Radio Review #95 – BattleCON: Fate of Indines

 

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(2015 – Level 99 Games)

 

“Don’t need a helmet….I got a hard, hard head….”

 

Level 99 Games is unique in that their game library is built mostly around taking 80’s and 90’s video game genres, and recreating them in board game format. On of their most popular card games, Pixel Tactics, successfully simulated the gameplay found in such games as Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem. Other titles such as Sellswords could easily be implemented on a handheld 3DS, and uses similar 16-bit RPG character styles. Level 99’s BattleCON series (Battle Connection) focuses on the fighting-game genre, made most popular by games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter, etc.

The original BattleCON: War of Indines game was released in a fully-published format in 2012 (a print-n-play version was released as early as 2010). Since then, War of Indines has seen a Remastered Edition, as well as a follow-up release, BattleCON: Devastation of Indines. The two titles combined contain close to 50 different fighters, all with completely unique fighting styles and abilities. BattleCON is essentially a card-driven game in which players will play different pairs of cards against each other in order to maneuver their character and attack their opponent. As with console fighting games, the more a player uses a particular character, the more likely the nuisances and strategies of the character will begin to open up for them. BattleCON is very simple to play, yet quite difficult to master. Each character plays so different from one another, that it becomes almost as important to know your opponent character’s strengths and weaknesses as it is to know your own. Because both initial BattleCON sets included so many characters, along with a massive amount of additional content in the forms of variants and game modes, it can be a bit intimidating for entry-level players, especially if you aren’t quite sure if you want to dive all the way in.

Therefore, Level 99 has cleverly created a starter box of sorts, entitled BattleCON: Fate of Indines. Including 10 unique, brand new characters, Fate of Indines helps to ease players into the series. Players can focus on learning and playing against these 10 characters, mastering each of them before deciding if they want to delve deeper into the other two sets. Today I’ll be taking a look at this introductory set and all that it contains. Know that both War of Indines and Devastation of Indines provide a wealth of additional content and modes that I won’t be covering here. This review is focused solely on Fate of Indines, and really for those of you (like me) that are just learning the game for the first time. Let’s see what’s included:

 

 

 

Components:

– Fate of Indines game board

 

– Life Counters

 

– Base cards (set of 6 for each player)

 

– Alumis kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Shadow Marker)

 

– Baenvier kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Spell Eater tokens)

 

– Burman kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Firepower counters)

 

– Eustace kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Frostflow tokens)

 

– Iri kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Form cards)

 

– Jager kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Signature Move cards)

 

– Sarafina kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, and Projection marker)

 

– Thessala kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, Evolution board, and Evolution trackers)

 

– Weslie kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, Finisher card, Decision cards, and Recursion counters)

 

– Xenitia kit (Standup, Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, and Finisher card)

 

– Set of blank cards (Character card, Reference card, Style cards, Unique Base card, and Finisher card)

 

– Kit Envelopes (one for each character)

 

– Force Gauge cards, Reference, and Special Action cards

 

– Tag Mode Base cards

 

– Space cards (portable alternative to the game board)

 

 

 

Setup:

To begin a game, each player will take a standard set of six Base cards. Each player receives copies of the same six cards, and these are always used no matter which character the player chooses to fight with. There are six bases in the game; Burst, Dash, Drive, Grasp, Shot, and Strike. As I’ll discuss later, these standard bases are combined with a character’s individual style cards in order to create an attack.

Speaking of these Style cards, each character in Fate of Indines (as well as War of Indines & Devestation of Indines) has their own style kit. This kit includes a Character card listing that character’s Unique Ability (or UA), a set of Style cards, a Base card that is unique to that character, a double-sided Finisher card, and a reference card listing the character’s styles, unique base, and finisher information. The player will also receive any tokens, cards, or counters related to their character’s unique ability. For instance, Thessala is unique in that she receives a special Evolution board and Evolution tokens to go with her special ability. Lord Eustace on the other hand, receives a set of Frostflow tokens to go with his special ability.

After each player has selected their fighter, they will swap their character’s reference card with their opponent’s. This will allow each player to have full knowledge of the styles, unique base, and finisher that his opponents can perform. When initially learning the game, this information won’t be as important. But as you become from familiar with the various unique fighting styles and abilities of each character, this card will help to keep track, as a reminder, what of what attack combos your opponent has available to them.

