Brawl game: Hale deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Hale. He's cool, yet violent

The Brawl game: Hale. He’s cool, yet violent

The Brawl game: Hale deck

Hale is the least subtle deck in the basic set, even more so than Chris. He’s a bruiser who can’t block much, but can sure hit things hard. The art is fine, but the character design is a little cliched.

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

Like a cross between Worf and Geordi from Star Trek: TNG, Hale is a large black man with bulging muscles, a torn T-shirt that barely covers his torso, wraparound sunglasses and a chain wrapped around one of his arms. I don’t know if that horrific blaxploitation stereotype makes you cringe as much as it does me, but believe me, I’m cringing.

Hale has 5 blue, 8 green and 4 red Hit cards. He also has a Hit-2 in every color. He only has 1 red and 1 green Block card, leaving him exposed to blue. He has a decent number of Base (6) and Clear (4) cards.

The verdict

Hale is an easy deck to use: hit fast and keep hitting. He has enough Clear and Base cards to get out of trouble. Lack of Block cards can leave him vulnerable, but his Hit-2 cards can be a nasty surprise. I wish a little more thought had been put into the character design, though.

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Brawl game

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game is a brave attempt to merge card games and video games playing styles

The Brawl game is a brave attempt to merge card games and video games playing styles

Game
Brawl
Board game manufacturer:
James Earnest Games/Cheapass Games
Number of players:
2 (with the option of more)

Quick verdict

Brawl is a brave attempt to create a card game with the frenetic pace of a video game. It’s an attractive game that’s easy to learn and plays well, but it won’t blow your socks off.

The Game

Brawl is a real time card game where cards are played whenever a player wants; there are no turns. Each player needs a Brawl deck to play.

Submit your OWN Footprint Rating and leave comments for this game!Each deck represents a different character and contains a different mixture of cards to represent that character’s unique strengths and weaknesses. The game works best with two players, although there is an optional multi-player variant.

The game was first released with six character decks of varying complexity: Hale (Easy), Chris (Easy), Darwin (Moderate), Morgan (Moderate), Bennett (Advanced) and Pearl (Advanced). This first set was illustrated by Ryan Kinnaird and has been out of print for a while.

Another set of six decks was released a year later, illustrated by Phil Foglio (of Girl Genius fame). This set consisted of Alex (Easy), Gina (Moderate), Mischo (Moderate), Rent (Moderate), Crane (Advanced) and Tess (Advanced). This set introduced three new card types.

The next release, Brawl: Catfight, was a set of three decks illustrated by Bryce Nakagawa (illustrator of San Angelo: City of Heroes) that featured anthropomorphic high school catgirls. The catgirls were: Nickie, Sonia and Tamiya. They are all “moderate” level decks. Catfight introduced one new card type.

A one-off promotional deck based on Ting-Ting, a character from the Shadowfist card game, was released without a box or rules. The Ting-Ting deck introduced one new card type.

In general, the decks are nicely illustrated, good quality cards. They are a little thin and they will get beaten up through use. Each deck apart from Ting-Ting comes in its own box with a rule booklet.

All of the decks apart from the original six are sold by Paizo.There are two gameplay modes. Training mode is turn-based and is intended to teach new players the game and get them familiar with their deck. It’s recommended that you move quickly to Tournament mode, which is the real time mode without turns.

To begin, each player should remove the three Freeze cards and one of the Base cards (these are the cards with a full-frame portrait of their character) from their deck. The rest of the deck is shuffled and the three freeze cards are placed at the bottom.

Each player puts one base card on the table in front of them. The base cards define the field of play and there must be at least one and at most three of them in play at all times.

The object of the game is to play hits onto your side of the base cards. At the end of the game, the player who has more hits on their side of the base wins that base.

The player who wins the most bases wins the game. If there are equal numbers of hits on each side of a base, then the player who owns that base card wins the base.

In training mode, each player takes turns in which they can do one of the following: (1) deal one card from the top of your deck and either play that card or place it face up on top of their discard pile, or (2) play the card on the top of their discard pile.

