BattleCON Review

A sweet little game that I've been drooling over for a while is BattleCON.

BattleCON is a card game version of a 2D fighter (like the original Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, etc). Each player chooses one of the 12 fighters and also takes a set of "bases" (basic moves). Each turn, both players will choose a combination of a base (standard move) and a style (character specific modifier) to play. These two cards work together to determine the final move that each player is attempting to execute. Both players reveal their cards at the same time, and then they determine priority; whoever has the highest priority gets to attack first (but most likely has the weaker attack). If his opponent is in range, then the attack will hit and will do damage based on how powerful it was - and if it is powerful enough (and your opponent was arrogant enough to not prepare for it), you can stun him, thus preventing him from being able to attack back! The game continues like this until one player is dealt 20 damage, at which point the duel is complete. Then (like in all the other 2D fighters), you fight again. And again. And (if you're losing), you eventually walk away before wanting to actually punch your gloating opponent in the face. Or maybe you are nicer to your friends than I am.

The first thing that I like about BattleCON is the way the bases and styles fit together (yeah, this is the most obvious choice for a pro). Through this system, it both allows your characters to have personality (their character specific cards change how the basic cards will wind up executing), and also allows a large number of potential moves each turn. I don't remember the exact numbers, but there are about 6 bases and about 6 styles; since each style can be played with each base, this means that there are about 36 different moves that can be performed. Now, each player will have a couple bases and a couple styles in his "recycle" pile at any given time so it won't be quite 36 options each turn, but there are still enough options that there's a game of cat and mouse that goes on as you try to out-think your opponent.

The next thing that I liked about BattleCON (which I briefly mentioned before) is that each character is different. There are twelve different characters that each play differently. Keep in mind, by "different", I don't mean that each character will be a revolutionary experience - they each fight better either at range or in close combat. However, even within these confines, the characters still have different abilities that help them feel distinct. Some of the characters I can remember allow you to take on an Elemental Form, have an "iron body" that allows them to avoid being stunned, prevent opponents from getting bonuses, and set a "Gate Marker" (trap) on the board. I enjoyed playing with the different characters and figuring out how each one worked best.

The last thing that I will mention in the pro section for BattleCON is how "stun" worked. Being able to stun your opponent drastically changes the game (I know this because I didn't play it correctly for the first half of my first game). Since each turn you may be stunned (or able to stun your opponent), you are really forced to pay attention to both priority and your "Stun Guard." If you don't pay attention to both of these aspects of your cards, you can quickly find yourself losing because none of your attacks will actually occur. Therefore, the game isn't as simple as "play my biggest card each turn"; instead, it forces you to try to outwit your opponent to ensure that whatever you throw at him will actually get the opportunity to hit.

Now for the cons... do you remember when you got the latest new fighting game (like Killer Instinct), but none of your friends liked it because they still wanted to play Mortal Kombat? I had this problem a lot with BattleCON. I taught the game to a handful of people, and only one of them seemed to like the game anywhere near as much as I did. Because of this, though I do enjoy the game, they really prevented me from having a good experience with it. The greatest positive and negative about playing board games instead of video games is the social aspect of them. If the people you play with really make a game enjoyable, it can be immensely better than any video game ever made, but if they make the game miserable, they can make it worse than playing through a video game that's scratched so that you can only play the first 5 minutes over and over.

The next con that I will mention is actually related to gameplay. Whereas each character plays quite a bit differently, I often felt a bit too constrained in what I could do. I don't know how much of this is the game itself, and how much of it is how much I stunk at playing the game, but I was often in a situation in which I didn't really have very good moves that I could execute. The guys at close range didn't always seem to have enough cards to get them close enough to really start dealing the major damage; and with the ranged characters I couldn't get far enough away to capitalize on my range. For example, one of the ranged characters could wind up with a range of 4-10 on one of his attacks... but the game is only 7 spaces wide - which means this is a combo that will rarely, if ever, actually be useful.

The final thing that I will mention I will classify as a "point of note." Some of the characters are significantly easier to play with than others. Some players will love this, because it adds depth to the game - you feel like you've accomplished something if you master a difficult character. However, other players will get frustrated with this, especially if they randomly choose a character to play when they first try the game (like we did), and they get a hard to master character. I believe this is what skewed the opinions of several of my friends that I played the game with.

Overall, I give BattleCON a 7.5/10. I really enjoyed a lot about this game; unfortunately, I don't think that it's going to have very much long-term table time because of how it went over in my group.

Since this game is still in a preorder state, you currently cannot buy it at any of the sites I'm associated with (which I normally link to here).  If you are interested in getting a copy of BattleCON, check out their site here.

If you like fighting games, you might also check out Yomi.

I would like to thank Level 99 Games for providing me with a prototype copy of this game to demo.

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