I backed Professor Pugnacious a while back when it was on kickstarter, and just recently got around to printing off the black+white print+play version they made available, as well as using the rules on the kickstarter page.
Having looked at the more updated cards they posted (in colour so too expensive to print on card for me :S) and messaging about rules, a lot has been changed/fixed/updated, so take this review with a pinch of salt!
This is a game of steampunk themed deck-building and monster-fighting. Throughout the game you attempt to get 3 resources - Skill (Used to buy more cards to improve your deck), Fight (Used to defeat monsters) and Failure (Used to reduce other players fight in combat) - which help you to win the game and prevent your opponents from beating you to it. The winner is the participant that garnered the highest XP from battling monsters(adversaries) and disarming traps.
Game setup and play - in Summary
- Each player receives a starting deck of 7 minor skill & 3 minor fight, other minor cards are left aside, they are not needed.
- The 'greater fight' and 'greater skill' cards are put into piles on the side, where they can be bought in the buy phase by anyone.
- The finale (boss/end-game enemy) and training dummy are placed down to be fought against, and you place 2 more enemies from the deck by those. The finale & training dummy cannot be removed, but the others get replaced on death.
- A 'card ring' is created from the remaining cards, each player has 5 cards in front of them which are available to be purchased with skill in the buy phase, the ring 'rotates' as the game plays on.
Once setup, each player shuffles and draws 5 cards. There are then 4 stages that all players take actions in simultaneously - Play, Buy, Fight, Recover.
Play - Each player chooses which cards from his hand to play (Usually all of them, but some cards you might want to keep in hand).
Buy - Players can choose cards from their card ring using any skill they played in the previous phase, or greater skill/fight to buy. These are placed straight into their discard pile to use later
Fight - Players can then choose to fight an enemy. Other players can interfere using failure that reduces their fight by the amount of failure they use. Defeating an adversary gives xp & various bonuses, the training dummy lets you 'trash' a card from your hand (Remove from deck) and the finale gives a lot of xp and triggers the end of game.
Recovery - Players discard all cards in play/in their hand, and draws a new set of 5 cards.
Once we got going, this game was a lot of fun. You need to try and balance between the various types of card (skill, fight, failure) to ensure you can still improve your deck which having the fight to defeat adversaries for xp and have failure to prevent other players victory. This tends to mean rushing some more powerful skill cards at the start while trashing the start cards on the training dummy, then once you feel you have a comfortable amount buy fight and failure, taking an aggressive stance to push for victory.
We found the game got quite quick, which did mean we made a couple of mistakes (Such as forgetting to rotate the card ring at the end of turn). We had to guess at a couple of rules, but from messaging the developer we guessed correctly and a couple of house-rules we made are apparently proper rules in the full game anyway. Unfortunately the difficulty in understanding the early rules meant we lost one player early as she was tired and it made things very confusing, but I think with the art and more clarified rules this will not be a problem.
I love the steam-punk theme of the game, and the artwork for the actual cards is looking to be brilliant. Cool naming for cards only does it so much justice, you need to be able to see an image of an aetheric atomizer to really appreciate it! I can't wait to get the full game to play, and feel this was a kickstarter worth supporting!
I hope this is of use/informative! I will edit or post a full review for the whole game once it is released!