An attack in Fate of Indines consists of a Style card and a Base card. When these two cards are combined, it is what the game refers to as an “Attack Pair”. At the beginning of the game, each player will need to choose two Attack Pairs to discard from their hand. Each player has two spaces on their side of the game board that house these two discarded Attack Pairs. The player will choose a Style card and a Base card to place face-up on the leftmost space, then do the same again on the space beside it on the right. As players play an Attack Pair from their hand and resolve it, it will be discarded. The leftmost Attack Pair will then enter back into the players hand, and the Attack Pair on the rightmost space will shift to the left space. This makes sure that players don’t always have full access to all of their attacks cards. As they use an attack, they will need to wait a couple Beats (game rounds) until they have access to them again. This also keeps a player from constantly playing the same Attack Pair over and over and over.

After discarding their two pairs at the beginning of the game, each player should now have a hand that includes three styles and five bases (four standard bases and their unique base).

Each Character comes with double-sided Finisher card. At this point, player’s will secretly choose which side of the card they wish to have available to them during the game. The “A” side is generally easier to use and a bit more universally functional, while the “B” side tends to be more specific in its uses, but has the potential if used correctly to be more powerful. Players will simultaneously reveal which side is active for the game. Once selected, the card can never be flipped to its other side. The Character card, Finisher card, and opponent’s Reference card are place together near the right side of the game board.

The game board is made up of a series of spaces where Characters will be moving and attacking each other from. Two of these spaces contain small dots, and at the beginning of the game, the chosen Characters are placed on either of these starting spaces facing each other. Each player also has a Health Dial that will keep track of their life points during the game and Characters start a duel with 20 life. The inner meter on the Dial is related to the Force Gauge variant.

 

Finally, players will place any special counters or tokens in the character’s pool space directly underneath the main movement spaces on the game board, based on the special rules for these tokens on their Character card. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

Gameplay:

The World of Indines and BattleCon fighting system is extremely vast and can be a bit overwhelming for introductory players. Since Fate of Indines is built upon the idea of helping ease players into this system, I’m really going to try to focus on the basics of play, leaving a majority of the variants and specific discussions on character strategy and depth out of the review. For those interested in specific character strategy, there is a great video series entitled BattleGUIDES that dedicates entire episodes to each of the various fighters found in the line (though I’m not sure if they’ve included the 10 characters from the Fate of Indines set yet). There is also a wonderfully produced strategy guide that comes separate from the rulebook in the game, that focuses on the play styles, abilities, and strategies for each character in Fate of Indines.

A match in Fate of Indines consists of a series of duels (best of 3), and each duel consists of a maximum of 15 beats (or rounds). During each beat of the duel, players will simultaneously play an Attack Pair (style card & base card, example seen above) from their hand, resolving the effects on the cards, moving, directing possible damage to their opponent, then discarding the Attack Pair. Play then moves to the next beat, and this continues until either one character has exhausted their opponent’s life total or the 15th beat has been resolved. If both players survive through the final beat of a duel, the character with the highest amount of life left is considered the winner.

Though various steps can be taken in each phase of beat, the main phases are fairly simple and consist of Selecting Attack Pairs, an Ante Phase, Revealing Attack Pairs, Resolving Attacks, and completing the beat with a Recycle step. As I take a look at each one of these phases, I’ll discuss a variety of things that can happen during each step. The game board has an easy reference as to the order of these steps, but they will basically resolve in the following ways:

 

– Select Attack Pairs
– Ante
– Reveal Attack Pairs
– Resolve “When Revealed” effects
– Determine Priority
– Resolve “Start of Beat” effects
– Resolve “Before Activating” effects
– Determine Range
– Resolve “On Hit” effects
– Resolve “On Damage” effects
– Resolve “After Activating” effects
– Reactive Player resolves attack
– Resolve “End of Beat” effects
– Recycle step

 

This may seem like a lot of steps, but keep in mind that only a few of these effects will resolve each turn, depending on the cards played. If a set of Style and Base cards do not contain any “Start of Beat” effects for instance, then that step is skipped. Let’s take a look at each of these however, and how they resolve.

