After hearing whispers about this game here and there in gamer circles, I was finally able to get myself a copy off of eBay about a year ago. Though I had to buy in bulk, I was not at all dissapointed. Here's what I got out of the game:
I can't stress enough how cool the bits for this game are. The components for the base box (there are three different ones, all with the same ratio of parts) are one figure, 8 interchangable pieces of equipment, ten cards, and a rulebook. This is everything one player needs to play the game, which is comforting that you don't need to go into the 'collectable' element of this if you don't want to. The figure has 14 points of articulation (pretty good for any action figure), and the parts have a very nice sci-fi feel to them. The part cards are nice, detailed rendered images of the parts, though the anime theme seen in the rest of the cards seems fairly misguided. The rules are a bit ambiguous in a few places, but have lots of nice, clear images so as to act as a quick reference in-game. The best part about all of this? The figures, parts, and cards are all HIGHLY blacklight sensitive! The tournaments were originally intended to be held entirely under blacklight, a feat which must be tried to be believed.
This game has about the best cinematic feel to it I've found in any game. You choose three of your parts, then use them to take three actions using the stats on the cards (moving, attacking, ect). The cards also act as your hitpoints, and when your parts deck is severely depleted, you lose. Your character can do just about any cool move you can think of; diving attacks off of scenery, charges, blocks/counters, knockback, destroying scenery - all commonplace here. Another really nice mechanic is one of the optional victory conditions: knock the other figures off the table to destroy them! The one major failing of the game is it's combat resolution system. You take the card you attack with and compare the colored dots on one side to the dots on a randomly pulled card from the opponent's deck (that has been spun to randomly determine a side). If there's at least two matching colored dots, the defender's card is destroyed. This can be frustrating, as the best laid plans come down to this random color match. This is, however, rectified somewhat in the expanded version.
The expanded version refers to the new rules and systems that come into play when using the collectable cards from the booster set, Citizen ZG. Instead of using the character card that came with your figure, you use cards representing different characteristics, historical details, and affiliations to build one from scratch. There are cards representing upgraded versions of the parts, which you can use to narrow down your stragegy. You also get a bank of special Manuvers you can use, each which has an intrisic effect based on its type (such as one class of Manuver cards all can be used to add +1 to your attack effectiveness), or can simply be used to produce the stated effect. As said above, the anime art here is mostly low quality, and seems to be a bit of a misplaced effort. However, character and equipment building is really fun, and because of multiple effects which allow you to 'respin' a defending card in an attack, greatly helps to reduce the luck factor.
If you're good with constructing arenas to battle in, you can get an absurd amount of replay out of just the base set, especially considering the prospect of 2 on 2 matches, theme matches, and whatnot. And if you're looking for something more complex and strategic, the deckbuilding factor of the expanded game really adds a lot.
Overall, you simply have no reason to pass up this game should you find a figure cheap somewhere. Heck, I know several people who buy this for the figures alone, to use for display pieces as well as props for other games. This is a neat, unique concept that deserves a lot more attention than it recieved.
"Shijuro" in Awatum (Serpent's Tongue)
"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation." LP Jacks
I remember when I saw this at my FLGS... I was interested but no one there knew much about it and hearing that it was "collectible" (and my experiences with CCGs up until then) put me off it.
Reading your review, I'm sorry I didn't pick up a couple of these when I had the chance. It looks like exactly the kind of game I'm looking for to play with my son (Mechaton: Giant Fighty Robots is close, with 'bots constructed out of Legos; Mechwarrior: Dark Age was not it, with fiddly lookups and unrecognizable mechs).