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Enlarge / Look at everything that comes in the box. It's mostly plastic and neoprene.

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

Locating the perfect tabletop MOBA is a bit like looking for a unicorn. It simply doesnt exist and no amount of begging or fist clenching will make it appear. While the “multiplayer online battle arena” genre remains popular in the digital realm, it seems impossible to nail its feel in cardboard form. Perhaps thats why Chip Theory Games elected to go in a different direction with Cloudspire, drawing not just from MOBA games but also real-time strategy and tower defense as well.

DOTACraft?

Little cardboard can be found in this enormous box. Units are thick poker chips, while the games surface is neoprene tiles that interlock to form randomized configurations. The sheer quantity of stuff in the box attempts to justify its high price tag while threatening to make you throw out your back if you dont lift with your legs. By the end of Cloudspires three-hour playtime, plastic discs will be scattered about the table as if a slot machine exploded.

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There is a lot going on here. The various factions to explore include warrior birds, the cast of Avatar, Groots family tree, and a group of bearded men, because of course. These disparate cultures are warring over a bountiful resource that has been discovered in floating islands named Cloudspires.

The structure of play is as hodge-podge as the games warring factions. The MOBA genre is an easy comparison, as a lot of time is spent pushing stacks of minions along a path toward your opponents base. Freedom of maneuvering is limited for the majority of troops, although your selection of heroes has more autonomy. Strategy intersects with tactics as you determine the deployment formation, the line order of your processional army, and whether you group troops to protect certain valuable units.

Game details

Designer: Josh J. Carlson, Adam Carlson, Josh Wielgus
Publisher: Chip Theory Games
Players: 1-4
Age: 13+
Playing time: 120-180 minutes
Price: $129.95 (Direct from Chip Theory)

But calling Cloudspire a mere MOBA would be lazy. The game draws equally from the real-time strategy genre. You can purchase upgrades and new technologies, unlock new units to field, and even plop down defensive towers across various choke points on the map.

The game also draws a bit on tower defense. This style of play is made explicit through the round structure. Instead of a constant, mindless creep, your various troops are unleashed in waves which mark the four distinct rounds of play. Tempo escalates as players alternate between purchasing upgrades and the lengthier Onslaught phase. Eventually, troops push through defensive lines and start bashing the castle walls.

The moments where you break away from the battling to assess your growth and potential as a faction—these are the sweetest spots to be found in the game. Youre afforded time to breathe and reassess your direction as new powers are unlocked. Placing a little plastic peg into your neoprene faction mat and gaining some bonkers new ability is delightful. Its a shame that the bulk of play actually comes from executing the rote movement and attacks that are better relegated to processors whizzing away behind the curtain.

  • Upgrading your faction with new powers.
  • A closeup of units moving across the battlefield.
  • The game's "Onslaught" phase.
  • Even the storage for this game is nice.
  • One of the game's factions. This is not for the faint of heart!

How many players?

Cloudspire provides a mountain of additional features and mechanisms to explore. You can alter terrain on the map, you can explore many different vectors within your faction, and you can battle the neutral units littering the island. Yet I could never quite shake the feeling that the best bits of gameplay take place largely in scattered moments throughout the game.

This problem is most severely felt with tRead More – Source

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