As I mentioned during this week’s podcast, I’m in love with Kickstarter. I love the idea that people can come up with brilliant or crazy ideas, put them up for bidding, and raise the money to see their projects to fruition. (And, maybe just as importantly, I like the fact that if a project doesn’t raise enough to complete the project, then nobody is out any funds.) Kickstarter is the perfect match for the sort of Maker culture discussed in this month’s Wired magazine and it’s allowing people who make stuff to find the people who want to buy their stuff.
With that in mind, here’s one of the latest things I’ve chipped money toward: BattleCON, a card game from Level 99 Games inspired by fighting video games like Street Fighter. Now, I rarely write up books I haven’t read yet or games I haven’t played yet, but since there’s only a week left in the campaign I wanted to go ahead and get the word out so you can still get in on the fun. (Plus, if they hit $12,000 before the end of the campaign they’re throwing in some more goodies, so help me out here. They’ve already added a couple bonus characters for hitting $9,000 this week, so now they’re going for the super-stretch goal.) I decided to support the game based on their description and this review on The Noble Gamer.
BattleCON takes place on a linear board, similar to a 2D fighting game where you can only move left and right on the same plane as your opponent. The game uses a simple but clever card mechanic which combines your character’s “style” with a common “base” to form different moves. Everyone starts with the same “base” cards: Drive, Shot, Dash, Grasp, Strike, and Burst. Each card has a range (the distance of the attack), power (strength of attack), and priority (which determines who gets to act first). Some of the moves allow you to move forward or backward before the action takes place; the Dash lets you move up to three spaces and can get you out of a sticky situation.
The “style” cards are unique to each character, and modify the range, power, and priority of the bases. For instance, Cadenza the clockwork knight has Clockwork, Hydraulic, Grapnel, Mechanical, and Battery. Combined with a base, you could have Hydraulic Burst or Battery Strike, and so on. Players each choose a combination, and then reveal them simultaneously. Whoever has higher priority goes first, and then the other player can activate if they’re not stunned.
The game also uses a two-step discard cycle, so that cards you’ve used take two turns to return to your hand, adding some strategy because the other player knows what cards you have left in your hand. Some players also have tokens which will grant additional abilities, and each player has their own strengths and weaknesses.
That’s the basic gist of the gameplay. But here’s what else I really like about BattleCON. First, it just looks fun. Next, they’ve got lots of updates. They have a cartoon explanation of the rules, details on a lot of the characters (including some bonus characters you can get at various levels of Kickstarter support), explanations of tournament rules, and more. Also, they’ve got a free print-and-play version which includes the basic rules and four of the characters, so you can really try it out before you buy it. They’re not asking you to take their word that it’s fun to play — they’ll show you. The designer, David Talton, has been delighted by the success of the fundraising and just keeps adding more to the box.
Finally, they mention on their Kickstarter page that they’re hoping to make it a low barrier to entry for “webmanga, independent comic, and indie game characters” to become playable characters in the game. In fact, one of the backers-only bonus characters is from a webcomic by one of the artists on the project. I think it would be really cool to be able to create your own characters and have them work in a game system, and BattleCON may be the sort of game that could make that work.
After I put in my pledge, I sent a message to David Talton, the designer. He sent me a pre-release prototype version to try out, but it just arrived this week and I’ve only played the basic game once, enough to get a taste of it and know that I like it, but not enough to do a full write-up yet.. It strikes me as a very versatile game. Aside from the basic 2-player mode, there are also rules for tag team match-ups, two-vs-two modes (which then use some of the parallel tracks on the board), and even a Boss Mode which can pit three players against one super-powered boss.
The proof of the game is in the playing, though. I won’t have time before the end of the Kickstarter campaign to do a thorough playtesting. I’m particularly curious about the balancing of the characters, which I’m sure is the most difficult part of designing an asymmetric game of this type. However, if I do get a chance to play through the game before the project deadline, I’ll report back next week. In the meantime, go check out the BattleCON page. Watch the video and skim through the updates, and see if you think it’s worth a few bucks.