David Valadez
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Villa Park
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I'm a big sucker for games where players get variable powers. Being able to play a game with a different set of rules each time sets it up for lots of replayablilty and interesting interactions with other players. In fact, Twilight Imperium and Cosmic Encounters were my "gateway drug" for getting into board gaming. I'm also a big fan of fighting games, partially for the same reason noted above. So when I came across the BGG page for BattleCON, it looked right up my alley and I had to check it out right away.

I flipped through the free print-and-play rules first and after reading them and checking out the free characters included, I went ahead and purchased the full PnP version just to see the rest of the characters and read up on the multi player rules.

I won't go into too much detail about rules of the game as there are already some great reviews highlighting the way the game plays. To summarize, every player will choose a character and have a hand of cards with some of them being unique to the character they've chosen. Those cards will be played in combinations to perform moves in an effort to attack their opponent and damage them. The goal of the game is to deal 20 points of damage. You'll need to take into account range, attack speed (aka, priority), character movement and your characters special moves and abilities to maximize your damage dealing potential while minimizing the damage taken from your opponent.

The rules themselves are pretty simple and the keywords are pretty obvious. The only term I thought was odd was using the word "beat" instead of turn or round. I was able to teach my friend how to play in about 5 minutes and we were off. It was soon after starting this first match that we realized that despite knowing the rules to the game, we had no idea what we were doing with our characters. Though we thought we were making informed decisions on what to play, at first we were really just kind of wailing on each other and, for lack of a better term, "button mashing". But I think a lot of this had to do with the characters we chose.

Our very first game consisted of myself playing Vanaah and my opponent playing Cadenza, both beginner characters and both melee sluggers. Now I say they are both melee sluggers, but Cadenza is more of a slugger than Vanaah, so while we were both adjacent to each the entire match playing high damage dealing attacks, he was able to negate more of it and deal more damage back. In the end, Cadenza won by a large margin and I was jealous of how fun he looked. We played again with the same characters and this time I tried to keep my distance a bit, but Vanaah's attacks make her want to close in on the opponent. 2nd game was done and Cadenza stood victorious once again. I was starting to think that maybe Vanaah just wasn't for me.

For our next match, we decided to use the "special action" cards and repick characters. My opponent picked Rukyuk right away as that's his favorite character in Champions of Indines. I picked up Cadenza to feel what it'd like to wield that kind of power. This second group of matches were where things started to get interesting and the game really started to shine. At first my opponent was having a bit of trouble picking the right ammo for his attacks and couldn't understand why you'd want a -1 range that one of the shots offers. A couple of overranged sniper shots later and he realized the error of his ways. Meanwhile, I played Cadenza like I knew he was meant to be played. I advanced relentlessly and played slow, high powered attacks. It didn't take my opponent long to figure out how awesome the "Trick Reload" combo was to get out of the way. So just as I had him cornered, he teleports to the other side of the board, 5 long spaces away. I slowly lumber back over there, taking a couple high damage shots along the way. He leaps over me and gets another hit in, taking me below 7 life. This is where I feel that I'm going to be sneaky and try to do my finishing move on him. We reveal and, of course, he goes first. But his move allows him to move once space, so he advances this time. Regrettably, this puts him adjacent to me, and while any other time this would have been perfect, for Cadenza's finishing move, he starts by advancing two spaces. This makes me hop over him and them move one space away, putting me out of range of my finisher. Argh!!! One turn and an AP shell later, and I go down.

For the next match, I decide not to completely corner Rukyuk, but to keep myself in the three middle spaces as long as possible. I still keep him cornered and pour on lesser damage, with mid range attacks. Eventually he manages to hit me with a pretty strong attack and do 5 points of damage, but I had a Mechanical Press ready and do the damage back and then some. Cadenza wins round 2.

By round 3, we were figuring out our characters and were playing a cat and mouse game. I would advance, he would push me back or dash past me and teleport when he needed to reload. This round managed to last a lot longer than any of our previous ones and in the end, Rukyuk pulls out another win, winning the match 2-1.

I'll have to admit, when we started playing that first match, I was beginning to feel that the game was clunky and uninteresting. I feel that it may have had to do with both of us picking heavy melee oriented characters. It wasn't until the second match with the new characters that the interactions and card combinations really started to come to light. Having played the gunner character versus a melee character really highlighted how unique the characters are and left me with wanting to play again right away. I'll have to give Vanaah another shot someday and see if I can wrap my head around how she works, but it will probably be a while as there are a ton of characters (18!) in the base game that I'm eager to try. I'm also really eager to get a couple of players together for a 3 vs 1 boss match. With such large variety of characters, there are hundreds of different possible matchups, so this is a game that I will be playing for a long time. In fact, even after playing the print and play version, I plan on purchasing a hard copy so I can get the 3 promo characters. And if you're starting to get bored with just regular duels, there are 10 special arenas included that further change the rules and add an extra bit of chaos.

BattleCON takes a couple of plays to fully appreciate. The character abilities are really unique and require you to somewhat relearn how to play the game with and against each one but once you settle in with your abilities, the game becomes a tense, quick battle that does an excellent job of recreating a fighting game. Fortunately the game plays really fast so even if you lose, there's always time for a rematch. It may not be for the most casual of players, but for people that want a quick, easy game but with a lot of strategy to digest, then I really recommend BattleCON. If nothing else, at least take a look at the free version (which I have to give kudos to the publisher for providing) and give the game a couple tries to decide for yourself.

-edit to correctly spell the name. It's "BattleCON", not "BattleCONN"
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Andrew Tullsen
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Re: BattleCONN review/session report: Easy to learn, challenging to master
Definitely agree with that. The designer taught me how to play, and it really takes a few games to really get a feel for the basic moves, and then once you have those, how the character's cards interact with them.
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Nate K
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Re: BattleCONN review/session report: Easy to learn, challenging to master
The game really goes get more fun when you can start to get into your opponent's head. You can figure out exactly what they're going to do and you know exactly what you need to do to counter it. But that requires an good grasp on the game's mechanics as well as a knowledge of the characters, which can take a while to sink in.
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David Valadez
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Re: BattleCONN review/session report: Easy to learn, challenging to master
What I think we need are a couple of strategy guides or session reports from skilled players that already know the ropes showing how to optimally use some of the characters. This could help new or potential players to see the insights and decision making that takes place during a typical game. Plus I'd like to see how Vanaah is supposed to be played.
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Brad Talton
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Re: BattleCONN review/session report: Easy to learn, challenging to master
I'm kind of curious to see what strategies players have developed on their own and how they think the characters 'tier up' as the saying goes. ^_^

As for Vanaah, she is designed as a high-power middle-range melee character. My experience is that she can rout Cadenza pretty effectively if she plays range 3 to beat Cadenza's Press, makes effective dashes, and lands her divine rushes.
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David Valadez
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I just wanted to reflect back on this review and mention that after a year with BattleCON, I've gotten Vanaah down pretty good and she is now my favorite character surpassing Cadenza. Of course there are now more than 20 new challengers to master on the horizon......
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