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Subject: My (Very Negative) Review of BattleCON rss

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Keith Burgun
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I used to be a big Yomi fan (I've since discovered some problems I have with that game and have moved on) and in general have been looking for a good asymmetrical two-player card game, so I was excited when I heard about BattleCON. No randomness? A little grid that you move up and down on? Small World-esque combination system of an attack and a style? All sounds great.

I got the game, and, well, it's not great. At all. In short, the reasons are that the game is *effectively* very random, there's far too much content that players have to learn to play, and some of the mechanisms just don't make a lot of sense.

Effectively Random

On paper, technically speaking, there is no randomness. But it's quite like the Yomi situation. Doing a sort of rock-paper-scissors guess is not random, but it may as well be because it is basically impossible to do anything but guess. You may have some little mind games "he thinks this but I know he thinks this but I know he knows etc etc etc" going on, but at the end of the day, you're making a guess. So it's not random, but it may as well be. I'll get more into this later.

Too Much Content!

Second problem is that there's just way, way too much content. Way too much shit to learn. I think there's like 20 characters, which is probably twice as many as the game needs. Worse, every character itself contains a ton of special information.

The thing I really hope that this designer, Brad Talton, learns in the future is how to streamline information. Yomi is a much easier game to play because all I really need to know to actually play is the rock paper scissors thing. Then each character has like 3 cards that have special text on them, not so bad.

In this game, you have to learn like 8 cards per character that are unique. I tried my best to play just one character to learn him and I think I still can't remember what all of his special abilities are. Let alone the fact that you have to play against another player and learn all of his abilities.

The grid system just doesn't make sense, either. All it does is add a layer of noise information that makes your guessing-game harder and more effectively random.


What Makes it Effectively Random?

It's funny, actually - when I first played BattleCON, I thought that I could improve the game by reducing the number of cards, making the grid longer and using it as the health bar (knocking an opponent off the end would kill him) and reducing the number of characters. What I realized in doing this (it took me months to playtest this prototype) is the following.

The game shouldn't have simultaneous reveal, because it's not a rock-paper-scissors game, really. Like, when I'm placing down a pair of cards, am I supposed to be trying to guess what the other guy is trying to do? If so, that seems unreasonable given the amount of possibilities. So then what AM I trying to do? Just do a move that's generally good? I find that in this game and my own prototype that players basically end up just "putting in good moves" without much regard for what the opponent is doing.

If you want simultaneous reveal, then it has to be reasonable that the player could guess what the other player is going to do. Otherwise, this mechanism simply makes no sense!

Minor problems: the characters names are awful in that they're impossible to pronounce. The names are like Xoblab Flrebsar, they look like they were produced by a random letter generator.

The art ranges from good to hideous. The huge range makes the game feel much worse than it needed to. I actually prefer a situation like Ascension where all of the art is hideous to this very inconsistent feeling. The latter makes it feel very amateurish or incomplete.

Finally, the game has like 800000 components which means it's a nightmare to store or set-up.

Also, the guy is already making an expansion?? I get the feeling that not a ton of care is going into these billions of characters. That makes me want to play this game even less.

Some Compliments: I like what Brad was trying to accomplish with this game. I like that he valued no randomness, I like that there are asymmetrical characters, and I like some of the characters' abilities. I like the tokens system.
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Nate K
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Huh?
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Bruno Gaia
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Oh... surprise

Well... I've only tried Battlecon: Devastation but...

IMO you've missed something...

To me it's a game that really surpasses Yomi in every possible ways.

Random?

After two or three games with a character and if you know your opponent's strength and weaknesses there's only double guessing, no randomness at all or only if YOU decide to throw punches randomly (which you sure are allowed to do, but the same applies to Chess or GO in that case...)

I don't know. I'd hate this starting a flame war, the Battlecon community is such a nice virtual place to dwell in...

I really enjoy everything related to Battlecon. Really. Everything.

My wife loves it, my brother loves it, my mates love it, the community is great, the designer is great, the new KS is (and will be) great.

I'm sorry you didn't dig it... cry
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Josh Gaudreau
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Rant, review, it's all the same, right?

My favourite part was about how you spent months creating your own variant prototype, and that you discovered negative things about it and applied those discoveries to the game instead of just playing the game as it is.

My other favourite part was your section on "too much content." I've never heard a hobby gamer complain of that before - usually it's the opposite!

