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Subject: tl;dr Preview: Pixel Tactics rss

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Lorenzo Batallones
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This review has been cross-posted from my personal review blog at http://tldrreviews.tumblr.com.

tl;dr: Pixel Tactics is a surprisingly deep strategy game under its innocuous 16-bit style. Although new-time players might be prone to analysis paralysis, it’s a lot of strategic fun packed into an ultra-portable deck.

(This review is based off a print-and-play playtesting prototype provided by D. Brad Talton, and may not necessarily reflect the final form of the product. …The alliteration was unintentional.)

Pixel Tactics is one of the 4.5 games included in D. Brad Talton’s new Kickstarter project, the Level 99 Minigame Library. Billed as a set of four very different games that can be carried around in one’s pocket, the Library blends portability and playability into a very delicious bundle.

Pixel Tactics, as the name implies, is a throwback to the 16-bit era of consoles, with characters from the BattleCON series of games rendered as adorable sprites. In this game, 2 players square off in battle as they build a unit of heroes, centered around a leader that’s picked at the beginning of the game. The object of the game is to rout your enemy’s unit by defeating their leader.

Each ‘complete round of combat’ consists of six waves. A wave can be considered a sub-turn that involves one player’s row. The first player’s front (Vanguard) row goes first, then the second player’s Vanguard row goes. Next, the first player’s middle (Flank) row gets to take its action, then the second player’s, and the same applies for the Rear row. After the second player’s Rear turn, the first and second players swap turn order, and the next round of combat begins with the old second player’s Vanguard row.

During each wave, each player can use two actions on any of the following:

*Drawing. Self-explanatory. There’s no hand cap in this game, so having a big hand can be very powerful.
*Recruiting. Play a hero to any empty space in the currently active row.
*Attacking. Most heroes and leaders can only attack the first enemy in each column, and even then, they themselves cannot be behind a friendly hero. Some heroes have the ability to make ranged attacks, with mostly removes these restrictions.
*Clearing a corpse. Corpses tend to clog up the battlefield, and you can’t recruit onto a corpse, so it’s important to take out your dead once in a while.
*Restructuring. Move a hero on the field to an empty spot in the active row.
*Using an order. More information to follow.
Each unit is divided into three rows, and each hero has a different ability depending on the row that they are placed in.

The Vanguard row tends to have abilities that are focused around raw offense and defense, such as the ability to intercept ranged attacks and increased offensive power;

the Flank row usually has abilities that directly support the leader, or the heroes directly in front and behind that hero, such as healing the leader or giving the unit behind a ranged attack;

and the Rear row generally has abilities that support the unit as a whole, or even the player’s actions, such as allowing one to revive a dead hero, or providing better drawing power.

Additionally, each hero also has a very powerful skill called an ‘order’, which are executed by discarding that hero from your hand. Orders can easily turn the tide of a battle, so knowing the right time to use it can be crucial!

Casualties are not checked until the end of the second player’s wave, so even a hero that’s about to die can make a last-ditch attack!

This turn order goes back-and-forth until one player’s leader is defeated. Both leaders are given to the winning player, a trophy of sorts; these leaders can’t be used in subsequent battles of the match. Each trophy you own gives your opponent a very slight card advantage. Matches are typically played best-of-three, though for a longer match you can try best-of-five, and for a shorter game simply try one round.

One of the greatest strengths of Pixel Tactics might be considered one of its weaknesses—the fact that it’s so darn strategic. Even with twenty-five cards, each card can be used in four different ways, not even counting leader selection at the beginning. The most analytical of players might get stuck in analysis paralysis while contemplating their next move, but as you play the game and familiarize yourself with nice combos that fit your playstyle, you’ll find that the game becomes a lot more smooth.

So, has Brad Talton accomplished his goal in packing a lot of game in a small box? I say yes! Pixel Tactics is every bit as intense and deep as its name would imply—probably even deeper. This portable title will keep your armchair general side satisfied without the big setup of other, bigger games.
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Matt Connellan
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Binghamton
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I am the white void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword.
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This game sounds so awesome. I am kickstarting at the $50 level for all 4.5 gsmes, but this one is the one I'm salivating over.
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Avri
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I had already backed this project for NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game, but just upped my support to include this game.

Damn you . . .

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Brian A
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Great look at how the game works. Thanks!
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Scott Douglass
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Nice preview!

This is definitely the game out of the Level 99 Games Minigame Library that I am looking forward to most. I'm basically treating the rest of the games as bonus material that comes with Pixel Tactics.

Pixel Tactics makes me think of a cross between BattleCON, Summoner Wars, and Gosu, although I'll admit that the mechanical similarities to Gosu are not particularly strong. I guess in terms of mechanics it is more similar to Neuroshima Hex crossed with New Era and Summoner Wars. The advantage it has over Summoner Wars is that it looks much more portable. I also like that cards can be played in different ways, reminiscent of 51st State and New Era.
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Christian K
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It was too long. I didn't read it.
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