Board Game Review: BattleCon: War of Indines – Fighting with Style
As an avid video game player, I’ve always felt I’m pretty good at most classes of video games. I’ve played my share of Halos and Gears, fought the through epic quests in Final Fantasies and, yes, been known to dabble in nearly every Tower Defense game out there. Yet there is one class of game that annoys the heck out of me: Fighting Games. It’s not that I hate the concept of the game. In fact, I love the idea of players bashing on one another. But I cannot stand the truly competitive fighting games because I Just Suck At Them. I’m not even just a little bad at them; I’m absolutely terrible. I can’t remember moves, combos, priorities, counters, etc. I’m just a world of fail when it comes to these games.
Enter the world of BattleCon: War of Indines, by Level 99 Games. They’ve taken the traditional fighting game and expertly put it into a card game. It’s fast, furious, and full of bitter upsets. And best of all, you don’t need any manual dexterity to play them!
BattleCon is a very close simulation to fighting games. It comes with a double sided cardboard board that indicates player position (using stands of each of the characters) and players’ life totals (from 20 to 0). The goal of the game is to knock your opponent’s health to zero. It’s usually best to play three rounds to fully simulate the fighting game, but this is not required.
The BattleCon system of fighting is based on players each selecting two cards and playing them face down. Players then “ante” in tokens to help boost their character (ante tokens are entirely character-dependant). Once players have selected their cards and anted, both players flip over their cards.
There are two types of cards and three stats on them. There are left-side cards, called Styles, which one can think of as adjectives, (like Stunning, Fierce, etc.). These cards all come from the specific character and each character has five Styles. Styles usually heavily interact with the character’s abilities or skills, and provide modifiers on the games stats. The second type of card (the right-side) are called Bases. Bases are the same for all characters and are the basic attacks in the game (nouns like Strike, Dash, Grab, Shot, etc.). Each Base has all three stats on them. Priority, Strength, Range and Styles modify these by giving them plusses or minuses on them.
Alright, so now we’ve got players playing two cards at the same time – a Style and a Base – and revealing them at the same time. After both players reveal their pair, they compare priority (with any modifiers). The highest priority is called the Active player and they will act first. If the opponent is in the range of the attack, they will be hit for the Strength of the attack. The now damaged player is stunned and cannot act this turn. If the player was not hit by the attack, the reacting player can attempt to attack. This entire round of choosing cards, anteing, revealing and attacking is called a Beat. Players continue until 15 Beats have passed or one player hits zero life.
After cards are selected and played, they are “discarded”, but not in the normal card game discard way. Instead, there are always two discard piles, each containing one Base and one Style. At the end of the Beat, the pair you played goes into one of these piles and you pick the next one up. Essentially, each pair of cards you play goes on “cooldown” for two rounds. This creates an awesome effect where you always know what cards your opponent has and know exactly which cards they cannot play.
This is the bulk of the game in a nutshell. There are other concepts I haven’t talked about, such as stunguard (allows you to attack if you are hit), soak (ignores damage), specials, and more.
BattleCon: War of Indines comes with 18 characters out of the box and each character has 7 cards (one character card, five Styles and one unique Base). There’s much more included in the box that, I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried yet. For example, there are rules for special locations, battling 2v2, 2v1, and even 3v1 games. These each add different and unique ways of using the base system.
BattleCon captures that feeling of an old-school fighting video game. They closely emulate a lot of the same concepts (priority of moves, blocks, specials/finishers) and couple it with some solid gameplay mechanics.
There’s a large variety of characters and they each feel very unique. For example, Cadenza the clockwork knight excels at high damage hits and the ability to ignore most stun effects. There’s a character who has tokens that give her enormous power at the cost of her life total, a character who levels up in the fight, a character with a little mascot friend, and many more. Each provides an entirely different experience and style of playing the game.
