I saw this as being attached to the Games Workshop licence, and on a whim asked to review it, partially to disprove a few naysayers about GW and their IP (intellectual property ) and them “putting it about a bit” by throwing licence permissions at any old studio. Mostly because I thought this game looked a lot of bonkers fun to play, and it reminded me a little of an old collectible card game I played in my youth.
The premise is joyfully unencumbered of complications – get the chainsaw wielding hard-man to the end of the game whilst keeping him alive through hordes of zombie monsters; collecting weapons, equipment and spells called blessings to aid your overly manly quest. The main character appears to be an amalgamation of all the late 80’s and early 90’s action heroes, and is equally as one dimensional. Chainsaw in hand he spouts cheesy one liners guaranteed to warm the cockles of any connoisseur of that genre, eliciting an eye roll or wry grin from the author.
That established, this is where things get a little bonkers. The game itself is timed, you have an hour to get Chainsaw Warrior to the end through various encounters, these are determined by a shuffled deck of cards, defeat one deck, and there are four more to contend with, each deck representing a different locale. Defeating the encounters is determined by a dice roll, quite often against the randomly generated stats your character is given at the start of the game itself. It’s almost as if the designers took an RPG, added in the standard loot hunt/equipment requirements, threw it at a text adventure, then drizzled a card game such as Magic or Hearthstone over the top. The most compelling bit of this meandering prose is that somehow this mincemeat custard trifle works, when it really shouldn’t.
Enemies make up the vast majority of the encounters, and the Hero must make a choice on how to engage the baddies based on current ammo count, how close the enemy is and if there are any special rules on the enemy card itself. Dice rolls against the stats on the cards (and against your own character’s) decide if the zombie/soldier/mutant crocodile take a chainsaw to the tits, or if they take a bite out of your pools of wounds.
Destroying your way through an army of zombies allows you to move to the next card, which may be more zombies, an ammo drop, a boss enemy or even nothing at all, all the while running down the timer, and the deck card count. Running out of wounds and you’ll die, running out of cards in a deck moves you to a whole new level of pain, the decks above the first containing more additional rules, more cards and a whole bunch of new meat to chop into chunks.
I must admit, I was a little wigged out at first, but the more I allowed the game to develop, I could see just how the ruthless the studio were with the challenge implicit with the RNG elements. The seemingly crushing dice rolls and never quite knowing if your ammo was ever going to be replenished. This game WILL frustrate you, but when the dice gods favour your rolls, you will become desperate to reach the conclusion of the deck and start the challenge anew.
Downsides to this game? There are only so many zombie deaths that will give you satisfaction before you want to choke yourself with a rubber sextoy as the chainsaw noise grates on the ear after just a few kills. Anyone unused to random luck games will hate that there is no guaranteed win. The graphics would be undemanding of a Casio wristwatch and dialogue makes the monotone translation of Bulgarian photocopying manual into English seem fun. The upsides however are the mash up of genres, the challenge of the unknown and re playability that roguelike addicts will adore.
Score: 7.5 out of 10.