I'm going to have to start admitting I have a soft spot for skirmish games. Because now Super Fantasy Brawl has arrived from Kickstarter, I'm going to be playing it a lot. I tinkered in Warhammer Underworlds for awhile, and I did enjoy it, but was put off by too many deck options and no one near by to play competitively. Underworlds was undoubtably an 'entry level' skirmish game for Games Workshop, but Unmatched and Funkoverse are entry level for everyone and excel at offering a card or dice based skirmish stepping on point.
Super Fantasy Brawl maintains the entry level feel, while adding a little more depth long term. It uses a clever card system with small six card decks attached to each hero. So let's grab our champions and dive in.
I Love it When you Brawl
First let me state up front that I have the Kickstarter all in bundle, but I'm reverse engineering this review to be for the core box. The main differences are - many more champions and component upgrades. While it's super nice to have neoprene mats and plastic tokens the cardboard equivalents are all robust and great looking. The statue pack, a purely aesthetic upgrade is also going to be available at retail separately. Just bear in mind my greed when looking at the pictures!
The retail edition comes with 6 champions with three more available to buy as separate packs. The great think about this is firstly the supremely reasonable cost, but also the variety in that box. Many other skirmish games only give you a 'small' taste of the full gameplay, meaning for the full experience you need to pick up more characters. Not so with Super Fantasy Brawl. Games are 3 champions vs 3 champions so you get a full game in the core box.
Surprisingly variety is also solid. This is because each champion is individual and not part of a faction or 'warband' they must stick with. So it will take you are while to try all the combinations the retail core box offers, and even adding one new champion will greatly increase the variety!
Brawl me Maybe
Now we have established you are more than getting your dollar's worth, let's dive into the mechanics. There are a few of really nice things happening here that really lift Super Fantasy Brawl to the next tier. Firstly each champion comes with a six card deck. This deck is further split into two cards of each of the three colours - red, yellow and blue. Red represents destruction, yellow creation and blue manipulation.
Each player has a token of each colour, which they will flip to take actions on their turn and sometimes off turn. The primary use of a token is to play a card of the matching colour, giving you a total of up to three actions per turn. Any colour token can be used to make a move of 2 and each token has a one move and specific action. For example red lets you move once and do one unblock able damage.
There are a dozen or so keywords but they are all easy to learn and fully explained at the end of the rules. After one game you will have seen and learnt most of them. Most cards will allow you to attack or apply a buff to a friend or foe!
You can Brawl me Al
It's not just about twonking your opponents as hard as you can though. Thanks to a clever objective system, positioning will be incredibly important. Two objectives are shown at the start of the game and then after each player has taken a turn these slide down the row one space and another is added. As they move down the value will change between 0-2 victory points. You can also earn a point by defeating an opposing champion.
It takes only 5 points to win so you can set yourself up for some massive combos, but to win an objective you must be achieving it at the start of your turn! This means that the other player has a whole turn to try and disrupt your plans. In one game two of the objectives were 'Have at least two of your champions in trap hexes' and 'Have at least two champions levelled up'. My opponent was set up to win the game if, at the start of their next turn, they were still achieving one of these objectives! I had enough attack with one character to knock out on of his levelled up champions and therefore returning it to it's normal level but they were no where near the target.
Flicking through my cards I noticed that I could swoop through the opposing champion, picking them up on the way and dropping them next to my other champion with the attack cards. The day was saved! Or at least their win was postponed. Something like this has happened at least once in every game of Super Fantasy Brawl I've played. Combos like these create battle tales you will tell to anyone who will listen, and remember long after the plastic and cardboard is packed away.
Brawl it What you Want
Getting to know how each champion works is a relatively simple affair as they only have 6 cards and a definite style. Once you know some of the cards you will be using keywords like plan (placing a card from your hand to the top of the deck) and burning through the deck to get to cards and combos you want. Though there is luck in the shuffling of these cards you always know that card you want is close. After that the combat is determined by card stats.
This is where your off turn move comes into effect. Each champion has one 'reaction' card, that can be played for any champion that your opponent attacks. This can negate damage, cause damage, resurrect you and more. The downside is that you still have to flip the token of the matching colour - giving you one less action on your turn. Losing one action isn't always massive - but it can totally derail plans you had.
Super Fantasy Brawl is a game that you never feel you are out of. Even if you are four nil down you always have a chance to turn the tide. Champions also feel different to each other. Which creates great synergies for you to discover. Have a slow moving tank? Use one of the stronger characters to throw them across the battlefield next to your opponents! But remember you need to be focused on achieving the objectives for the start of your next turn!
Super Fantasy Brawl Final Thoughts
I'm slightly in love with Super Fantasy Brawl. It is not only one of the best skirmish games I have played - it's one of the best games I have played. The gameplay is immediate and satisfying and yet each time I play I discover a new synergy or potential combo. Every new champion added increases the variety so much due to them being able to be added into any team.
There is only one arena to play in but I've not yet tired of it. Perhaps this is because you spend a lot of the time trying to bounce opponents of walls and statues to do extra damage. A new arena would probably need a new set of of objective cards too, and this is not an unattractive prospect but it's certainly not needed in the short to medium term.
Super Fantasy Brawl is about the champions and what you can build with them. It's worth a look even if you haven't played a skirmish game before, and though some may be frustrated by Kickstarter upgrades being hard to get hold of, it's worth remembering that the game is priced really well considering everything in the box, from the components to the gameplay itself!