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Subject: First Impressions of Fight Klub rss

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Mike Haverty
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I've played a couple times now and feel comfortable putting down my thoughts on this new game. These impressions are based on the "demo" decks built out of one Kilo of the core set, One. I'm going to split this article into two sections; the first contains my impressions of Fight Klub the card game and the second will be my thoughts on the metagame, including marketing model. I feel compelled to discuss that here because I've seen lots of game comments and downratings that seem heavily (if not exclusively) based on the marketing and nothing to do with the game itself. Anyhoo, here I go.

Fight Klub - the Game

The premise of the game is simple: two characters from the land of movies square off against each other in a fight. The characters (and cards) are split into Heroes and Villains. In the core One set, these are John Rambo (Rambo), Ash Williams (Army of Darkness), Chev Chelios (Crank), Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs), Jigsaw (Saw II), Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th). The movies listed in parenthesis are on the bottom of the card, so I assume the licenses are for imagery from that specific property?

Each player's deck is in two parts: a 26 card draw stack and a 12 card fight stack, plus the character card and an initiative card called The Drop. These sizes are mandatory, as is a 1-3-3 deck limit for rare-uncommon-common cards. You also need a supply of blue, yellow and green tokens used to track energy (each Kilo of One comes with 6 or 7 of each color and a cardboard tuckbox to hold them).

The Drop card alternates between players each turn. The player with the Drop has two main benefits: he chooses the order of everything during the turn -- who plays actions first or second, what order each fight and skirmish is resolved in -- and the card itself has some printed energy on it that can be used for paying for cards (more on that later).

The play sequence is quite clean. There's a setup phase where each player adds energy to his pool and takes 2 setup actions (play a gear, play a condition, use a printed Setup action), then turns over fight cards; a fight phase, in which the fight cards are resolved; and a cooldown phase, where each player takes 1 cooldown action and does some hand maintenance.

Each character has a printed energy generation, so there are no resource cards or resource curve in this game, and of course no corresponding dilution of the deck with resource cards. Gear typically provides bonuses during a fight and usually have a cost to put into play, as well as a cost to activate them in an actual fight; they are usually one shot, but many have an additional cost you can pay to keep them in play rather than discarding them. A Condition is a permanent that usually has one or several actions listed on it, usable in various phases; they tend to stick around unless eliminated by your opponent, or discarded to pay a cost for one of your actions.

Each player turns over 3 fight cards at the end of the setup phase. These are lined up head-to-head. Each has 3 skirmish tabs that line up with each other, with a printed strength value (3-5 is typical), a trait (like physical, mental, etc.) and optionally a reward (like draw 2 cards or gain 1 energy). In the fight phase, these fight cards will be resolved one at a time, using this sequence: each player gets 1 enhance action; resolve each of the three skirmishes one at a time; each player gets 1 score action; then put the fight card where it belongs and move on.

Enhance actions are where you play effect cards from hand on top of your fight card; these have tabs with bonuses that line up with the skirmish tabs, boosting one or more of your totals. There are also enhance actions printed on cards in play that you could use. Some are free, some cost energy or discards. After each player gets 1 enhance, you compare totals to see who wins each skirmish, one at a time, on the current fight card matchup. Whoever wins the most skirmishes, wins the fight. Before moving the fight card to a damage stack, each player gets a score action -- and many of these are not just for the winner.

Winning fight cards get placed in the owner's damage stack and count against the opponent's life total. Each fight card has (usually) 1 blood drop in the corner, indicating 1 damage. After completely resolving and scoring one fight card, the same process is carried out for the other two fight cards.

After the fight phase, each player gets 1 cooldown action - again, from cooldown instants in hand or from printed cooldown phase abilities on cards in play. Then the players "even up" - discard down to a maximum Hold value as specified on their character cards, then draw up to their maximum Hand value (also on the character cards). The Drop changes possession and the next turn begins.

That's pretty much the entire sequence of play. There are a couple more wrinkles. Some card "costs" include "spotting" (something used in previous Decipher games). A card might cost 1 blue energy, plus "Spot 1 yellow" or "Spot 1 gear" -- which functions like it sounds it does: you have to see the card/energy on the table, but don't actually have to spend it. This is where the other benefit of the Drop comes in: it has 1 of each color energy printed right on the card, so the holder of the Drop can always spot 1 blue, 1 yellow and 1 green energy for purposes of playing cards. (Printed energy is called latent energy; character cards also each have 1 latent energy on them.)

There are no interrupts and the Drop player decides the order of everything, so timing issues don't exist in this CCG. The relatively low, fixed rate of energy generation and card draw, plus the action limits in each phase, put fairly tight constraints on the gameplay. There generally aren't multi-card combos -- instead, combos tend to be more along the lines of synergy between the cards in your deck. Which brings me to...

Fight Klub - Impressions

Instead of overt combos, I think there is a more subtle system at work here. Because three fights are on the table at one time, I've found the "combos" develop based on deciding which skirmishes/fights to try winning and (if you have the Drop) in what order. For example, I might have a fight in which I am losing all 3 skirmishes and I have no hope of winning or tying it up, BUT one of them has an energy reward on my side if I win. Should I risk a nice enhance action to boost my total on that one skirmish just to get the reward? Or save it for another fight card where I have a shot at actually winning the fight? Do I have other cards/effects I could use in a later fight this turn if I had that extra energy to spend? That sort of thing.