Thanks for the entertaining and vapid rant, Keith! I award you one thumb and one gg :P
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Thiago Colas
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I believe someone is completely lost here. The last thing someone can Call BattleCON is random. There is plenty of reading but no randomness at all. Frankly it's heads and shoulders above Yomi who isn't even the best game By Sirlin. I'm sorry you didn't like the game, but very weird indeed...
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Matt Connellan
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Quote:

Too Much Content!

Second problem is that there's just way, way too much content. Way too much shit to learn. I think there's like 20 characters, which is probably twice as many as the game needs. Worse, every character itself contains a ton of special information.


This is not smart. There could be a trillion characters in the box. YOU ONLY HAVE TO PLAY WITH TWO. More content gives more options, but you don't need to play every character. This is just not a smart thing to say at all.

Quote:

In this game, you have to learn like 8 cards per character that are unique. I tried my best to play just one character to learn him and I think I still can't remember what all of his special abilities are. Let alone the fact that you have to play against another player and learn all of his abilities.


This is more valid. It's very difficult to know what the other player's options are without a good memory or a cheat sheet. I wish there was a way around this.

Quote:

It's funny, actually - when I first played BattleCON, I thought that I could improve the game by reducing the number of cards, making the grid longer and using it as the health bar (knocking an opponent off the end would kill him) and reducing the number of characters. What I realized in doing this (it took me months to playtest this prototype) is the following.


This makes no sense and sounds awful. Please don't design games.

Quote:

If you want simultaneous reveal, then it has to be reasonable that the player could guess what the other player is going to do. Otherwise, this mechanism simply makes no sense!


This comes back to the difficulty of knowing the other player's options. But it doesn't "not make sense".

Quote:

Minor problems: the characters names are awful in that they're impossible to pronounce. The names are like Xoblab Flrebsar, they look like they were produced by a random letter generator.


Yeah, who could possibly pronounce Cadenza and Hikaru? Oh wait, everybody. Everybody in the world. I can't believe you really said this.

Quote:

The art ranges from good to hideous. The huge range makes the game feel much worse than it needed to. I actually prefer a situation like Ascension where all of the art is hideous to this very inconsistent feeling. The latter makes it feel very amateurish or incomplete.


I agree. The art is generally not very good.

Quote:

Finally, the game has like 800000 components which means it's a nightmare to store or set-up.


Did you have a stroke? You can fit every component in this game except the board and the cards into a tiny plastic bag.

Quote:

Also, the guy is already making an expansion?? I get the feeling that not a ton of care is going into these billions of characters. That makes me want to play this game even less.


This game is nearly THREE YEARS OLD. Nearly every game in existence that has an expansion had one released in much less time than that.

In summary: your criticisms are buried under odd assumptions, misunderstandings, and plain foolishness. I can think of a bunch of reasons one could not like this game, but your skill as a reviewer is clearly awful. I'm sorry if that seems harsh, but this is mostly garbage.
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Stephen Saluga
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I completely understand "to each his own", but this reviewer seems like he wasn't even playing the same game.
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Andrew Gross
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keithburgun wrote:

On paper, technically speaking, there is no randomness. But it's quite like the Yomi situation. Doing a sort of rock-paper-scissors guess is not random, but it may as well be because it is basically impossible to do anything but guess. You may have some little mind games "he thinks this but I know he thinks this but I know he knows etc etc etc" going on, but at the end of the day, you're making a guess. So it's not random, but it may as well be.


I've never played BattleCON, but this is not at all an accurate description of the r/p/s aspect of Yomi. It's not random, and it's not random even if you're making no effort to play mind games or read your opponent.

A short and incomplete list of why Yomi is not even close to random r/p/s:

Each player has a differing number of r, p, & s available, and both players are aware of the distributions.

Due to draws, each player has a differing number of r, p, & s available to be played at any given time, and this information can partially but imperfectly be deduced at any given time by a skilled player.

Unlike r/p/s, there are few ties: usually, one r beats another r or one p beats another p, due to the differing numerical speeds of the cards.

The payoffs for success vary dramatically. If I hit-confirm into a 50 point attack, that's obviously worth more than if I dodge into an 8 point attack. You need to factor in not only what you think your opponent has available and what you think he will play, but also what the payoffs are for the various combinations.

