Brawl Review by Jabberwock
Brawl is a little game with a big heart, and a big punch. Literally.
It’s from Cheapass Games, and is a very pretty game, considering its pedigree (Cheapass are notorious for providing the barest minimum of components and artwork in an effort to provide good, cheap games (hence their name)). Each Brawl deck (and you will need at least two) comes with 35 full-colour cards, and is everything you need to start playing immediately (except another deck and a friend to beat up).
Most of the cards in the deck are Hit cards, but there are some Block and Press cards, and maybe one or two other cards thrown in to mix it up (depending on what decks you have). The idea at the end of each game is to have the most Hits on each Base. The player with the most Hits on their side of the table on each Base win’s that Base, and the player who wins the most Bases wins the game.
The trick here is (apart from one or two practice runs) the game is played in real-time, with each player throwing down cards as quickly or as deliberately as they can manage.
Thankfully, the cards themselves are big, colourful and not-cluttered, allowing each player easy recognition – a definite must in a real-time game! The gameplay is fast and furious, with each player slapping down Hits, Blocking other players’ attacks, Pressing their way through Blocks, Clearing Bases, and Freezing the moves before adding up the scores at the end. It’s over very quickly indeed, and there is always time for several games in a short time frame.
There are several decks to ‘collect’ (although the decks are all the same in each copy, so there is no random distribution, thankfully), and each has a distinct flavour, allowing you to tailor your gameplay by finding the deck that suits you the best. For example, Chris is fast, and balanced, with no weaknesses, but great strengths either. Darwin is described as tricky, as he can Block often, and can Press through other people’s Blocks. There are several ‘runs’ of the game – the first set came with six decks, and there is also a ‘Club Foglio’ set with another six decks illustrated by Phil Foglio. Another set is the Catfight Set, with three decks all of the furry anime style cat lady in short skirts and tight tops (I mean, really – they have taglines like this: “Tamiya has lots of boyfriends, but her best friend is her giant wooden hammer! The other girls tease her because she’s so good in school, but she just knocks them out cold.”) There is also a unique deck available called Ting-Ting, with a new kind of card.
I only have three of the first six decks, and am quite happy with the selection I’ve got.
Presentation: The cards are sturdy and tough enough to withstand the fast and furious play that is essential for a game like this. The corners are rounded, and the artwork is eye-catching and functional, ensuring each player can see what a card is and does at a glance. The art is very manga-esque, with Fairly-Large-Eyes, and Quite-Small-Mouths (FLEQSM), and the characters are varied enough that there is an interesting mix. 7.9/10
Clarity of Rules: The rules are, by necessity, simple enough to remember when dealing cards at a furious rate. The single, double-sided sheet enclosed does a fairly good job of explaining what happens and how. There isn’t much in the way of examples, however, although they have managed to put in a brief strategy guide, and multiplayer rules (eek!). 7.6/10
Game Length: Blink and you’ll miss it! The game does not drag, but often has the opposite problem – it’s over before you’ve really gotten the hang of things. This problem will be countered by experience, and as you play more and more, you will get a better understanding of how to win (rather than the random card-dealing-fest it seems to be when you play your first game). 7.8/10
Value: It’s cheap, it’s pretty, and it’s expandable. If you want to test it, get two decks, and then branch out. This way you can judge how much you enjoy the game before committing more money. 8.9/10
Overall: I enjoy Brawl, and it joins a not-very-large group of real-time games in my collection (which only has two other games in it – Falling and Lightspeed - both of which are also Cheapass games). It is a very decent filler, but suffers somewhat when two unequal players are playing – a newbie to this one will lose horribly against someone with even a vague inkling how to play. Again, this is down to experience, and the veteran could always ‘take it easy’ on the newbie. Pfff, yeah right…! 8.4/10 (not an average)