers Terrible Games have added a set of sealed 'Challenge' envelopes with additional 'Tactics & Grudge' tile cards that are placed in the centre of the battleground grid.
As a further bonus, players are also invited to make additional use of the Token Terrors homunculi pieces in D&D 5e role-playing games. There's a separate Tome of Terrors booklet supplied in the box with the 5e RPG lore, stats, features and traits for each of the Token Terrors races. There's also a Token Terrors Chronicles of Chaos comic book, with art by John de Campos, that was produced as an extra 'Thank You' to the game's backers when it was on Kickstarter two years ago.