SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
When it comes to board and card games, Kickstarter is big business. In 2015, approximately 1,230 games were successfully funded to the tune of $88m, reflecting not just the huge boom in crowd-funding but the resurgence in popularity of the humble board/card game. (By comparison, video games raised about $46m in the same period.)
The explosion in board and card game production has been buoyed in part by the emergence and popularity of so-called micro games – pocket-sized productions of 15-20 cards suitable for playing at the coffee shop, bar, airport, or just the kitchen table.
Games studios have emerged with a focus on such wallet-sized productions, and one of those publishers, Button Shy Games, have had repeated successes on the Kickstarter platform, now with over a dozen projects delivered.
Their latest offering, designed by independent wrestler Ryan Cowler (P.O.N.G. from Oakland’s ‘Hoodslam’ promotion), is, you’ve guessed it, a wrestling card game.
The game consists of 18 cards, neatly packaged in a vinyl wallet. Super Pocket League Extreme Wrestling (which conveniently shorts to SuplerP.L.E.X.) is a game for two players (or plays four with two copies of the game), and plays in about 10 minutes.
Set-up takes about 60 seconds: Players face off by either taking the pre-selected hands of cards, or carrying out a mini-draft until they both have six cards. Two character cards and two ring cards are set up to monitor life totals and ring position, and players are ready to play.
Gameplay takes places over a series of rounds, consisting of a “lock-up” phase and an “assault” phase, with players trying to chain together moves (cards) in order to maximise damage in each round. The “lock-up” phase is a simple rock-paper-scissors interaction where each player plays and reveals a power, technical, or strike card in order to determine who is on offence for the rest of the round (power beats technical beats strike beats power).
Following this, the offensive player plays three more cards trying to maximise damage, while the defensive player tries to interrupt their combo by matching card types with their opponent. The rounds repeat like this until there is a winner.
The position of both your own character and your opponent provides bonuses to your combo, doing extra damage or limiting your opponent’s card options. For example, if you use the ‘Iron Lariat’ card as the second card in your combo, and have managed to position yourself three spaces away, you will move adjacent to your opponent and do an additional point of damage.
Once a player drops below half of their starting life total, they add their character’s powerful “finishing manoeuvre” to their hand, providing a nice catch-up mechanic if a player falls behind.
For a game with such a small production and footprint, it offers a massive amount of choices, combinations and permutations. Due to the small number of cards, it’s easy to deduce which cards your opponent may play, but managing your hand to maximise your combos while bluffing/double guessing is where the game really shines.
The positional bonuses of moves is a really nice touch, and shows really joined-up-thinking from the designer where moves do what you’d expect; a dropkick off the top is more devastating than a standing one, and will push your opponent half way across the ring, allowing you to follow up with a running offensive move.
Previous wrestling card and board games have never had the “ring-smarts” that this game offers; wrestling fans will have no difficultly figuring out the in-game logic and mechanisms of controlling both your opponent and your own positioning.
At just $8 for the base game (plus $3 U.S. shipping), and a promised turnaround for a July delivery it’s easy to recommended the game. An extra $3 will add a couple of more characters to your pledge, and there’s a “deluxe” version for $30 plus shipping. The pre-production review copy needs very little improvement, and the only appreciable difference between it and the final game is the addition of some bonus characters for exceeding funding goals on Kickstarter.
Button Shy Games have been doing the Kickstarter thing for some time now, and their last few similar projects have been delivered on-time or are on schedule for on-time delivery.
SuperP.L.E.X. runs on Kickstarter until Saturday, May 14. As of Thursday (May 12), the crowd-funder has exceeded 600 percent of its base funding target.