This past week I got an excellent two player game off of my pile of shame: BattleCON: War of Indines.
War of Indines is one of many BattleCON games. Every BattleCON game is an attempt to re-create the feeling and tactics of a 2D fighting video game, games like Street Fighter or Mortal Combat. Does War of Indines manage to pull that off? You are going to have to read on to find out.
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A quick note about different versions of War of Indines.
Checking on Board Game Geek it looks like there have been a variety of different versions of BattleCON: War of Indines released. There was an original version released in 2010. This is now known as the “Classic” system and is long out of print. That version featured a different art style for each character, a different board style and supposedly multiple printing errors.
The version I have is the “Remastered” version. This has the same eighteen characters but they are all drawn by the same artist and match the art style of the rest of the series. Many of the card issues were fixed and some of the fighters were tweaked to be better balanced.
There is also the Extended Edition which was released in 2014. According to BGG, this adds new costumes, extra game systems and more arenas.
The important point to note is that my comments are about the “Remastered” version. That’s the version I own and have played.
I was very impressed by my first play of BattleCON: War of Indines.
Actually managing to pull off the feel and tactics of a 2D fighter in card game form is a tall order. An order that Level99 was surprisingly able to fill and fill well. I personally would have never thought it would work, and if it did work it didn’t sound like the kind of game that would be for me. BattleCON: War of Indines is a game I probably would have never tried if it weren’t for the fact that many well known podcasters and reviewers were singing its praises, one of the most vocal being Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower.
In particular, Tom really pushed Devastation of Indines, another game in the series. There are a ton of games in this series. War of Indines seems to have been the first. Then there was Devastation of Indines, Light & Shadow, Fate of Indines and Trials of Indines. Level99 has also released Extended Editions of a couple of these sets. There are also a riduclous number of promo cards plus some smaller expansions.
All of these games are stand alone or can be combined and what they all do is add new fighters into the mix. The War of Indines set I own comes with eighteen fighters broken into three difficulty levels. Each set may also add different ways to play, I know War of Indines includes a bunch of different modes of play including team up, tournament and arena play. I’ve only tried the standard game which is a two fighter duel.
Each standard game is a two out of three match. Each match lasts up to fifteen rounds or until one of the two fighters is knocked out. This is done by reducing their health from 20 to 0. Every player has the same set of six standard attack cards and one unique attack card for their character. Each round, called a beat, has players picking two cards from their hands. First a strategy card unique to their character and second an attack card. These are picked in secret and revealed simultaneously.
Each pair of cards gives a range, a power and a priority number. The character whose priority number is the highest acts first. If they are in range, they will do their power in damage to the opponent. This will normally stun the opponent who will not get to retaliate unless they have enough Stun Block to match the attack’s damage. If they aren’t stunned the opponent then attacks back. Complicating this and making things interesting are a ton of triggers and effects specified on the cards. This is the real meat of the game, trying to figure out what cards to play, anticipating what your opponent will play and using the game’s somewhat complicated timing system to your advantage. One thing I really liked was the fact that all of the information is open. You always know what cards your opponent has in their hands and their discard piles. In this way, it reminds me a bit of Onitama or The Duke.
Each of the eighteen characters plays very differently from the others. Many characters have additional cards or tokens that are used when you play that character. These include all kinds of things like elemental tokens that are spent to improve your attacks, minions that can be summoned to fight for you, armour tokens that can be spent to block, etc. There are a surprising number of different tokens of different shapes in the box to account for all of these various abilities.
When first learning the system it can all be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of different phases to a beat and the number of triggering actions and the timing of them gives me flashbacks to when I played Magic the Gathering regularly. I’m pleased to say that once you start playing, it doesn’t take very long to learn and memorize these phases. It helps that they are all listed on the board.
We did find one problem while we were playing. At least one card in my set still has an error on it. The summary card for Cadenza had the wrong stats for their finishing move on it. So at least some of the errors of the Classic Edition were not fixed in the Remastered Edition. I worry about how many other cards in my set are incorrect.
Overall I had a surprisingly good time playing this with Deanna on the weekend. Based on reviews, I knew it would be good and I knew it managed to somehow pull off the 2D fighter feel but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I’m really looking forward to not only trying more characters but also gaining some system mastery over the various fighters. I really think that this game will shine when it’s a match between two players who know the game and the characters they are playing well.