 

 

 

I. Selecting Attack Pairs

As mentioned before, an attack consists of one of the character’s Style cards (red back) and a Base card (blue back). After the player has selected the Style and Base cards he wishes to use together, he’ll play them face down in front of his play area. You’ll always know that a legal Attack Pair has been played face down, since one of the cards will have a blue-colored back and the other will have a red-colored back. If a player has accidentally played two Bases or two Style cards together, this can be corrected before revealing the cards.

 

 

 

II. The Ante Phase

All characters in the Indines series have unique abilities that can be used during a beat. Many times, this will require the player to “ante” a number of tokens to do so. For instance, during each Ante Phase, Thessala can place a new Evolution token on her Evolution board. The space that is covered on this board will gain her a specific bonus for this beat only. Taking a look below, if the player chooses to place a token on the “+2 power” space, this would gain Thesslala an additional +2 power until the end of the current beat. As you can see, Thessala’s bonuses can become more and more powerful over the course of a duel, depending on which evolution tree the player decides to continue placing Evolution tokens on. It also gives her the ability to change strategies in the middle of a duel.

The Ante Phase always begins with the active player. This is chosen randomly during the first beat of a duel, however the active player is otherwise the player that won priority during the previous beat (we’ll take a look at how priority works in just a bit). Players will take turns anteing back and forth until both have chosen to consecutively pass. This means that a player can pass, his opponent perform an ante, then he can then perform his own ante. The Ante Phase is not complete until both players have consecutively chosen to pass. Some characters, such as Thessala, can only perform one Ante step during this phase. For instance, once Thessala has placed her token on her Evolution board, she can not then place another token.

Other characters such as Burman and can choose to ante multiple tokens (in his case, Firepower tokens) during the Ante Phase until the player has chosen to pass. Each Character card has specific rules to how the character can resolve the Ante Phase, and if they need to adhere to a maximum number of tokens or other limitations. Players will keep these Ante tokens on the designated space on their side of the game board, until they are spent. Some tokens, once spent, can never be used again by the character, while others can be retrieved in certain ways and used again. This is all dependent on the character’s unique ability.

While there are various variants that should be included in the game once players are comfortable with the mechanics and familiar with the characters, one variant I feel can be included in your initial play are using the character’s “Finishers”. Each character has a Finisher card that contains a side A and side B, which gives the character a powerful unique, one-time attack during the game. As mentioned before, at the beginning of the game, players will need to decide which of the two attacks to use, keeping that side face-up near their play area. If a player has less than 7 life left, he can choose to activate his Finisher at the end of his Ante Phase, after both players have selected their Attack Pairs, but before revealing them. If he does so, he will return the original Attack Pair back to his hand, and place his Finisher card out in front of him. This card will be used by itself and discarded from the game after the beat has ended.

 

 

 

III. Revealing Attack Pairs

After both players have consecutively passed on anteing, they will simultaneously reveal their face-down Attack Pair (chosen Style and Base card). By combining these two cards side-by-side, we now see the character’s full attack for this beat, which includes the range of the attack, how powerful the attack is, the priority of the attack, as well as any special effects. The only thing we’re really worried about during this phase of the beat is checking for any “When revealed” effects. All revealed effects will occur immediately when the Attack Pairs are revealed, before resolving any of the attacks themselves.

For instance, Sarafina has used the attack pair “Silver Shot”. It contains a “when revealed” effect that limits her opponent’s Power and Priority values to those listed on their attack pair during the current beat. This means any other effects that would increase these two values, can not be used.

 

After reveal effects have been resolved, players will compare their attacks for priority. Players will add the priority amount from their Style card to that of the Base card. The player with the highest amount of priority is now considered the active player for the remainder of the Beat. For instance, taking a look above, Sarafina’s current priority is valued at 3, found by combining the priority value from her “Silver” style card (+1), and that from her “Shot” base card (2). Her opponent, Alumis, seen below, has performed a Sinister Burst, containing a total priority value of 1. Therefore, Sarafina is considered the active player for the current beat, obtaining the higher priority.

There may be times when players tie in regards to priority. Indines refers to this as a “clash”. When a clash occurs, players will need to simultaneously play a new Base card from their hand on top of the previous one. After playing the new Base, priority is checked again. This continues until one of the characters has won priority. Once priority is determined, the beat is considered to have started. At this point, if the active player has any “Start of Beat” effect on his Style or Base card, he will resolve them now. After the active player has had a chance to resolve any “Start of Beat” effects, the opposing player can then resolve any available “Start of Beat” effects of their own. As we can see above, Alumis’ Sinister Burst has two different “Start of Beat” effects allowing her to retreat a number of spaces away from her opponent on the game board (and possibly out of range of Sarafina‘s attack).

