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Shields Up! Kickstarter Preview

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Shields Up! Card Game by Concrete Canoe GamesDesigner: Patrick McNeil
Artist: N/A
Publisher: Concrete Canoe Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 10 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Shields Up! All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Shields Up! is a fast-paced, super-compact card game in which players try to be the first to blow up their opponent (or, rather, their opponent’s ship…). With just 18 cards, the game plays quickly and multiple games in a row are common.

Solid use of the box's innards.
One of the things that immediately caught my attention was the game’s size. As mentioned, Shields Up! consists of just 18 cards, and it comes in a small box-like container that, when unfolded and opened, reveals cards, along with the rules printed on its inside. When it’s closed up, it’s like the box-thing is giving the cards within a caring hug. Yes, this game is small, and as such, is an ideal game for travel. Of course, it’s a fun game to play just for kicks as well. Let me talk about what I like about Shields Up! (Sorry, I wasn’t yelling. That exclamation point is part of the game’s title.)

As a game, there isn’t much to Shields Up! (Again, sorry for yelling…) That doesn’t mean it’s boring, though. I had quite the enjoyable time playing this game (over and over again because, since games are so short, neither I nor my opponents felt like ending on a loss is acceptable). And that right there is the first thing I like about Shields Up! It’s fast, small, and still manages to cultivate a competitive spirit among the players.

I also like how the designer turned a measly 18 cards into a fun game. I know it’s possible since Button Shy has been doing it for a while, but I myself have tried and let me tell you, that limitation makes it hard. But, like I said, this game succeeds with its small card count. As Mr. Vader once said, “Impressive. Most impressive.”

(Forgive the Star Wars reference; I know this game has nothing in common with Star Wars other than it takes place among the stars. Still, I find it useless to resist…)

Having so few cards does come with a bit of a drawback. You see, after a certain point in the game, the draw pile becomes quite limited (we had completely depleted ours a few times during our plays). Cards are laid out on the table as shields or equipment, and others remain in players’ hands, leaving precious few to choose from. Still, this never hindered the game at all. In fact, it’s one of the way the game forces the players to end it. While there are equipment cards and cards used as shields (usually space mines, because they’re awesome), there are still other cards that are useful to achieving victory that aren’t equipment and you’d feel silly using as shields. These cards find their way back into play, orchestrating the final destruction of one (or both) of the players.

In all, I enjoy this game. Obviously I’m not going to choose it for game night when there are more than two people coming, and of course other games will satisfy my itch for strategy better than this one. But as far as portable entertainment goes, this will most likely come with me everywhere I go. Waiting for dinner to arrive? Shields Up! Commuting on a train or plane? Shields Up! Road trip? Shields Up! (Hey, there are some long red lights out there.)

To get a better idea of what this game is all about, check out the rest of this review below, as I’ll be going over setup, gameplay, mechanics, and more. And don’t hesitate to comment or reach out to me with any questions you may have!


All set up and ready to play!

Setup is easier than giving C-3PO a panic attack. Shuffle the cards, deal two (face down) to each player to act as shields (which are left face down in front of the players). Each player is dealt two more cards to form their hand. Two cards are dealt face up to form the Market (the area between the two players), and the rest of the cards are placed beside the Market to form a draw pile.

There. That’s it. See? Threepio hasn’t even said “We’re doomed” yet.

Rules and Gameplay:

The gameplay is super simple, which makes it easy to jump right into. The starting player takes two actions, which are:

1.     Draw a card
2.    Play any card face down as a shield
3.    Play one card face up as equipment (to build)
4.    Play one card and immediately resolve it
5.    Use one action to take the oldest Market card
6.    Use two actions to take the newest Market card

After the two actions have been taken, it’s the next player’s turn, and so it goes until one player loses all their shields and takes at least one damage (with no shields present). If both players destroy each other (which can totally happen), can there be a tie? Of course not! Both players’ ships are destroyed and nobody is left to relish in any semblance of victory. (Better play again to settle the score.)

Each player can have a maximum of three shields in front of them at any given time. Whenever a player takes damage, the attacking player chooses one of their opponent’s shields and it is then revealed. If it happens to be a space mine, then the attacker takes a damage (this is how both ships can blow up simultaneously). One shield is revealed for each damage given.

You chose the wrong shield, bucko! Take a damage!

Playing equipment cards to build upon requires players to match sets of identical cards in order to make them fully operational (much like a certain battle station I once new of…). Once the last card needed to complete a set is played, that equipment (weapon, tech, etc.) is immediately activated and the effect of the card (or, rather, equipment) is carried out. This could involve dealing damage or stealing cards from the opponent.

Only one more Death Ray needed to complete the set make this thing operational! (Death Ray deals 4 damage. Insta-kill!)

There are various other cards that can help players fulfill their destiny, including those that allow players to swap hands, build shields faster, and even a wild card to assist with building equipment. Any card can be used as a shield, so it’s important to plan ahead what you want to do (and when). Of course, all destroyed shields get discarded and eventually get shuffled back into the deck, so no card is always out of play for good (usually).  

Cards such as these can be game changers.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme of dueling spaceships comes out nicely from the mechanics. With only 18 cards, creating a game where the mechanics match the theme is inherently difficult, but I feel that the designer of Shields Up! did a good job of it. By placing cards in front of you as shields, building weapons throughout the game, and generally utilizing other equipment to help your cause, the mechanics do support the theme.

Artwork and Components:
I actually really like the artwork. Although it’s pretty simple, the lack of complexity makes it easy to see at a glance. The deep purple of space surrounding the card images and text give the cards a good sci-fi feel.

As for the components, the cards are made of good stock and the folding box works well. No complaints here.

The Good:

Pocket-sized and doesn’t take up much table space to speak of.

Quick, fast-paced games.

Easy learning curve.

Great filler game for tons of different scenarios.

The Bad:
With only 18 cards, there isn’t much variety, and when players start hoarding cards in their hand, it really puts a strain on the market and draw deck. Still, that’s one of the aspects that makes this game fast; thee game simply must end before long, due to the lack of cards to choose from. Eventually, someone’s hand will get swapped, and out comes the death ray. So while it feels like more cards would be nice, the limited amount of cards is actually part of this game’s beauty.

Final Thoughts:
Shield’s Up! is a fun game. It’s not terribly deep or strategic, but what makes it fun is its short, fast-paced games. It’s easy to play a few games back to back to back, and because it feels nearly non-existent in your back pocket or wallet, this game can go with you anywhere. It’s not one I’d sit down and play if I was in the mood for a bit of strategy, but it’s certainly one I wouldn’t dismiss during a few minutes (or more…) of down time, whether on a plane (especially on a plane), at a restaurant, or at home for a quick game once the kids have (finally) gone to bed.

Players Who Like:

 If you like pocket-sized games that don’t take up a lot of table space, Shields Up! (that’s the last time I’ll yell at you today, I promise) is one you really ought to check out. If you like super-fast filler games, 2-player games, and sci-fi themes, then this one may very well be for you.
Check out Shields Up! on:


Shields Up! is on KICKSTARTER between now and May 24, 2018

About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He's a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding game designer. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with a rich, engaging theme. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.

Shields Up! Kickstarter Preview Shields Up! Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on April 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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