Brawl: Real Time Card Game
This game is gorgeous. It's well made. It's a clever idea. It has character, sparkle, and flavor. And so I really wanted to enjoy playing it. Alas, I found it, well, a bit weak. Upset that a game from James would be less than satisfying, I stayed up until 2am, raging against the unfair heavens.
"Why, oh why?," I cried, to the unanswering skies. But there was no response.
Ahem. Maybe I should back up a bit. "Brawl" is a self-described 'real time card game', designed for very fast one-on-one duels. There are six different characters, each a different deck: Hale, Pearl, Chris, Darwin, Bennett, and Morgan. Each character has a different mix of cards and, corresponding, a different mix of tactical possibilities for the game. They are also ranked for different skill levels, which is a big plus.
For example, "Hale" ismarked as an 'Easy' deck, because he mostly just hits people a lot until they fall down. His listed deck Weakness is 'Narrow' (with a bit more explanation). "Pearl", on the other hand, is 'Advanced', with the Weakness of 'Vunerable'. Though why a caucasian redhead with green eyes is called 'Pearl', we never asked. The boxes go into more detail on the back, and also have nice flavor text.
So right off the back, I really liked the way this was set up. You could choose a deck that matches how you like to approach small card/tactical games. In addition, they have nice art. Done with a nice anime-style flair, they have a lot of charm. Good setup, nice art.
The rules are fairly simple: play down up to 3 'Bases', upon which you can lay Hits. You can only put a Hit down on a Hit of the same color, so you essentially build chains of 'Hits'. 'Hits' ultimately are what score points: you get 1 pt for each Hit on your side of a base, whomever has the most hits wins that Base, whomever wins the most Bases wins the game.
The tactical cards, of course, add the depth for the game: Blocks (can't lay any more hits after this), Presses (essentially remove Blocks), Freezes (can't lay any more on that Base), and Clears (removes a Base, thus eliminating its potential point-scoring).
Finally, the game is in 'real time'... after starting in turn-based mode to get the rules, you can go unfettered and flip flip flip. So the pace starts to resemble a game of Egyptian Ratscrew or Slap, as you frantically burn through your deck trying to deal the most damage to your opponent in a tactically sound way.
I love the concept. But in execution, we felt it was just too darn abstract. We didn't get the feel of fists hitting flesh or the joy of duelling. Instead, we felt we were turning cards. It was just too darn abstract.
Perhaps with familiarity this game would become more spirited, and in that light we'll be passing the decks along to other reviewers so they can give it a shot. As a side note, we did try the multiplayer rules, but couldn't figure out how to score from them (you score on hits on 'your' end of a Base, i.e. the side of anyone's base that faces you... but it isn't clear in, say, a 3-way game which end belongs to whom. *sigh*).
A pretty game, but (for us), not a terribly fun one. Rats.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)