The Art of the Gun: Adrenaline
Welcome to The Art of the Gun, a board game article series exploring combat mechanics and the emotions they evoke. I'm Calvin Wong and in this episode: Adrenaline!
Inspired by the 90s video game Arena Shooters, Adrenaline has very fond memories of Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament, lovingly infusing its cardboard adaptation with neon-soaked style and eurogame verve.
Yes, I said eurogame. For all its thematic trappings, Adrenaline doesn't have any dice in it at all - and it uses this luckless system to give players the greatest gift any weapon-based system can give - feeling bloody clever.
Shoot 'em Up(?)
Fighting in Adrenaline has no luck involved at all - you simply play a weapon card and declare who takes damage. At the end of the game, whoever has managed to do the most damage to the most different enemies wins - picking on one player over and over will result in a low score.
Being in the right location to have the optimum blend of targets to score the most points while dealing the most possible damage to them is the core of Adrenaline, and it's neat in the extreme. 'If I use my Cyberblade to dash along the walls, hit Blue for 2 damage, I'll then be in position to Power Glove through two sets of doors and smash Purple as well! Or I could dash over to Gray instead and use my T.H.O.R. to...'
'If I teleport to the white room right now, I can use my Railgun to shoot through the walls and hit 3- OH NO I DIDN'T RELOAD MY RAILGUN.'
Hide and Heat-Seeking Missile
Adrenaline keeps a short leash on its players by forcing them to reload their guns with various colored ammo cubes, acquired by moving around the map. Hiding in one spot and sniping only works twice - then you'll have to scuttle off and reload - and hopefully not be in another player's sights. And even then, dying's no real impediment - you even come back to life next to where the guns are.
But the scoring system I mentioned earlier encourages damage to be spread among players evenly and even rewards players for getting hit by unlocking more powerful actions (hence the title). Thus a player who's just respawned - weak, no guns - is much less of a tempting target than the one who's been wreaking havoc with their Electroscythe.
This tight loop of managing your ammo, position, and powerups to be able to leap into action at the correct moment belies how smart Adrenaline is. It understands that first-person shooters, at the highest level, are not about spray-and-pray twitch aim but tactical, chess-like play; accruing small advantages and pressing them home. Within its rules-light framework, it lets everyone at the table discover incredible heights of whimsical creativity - what a gift.
Those who want to be able to unload weapons willy-nilly down a corridor won't feel at home in Adrenaline's bright, fortune-free world - but fear not - there's at least one other game in this article series that isn't afraid to backflip through a plate glass window with an assault rifle in each hand - but if you want your gun games a little less desert-brown and a little more imaginative and cerebral, Adrenaline has incredible bang for your buck.