I've seen some people comment on comparisons with Star Wars: Episode 1 – Clash of the Lightsabers, which I own and have played. I agree there are similarities between them, mainly in the overall concept; clearly, though, Fight Klub has much more depth and I don't expect to burn out on it after just a few plays like I have with SW:CofL, although I will certainly keep SW:CofL around for when my kids get a bit older.

Speaking of which, my young children definitely won't be looking at my Fight Klub cards any time soon. Some of the movie stills are fairly graphic - a severed hand from Saw II, a heading floating in formaldehyde from Silence of the Lambs - that sort of thing. I didn't notice any profanity among card names or movie text, but I didn't read every single card.

We both felt like deck-building immediately after our first game. Despite the limited resource pool and relatively straight-forward conflict mechanism, or perhaps because of it, I had the strong urge to try optimizing my fight cards and the means of winning them. The basic decks left me wanting to scratch that "surely I can make a more effective deck" itch.

I do feel like a single "starter" of One has fairly limited deck-building options. Well, to be more precise, I think you can throw together any number of basic, fully-functional, playable decks with that set of 120 cards, which is great, but (especially for experienced CCG players) you'll be left wanting additional cards to tune it up in any satisfying way. We've only played Rambo vs Hannibal so far, but with the limited card pool I have I'm not sure how much variety I'd see in alternate decks.

Which brings me to theme. I think the overall theme will pretty much appeal to personal taste. I'm not a huge fan of the theme, but I don't mind it, either. I do like seeing Rambo and Ash in a game, and I'm a sucker for movie quotes on cards like "This Is My Boomstick" and so on. The Hannibal basic deck did not make me feel especially like Hannibal, but facing Rambo, I think his special ability to survive really felt thematic (he can burn energy and discard cards from hand to cancel a fight his opponent just won -- very steep cost, but oh so effective/annoying).

Oh, one more thing - the fighting is abstract. You're not playing cards like "Left Hook" and "Shotgun Blast" in these fights/skirmishes. You have support cards like weapons and bad attitudes, but the "fighting" is fairly abstract, FYI.

My initial rating for Fight Klub, based on the 120 cards I own: 7.0. Just to give me some street cred (or waste it altogether, heh) with the CCG crowd, here are my ratings for some other CCGs as a frame of reference:

L5R = 8.0 (extensive from launch thru Jade)
AGOT = 8.0 (from launch thru Winter)
MECCG = 8.0 (from launch thru death)
Spoils = 7.5 (limited while it was alive the first time)
Shadowfist = 7.5 (extensive from launch thru YotD, a 9.0 for Fun)
WoW = 7.0 (limited when it first came out)
SWCCG = 7.0 (had a ton of cards, very few chances to play at the time)
Doomtown = 7.0 (only after it was dead)
Magic = 6.5 (Revised thru 4th - don't know what the game looks like now)
7th Sea = 6.5 (only after it was dead)
LotR = 6.0 (block 1 was fun but unbalanced, Decipher lost me after that)
VS = 6.0 (limited)
Spycraft = 6.0 (too many moving parts for a card game)
OverPower = 5.0 (glorified war)
BSG = 5.0 (waste of a good license)
Towers in Time = 2.5 (barf)

Phew! Now, on to...

Fight Klub - the Pyramid Scheme

Not. Decipher (and the people who dare try this thing out) sure seem to be catching a lot of crap about the marketing model for this. For the uneducated, here it is.

* The game is only sold via the Decipher website.
* To register on the Decipher site, you must enter the handle (nickname) of an existing member of the site, who is then assigned as your mentor.
* Mentors earn a 10% commission on all purchases you make.
* The entire marketing campaign for Fight Klub is viral/grassroots. Players are encouraged to market the game via any method available to them.

I think that's about it. I would note that this is not a multi-level scheme, because there is no incentive for player A to encourage player B to mentor other people; A earns his commission off B's purchases, but not off purchases of C who signs up "under" B's name.

Really, it comes down to prejudice and perspective. Are players being encouraged to scam people into signing up and buying cards so they make money? Or are players simply being rewarded for doing what they would be doing anyway for a game they like? Is it grassroots if it's wholesome and viral if it's shady? Is the faceless corporation I work for a pyramid scheme because the CEO makes millions of dollars off those of us who actually do the work? hahaha, I crack me up - but I digress.

I think the main objection (here on BGG) is: can one trust the opinions of people who have a known financial interest in advancing the game? I guess I don't have a ready answer to that. Personally, I have a huge list of geekbuddies that I've accumulated over the years based on ratings, comments, articles, etc. I think I know who's opinions I can trust and who's (whose? grammar police, help!) I take with a grain of salt. Personally, I don't sweat it -- I'm sure everyone reading this article has a wishlist a mile long -- scratching off Fight Klub because you don't like the marketing model is perfectly valid and it won't be missed in your shopping cart, heh.

