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Pixel Tactics Deluxe» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Going Crazy for Level99Games #6: Pixel Tactics Deluxe rss

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Pixel Tactics is a strange beast. Originally designed to be but a little cool game included in Level99G’s Minigame Library box, it has gained popularity beyond the designer’s initial expectations. However, although the game has garnered a following (PT Deluxe being a testament to this popularity), the game still seems, for now, to be stuck on the backseat of Level99G’s catalogue.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

(If you are new to Pixel Tactics, you can safely ignore the following two paragraphs as they pertain to the evolution of the game rather than what the game is at its core.)

Taking a quick glance at the number of plays recorded on BGG for Pixel Tactics 1, 2 and 3, compared to BattleCon: Devastation, BattleCon: War or even Argent: The Consortium, PT is struggling to win the popularity contest. Level99G knows this, as the amount of love given to Pixel Tactics is apparently slighter than the amount given to some other games found in their catalogue. For example, BattleCon: War of Indines has a list of 20 playtesters printed in its rulebook, while BattleCon: Devastation of Indines has a colossal list of over 80 names listed under the playtesters section. Pixel Tactics Deluxe’s list of playtesters has a meager… 3 names. Yes, three names. And yet, I would argue that PT has an even greater level of complexity than BattleCon. Even their boxes say so. On the BattleCon boxes, the “Intensity” level is given a “Medium” rating while the PT Deluxe box gives the game a “High Intensity” rating.

Another example of PT’s apparent backseat position is one of the new “precisions” added to Pixel Tactics Deluxe. Whereas everyone on the BGG forums had always said and always understood that only Heroes could be considered forerunners or supporters in relation to other Hero abilities, PT Deluxe suddenly stipulates that Leaders CAN actually be forerunners or supporters, too. Brad, the designer, confirmed that this was always the way it was meant to be. And yet, the reprints of PT1 and 2 (and probably 3), as well as the new PT 4 and 5 sets all have rule sheets that still ONLY mention Heroes as being able to be forerunners or supporters! While you could argue that this was simply a (huge) oversight that’s been unnoticed for so long, it’s nigh inexcusable for the reprints of the old PT sets (that contain updated rules matching the Deluxe rules [i.e. new actions, updated terms and changed pixel art]) to omit such crucial information. It’s honestly hard not to be disappointed by such inconsistencies or oversights.

Now, that being said, Pixel Tactics is still an exceptional game and Deluxe is a remarkable little (not so little) package. Let us see what's in there.

Pixel Tactics is a game full of potential. You start the game with a 25 Heroes (one of them will become your Leader), and your goal is to send the opposing Leader to the grave. As you gradually build your Unit, you'll have to make tough decisions. Because, you see, depending on where you want to place the Heroes you hold in your hand in your 3x3 Unit, their abilities vary. Do you want to place that Hero in the Vanguard to give it better attack strength and the Intercept ability? Or maybe the Flank to give your Leader that extra protection? Then again, if you hide it in the Rear, it will gain ranged attack... Or, wait, you can sacrifice it to gain a one-time powerful effect. Sometimes the effect lasts four turns... And who called Malandrax in here? Sometimes, heroes can be placed face down and can activate Traps!

And that, at its core, is the beauty of Pixel Tactics. All Heroes are potential Leaders. All Leaders are potential Heroes. All Leaders are unique. All Heroes are unique. All Heroes can be used in FOUR different ways to synergize with others, and where you position them depends on the current state of the battlefield.

I suggest you go read my other PT reviews or find the rulebook online if you want more information on how the game is played. From here on out, I will mostly focus on the changes brought to Pixel Tactics Deluxe and what it offers in itself.

First, let me start by saying that the PT Deluxe box is fantastic. The box is divided into three compartments, thus letting you place all of your Pixel Tactics sets in that same box. It also includes a whole set of dividers that clearly identify all the previously released PT sets, including the minipaks, so you can readily find them. There is even a bunch of extra ones for eventual expansions. Quality is top-notch. It just won't fit in your pocket anymore.

Then, PT Deluxe comes with both a new PT set of 25 Heroes and Leaders (unsurprisingly called “Deluxe”), and a minipak of eight Heroes and Leaders called "Freelancers" to complement your game. Deckbuilding is an enticing lure in PT’s world, and with the tremendous possibilities the game offers, minipaks are made for those of us that want to do so. The rulebook describes different variants for deckbuilding, “constructed” coming out as my personal favorite.

