Many people are familiar with Games Workshop, most likely due to the popularity of their Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 lines of miniatures games. Some may be familar with them due to the fact that two of three founders of Games Workshop were Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who were also the creators of the popular Fighting Fantasy franchise of solo roleplaying gamebooks in the 80s and 90s. Games Workshop is a company with quite a long history though, and have created some classic games that have been out of print for quite some time.
Chainsaw Warrior is one of these games. Published by GW in 1987 and designed by Stephen Hand, it is a one-player board game with a ton of randomized elements to create limitless replayability. The premise is that a “spatial warp” has appeared in the middle of New York City allowing an evil entity known as Darkness and his denizen of baddies to run loose. The spatial warp is rapidly expanding and will soon consume all of New York unless you manage to stop it single handedly. Oh, and you only have 60 minutes to do it.
The digital conversion of this game created by Auroch Digital is a faithful recreation of the original board game in all of it’s unforgiving glory. The original game can be played by selecting the Hard difficulty setting, while Medium and Easy can be selected for a slightly more forgiving experience. The main differences between the difficulties are different numbers of dice to be rolled for generating your stats, and additionally in the case of Easy mode, being able to see what equipment you’re selecting, as in Medium and Hard modes you can’t see what equipment you’ve selected until the game starts. The game from that point on consists of you turning over cards from a deck to see what your next hazard is to deal with. This can be anything from empty areas, to wandering zombies, other monsters, traps, etc.
The cards are shuffled into 2 decks, and Darkness is placed somewhere within the 2nd deck, so you can’t encounter him until you’ve made your way through the whole first deck of 54 cards. And when you do finally encounter him, the only weapons that can damage him are the Laser Lance and the Implosion Vest (the latter of which will also kill you, causing the game to end in a draw.) Losing the Laser Lance results in you having to “leave” the play area to get a new one, resulting in a time penalty and causing you to have to start over at the beginning of whichever deck you were currently on.
As for the time limit, time advances at the rate of 30 seconds every turn, plus removing additional minutes for penalties as described in the effects on certain cards. If the time limit runs out, you lose. After the 30 minute mark, it becomes night time and you then suffer penalties to your hand-to-hand (HtH) combat modifier as well as some other minor penalties unless you have equipment that counters them.
If all this sounds confusing, don’t worry. It’s not as hard to learn as it seems, and the kind people at Auroch Digital have included a helpful tutorial to guide you through the basics. I went into playing this game never having heard of the original and was pretty familiar with everything after my first playthrough. There’s also a neat motion comic that serves as an intro to the story of the game, and some well-suited sound effects peppered throughout to that round out the ambiance of the gameplay experience.
The gameplay is core to the experience here, though, and Auroch has recognized this and put the majority of the focus in creating a UI and environment that get out of the way and just let you play the game. Many people will find this game incredibly frustrating, some to the point that they may ragequit and decide to never touch the game again so if you’re the kind of gamer with little to no patience for hardcore, old-school difficulty games this might not be for you. But if you’re the kind of gamer who enjoys a relentless challenge with some randomized gameplay to ensure a slightly different game and challenge every time you play, or indeed if you’re a fan of the original board game, you definitely need to pick this title up. It is currently available on iOS, Android and Steam.
A terrific conversion of the original board game. Well presented, with an unobtrusive UI. Might be too hard and frustrating for some gamers, however.