Hand management becomes a crucial part of the r/p/s situation. Since most cards serve as two different types (e.g. one card can be played as both r & p), you often need to weigh whether the payoff for using a card this turn as 'r' outweighs the potential value of still having it in your hand as 'p'.

There are probably a dozen other crucial ways that Yomi's card play completely transcends r/p/s and is anything but random, but honestly, my only reason for responding is to make sure someone else reading the review doesn't get the wrong impression, and this should be enough to accomplish that.
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I'm just going to say that I disagree with pretty much everything you wrote and leave it at that. Still, I leave you with a thought. A choice made by your opponent cannot be considered luck or random, or else all games are about nothing but chance.
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Bruno Gaia
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Actually there IS one thing I agree with: art in WAR is not so good. Which is why I'm so excited with DEVASTATION which will have both excellent gameplay and very good art.

David Talton wrote on KS that he's definitely considering a second edition of WAR with new art that would match Devastation's.
And that's when I'll buy WAR cause my main gaming partner is my wife and the goddess knows she likes her art in games!

Also, I read some more comments on this thread and I must add something: yeah, right, you really, REALLY need to know your character and your opponent's character to play properly.
And with 18 characters and counting in Devastation, that will mean a LOT to learn and remember.

But hey, let's be honest about it, apart from abstract games and great old ones how come do you get depth and extreme replayability without a LOT to learn, master and remember?

Frankly, to me, it's not a flaw, far from it, it's one of Battlecon's greatest assets!

I'm just looking forward to getting my a*** beat to a pulp by a new character I didn't really know or an association character/striker I didn't expect and then learn all there's to learn to get a neat revenge.

It's sooooo...Thematic!

Makes me think of samurais of old who sent spies to their opponents schools to be able to consider defeating them by knowing their special techniques!

Thus, I sort of resent your blaming David Talton for the enormous amount of work and love that perspires from his game...


But hey, I for one wrote things that infuriated fans of some games I hadn't liked so I'd say thank you for giving a negative opinion: it's always a brave thing to do and... Well seeing the enormous amount of positive reviews (even from top reviewers), I think Battlecon can do with some bad.

But I sure am the happiest backer ever with my "Tactical Strike" pledge on Devastation XD!
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Scott Douglass
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Your complaints make very little sense to me. Your only complaint about the game play that I can empathize with is the difficulty in evaluating your opponent's options. It's not that I have any problem with that aspect of the game play personally, but it can be difficult for new players to get into the game as a result.

The game is not effectively random. You have to evaluate what a strong play is based on the current board state, but once you know both characters, you'll need to consider what your opponent's strong plays are as well. There are summaries of all 18 characters in War of Indines in the images here on BGG. If your problem is not knowing what your opponent can do, try using those.

The style and base cards do a good job of conveying information. Power, range, and priority are all laid out very well, and special abilities are in the card text. How is that worse at conveying information than any other card game? The only difference is that you play 2 cards, with 1 modifying the other.

Complaining about too much content is silly. If you don't want to learn 18 characters, confine yourself to 2 or 4 or however many you're comfortable learning. If you don't want to play with arenas, tag team, or multiplayer, then stick to duels.

The character names are not difficult to say, and they don't look like they came out of a random letter generator. They look and sound like names.

Many games come out with expansions much faster than BattleCON. I'm not sure what you're problem with an expansion coming out multiple years after the original game is.
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Brad Talton
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keithburgun wrote:
Second problem is that there's just way, way too much content. Way too much shit to learn. I think there's like 20 characters, which is probably twice as many as the game needs. Worse, every character itself contains a ton of special information.


keithburgun wrote:

The thing I really hope that this designer, Brad Talton, learns in the future is how to streamline information. Yomi is a much easier game to play because all I really need to know to actually play is the rock paper scissors thing. Then each character has like 3 cards that have special text on them, not so bad.


I appreciate the sentiment. This is a conscious decision, and part of our design philosophy at Level 99 Games. Here are some more thoughts to elaborate: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/641117/designer-diary-the-bo.... Our inspirations were games like Dungeon Twister and Magic: The Gathering, both very polarizing games, and I think this does show through in the way people tend to love it or hate it.

There are plenty of designers and publishers who make games that are closed boxes, intended to be played, then put back on the shelf. We intended BattleCON to be a 'growing' game where each match would introduce a new aspect of play, force you to discover some new strategy, and force you to play differently than you had ever played before. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and I respect that, but we do intend to do it again, and even moreso, in the second game.