 

 

 

IV. Resolve Attacks

After resolving Revealed effects, determining priority, and resolving Start of Beat effects, players will resolve their attacks, beginning with the active player. This phase is the heart of the game. The active player will first check to see if his Style/Base pair contains any “Before Activating” effects. If so, he’ll resolve them now. Since an attack’s range is checked immediately after this, many “Before Activating” effects will help the character maneuver positions on the game board. A character must be within range of his opponent in order to perform an attack. Taking a look again at Sarafina’s Silver Shot, it contains a “Before Activating” ability that advances her 1 or 2 spaces. This may help to place her back in range of Alumis.

After performing any “Before Activating” effects, the player will determine the range of his attack. This number can be found at the top of each Style/Base pair. The player will combine both sets of numbers, so if the revealed Style card lists the range as +0-1 and the revealed Base card lists the range as 1, then the overall range for the attack would be a distance of 0-2 spaces away. If a player’s character is not in range of his opponent, his attack will not resolve.

If it has been determined that the character is within range to perform an attack, any “On Hit” effects are immediately resolved (before issuing damage). For example, Weslie’s finisher, Grand Tapestry, has a powerful “On Hit” effect that immediately stuns her opponent (I’ll explain “Stun” in just a bit), and causes the opponent to discard both their attack pair and hand of cards for the beat. This means that the opponent can not resolve any more effects or perform any damage of their own during this beat. It’s important to note that players will only resolve the “On Hit” effects listed on the active character’s Attack Pair, Finisher, or Character card during this step, not the effects listed on the opposing character’s.

Whether or not any “On Hit” effects were present, damage is then dealt to the opponent. Below the Attack Pair’s set of range numbers is the set of combined “Power”. Totaling these numbers will determine how much damage the character inflicts on his opponent. For instance, Weslie’s Grand Tapestry finisher above only has a power of 1. If this attack was within range of her opponent, it would result in that character taking 1 points of damage. The opponent will then have to subtract the damage from his Life Total.

Taking a look at a different Attack Pair, Thesssala’s Molten Lash attack provides an “On Hit” ability that pulls his opponent towards her up to 2 spaces. If the opponent was pulled past the space in which she is currently in, that opponent will not be able to attack her during the current beat. The active player will also at this point resolve any “On Damage” effects. Again, taking a look at Thessala‘s Molten Lash, we can see that is contains an “On Damage” effect that allows her to place an Evolution token on her Evolution board. Although the effect can’t be used this beat, it may help her activate a more powerful effect for the next beat when placing another Evolution token during the Ante Phase.

The opponent’s Attack Pair may contain an effect called “Soak”. If this is present, the player will ignore (or soak) a certain amount of damage dealt, before taking the remainder left. For instance, if Jager is being attacked for 4 damage and has a “Soak 2” effect, she will only take 2 points of damage to his Life Total instead of 4. Some characters such as Lord Eustace have unique abilities that will allow them to use tokens to increase this Soak ability.

It’s important to note that once an opponent’s character has taken damage, he is considered “stunned“. A stunned character is essentially dazed and will not have the chance to retaliate during the current beat. This is why knowing when and when not to win priority can be so important. Some Attack Pair’s may however contain an effect called “Stun Guard”. Stun Guard does not cancel any points of damage dealt from the other character, but it may keep the character from being stunned. If a player can keep his character from being stunned during an attack, he will have a chance to perform a retaliatory attack to his opponent. For instance, in the example above, Jager’s Blood Moon Shot contains both Soak 2 and Stun Guard 4. If Iri dealt 4 damage to him, he would only receive 2 damage points because of his Soak effect. Since he only received 2 points of damage and he currently has a Stun Guard of 4, he would not be stunned this beat. Therefore, before the beat ends, Jager would have a chance to attack Iri in return.