The game is played with cards, tokens, and a small double-sided board. Overall, I’m happy with the quality of the components except for a few nitpicks that pull down some of my experiences with the game. I know that the upcoming expansion for the game will solve many of these problems though.
The box for the game is small, which at first I really liked, until I realized that I had to store around 25 separate “packs” of cards. For each character, I need to store their cards, their tokens, and the character stand. There’s quite a lot to organize in such a tiny box and it barely fits.
Another big pet peeve of mine was the way the game was initially packaged. The cards were shrink wrapped completely randomly. As there are roughly 25 different “packets” of cards to sort out, it would have been helpful if the game were packaged such that I could get them organized quickly. Instead, it took me more than 30 minutes to sort out all the cards and characters and get them into a playable form. This was a bit of a let down, though it gave me a chance to see all the goodies I had purchased.
There are some other nitpicks. The tokens are very small and have a font that’s a bit tricky to read at times, the stands do not work well to hold the character tokens (I swapped to FFG stands and have never looked back), etc. They’re good quality components, just with a number of small usability flaws.
Strategy / Luck (5/5)
There is next to no luck in this game and the strategy is quite strong. It simulates the strategic elements of a fighting game quite well without having any of the required dexterity skills.
Half of the game is in figuring out what your opponent can and will do on their turn and figuring out your option to counteract it. Heck, even some of the advanced characters in the game are entirely based around guessing 100% correctly in order to get a nice bonus for the round. This element of guessing and bluffing creates a nice interaction with your opponent that is 50% strategic and 50% the ability to read them. I find that I myself am both amazing at the strategy side and absolutely terrible at reading my opponents (and they know it!). I really love how the cooldown mechanics play into this.
The mechanics in this game are very strong. From the priority of moves (which is incredibly important!), to range, to the Base/Style combinations, the game gives you a lot of options in order to plan your moves. You know what your opponent has in hand (via the cooldown system) and what they’re capable of. This creates a very powerful central game mechanic.
The only question I have about the mechanics of the game are around balance. With so many characters, there are bound to be a few balance issues. I know that there are a few, but the upcoming expansion to the game will release a few cards to clear these up. That being said, the balance issues that I’ve experienced have sometimes turned out to be the downfall for my opponent. For example, Luc has a move that let’s him advance a ridiculous distance with high priority. I know that this is being toned down in the expansion, but when playing an opponent recently, they continued to use it the second it was in their hand. This let me easily outplay my opponent.
Eighteen characters are included in the game, which automatically creates a large number of potential matchups. I would definitely say that it takes many many matches to fully master a character. Characters also come in 3 tiers (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) and after many games of BattleCon, I’m still terrible at any of the advanced characters (or even some of the intermediate).
Now, that’s just for the basic game. There are team matches, arenas, and more that can definitely change up the experience. Coupled with the upcoming expansion (Devastation of Indines) that will add a further 18 characters, you’ll have 36 characters to match up (according to my math, that creates 630 unique combinations). Coupled with promo characters, this would push the current character number up to 40!
In conclusion… you’ll get many plays out of this game
This is a straight up fighting game, so the spite level is relatively high. While there aren’t many hidden gotcha moments, I’ve definitely felt spiteful and toyed with my opponent.
Overall ( 4.5 / 5)
BattleCon: War of Indines is a game that’s flown a bit under the radar, and was a sleeper hit for me. A friend introduced me to the game over coffee one day at a local Starbucks, and I was immediately hooked. We’ve since battled countless times and each match has felt like playing the old-school arcade fighting games (except now I have a actual chance at winning).
There are a few nitpicky flaws with the components or minor balance issues, but based on what I’ve heard from Level 99 Games regarding the expansion, these will be ironed out (with a much bigger box!). Lastly, the flaws are greatly outweighed by the excellent gameplay.
Overall, I’d recommend checking out this game if you’re looking for that classic fighting game feel. The game has felt very dynamic for me and if you’re a fan of fighting games, or even just the idea of them, BattleCon is the one for you.