There comes a point in every gamer’s gaming career that he just wants to throw something. Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG, caters to that urge by giving gamers a game in which throwing parts of the game is the entire point. In Maximum Throwdown, players get to throw cards every turn in their attempt to control locations and prevent their opponents from scoring points.
Published in 2013, Maximum Throwdown pits factions from various AEG properties against each other in competition for control of various iconic AEG game locations. Dragons and samurai battle to commandeer a pirate ship while werewolves and swashbucklers vie for command of an alien spaceship. If you have been wanting to wage war between creatures from different game universes, you have the opportunity to do exactly that in Maximum Throwdown.
Out of the Box
- 6 Reference cards
- 6 Starting location cards
- Rules sheet
- 90 Throwdown cards (6 decks of 15 cards each)
How to Play
Play begins by selecting location cards and arranging them on the table. Any number of locations may be used, and the layout is entirely up to the players. It is possible to create a six card grid or a three card triangle. Any arrangement may be used, provided all players agree.
Each deck represents a different faction. Factions may be assigned randomly or players may select based on personal preference. Once the factions are assigned, players shuffle the fifteen card deck for their faction, then set the deck in front of them.
Cards have a combination of six different icons that represent six possible actions a player may take on his turn:
- Draw a card
- Throw a card
- Keep a missed card in play
- Steal a card from an opponent and throw it into the play area
- Attack a player to force him to discard the top card of his deck
- Score points
The rulebook suggests the first player should be whoever shouts “Maximum Throwdown” the loudest, but players are free to choose any means they like to pick first player.
Gameplay is based on tossing cards from the faction deck onto the table in an attempt to connect with a location card. Cards may touch the location card or another faction card that touches a location card. If a card lands away from any other connecting cards, it is considered out of play and is discarded. Each connecting card will be evaluated on subsequent turns to determine how many points the player scores, as well as what special abilities may be used by that player.
Each turn is broken down into five steps:
- Identify all active icons on your cards.
- Tally points
- Attack and Steal from opponents
- Draw a card
- Throw a card
The turn begins by identifying all active icons on the player’s cards. Icons are considered active if no part of them is covered by another card. Icons represent which actions the player may use during his turn, such as stealing cards from another player or drawing additional cards.
Once all active icons are identified and players know which actions are available to them during the current turn, players tally their points for the turn. Players score one point for every six pips that are active. As above, active means the icon with the score pips is completely uncovered and visible.
Following the point tally for the turn, any attack or steal actions available are resolved. At this time, the active player may select an opponent who will discard the top card of his deck and may steal a card by drawing the top card of an opponent’s deck. The player may Attack or Steal a number of times equal to the number of Attack or Steal icons active on the table.
When all Attack and Steal actions are resolved, the active player draws one card. He may then draw a number of additional cards equal to the number of Draw icons active on the table.
Finally, the active player will throw one of his cards onto the table in an attempt to have it connect with a location card, a chain of cards connected to a location, and will ideally cover any active icons that would benefit opponents. If any Throw icons are active, the player may throw additional cards, provided there are enough in the player’s hand. An alternative use of this action is to re-throw a card that missed and landed separate from the location cards in an attempt to save the card from being discarded.
Upon completion of the active player’s turn, the next player clockwise will take each of these steps in order.
It is important to remember that thrown cards must touch another card already in play. If the card is not in contact with another active card, it is discarded and permanently removed from play. Players are allowed to move around the play area to find a better vantage point from which to throw cards. If at all possible, a player should ensure that his throwing arm does not extend over the play area.
If a player runs out of cards, he may continue to play by scoring points based on the number of active Points icons visible on his cards. Once all players have run out of cards, the game ends. There is one final tally of points. Once all points are scored, the winner is determined based upon who has the most points. In the case of a tie, the player who has the most active icons is the winner.
Throw Down? Or Throw Away?
It is incredibly rare that I am not immediately hooked by a game from AEG. Alderac Entertainment Group has long been one of my favorite producers of entertainment content, from their collectible card games to their pen and paper Role Playing Games. While many other reviewers seem to have a vastly different opinion than I do, I strongly feel that Maximum Throwdown misses the mark for what I have come to expect from AEG.
The art on the back of the cards is absolutely gorgeous, but is taken from other AEG properties, such as Legend of the Five Rings and Nightfall. This would almost be forgivable if the various factions clearly mattered to game play, but the fact that there is no notable difference between each faction detracts strongly from the idea of various factions “throwing down” against each other. Because the factions don’t appear to matter, the fact that the artwork is simply lifted from other published games is even more disappointing. Even the action icons lack any faction flair. Without some means to make factions matter, what should be a unique and exciting game concept feels shallow and uninspired.
It is important to note that faction choice doesn’t seem to have any impact on game play. According to the AEG website, each faction is geared toward a particular action, with that action icon featuring more often on the cards in the faction deck. Samurai, for example, specialize in throwing, which means the player will more often find active icons that allow him to throw additional cards. Werewolves, on the other hand, specialize in points. Players should find that they more often have opportunities to score points on each round. The problem is that AEG did not make this clear anywhere in the game content. It took a visit to the Maximum Throwdown page on AEG’s website to clarify that the distinction even exists. In the months I have had the game, I never recognized that faction had any bearing on the game. It is very difficult to be enthusiastic about a faction when the in-box content doesn’t indicate why one faction is unique from all others, and AEG made a significant error by not including this information in the rules or on an information card in the box. Because of this design flaw, the average player will never know that one faction is better at Stealing while an opponent playing the Demons will have more opportunities to draw cards.
The game is fairly well balanced. Sadly, this balance comes from a lack of creativity in the game design. All decks appear to be the same, with no easily identifiable difference between the composition of the faction decks. With nearly identical spreads of action icons, the game cannot help but be balanced. I would far prefer a game that is slightly unbalanced but has creative choices in making the factions matter.
Despite my complaints, I must admit that my grievances are largely based upon playing this game with adults. The suggested age for the game is 12 and up, but I later found the game to be acceptable for a younger audience so long as the adults help the children through each step of their turns. This is a redeeming quality for the game, as it provides an attractive deck of cards with simple icons for children to play with. The game is one that young children can enjoy with minimal help, and is excellent for teaching children game etiquette and how to follow instructions for card games. If you are looking to introduce your child to tabletop gaming, Maximum Throwdown could easily serve that purpose. When viewing the game from this perspective, it becomes much more appealing. Beyond that, there’s little reason to keep this game on your shelf.
- Beautiful artwork on the card backs
- Easy play mechanics allow for involvement of younger players
- Quick game play, under 30 minutes.
- Faction specializations are not clearly identified
- Low replay value
- The package design is unattractive and misleading
photos courtesy of Devon Weir | www.devonweir.com