Full disclosure: A review copy of Judge Dredd: Block War was provided by Game and a Curry.
So, this is a fun one. We enter another world of Licensed Game That I Don’t Know The License For, which isn’t necessarily bad (it didn’t really work out for Teenage Mutant Ninja you know what I’m not typing the whole thing; the showdown one), but it’s definitely interesting. That said, I’m always down for a quick two-player game, so that’s what we’re doing here.
In Judge Dredd: Block War, you play as groups of perps embroiled in a heated block war when the Justice Department shows up to shut it down. Naturally, that’s all well and good for you, but they take justice a bit seriously and a bit physically, so they’re going to wreck you up and down the street if you can’t get away from them. You figure if you can wipe out your opponent, well, the fighting has stopped, so they’ll go away. Just watch out, they’ve got some mean armaments up their sleeve. Will you be able to win this war? Or will Judge Dredd himself show up to take you out?
Not a ton to do, setup-wise, actually.
First, lay out the Destroyed Gate cards. Two rows of 5, facing each other:
Place Closed Gate cards on top of them. The other side is open; you can tell because one side says “Open” and one side says “Closed”:
Now that you have the Gates, shuffle the Perp Deck and deal each player 5 cards:
Finally, the Justice Department shows up! Shuffle the deck (making sure to reverse the orientation of cards so that you’ve got cards randomly facing each way):
Now, flip five cards. If a card says DROP, place it in the first available space (going from left to right). If a card says SLIDE, move all other cards to the right one space (if necessary) to accommodate it. If a card is an Action Card (Lightning Bolt), discard it instead of playing it. If more than three of the Justice Department cards are facing any one player, that player may choose cards facing them and flip them to face the other player until there are only three cards facing that initial player.
Both players must then open two of their Closed Gates. Flip them to the Open side. Once you’ve done that, choose a player to start and you’re ready to roll!
So, you play until all of another player’s gates are destroyed or useless (or foamed!). Once that happens, the other player wins! If the Justice Department takes you both out simultaneously, well, then you tally points. But how do you get to that point? Let’s find out.
On your turn, you’ll do a few things:
First, you start your turn with 5 Action Points. These do not carry over to the next turn. You can spend them on a variety of things, such as:
- Buying cards. You may draw a card from the Perp Deck for 1AP. This is the only way you can get additional cards in your hand, by the way. So, keep that in mind. There’s also no hand limit.
- Opening or closing your own Security Gates. 1AP to open; 1AP to close. There are good reasons to do either; more on that in a bit.
- Playing cards. Cards cost AP to play. You cannot play units on destroyed gates, but beyond that have a great time.
Once you’ve exhausted your AP, Combat starts! (Unless it’s the first player’s first turn.) When that happens, the Justice Department attacks whatever it’s facing. Note that this means the Justice Department can attack you when it’s not your turn. Be a bit careful, there.
- If the Justice Department attacks a Closed Gate: Nothing happens, generally. There are a few exceptions.
- If the Justice Department attacks an undefended Open Gate: They instantly destroy it. Tough break. Try not to let that happen if you can avoid that, as you might guess.
- If the Justice Department attacks a defended Open Gate: Compare Attack (bullet symbol) and Defense (helmet symbol) for both the attacker and defender. Units counterattack as well, so if either unit’s attack meets or exceeds the other unit’s defense, the other unit is destroyed. This might mean that the units destroy each other, which happens quite often. That’s all normal.
After the Justice Department has finished attacking, anything else that’s left attacks, provided the gate in front of it is Open. Can’t attack through a closed door; these people aren’t wizards. The same rules apply. This means that it’s possible for the Justice Department to attack your defended Open Gate and destroy your unit and themselves, and then your opponent follows up and destroys your now-defended Open Gate. Be careful!
Now that the Combat Phase has ended, replenish the Street. If no Justice Department cards were discarded, discard the rightmost one. Either way, draw new cards from the deck to fill the gaps. Remember, DROP cards get placed in the first available open space; SLIDE cards push other cards down one space and then take the leftmost space. If an Action Card is drawn, resolve it.
If a player’s Gates are completely destroyed or incapacitated (Riot Foam, for instance), they lose! If the Justice Department destroys both players simultaneously, check your scores (based on the JD units you’ve eliminated). The player with more points wins!
Player Count Differences
Not applicable; two-player only.
- Hold on to those Hacks. They can be a pretty effective slam-dunk on your turn if you can get the Justice Department turned around properly. Though, a Flashbang-Hack Combo is pretty tough to overcome.
- The best defense is a solid offense (and defense). If you have a 4 / 4 person defending your gate, there is only one card in the game that can take you out (the Stub Gun, which just destroys a gate). That’s pretty good! It also means that you’re basically a point-scoring factory, as well, which is helpful.
- If you get the Stub Gun, use it. Bonus points if you manage to take out your opponent’s buffest defender. They’ll be (justifiably, imo) upset, but hey, you’re not here to make friends.
