Jab: Realtime Boxing Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggest 10+)
  • For 2 players
  • About  15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Reflex & Speed
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Enter the ring and get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmmbbbbblllle!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

In Jab: Realtime Boxing, each player takes on the role of a boxer, trained and conditioned to fight hard and outlast their opponent. Boxing is more than just throwing punches. What separates a brawler from a boxer is finesse, timing, strategy, and tactics. A boxer knows when to duck and when to take a hit to trick his opponent into getting close. Now you are in the ring, the flashbulbs twinkle in the stands, and the crowd is roaring, but all you see is your opponent and an opportunity to prove you are the best!

Jab is comprised of 25 black border Punch cards, 25 white border Punch cards, 9 Combo cards, 5 Counter-Punch cards, 1 Ding! tile, 1 Knockout/Clinch tile, 4 Body cards (2 per player), 2 Head cards (1 per player), and 10 Health/Round Win tokens. The cards are made of excellent quality cardstock and the cardboard tiles and tokens are thick and durable. Another quality product from Tasty Minstrel Games.

Pre-Locker Room Game Set Up

To set up the game, give each player 5 Health/Round Win tokens with the Health side facing up. Each player should set these aside and within easy reach. Next the players divide the Head and Body cards so that each player has 1 Head and two Body cards that match the same color. These are placed in front of the players so the top of the Head cards are closest to the owing player with the Body cards to the left and right of the Head card. When completed, the player should see their opponent’s Heady and Body cards facing them.

Next, shuffle the Counter-Punch cards and place them in the center of the playing area, face-up. The Combo cards are next and shuffled together, but they should be all orientated the same way when done. This deck of cards is placed, face-up, to the side and in the middle of both players. Next to this deck, the Clinch and Ding tiles are placed.

Lastly, separate the 50 Punch cards by colored border. One player will have 25 white border Punch cards and the other player will have 25 black border Punch cards. These cards are shuffled and then split roughly in half to form two decks. These decks are placed, face-down, in front of the owning player and represent the left and right hand of the boxer.

You are now ready to box…er… play!

Round One! Fight!

At the beginning of each round (be it the first or later round), the two players facing each other “bump” fists, simulating the touching of gloves by the two fighters. This does two things. First, it’s great fun and fits with the theme of the game. Second, it makes sure that both players start with their hands in the same position. Trash talk is perfectly acceptable and highly encouraged. As soon as both players bump fists, they may immediately flip the top cards of their left and right Punch decks and the fight is on! Flip and go! You do not have to wait for your opponent.

IMPORTANT! Jab is a simulated, realtime boxing game. The player’s left and right Punch decks represent the boxer’s left and right hands. When playing from these decks, players MUST use their left hand with the left Punch deck and their right hand with their right Punch deck. This will most likely cause the newbie player to fumble, and that perfectly fine. Learning not to fumble is not only part of the game but also required to be a good boxer. When a player fumbles their cards, this gives their opponent an opportunity to putt the smack down!

Fist, Meet Face

Punches: The Punch cards are played to the opponent’s Head or left and right Body cards. Punching the opponent earns the player Judge Points which will help them win the round. Punch types include the Jab, Cross, Hook, Uppercut, and Haymaker. Each Punch types comes in 5 different  colors. Note that each color has a unique symbol which will make it easy for individuals who have a difficult time differentiating colors to know what they are being hit by and what they are hitting with. Punches will be played on top of other Punch cards and there is no limit to the number of cards that can be stacked or the speed in which they are played.

Blocking: Ducking and dodging is not only necessary but crucial when blocking Punches. Blocked Punches do not score points. Punches can be blocked by simply placing a Punch card on top of the opponent’s Punch card that matches either the color or the Punch type. Note that Haymakers can be blocked by any Punch card, regardless of color or Punch type.

Counter-Punches: A defensive maneuver that packs a wallop, point-wise! Counter-punches will block an opponent’s attack and gain the player 2 points at the end of the round. They are difficult to execute, but a player who is focused will be able to work it into their game and use their opponent’s punches to score points and whittle down their Health.

Combos: Creating combos scores major points. A combo is collected when the Head, and two Body cards all have a Punch card that currently matches the top Combo card in any order. If the combo is created, the player can shout “COMBO!” and collect the Combo card for points later in the round.

Staggering: Most punches are effective, but taking a chance and swinging a wild Haymaker followed by a well placed punch will reduce an opponent’s Health by 2!

Taking a Hit

Health: Each player starts with 5 Health. Damage is dealt through Staggering via a Haymaker or Counter-Punches. Once a player is damaged, one or more Health tiles are collected by the opposite player, adding it to their Health tiles. This is done during the round and at realtime. Health can be gained during the round by Clinching, but if a player’s Health should ever be reduced to zero, they can be knocked out!

Knockout: If a player should even have zero Health, a well placed punch that will do damage will knock them out cold, but only if the player is quick and flips the Clinch! tile over to the Knockout! side.

Clinch: If a player should ever have zero Health and is damaged again, they are going to wobble and hit the mat, but this can be avoided if the player acts quickly and grabs the Clinch! tile! This will give the player another 2 Health tokens, but will cost them Judge Points.

And There’s the Bell!

There are three ways a round can end. First, the round ends when one player runs out of cards and grabs the Ding! tile. This will end the round instantly, regardless of the number of cards the other player has left to play. However, ending a round before both players have played their cards will reduce the number of Judge Points available to the player who grabs the tile. The second way a round can end is if both players run out of cards. The third way a round can end is when a player is knocked out.

