Type: Co-Op / Push Your Luck

Time to play: 60 minutes (Teaching: 10-15 minutes)

Best played with: 3 Player (1 – 5 Players)

Whether it’s The Matrix, iRobot, or Blade Runner 2049 there is a fascination with the potential conquest of the world by a computer. Now it’s your chance to jump into that world and try to crack the mainframe to save the world. You are a Renegade.

Renegade is a small box co-op game that quickly escalates to a challenging push your luck game with a strong element of hand management. In this game you play hackers moving across a mainframe placing contaminants and fighting against sparks / guardians. Each turn, each player will have the opportunity to manipulate a small number of cards in their hand to either take actions with their character or build for the future.

This is the core component of the balancing act for players – build for the future or take immediate action to try and achieve your objective. Acting now might see you fight the sparks (automated enemy) that will eventually escalate otherwise become guardians, or might see you move, or might push the tokens around the board. Building for the future might see you build discs that improve your position next round, or indeed convert three tokens into a more powerful asset with new abilities.

I won’t go through the mechanics of the four different card types / powers or the matching contaminants, but it’s worth noting that they are interestingly different and linked back to the asymmetric characters that the player can select at the start of the game. However, one really important point to understand is how the sparks – the enemy – builds up and why this leads to a loss.

The sparks are the enemy – they will delete the assets that you put out on the board. You can fight them with viruses, but if they collect in an area they will become stronger. To be precise, three sparks will make a guardian and the guardian is much harder to remove. Guardians will also cause sparks to expand at a faster rate (2 for every one that would normally be placed!).

Now any time that you have to place a spark or guardian and cannot, you lose. Given that every round will see you place more sparks, and over the game this escalates to more and more sparks each round, this becomes a mounting challenge.

What action then do you take? Well this is where the game is excellent in it’s variation. Each game is comprised of three rounds each with three sub-rounds. In a round you reveal a new objective; three rounds, mean three objectives for the game. The first objective, bronze, is the simplest to complete and sets up the game. The second objective, silver, is much more challenging and will push you to move across the map. The third and last objective, the gold, is the toughest and you must be ready for this (plus managing the board during the round!).

Each sub round is a management of 5 cards of the 15 in your unique player deck of cards. You will pick your actions from these cards – limited in options, but using the cards to buy more cards, manage the board state and chase these objectives.

The challenge then in the game is whether you, on your own or as a group, can manage the board, complete the objectives and get more installations out on the board to score bonus points at the end. The more you defeat the super computer the better the result. Again, here the game offers lost of variation – start easy with a simple computer and then build up to the “Mother” – the meanest and most devious super computer for expert players only.

So that’s asymmetric special powers, asymmetric card decks, five choices of enemy and a huge variation of objectives. If you have got your head around all that, well the board can be set up in a variety of different ways! Some of these ways will make the game easier and some will make it harder – but that depends on which objectives you choose!

So much variation makes this a game you will keep coming back to, but you have to keep in mind that this will leave you referencing the rules occasionally and may mean you miss things and have to try again with the same set up to have a better shot. Personally I am okay with this – a co-op/solo game shouldn’t be too easy, you should struggle to win and find satisfaction in the opportunities you spot and take advantage of. However, I know that some people may find the regular rules checking, and the need to track special rules across cards initially a hurdle for learning and enjoying the game.

That aside, the artwork is impressive and yet simple, with really advanced players being able to turn over the board tiles and reveal a multicoloured sector map where the dispersion of colours makes movement even more important.

If you want one game with the ability to become more and more complex the more you revisit this, then this will keep you coming back for years!

Last notes,

  • If you like co-ops with increasing difficulty and an escalation to the finish, check this one out
  • If you worry about alpha gamers in your group (quarterbacking the game) then the complex combination of rules can lead to this with new players
  • If you win, try again with a different set of characters, objectives, enemy and perhaps a different map set up!