Whether the active player was able to attack his opponent or not, he’ll now resolve any “After Activating” effects. The Base card Dash shows an “After Activating” effect which allows the player to move 1, 2, or 3 spaces. It’s important to note that when moving toward an opponent, if a character were forced to move onto the same space as the other character, he will instead jump to the next space past him. In the case of Dash, if during his movement of 1, 2, or 3 spaces, he passes over his opponent, his opponent can then not attack him during this beat. This is a great card to play for defensive purposes, as it allows re-positioning and can keep the opponent from attacking. However, as you can see in regards to range and power, the player will not be able to perform an attack himself.

 

 

 

V. Reactive Player Phase

The non-active player during a beat (the player that did not win priority) is always considered the “Reactive” player. After the active player has resolved the various steps of his attack, ending with any “After Activating” effects, the reactive player will have a chance to perform his own attack, if he is not already stunned. To do this, he will perform all the steps of his activation which include “Before Activating” effects, determining range, “On Hit” effects, “On Damage” effects, and “After Activating” effects.

 

 

 

VI. The Recycle Step

After all attacks have been resolved, players will finally resolve any “End of Beat” effects. For instance, Lord Eustace’s Frigid style card has an “End of Beat” effect which allows him to move adjacent to the opponent, no matter where he is on the board. This can be quite helpful since all of Eustace’s style attacks require close range. If both players have “End of Beat” effects to resolve, then the active player resolves his character’s first, then the reactive player. Players can always resolve their “End of Beat” effects, even if they didn’t not successfully attack (active player) or even if they were stunned (reactive player).

After “End of Beat” effects, players will recycle their current Attack Pair of cards. The current Attack Pair are the only cards discarded in this way. Therefore, if player’s revealed their original Attack Pair, checked for priority and there was a clash, then had to play a second Base card before continuing with the beat, they would only discard the Style card and 2nd Beat card that made up the Attack Pair they used during the beat. The original Base card would be returned to their hand during the Recycle Step. When recycling, the player will return the two leftmost Attack Pair on their side of the board to their hand, shift the rightmost pair to the left, and place their currently played Attack Pair on this rightmost space. Players will then increase the Beat count to the next number (remember, a duel ends after the 15th beat) and are now ready to start the next Beat.

 

 

 

End of a Duel/Match:

If at any point during a duel, a player’s Life Total decreases to 0, the duel ends and that player loses. Otherwise, a duel will last until the 15th Beat is complete. At this point, the player with the highest Life total is declared the winner of the duel. If both players have the same amount of Life, the duel ends in a draw. Players will begin another duel in a best-of-three format, meaning that the player to win two out of three duels is declared the winner of a match, essentially winning the game.

Take note that even though there are a lot of potential steps to a beat, each beat usually lasts no more than a minute, with steps resolving quickly. Most Attack Pairs contain no more than 2-3 effects, and most all effects are simple and streamlined to perform. With each duel lasting 10-15 minutes after you’re comfortable with the flow of the game, matches don’t tend to normally last longer than 45 minutes.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. The World of Indines/BattleCon system is by far the most in depth, character driven fighting game out there, and the closest board game you’re going find that mirrors a Street Fighter-type experience. Having said that, War of Indines and Devestation of Indines can seem a bit intimidating for those jumping on the boat for the first time, with the massive amount of included characters, variety in play styles, and content. This is why Fate of Indines is a perfect option for those that want to test the waters for a lower entry price, yet fully functional package.

As a child of the 80’s in a small suburb outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, my summers were revolved around trips to Carowinds and playing the newest NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis games with my neighborhood friends. We’d set up tournaments of time-trailed ExciteBike runs, switch in and out of TMNT II: Arcade, and obsess over the monthly Nintendo Power, transcribing the newest codes to our game manuals. I can fondly remember the original Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II, though I was pretty terrible at them. In college, Soul Calibur II was the most played game in my residence hall. We’d play day long 16-man tournaments, and even though I’d played plenty of these style games growing up, if I made it past the first couple of rounds, it was a complete fluke. Though great at strategy and tactical rpg’s, the speed and memorized button combinations found in fighting-style video games were beyond me.

I say all of that because the BattleCON system is a one where I feel like I can successfully participate in the game such as these. As they’ve done with many of their other titles, Level 99 has taken a video game genre and implemented it into a board game, streamlining all elements of it along the way. Although Fate of Indines includes only 10 characters, each character’s play style and abilities are completely different from one another. No two characters play anything alike. Because each character can provide a wealth of gameplay on their own, providing 10 that play so uniquely from one another is a great value for even the most veteran of BattleCON fans.

 

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