Another part of the metagame to mention here is the packaging model. The core set One is supposed to be in print forever. It is a fixed set of 100 different cards, plus 20 second copies for deck building purposes. Each expansion (including and starting with Two that was launched at the same time) has 40 commons, 30 uncommons and 30 rares. A Kilo of Two comes with 2x every common, 1x every uncommon, and 10 random rares. Because of the single-copy deck limit on rares, the expansions are designed so that 3 Kilos equals 30 rares, with the expectation that you'll trade rares to obtain a full play-set of 30x1, in addition to 6x Common and 3x Uncommon, yielding a full play-set of the whole expansion plus extra commons to fill out multiple decks.

I think that packaging scheme is fantastic. $100 per expansion is far better than a regular CCG, and I don't even have the time and money to be that serious. I'm probably going to order just 1 Kilo of each expansion. $30 to get 2xC, 1xU and 10 rares suits me just fine, unless friends/local playgroups really get into it.

One last thing: I personally dislike the nomenclature of the metagame. Join one of 13 gangs? Score me a Kilo or two? Whatever. As a founding mentor, I argued against the use of "gang" and "kilo" but you know, these young guys (i.e., target demographic, I guess) like that edgy sound or something. The nerd in me is also annoyed that a Kilo neither weighs 2.2 pounds nor contains 1000 cards.

Thanks for reading!
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Plainwell
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Well done! I have my cards but *still* haven't gotten around to playing. I really enjoyed your section on the meta aspect. I would say I am slightly more annoyed by it than you seem to be, but overall I think you nailed it. I sure hope I can finally get some time to actually PLAY this game!! Thanks for the nice write up.
 
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Bwian, just
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Thanks. It sounds interesting: I like games where you can compete in different arenas, and this sounds like a reasonable example. I may have to try and get a demo in. My problem with the last CCG with a similar mechanic (InuYasha TCG) was with balance: do you find that there are over-powerful cards already?

I was also interested to see that the decks are so small. Do you ever run out? It sounds like you have 12 fight cards, and use 3 a round: do games only last 4 turns?

SiddGames wrote:
Fight Klub - the Pyramid Scheme
...
Really, it comes down to prejudice and perspective. Are players being encouraged to scam people into signing up and buying cards so they make money? Or are players simply being rewarded for doing what they would be doing anyway for a game they like? Is it grassroots if it's wholesome and viral if it's shady?

Well, I think it comes down to what actually happens/ed. If the release had come and gone, and no one had spammed BGG and other gaming forums, I think a lot of the negativity would have been forgiven. Or at least forgotten. But that isn't what happened. I'm sure it was just a few bad apples, like you get for any game: there are fanbois everywhere. But when the publisher is seen as endorsing such behavior, there's going to be splash-back.

SiddGames wrote:
I think that packaging scheme is fantastic. $100 per expansion is far better than a regular CCG, and I don't even have the time and money to be that serious.

Well, yes, but 90 cards is a smaller expansion than a regular CCG, too. I still agree that it's a good deal.

SiddGames wrote:
One last thing: I personally dislike the nomenclature of the metagame. Join one of 13 gangs? Score me a Kilo or two? Whatever.

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Mike Haverty
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Bwian wrote:
...do you find that there are over-powerful cards already?


Well, no, but again, I only have 100 different cards. My opponent and I both feel like gear cards are quite strong, because of the ability to reuse many of them -- provided you can/want to pay the cost to keep them on the table after each use. The stronger effects seem to be setup, scoring and cooldown actions; the enhance actions (one per player per fight) tend to be a little more incremental - but then, the skirmishes on each fight tend to be won/lost by a small margin.

I think I like that, because it puts more focus on managing your resources over the course of three fights in a turn, rather than dropping a big bomb to take one, plus adds more of a planning-ahead element. Being able to only hold 1 card (usually) per round tends to make you think more about what you want to do the next round, too.

Bwian wrote:
I was also interested to see that the decks are so small. Do you ever run out? It sounds like you have 12 fight cards, and use 3 a round: do games only last 4 turns?


Sorry I didn't mention this. In each fight card matchup, when the winner scores his card by putting it in his damage pile, the loser "exhausts" his card, which is just putting it on the bottom of the deck, face-down. The draw stack is also reshuffled when exhausted, although interestingly, any time the deck is exhausted, the current action ends immediately. This means if you are trying to draw 5 cards at the end of the turn, but only draw 3 when you run out, you're out of luck; you draw the 3 and then reshuffle your deck, but don't get to complete the drawing of the other two. This hasn't happened yet in our games, so I'm undecided on that rule for now.

(Edit: typo.)
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Royce Russell
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I have now had a chance to play over a dozen games with the actual cards, the depth is starting to show, and we have the game time down to 10-15 min per game now that we know our decks better.

We have run out of cards in the decks but we just shuffled our discard piles in and kept going. This rarely came up, only once in our dozen games today.

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Brian Franzman
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Thanks for the info! I have cards in hand now, but still haven't played. Hoping to get a shot this weekend *fingers crossed*


~Shrike
 
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