Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fighting Game Review - BattleCON

I typically review games that are for sale. Sometimes I review games that are not for sale, because they've been out of print for ten years, and that's because I get hard up for review material and have to resort to reviewing whatever I just got in a trade that week. So it's a special treat to get to review a game that isn't even out yet.

I grant you that reviewing a game that doesn't exist yet sounds like one hell of a challenge. But here's how it works (at least in this case). There's a game in the works, and they're running one of those Kickstarter promotions designed to help them drum up enough money to publish it. So they have a copy of the game, but it's not all polished up. Hell, this one doesn't even have an official box, just one of those literature mailers you use to send computer parts. But the game is still there, even if it's not an official honest-to-God published game, and the idea is that I get you all excited and you run over and buy a game that doesn't exist yet. So you see, it's not quite a ridiculous as it sounds.

The game in this case is called BattleCON. It's a card game simulating a fighting game you might have played in an arcade fifteen years ago, assuming you're over thirty, and assuming you ever played fighting games in an arcade. If that sounds familiar, it's because Sirlin Games has been doing arcade-fighting-game-turned-card-or-board-game since they started. But BattleCON is not like Yomi, or Puzzle Strike, or even Flash Duel, though it does have something in common with all of them.

In BattleCON, you each choose a character from a very wide assortment, and you get all the cards associated with that character. So if you're playing Vanaah Kalmor, you get Divine Rush and the other fighting cards for her. If you're playing Regicide Heketch, you get the scary cards that come with being a vampire who apparently kills kings. And if you play the mechanical knight named Cadenza, you get a desk (if that one didn't make sense, try a Google search on 'credenza.' It's a play on words).

But instead of each of you having a deck of cards, you only get a dozen. Seven of those cards are base attacks, and the other five are styles. You choose one of each, and they combine to create the move you'll attempt that turn. For instance, if Lixis Ran Kanda decides to do a strike, it can be a venomous strike or a vine strike or a rooted strike, to name a few. She can't play a card that makes her name sound less like a bottle you might hang in a hamster cage, but each of the combinations she can play will have a different effect, so that's something.

What you'll need to do is play your cards based on what you think your opponent is going to do, keeping in mind the distance from your foe and the last attack your opponent played. Because you're never able to play the same cards twice in a row, you always know what attacks you don't have to worry about. Sadly, that still leaves a bunch you do have to worry about, but if you never had to worry, what would be the point of playing at all? You could just play the solo version of 52 Pick Up (which I understand is not a particularly excellent game).

You also have a board to track the distance from your enemy as you play, so some attacks might miss just because your opponent jumps out of range at the last second. You might wind up stunned and unable to react, because the faster attack hits first, often leaving the slower character sitting on his can while birds tweet around his head like a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. You might be able to dodge an attack, or suck up the damage, or otherwise pull out some winning combination that takes your opponent by surprise.

The first time you sit down to play BattleCON, you'll probably suck. Don't worry, it happens to everyone. Well, almost everyone. You'll just play whatever card seems like the best thing at the time, which means you'll probably just be switching back and forth between two attacks because they look like the most likely maneuver to score some pain. And that's fine, you can play that way, because if your opponent is any good, he'll beat the pants off you by countering your best moves and then slapping you silly after he makes you look like a retarded midget in clown shoes.

But the more you play BattleCON, the more you see all the strategy and mind games that go into it. Sure, a powerful strike might be just what you need to pound your opponent to dirt, but if he dashes past you and leaves you swinging at thin air, you will have just spent your good attack for nothing, and he'll be standing behind you about to shove a two-by-four up your ass - sideways.

You'll also want to play BattleCON a bunch of times because there are all kinds of cool optional rules. There are special cards that let you pull off once-a-game killer moves, and a fascinating team game that can have you both jumping in and out of the ring like a team wrestling match. There are tournament rules, and rotating team duels, and other options that let you play the game with up to six players. In other words, there's a lot of game in this box, even if it doesn't have a box yet.

The game might not be published yet, but the art is done, and it looks very cool. A variety of artists were hired to do some very cool character illustrations, and there's a very eclectic sampling of styles. You might not be in love with every piece of art, but it's hard to deny the hard work and killer talent that went into making the game.

BattleCON isn't exactly out yet, but it sure looks like it will be. It has great art, a very clever card system, and a fun premise. It plays in twenty minutes or less, and the longer you play it, the better you'll get. If you want to jump on the preorder before the game hits the shelves, you can even pick up some cool promotional characters. It's fun, it's pretty, and it's going to happen. If you're a fan of light fighting games, you can run over to the Kickstarter page and give it a look.


2, 4 or 6 players

Clever card mechanic gives lots of flexibility with just a few cards
The board makes maneuvering just as important as hitting hard
I love the art

Not out yet
Tough to see the strategy on the first play or two

If you want to score a preorder before BattleCON even exists, or if you just want to see more, you can check out the Kickstarter page here:


Anonymous said...

pledged $40, sounds like a cool game can't wait to get it, thanks for the link

syntaxerror111 said...


I don't know anyone personally that owns any of the sirlin games or BattleCON (obvious reason for that one), so I can't try any of them out before ordering one. BattleCON looks like it is somewhere inbetween Flash Duel and Yomi for complexity- which one do you prefer? I know its probably like comparing apples to cumquats but its all I got at the moment. Thanks

Matt Drake said...

Syntax, you're right, BattleCON is less complicated than Yomi but deeper than Flash Duel. I really like Yomi, though BattleCON offers a very different game experience. If you had to choose one, I would probably pick up a couple Yomi decks first. If the game appeals to you and you want more like it, BattleCON is also a fun game with a very similar theme (though the game play is quit different).