That said, this time around we're working on including lots of ways to make the game more accessible and more easily learned, as well as to make playing against a new opponent a bit simpler to approach. Letting people play casually is important to us, but this is not designed as a 'casual game'.

keithburgun wrote:
What Makes it Effectively Random?

If you want simultaneous reveal, then it has to be reasonable that the player could guess what the other player is going to do. Otherwise, this mechanism simply makes no sense!

Quote:
...players basically end up just "putting in good moves" without much regard for what the opponent is doing.


The idea is that position and setup matters. If you have the dominant position, you can do what you want. If you have the weaker position, you have to play to your opponent. The difference between this and a more 'boiled down' game like Yomi is that your position matters beat to beat (and position is comprised of the board, of the discards, of your unique abilities, all added together).

You can't just play a good move without regard to position, because if you do, the dominantly-positioned player will win regardless. Even then, the dominantly positioned player almost always has to think about what moves might counter his best move, and plan accordingly. You were always allowed to look at your opponent's hand between turns in the old game (we've made that much more explicit in the rules of this version though).

I'll leave you with this last bit to think on Valuation in BattleCON. I hope you'll find it interesting reading that may change your opinion of how 'random' the game is.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the game. Criticism is one of the best ways to learn, after all.
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Andy Stuhldreier
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Battlecon = Random ??
The other player makes choices = random ?
Then are Chess and Go the parents of randomness.

There is no element of randomness in this game.

You cannot predict the moves of your enemy = random
You cannot predict the random card draws of your enemy = not random?

There are too many chars for you? Use only a few of them. Problem solved.
But its true you can not master a char with just one play. Thats a feature for me, not a design flaw.

At Tom Vasels review of Battlecon it says Yomis cards have to many informations printed. And Battlecon were much more streamlined.
You wrote the exact opposite. Whats true? I can't say, i never played Yomi.
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Adam Rouse
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I'd be interested to know how many games the reviewer played, and how many with repeat characters. It takes a few games with the same characters to really understand how to plan in the game.

On your first turn of your first game, you can use drive, burst, or shot (generally) to potentially hit, but whether each one connects depends on which your opponent does. This seems like rock paper scissors because you aren't familiar with each character's long term options and goals.

If I am playing Khadath and you are playing Cadenza, I probably don't want to play drive and run straight at you, while you probably do. Later in the game our decisions will be based on current health, current board position (of each character and the trap), plus the current discards (it will be important for me to know when your Scorpion spear (forget what it is actually called) is available.

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David desJardins
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Nydo wrote:
Battlecon = Random ??
The other player makes choices = random ?
Then are Chess and Go the parents of randomness.

There is no element of randomness in this game.


You have to choose your own moves from a random probability distribution. If you play a deterministic strategy (always do the same thing in the same situation), an opponent who determines your strategy will beat you every time. Deciding which plays to assign which probability is a matter of skill, but then you still have to select one, and sometimes you'll be lucky and sometimes unlucky. Just like Rock/Paper/Scissors.
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Kyokai wrote:
You were always allowed to look at your opponent's hand between turns in the old game (we've made that much more explicit in the rules of this version though).



That I learnt here!
Thus what you mean is that the whole memory bit is very officially avoidable?
I must admit that, even if I did find plenty of reason not to resent it, I'd rather have a full information on what my opponent can play (still, we had some funny situations here due to the memory aspect -see some answers on my review-, maybe a "memory variant" where you can not check your opponent's hand whatsoever could be proposed.)

Anyway this being said, I think it's... Weird, such a bad review of WAR when all the buzz is on Devastation (and when all the reviews I've read so far are much closer to my -our, including my family and friends- opinion!).

I'd not give it a second thought IF all the points made were valid but even with my little experience (after all I only started a few days ago!!) most are definitely not IMO.
In fact, apart from the lack of love for the art (which makes me expect the second edition of WAR with all my fingers crossed) all the rest doesn't make a lot of sense, which makes the situation even weirder.

Do we have a hardcore fan of Yomi afraid that his favourite game is going to become old news due to Battlecon's success?
THAT would make sense.
Trying Battlecon immediately pushed Yomi back a dozen square down the line of "games I'd like to play next thank you".


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Nydo wrote:


At Tom Vasels review of Battlecon it says Yomis cards have to many informations printed. And Battlecon were much more streamlined.
You wrote the exact opposite. Whats true? I can't say, i never played Yomi.