- Keeping your gates Closed only does so much. You don’t want to keep them closed with nobody behind them; then you’re vulnerable to hacks! That’s not ideal. But if you leave only weak people on them, your opponent can try and set you up for a nasty defeat. It’s not a bad idea to close your gates; just make sure you’re not ignoring the closed ones. Also, watch out for Bike Cannons; they can blow up Closed Gates. Those are definitely the cards you want to defend against or flip towards your opponent.
- I wouldn’t let Bike Cannons stay around very long. Personally, I let them get in a shot at my opponent and I destroy them, same turn. It’s not a huge surprise that your opponent will turn them against you at their first opportunity, and they will wreck at least one Gate, if they can. It’s better to let them get in the short-term win and then kick ’em out.
- Judge Dredd is best facing anyone that isn’t you. He’s strong and not terribly friendly. Just … point him towards your opponent and hope for the best, really. Not much else to do.
- Attack from behind the Justice Department. Ideally, the JD takes out your opponent’s defenses (and your opponent likewise takes out the JD); then it’s an easy shot to destroy their gate. This should be your like, default move in this game; it’s almost necessary.
- It’s a bit more predictable to have your defenses on the right side. If they’re on the right, you only have to worry about Drop cards; Slides have no effect on you. On the left, both can take you out. Note that I mean the opposite direction if the JD deck is on your right side.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I assume if you like Judge Dredd, you’re going to love this. There are a lot of things that are done out of love for the theme (including the decision of player order), so it feels very intentionally done as a love letter to people who are huge Dredd fans. Even as a I-know-nothing-about-this person, I still rather enjoyed the game. It’s definitely for people who don’t mind a bit of take that, especially if the game helps.
- It’s a very frenetic game. You’re not making it through with zero gates lost unless you’re some kind of wizard. Stuff’s blowing up; going everywhere, and it’s a wild time. I’m told that’s very consistent with the theme, so, nice work on making it feel so vibrant.
- The black-and-white cards do look pretty cool. I find them a bit hard to read, but that’s going away as I play it more.
- The whole dual-side Justice Department Cards thing is pretty awesome, actually. It’s a nice gameplay variation that I’m surprised I haven’t seen from Button Shy, honestly; it feels very consistent with something they’d do. (They probably have; I haven’t played all … 49 of their Wallet Games???!?) Istanbul or Constantinople does this, as well, so it’s a humorous coincidence that I’m reviewing them both this week. It works very well here, though, and it’s super thematic; the Justice Department can only fire one way at a time (as far as we know), so of course they’re not defending their backs.
- Plays pretty quickly. Nobody lasts that long against the full might of the Justice Department, so, you’ll be done in less than 20 minutes, I’d imagine. Might take a bit longer for your first game, but once you’ve got it down you’re going to be flying through it. It helps that Combat occurs on both players’ turns; that really speeds up the game.
- Box has room for an expansion, easily. If you take out the insert there’s a lot of space; I assume that the implied expansions will fit inside the standard box. Makes me interested to see what comes up next.
- The actual spatial representation of the street does a lot of nice work for the theme. It feels much more interesting and real when you’ve actually got the spaces laid out and such. I wonder if a playmat would enhance the experience? Really no idea; just spitballing.
- Some tweaks to the graphic design might have helped. The Closed and Open sides of the Gate having the same art is a bit confusing, and it’s sometimes hard to see on the cards where the information ends and the art begins (and vice-versa). It’s something that becomes much easier to get past when you play, but your first play is pretty tough. It would be pretty rad if I could get someone to color my cards, though …
- Unless they do another rulebook printing, don’t use the rulebook that comes with the game. It’s got a number of gaps and errors. Thankfully, they quickly came out with an updated version of the rules that makes much more sense. We played a few games with the old rulebook (our bad; we forgot there were new rules online, which I was definitely informed of) and were very confused; after playing with the new rules we had a blast. I will give credit where credit’s due, though: they’re making it right and sending first edition owners new copies of the rulebook, which I really respect, and they were upfront about it. Obviously having a good rulebook from the start is the most optimal outcome, but I respect people a lot who own mistakes and make their best effort to make it right.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I’m a fan of Block War! I was pretty … middling on it when I played it with the old rules, but the newer printing of the rules cleared up a lot of the confusion / concerns and we had a bunch of fun! I think the key is that both of us were laughing when we played, and that’s generally a Very Positive Game Experience for us when that happens. Thankfully, that happened a bunch, though usually it was when my opponent was blowing up my gates, which, well, it was still pretty funny, so that’s fine. Beyond that, this is a fairly aggressive game, which normally isn’t extremely in my wheelhouse, but I had quite a bit of fun with it! It was enough that my co-player and I both are looking forward to potential expansions and will likely pick it up again. If you enjoy a bit of hard-hitting action, explosions, or you just really like Judge Dredd, Judge Dredd: Block War might be for you! We’ve certainly been pleasantly surprised by it, which is always nice.