In tournament mode, the moves are the same except that players do not take turns, they can carry out either of these actions at any time. The only modification is that if a player takes a card off the top of their discard pile which they cannot subsequently play (because the other player has made a play that blocks that move), then they can return it to the top of the discard pile.

The basic gameplay revolves around the base, hit, block and clear cards. Base cards can be played to fill in the field of play up to a maximum of three in play at any one time. Hit cards are played onto a base card, or onto hit cards of the same color.

Blocks are played onto hits of the same color and prevent any more hit cards being played onto that chain. Clear cards can be used to clear a base and all the cards played onto that board out of the game. When a Freeze card is played onto a base, then no more cards can be played onto that base.

More advanced characters introduce special cards such as: Press, which allows you to break a block. Hit-2, which is worth two hits but which can only be played onto a regular Hit card. Reverse, which reverses the outcome of a base. Null, which nullifies a base.

The real time nature of the game does have an effect on strategy. When you’re on top, do you burn through potentially valuable cards in order to get to the Freeze cards at the bottom and fix your position? Should you wait until your opponent’s block card is buried deep in his discard pile before starting an attack?

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your deck and that of your opponent can be key. This is made easier by the fact that each of the cards contains a number showing the number of cards of that type contained in that deck. If you know that your opponent is weak in red hits, then you can play one of your own red hits onto their side of the base before they have a chance to play a hit in one of their stronger colors. If you know that your opponent has already played their one and only blue block, then you can start a string of blue hits with impunity.

Pros and cons

The Brawl game sounds a lot harder than it really is. Most players will only need to run through one or two training games before they’re ready for the full game. The first couple of games will be a little hectic until you work out how to use the space.

Playing with the easier decks can get a little frustrating as there is often no way to break out of a deadlock. Both players will burn cards like crazy trying to get something that will open the field up again.

The real time nature of the game can increase the effect of disparities in skill level. The luck of the draw evens these things out a little, but players with more experience will have to show patience until their opponents get up to speed on the game.

Although there is a multi-player version of the rules, the game works best with just two players.

Give Me The BrainThe orange/purple background on the original character decks is hideous.

The verdict

The Brawl game pretty much succeeds in being a hybrid of card and video game sensibilities. It’s fun to play for a few rounds, but it doesn’t have the depth to satisfy for a very long time. The game never really took off in a huge way, so if you’re looking for a large pool of existing players to challenge, you probably won’t find too many.

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Brawl game: Bennett deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Bennett. He's thoughtful, yet violent.

The Brawl game: Bennett. He’s thoughtful, yet violent.

The Brawl game: Bennett deck

Bennet is a deck for thinkers. He has a large number of clears and bases, so he can generally wriggle his way out of problems. Considered to be one of the stronger decks in the basic set. But what is up with that jacket?

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

The design of the character is pretty much straight out of action hero central casting. He’s a beefy guy with blond hair, blue jeans and a white T-shirt. His one unique touch is his adorable leather bolero jacket that stops short well above his waist. His pose is thoughtful, yet manly.

Bennett is strong in Blue hits (8 of them) and weak in the others with only 3 green and 4 red. He only has one block in each of the colors. Where he is strong is in his clears (6) and bases (7). He also has a Press card, which means that he can continue an attack which has previously been blocked.

The verdict

Bennett is a good deck. Although listed as an “Advanced” deck, he’s not that hard to get a handle on. His strength is in being able to clear away a bad position and start again from scratch. Although he has a couple of weak hit colors, he still has enough in those colors to win a base or two, so he’s not completely dependent on blue hits.

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Brawl game: Morgan deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Morgan. She's sorta posh-looking, yet violent

The Brawl game: Morgan. She’s sorta posh-looking, yet violent

The Brawl game: Morgan deck

Morgan is a decent deck, but she’s heavily biased to Blue. She’s not a deck for thinkers and should be played fast to keep your opponent off balance. The character design makes it clear that she’s a wannabe vixen.