That in itself would be enough, but PT Deluxe offers even more. For League play, some cards called “Bases” and “Commons” are also included in the box. Bases are cards that you would win in tournaments that would give you extra abilities or actions for your next game. Commons, on the other hand, are Heroes with no Leader side. They are generally weaker than regular dual Hero/Leader cards and sometimes have no abilities when placed in certain waves of your unit.

PT Deluxe also comes with a good set of Chase Leaders (or HD Leaders), those purple back cards that only contain a large Leader drawing. We had gotten Chase Leaders in some previous mikipak decks, but PT Deluxe gives you a huge amount for other previous PT set Leaders. They serve no purpose but to differentiate the Leader from the Heroes in your Unit and to give them a distinct look, but they’re neat to have.

Here are the name changes and the new rules/actions added to PT Deluxe:

An Attack Power is now called a Spell.
An Ongoing Order is now called an Operation and is gray instead of purple.
A Trap (Traps originally appeared in the Argent University minipak and then PT 4) is orange and can only be set in one of the three slots previously only available for Operations. It is always optional and a free action to activate a Trap.
Restructure is now called Move.
Long Actions are now introduced, which means it takes two regular actions to do a Long Action.
Switch is a Long Action that lets you swap the position of any two Heroes or corpses. You can Switch a Hero with a corpse.
Some Leaders now sometimes grant Limited Actions. If an action is Limited, it can only be used once per wave.
Your maximum hand size is now five (5) when using the regular draw action. If a Spell or an Order makes you draw, this 5-card limit does not apply.
Resurrected Heroes can now act on the same turn they were resurrected.

And I believe that covers the rules and terminology for Deluxe.

Component-wise, there are now little status effect markers indicating, for example, +1 Attack, Ranged Attack or Intercept that you can give to your Heroes thanks to various Spells or Leader powers. They are given out to individual Heroes and are permanent until you or your opponent gets an ability that can remove status effects. These are a great addition to PT Deluxe, as these effects will last even when the granting Hero dies or moves.

The only strange choice I have found in Deluxe are the blood tokens. Whereas in the previous PT sets you always had one side that indicated a “1” with one drop of blood for one damage and the other side a “3” with three drops of blood for three damage, Deluxe has both double-sided 1/3 tokens and 1/1 tokens. This quickly becomes annoying if you are a PT veteran as you will always flip blood tokens, only to find another 1 on the other side and then scramble to find a 1/3 token. Moreover, the three damage tokens only have one drop of blood drawn on them, instead of the usual three. We ended up removing all the 1/1 blood tokens to keep it simpler.

I won’t say much about the Heroes and Leaders themselves, but suffice it to say that they bring new interesting powers to the table and force you to devise new strategies. Traps are a whole new ball game: they accentuate mind games and actually push Pixel Tactics in new directions. Sometimes, questions will arise from various powers and you won't know how to resolve them. (I have already started to compile a list of questions for later.) That’s to be expected from a game like Pixel Tactics, though, because the possibilities are so numerous. And although you might be able to blame a card's text in some cases, remember that there are so many ways for clashing effects to occur that it's possible some things were just unforeseen. It's also why three playtesters is not nearly enough for a game of this scope, but I think PT Deluxe fares pretty well in this area since it builds on its previous iterations.

At time of writing, the Pixel Tactics website has yet to see any change since its inauguration, but the rulebook mentions a ban list for Heroes and Leaders that will eventually be put up. This will be essential to playing with a constructed deck, as some Heroes/Leaders are obviously more powerful than others. In the current Deluxe set, for example, Larimore Burman/Havoc (Hero side: Titan) is, in our opinion, pretty ridiculous. My friend played with him once for kicks and giggles (because we already knew he would be too strong) and I got bounced around like a rag doll. It did make for a short game, though.

To conclude, Pixel Tactics Deluxe is a fantastic way to get into the series and a fabulous way to keep on expanding your game. A lot of work has been put into this particular version of Pixel Tactics, and with all the rules enumerated for tournament play in the rulebook, hopefully the game will keep on burgeoning and hit top status like other Level99G games. Despite the complaints noted at the beginning, Pixel Tactics is one of my favorite games, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Final Score: A+

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I have updated the review because I was not satisfied with the way it was written. Hopefully it's a little better now.
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