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Subject: Dragon Punch: Forward, down, down/forward, headbutt the stick rss

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Demetri Ballas
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DISCLAIMER: This game was provided by Level 99 Games for review. I have taken no compensation for it.

Microgames sure came and went, didn't they? The last couple years saw a rush of tiny games of almost every genre. Love Letter (and Lost Legacy if you like more rules with less fun) combined a smidge of deduction and take that. Kobayakawa distilled Texas Hold'em down to 15 cards. Perhaps most impressively, Cypher stuffed an entire tableau building drafting game into a velvet bag.

Dragon Punch manages to fill a very particular niche: tabletop fighting games. Yomi nailed the feeling of combos perfectly and BattleCON succeeded at spacing, so DP had to find its own focus.

That focus became a game that got as close to replicating Street Fighter 2 as possible.


(The entirety of Dragon Punch surrounded by purple flames. Definitely not heat damage on my camera lens. Nope.)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

Dragon Punch comes in two flavors. I happen to have the version that has two copies of the game in a box suspiciously similar to a mint tin. I don't happen to dislike tins but I know that's a minority opinion. Fortunately the version you're most likely to find comes in, no joke, a wallet.


(BEHOLD NEW WALLET TECHNOLOGY)

The game itself is 17 info-rich cards with a move on each short side. They're linen finished and feel pretty durable, which is important for a game that's supposed to be played on the go without the aid of a table.

There's not a lot of art but the characters are a good looking bunch. I'm not sure why they aren't named though. It's a bit awkward to have to refer to characters as "luchador", "disappointed taekwondo student", and "genderswapped M. Bison dipped in blue paint".

THE RUNDOWN:

Simultaneous selection is the core mechanism, just like Yomi and BattleCON. Choose a move, reveal it to your opponent, and check which of your moves is faster. If the faster move isn't blocked or dodged it deals the listed damage. The upside to taking some hits early on is that each point of damage allows you to switch one of your cards to its more powerful side, giving you the leg up on your opponent.

Rather than discarding your moves you flip them to face your opponent and place them back in your hand. This allows for card counting and some Sicilian mind games, as well as eliminating the need for a table since you keep everything in hand. If you want your used moves back you're going to have to taunt, which leaves you vulnerable to just about everything. First fighter to switch all of their normals is KOed for the round. Best of 3!

Where the game picks up a bit more steam (and benefits a lot more from a table) is the custom fighter variant. Both players take a full copy of the game and select one taunt card, two characters, and six normals of their choice to form their hand. This allows for a whole extra level of bluffing and counterbluffing. If I throw now are they going to block? Are they holding two block cards? Did they decide to just not be able to block to begin with?

And then you get punched. That'll happen a lot.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Dragon Punch is an interesting beast because it is so very niche. This is a game made by fighting game fans, for fighting game fans. It has perplexed and frustrated most non-fighter fans I've put it in front of. I've heard the following questions multiple times:

"is there more to this than just guessing?"

"why are throws unblockable?"

"wait, fireballs just fizzle?"

"why doesn't the slower move still happen after a low poke?"


If you yourself asked these questions in a smokey arcade years ago after losing at Super Turbo 10 times in a row, Dragon Punch is for you and a similarly inclined friend. It won't hit the top of the BGG rankings in its categories, but it is a brilliant filler for a pair of fighting game enthusiasts.

If Yomi did combos and BattleCON did spacing, Dragon Punch captures the moment to moment edge-of-your-seat thrills of an evenly matched game of Street Fighter. Sometimes you read your opponent like a book and get a perfect. Sometimes you get absolutely shellacked. Sometimes you're both one pixel from death and taking one last wild swing. Whatever is happening it's a blast.

To summarize: if you aren't a fighting game fan I don't think I can recommend Dragon Punch. On the other hand, if you are or know someone who is you should already own it. It's a brilliant distillation of everything that makes fighting games fun without having to spend hours working on your execution. That's a great thing.

FINAL SCORE: Landing 3 spinning piledrivers in a row without taking a hit.
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Aaron White
Australia
Bathurst
New South Wales
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Bennett from Brawl
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I give it a slightly different rating, one Ken flowchart victory and two spinning bird kicks.

If you always wanted to Hopping Taunt over your opponents Crouching Fireball, then Dragon Punch is for you.
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Demetri Ballas
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I'm a dyed in the wool grappler player. 3 hard reads in a row is high praise!
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