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GenCan’t 2018 – Centipede

Centipede Cover

I think this is my favorite cover out of the Atari line from IDW Games!
(All photos of IDW Games products were taken and edited by KristaG)

Back in early 2017, IDW Games announced a partnership with Atari to create a line of board games based on classic video games. The first in the series to be released was Centipede, which began popping up in stores not too long after the announcement was initially made. Though I think I am too young to have ever played the original Centipede video game, I know I’ve played a few of the remakes over the years and have loved each and every one of them so I simply had to give the board game version a try – especially so I could see how game designer Jonathan Gilmore was able to translate the video game into a physical one! Also, since the game is playable for 2 or 4 players (notice that I did not say 3-players!), I felt it would be a great one to take down to the GenCan’t events this weekend at my local games store to run a few demos with!

For this review, I will mostly be discussing the 2-player variant of the game as it is what I have played the most of, but I will also give an overview of how 4-player works at the end. In a 2-player game, I’m being incredibly honest when I say that board game works a whole lot like the video game but takes a lot longer to actually play. Though the box says between 30-45 minutes, our games often take a bit longer than that – especially if playing with newer players! Most video game levels of Centipede, however, usually only lasted a few minutes while some were only seconds.

Centipede Set Up

A two-player game of Centipede

To begin a game, each player must first decide which role they want to play: either the Centipede or the Gnome. Once each player takes their appropriate components, they take turns placing the Mushroom obstacles on the board 3 at a time, with no more than 3 Mushrooms in a column. After the board is filled with the appropriate number of Mushrooms, players will complete their specific set up. For example, the Centipede player will take their 11 Centipede cards, shuffle them, and create a face-down draw deck with room for a discard pile before drawing their first hand of 3 cards. They will then take their 6 Centipede segments and create a 6 segment long Centipede next to their chosen spawn point on their side of the board. Following the movement rules, the Centipede will get to move forward 6 squares onto the board. The Creature Speed Card and Bug Meeples (3 Spiders and 3 Fleas) are placed within easy reach. The Gnome player, on the other hand, has their own setup rules to follow for their side that are completely different from the Centipede player’s! They start by placing their Gnome piece on any square in their Gnome Movement Area, which allows them to start as close to or far away from the beginning of the Centipede as they choose. They then take the 7 Gnome Control Cards and set them face-up in front of them before rolling the 6 Gnome dice and placing them on the Dice Pool Card near the game board.

Reading Centipede Rules

Double checking movement rules for the Centipede thanks to all of those Mushrooms!

Just like with the video game, each role has a different goal for the game. The Gnome player wants to kill the Centipede before it reaches the bottom of the playing field by destroying it. The Centipede player aims to get either the Centipede or one of the other bugs to eat the Gnome. Starting with the Gnome player, the two players will alternate turns until one of them meets their victory condition. Each player’s gameplay is determined by the role they chose and is detailed in the rules. Basically, though, the Gnome player will use their dice to shoot at the Centipede (or Mushrooms), move either left or right, or recharge 1 Gnome Control Card of their choice. They will only get to use 1 die from their dice pool per turn but will have to opportunity to use 1 or more face-up Gnome Control Cards to have better control of their character. The Centipede player will get to play a card from their hand, move all of the bugs they may have spawned (this includes the main Centipede), and draw a card. To be blunt, Centipede movement does take a little getting used to and we tend to leave the rulebook open and close by to the pages that explain how to do so. Otherwise, that’s really all there is to it. Once a player meets their victory condition, the game ends.

When it comes to the 4-player variant, the game is more or less played the same way, but with 2 teams. Each team will have both a Gnome player and a Centipede player (hence where there are both green and blue tokens for each role). During set up, each team will take turns placing Mushrooms instead of individual players, but otherwise set up is the same. The Gnome players will still always be the first to play and the team to go first is determined by a dice roll (low roller gets to go first, but high roller gets to pick which side of the board they get to start on). On a team’s turn, the Gnome player must finish their turn before their partner takes their turn with their Centipede. The Gnome players also share the dice pool, adding some extra strategy to the already added chaos of having 2 Centipedes on the board. Should a Gnome end up shooting the other Gnome, the Centipede player on the attacking team’s side will get an immediate free movement for any one of their bugs of choice as long as they follow the standard movement rules. The win conditions remain the same, so whichever team can first achieve either of them will win the game.

Centipede End Game

I lost…again!

In my opinion, the design team did an amazing job turning this classic Atari game into a board game! As the gnome player, you can feel the pressure of having to beat the clock and hope you get your moves down just right to kill the centipede. Since there are movement rules for the bugs, they do tend to act as though they have patterns, much like they did in the arcade game. I think IDW Games made a good choice in releasing Centipede as their first game in the series as it left me craving more and I have found myself playing the game for hours and hours much like playing on my computer as a kid. I will admit that there is a learning curve to it, but once you get down how the bugs move, the game is pretty easy to play – regardless of your chosen role. I see this, and any of the other titles in the series, as being a game that can be played with kids or adults and as a way to bridge the gap between those that were old enough to play the original with those of us that weren’t. Even though I don’t often win (anyone who knows me can vouch for my notoriously horrid dice roles), I think playing as the Gnome is my favorite role. If you’re looking for other Atari based board games from IDW, Missile Command has since been released in early 2018, Joust is due to be released on August 22, 2018, and Asteroids is still waiting for a release date.

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