If I can help I played more than 100 games of Yomi and started Battlecon a few days ago.

And cult of the new does not explain everything: I think Battlecon's core mechanic is far more elegant than Yomi's.
Thus I 100% agree with Tom Vasel's opinion.

And, not getting back to randomness, I'd rather talk about frustration.

IMO Battlecon is less frustration prone than Yomi.

Let's not forget we're talking games here! Therefore: fun, having a good time!

Probabilities and counting cards are high in your priority list if you're trying to earn a living playing online poker (which I'd rally HATE doing...) but in the case of randomness in games for FUN, I'd rather talk about the amount of frustration produced by the feeling of getting pawned (and/or pawning) because of random elements, and if that's what we're talking about, I'd say Battlecon wins hands down.

Yomi, with the "draw aspect" and the central RPS mechanic doesn't rely on pure luck, far from it, but it is much more prone to create frustration, when Battlecon makes you end your games thinking "yeah, I could have done that... Actually I should have done that... And next time I'll sure do that..." which, I reckon is better, more FUN than thinking "better luck next time"...
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Noah Bogart
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Keith, I disagreed with pretty much everything you posted to fantastystrike.com, and I will continue to disagree with you here.
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NoahTheDuke wrote:
Keith, I disagreed with pretty much everything you posted to fantastystrike.com, and I will continue to disagree with you here.


I know I'm gonna regret asking this but: could you be more clear???
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dinobottm2 wrote:
NoahTheDuke wrote:
Keith, I disagreed with pretty much everything you posted to fantastystrike.com, and I will continue to disagree with you here.


I know I'm gonna regret asking this but: could you be more clear???


It is a website run by Sirlin Games (David Sirlin, creator of Yomi and others). I would assume he started a rant there and finished it here.
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Pintsizepete wrote:
dinobottm2 wrote:
NoahTheDuke wrote:
Keith, I disagreed with pretty much everything you posted to fantastystrike.com, and I will continue to disagree with you here.


I know I'm gonna regret asking this but: could you be more clear???


It is a website run by Sirlin Games (David Sirlin, creator of Yomi and others). I would assume he started a rant there and finished it here.


Yeah, I thought so. The smell of troll is getting stronger by the moment...
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Brad Talton
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It's fine to disagree. If there were a game for everyone, we'd all be playing Dominion and nothing else ever. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

I think Keith's posted an honest opinion here. There's some of this we can work on fixing in Devastation, and there's some of it that's personal preference, but this isn't really a "right or wrong" sort of argument--its very dependent on personal tastes.
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I've been musing about that whole randomness problem since I read this review, trying to figure out why Yomi has always appeared to me as quite random end of the day (or at least often frustrating) and why Battlecon feels not very random (or at least not frustrating)

Yomi: Rock paper scissors and different card distribution plus a general effect per character and on cards. Draws, lots of cards.

Battlecon: Very few cards, but pairs so more possibilities than meet the eye. Positioning on a board, card effects and a character effect.

Okaaay. Now what are the situations in Yomi when it gets frustrating?
Well as in all RPS mechanic, sometimes you think he'll think that he thinks you think and no matter what you do, you end up playing dodge each time he plays grab and grab when he plays a punishing attack.
You try to optimize your character and counter his but if you don't do some serious card-counting (and, honest, I won't have card-counting for fun. I'd even hate to count cards for MONEY!), a lot of information is lost on you.
Plus there's the draw problem. And it's happened to me quite a lot of times so I sure can say it happens often: you NEED a dodge but, man , no matter what it doesn't come and... Too bad, building up only allows you to get aces. If your aces are not dodges, just pray... Same applies to attack or grab but less often obviously...

In Battlecon the information is perfect and what you see is what you sure SHOULD get is that's really what you needed.

Now for the double guessing. Apart from knowing what's been played before, what is the forte of your opponent, how he might react to your strength and (if applies to your gaming habits) counting cards, you end up having not that much information to guess, predict, double-guess and then choose and plan. SO you can often safely rely on "ok, let's play this and see" which is not fun, even when it works (and I saw that work quite often actually)

In Battlecon, positioning is THE big info that changes everything.
Sure you have all the rest (what's been played before, what is the forte of your opponent, how he might react to your strength, the number of tokens he still has, etc) but positioning is your main clue when it comes to guessing, double guessing and planning your moves.
Plus there's clearly an aspect of TIME in Battlecon that doesn't exist in Yomi and it's due to finishers, recycling but also to positioning.
For it sure takes TIME (and sometimes quite a beating) to have your opponent right when you wanna have him and launch that devastating attack you need to really make a difference!

