Reload brings battle royale to board game, with mixed results

Posted on March 17, 2023

We’ve seen many versions of the battle royale featured in video games, but does the concept translate well into a tabletop setting? That’s certainly the question we have here when trying out Reload, a board game that brings Fortnite into a physical setting. The game can be a bit of fun once it gets going, but being a little complicated may be too much a barrier for entry for some.

At a glance, the hexagons that form the board might remind of you games like CATAN, with the pieces being set up in a variety of ways to change the configuration of the game board. The idea is that you will battle other players on this island and “fight for fame” in a sort of battle royale TV show – but don’t worry, you won’t be “eliminated” and sent back to a lobby like in Fortnite.

It looks pretty, too, with well made figures and lots of coloured cards and pieces to scatter around the board, with clearly marked abilities tracked with dice and other coloured tokens. If it wasn’t so small on my dining room table, I’d consider dropping onto it from a battle bus, it looks so inviting. Your miniature will get to drop in, of course.

Dice will dictate where you land on the map, and that’s largely how combat will take place as well, with actions for movement, interacting with objects, picking up gear, building (hello Fortnite), healing or fighting. Much like the genre the game is based on, you’ll benefit from exploring the island and seeing what loot you can find to help make your character stronger, and you’ll need to make use of your attack and defense when thinking about battling your opponents.

So getting “eliminated” allows you to respawn, but your opponents will get Fame for getting the kill. It would turn into a different, less-fun game if getting knocked out meant your time playing it was over (as the game isn’t as fast-paced as something like King of Tokyo, for example).

Image credit: Board game geek

To switch things up further, Event Cards come into play, which can modify the map and make things more dynamic, including loot dropping from the sky, poison spreading across the island, or natural disasters that cause damage. It’s a fun element that means you’re never entirely comfortable, and does make it feel more like Reload is emulating a video game version of a battle royale.

Where Reload doesn’t quite match the battle royale experience we have in video games is in its complexity. It took a while for me and my two board-game obsessed friends to come to grips with the game, and the instruction manual isn’t particularly helpful (I found “how to play” videos online to be much better resources).

That said, we had a good time playing Reload… once we figured out how to play it properly. I worry that those who buy it off the shelf without doing their research will have a rough time with it, potentially due to the bad translation from French. There’s a lot to keep track of and a lot of icons that make things feel a little bit messy, so I couldn’t recommend this to casual players.

Still, for more advanced board game fans looking for a battle royale spin, Reload is well worth checking out.