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

Morgan is trying too hard to be sexy and just comes off as desperate. The character design features a bolero top that exposes cavernous cleavage, low slung tight black pants and a black choker. The skull earrings top off a look that says: “I take myself too seriously, ask me how.” She has great hair, though.

Morgan has two strong Hit colors: 8 blue and 6 green. She only has 2 red Hit cards. She has 4 Blue Blocks, 2 Green Blocks and 1 Red Block. Red is not her strong color by any means. She has an average number of Base (6) and Clear (4) cards.

The verdict

Morgan is basically Hale without the Hit-2 cards. This means that you have to move fast, because you won’t have a Hit-2 or a Press coming up to save the day. In Blue, she’s hard to beat.

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Brawl game: Pearl deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Pearl. She's perky, yet violent

The Brawl game: Pearl. She’s perky, yet violent

The Brawl game: Pearl deck

Pearl is one of the strongest decks in the basic set and the most attractive of the character designs. She’s got plenty of Clear and Press cards to get herself out of trouble. If you don’t take advantage of her weakness in red, she’ll kick your butt.

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

The popularity of the Pearl deck in part be due to the artwork. She’s a perky anime-style redhead with a short bolero top and mini-skirt in gold and black. Total fan-candy, in other words. The art is well-done; you can tell that the artist had fun with this character.

Pearl has 7 blue Hits, 7 Green Hits and only 1 Red hit. She has one Block each in Red, Green and Blue. She has 5 Base and 5 Clear cards, which is above average for the basic set. She also has 2 Press cards, second only to Darwin in the basic set.

The verdict

Pearl is a strong, attractive deck. With this deck you always have options, as long as you can avoid getting tied down in red. The artwork and character design is better than most of the other decks in the basic set.

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Brawl game: Darwin deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Darwin deck. He's tricky, yet violent

The Brawl game: Darwin deck. He’s tricky, yet violent

The Brawl game: Darwin deck

Darwin is a tricky deck to get a handle on. His hits are heavily biased towards red and he only has one clear, but he has a lot of Press and Block cards. As drawn, the character is one that you never want to stop slapping.

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

The character has dark hair and the regulation action hero white T-shirt. Unfortunately, he also has a ridiculous short jacket, short rolled-up pants and a baseball cap worn backwards. He’s pretty much the least attractive of the male characters in the basic set and you would feel no qualms about hitting him.

Darwin has 4 blue, 4 green and 8 red Hit cards. He also has a blue Hit-2 card, which can be a nasty surprise. He only has 1 green Block, but he has 3 each of the Red and Blue Blocks, more than any other character in the basic set. He has 3 Base cards and 1 Clear cards, which is less than any other character in the basic set. He has 3 Press cards.

The verdict

In the basic set, Darwin isn’t worth much. His Press cards can get him out of a few jams, but only having the one Clear card is brutal. He is apparently more effective against decks from the Club Foglio expansion which introduce Base Modifier cards. The character design is horrid.

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Brawl game: Chris deck

by Tom Warin

(Salem, MA)

The Brawl game: Chris. She's wholesome, yet violent

The Brawl game: Chris. She’s wholesome, yet violent

The Brawl Game: Chris deck

A good deck for a beginning player. Chris is balanced and easy to use, but can also be predictable. The character design is good and she is probably the most wholesome of the female Brawl characters.

Read the Brawl game review here

The game

The design of the character is fairly straightforward. She’s a pony-tailed, henna-haired young woman in a purple costume that would be as at home in the gym as in the dojo. The art is nice, but the horrendous purple and orange background does her no favors at all.

Chris’ hits are well balanced between the three colors: 8 red, 5 green and 7 blue. She is also balanced between the blocks, with 2 of each color. She only has 4 base cards and 2 clear cards; in the basic set, only Darwin has fewer.

The verdict

This is a very straightforward deck to play. Chris is good at hitting people and that’s about it. If you keep after your opponent and try to keep them off balance, then you can come out on top using Chris, but she is not very flexible. If you get into a jam on one of your bases, then her low number of clears can be a problem.

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