All this means a lot of information and, honestly, over the dozens of games I've now played (I'm on holiday, it sure helps XD) I've very VERY rarely felt I was playing something at random just to see what happens.
And every time I did that or I tried a technique that didn't match my character and countering my opponent's character, I got severely beaten (same applied the other way)
Thus I really didn't feel any frustration (only the urge for revenge when I realized I had made terrible blunders)

-to be noted, it seems that we added some memory element to the game since we played with face down discards... And that's tough to be sure but it works just the same, just even tougher XD-

My conclusion is, between Yomi and Battlecon it's the positioning aspect that makes all the difference.
It's a very important bit of information that adds to all the rest but is always central and therefore makes random choices suicidal and skill choices complex but rewarding.

Second conclusion is: I'm 100% sure that people who defend the idea that Yomi has not as much luck as I fell it has do some serious card-counting but, as I wrote before,card counting is an absolute no-go for me when it comes to having fun.
So let's say Yomi WITHOUT card-counting is IMO much more random than Battlecon.

Voilà.

Nighty night folks...
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Ken B.
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#1: There is less luck here than in Yomi. (I adore both games.) In Yomi, sometimes I reeeaalllly want to Throw, have plenty in the deck, but just don't have one right that moment. It happens. In BattleCON, you have full access to your moves (assuming you take into account your recovery time which is also perfectly known information.) So calling BattleCON some sort of super-lucky game is....ridiculous.

#2: What the heck is wrong with the art in War of Indines? Most of it seems to be Guilty Gear/BlazBlue inspired, which I like.


Anyway, disagree with the review, but to each their own.
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Kweku
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LOVE the glutinous amount of content, LOVE the tension and mind games from double-blind selection and anteing, LOVE BattleCON. From Brad's posts this game seems to be in great hands, for gamers who like those things.

It sounds like you just happen to be sensitive to perceived-luck situations, and prefer a more stripped-down game than the ambitious BattleCON. Nothing wrong wiht that, in the larger population I think there are many who would agree with you just like there are many who would disagree.

But I would point out that there are a great many legitimate competitive games that have double-blind situations where there are multiple potentially good options, and the only way to actually choose one over the other is to predict what your opponent will do. And yeah, sometimes that comes down to a randomly selected "guess" between A and B.

Many of those games still have extremely consistent winners, indicating that there may actually be more skill in predicting opponents than it would seem. But there are still many people who would write such games off as random. They are usually "mathy" types who want to to calculate everything and end up with a clear hierarchy for options. The fact that an opponent can surprise them and throw off their best attempt at solving a game situation irritates them.

Those people are fortunate, because there are already many games out there for them to choose from (a long, long line of Abstracts!). For me, there's games like BattleCON. The random* element is NOT a flaw!

(Depending on what definition of random you're using, this game is either in fact not random at all since you always know 100% of your own and your opponents options, or there is randomness introduced in the double-blind selection)

keithburgun wrote:
I find that in this game and my own prototype that players basically end up just "putting in good moves" without much regard for what the opponent is doing.


This sounds kinda like how my games went on like plays 1-3. To me it also initially felt like there were just too many options to be able to try and predict what my opponent would do. But I could feel like there was something more than "just play a strong move, hope for the best, and see what happens", and I wanted to find it. I longed for the mind games and tension present in a real fighting game, or that I had experienced in Yomi. And what opened my eyes up initially was playing against the character Cadenza a couple of times (with Khadath). Not taking that character's moves into account while I planned my own would have been suicide. Seemed to me that he would just win. And it became obvious that you're not just trying to damage your opponent on a beat-by-beat basis -- you're also setting yourself up to have an advantage for the long haul. Thinking this way made the value of various options more clear, eliminating a lot of the chatter and static

And that opened up a whole new BattleCON for me, as I realized that there was real value in trying to predict my opponent's moves. I would have said the intensity of the mind games would vary from matchup to matchup, and situation to situation. But now I see that Brad put it better in his post above. At any given time, one player is likely to have the dominant position. If you are not that player, then the pressure is on YOU to change the game state so you now have the dominant position, by outsmarting your opponent.
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