At the end of the round, the Judge Points are counted. This is done by one player covering up the Head or one of the two Body cards on their side of the playing area. Their opponent then selects from the two remaining cards and counts the points using those cards only. Included in the points are Combo points and point penalties from taking the Ding! tile. Counting points is covered in detail in the game’s rules available from the game’s official web site, which is linked to below. The player with the most Judge Points wins the round and converts one of their opponent’s Health tokens to a Round Win token and grabs it for their own. Their opponent now has less Health in the next round, simulating the boxers gradual loss of stamina. Once a player has 3 Round Win tokens, they win the game. Of course, if one player should ever knockout another player, they instantly win the game.

We have only summarized the rules and game play in this review to provide you a good idea of what the game is about, but there is still much to learn. Visit the game’s official web site for more information, including a copy of the rules which go into much more detail about the game’s specifics.

Prediction

Games that require quick reflexes and thinking are a mixed bag with my little geeks. While they might have the speed, they lack the confidence to use it fully. They tend to over think their moves which slows them down. Games that are turn-based are excellent and let players think about their turn, but they also allow for vapor lock as the player suffers analysis paralysis. Jab will require my little geeks, and everyone else I play it with, to strategize and shift their tactics as quickly as possible to remain competitive with no downtime.

That’s a lot to ask of a player.

Nevertheless, you never know until you try. I knew the game was going to be difficult going forward and did not believe it would be a game my 4-year-old would be able to play. Lucky for me, he had no interest in the game at the time I brought it out. He’s really, really big on Play-Doh at the moment and refuses to do anything else if it is put in front of him. My 7-year-old, however, was ready to learn how to play and very excited. When I showed him all the bits, his excitement dropped a bit as he expresses his concerns that the game looked difficult. I told him it was, but the difficulty was not the rules or the many bits. In fact, teaching the game doesn’t take long at all. Jab is really rather straight forward in regards to how you act and react during the game, what you are trying to go for, and how to go about it. The difficulty is keeping your focus and playing intelligently when every cell in your body is telling you to simply play cards as fast as possible.

I explained the game, gave him several examples, and quick demo of game play, This was enough to teach him the game and make him feel ready to give it a try. While I set up the game, I asked him his thoughts on what he had seen so far. He shouted his response.

Yes! Boxing!” ~ Liam (age 7)

Always good to have the little geek ready to play! Not too sure about the threatening fist he waved at me, but I’ll let that slide. Let’s see if Jab can go the distance or falls flat on its face.

Final Word

Much like Meteor, this is a fast-paces and chaotic game. The player’s will spend a great amount of time simply reacting versus acting when they first play. After a few games, they’ll get used to the speed and the timing, which will allow them to focus more on the cards being played versus the speed of the play. This is when the players and the game turn a very important corner. There have been several reviews published that suggests this is a game where only speed is important, but I think this is incorrect.

To be fair, speed is important and is the determining factor when two players attempt to either block a punch or take advantage of another opponent’s weakness. However, before this even plays out, the race of minds is first held. Players always have two choices – a left and a right card – to play. Where and when they play them is where a quick mind is all important. Pattern matching and looking for advantages is a player’s first challenge. Much like a boxer in real life looking for an opening, the player must look for weaknesses and opportunities to take advantage of them. At the same time, the player must be equally defensive and protect themselves, ensuring they close, if not totally eliminate, an opening their opponent could exploit. No, this is not a game of physical speed. This is a game of cerebral speed.

Some might also believe this game to be broken. There is nothing stopping a player from just loading up all their punches on their opponent and then claiming the Ding! tile before their opponent has a chance to play many cards. Nothing in the rules stops this, but such an act by a player does not mean the game is broken anymore than it is a car’s fault for speeding. The player is in the driver’s seat and is making all the choices  They are cheating themselves if they don’t follow the rules. Yes, I said cheating. The spirit of the game is to strategically place cards to make combos and score points. Not doing so cheats you from the game’s depth and challenge, robbing you the opportunity to play the game the right way. Keep in mind that when it is time to score points, the opponent limits which of the three Body cards can be used when scoring. This further reduces the fun factor for someone who simply plays cards quickly.

For my little geek, this was a difficult game to grasp. The matching portion was easy to understand and he was doing a great job of matching cards in an attempt to make a combo or two. Where it became difficult was balancing both the defensive and offensive portions of the game. A player must keep an eye not only on their side of the fence, but also their opponent’s. Throughout the game, an experienced player will appreciate the need to switch from defensive and offensive stance as needed. For a little geek, this is not an easy transition. In the end, he greatly enjoyed the game, but he is still not able to grasp the game in its entirety. This reduced the fun value, but only slightly. Keep in mind the game plays fast and is highly energetic. This kept my little geeks excited and engaged him fully.

For the adults I played with, well, let’s just say there was cursing involved. Cursing and shouts of victory. Adults quickly grasp the need to protect as well as attack. This makes the game very interesting from the get go and very “boxer” like. You’ll have burst of card plays and then a quiet period while each player takes a mental step back and regroups. Keep in mind that there is always a card to play, be it as an offensive move or as a defensive move. This keeps the game going forward even when the momentum of the game slows down.

My little geek contemplates his next swing while I get ready to take mine!

Gamer Geeks, this is a very challenging realtime game where physical speed is necessary, but even more so is quick thinking. This makes the game very interesting when you have two Gamer Geeks facing each other as equals. The game about boxing quickly turns into something very much like Chess. Strategy and tactics are a must but you must be fast to take advantage of a situation before it is lost. The end result is a very satisfying game that will keep you on the edge of your seat looking for a weak point while at the same time protecting yourself.

Parent Geeks, this is a mixed bag of a game, but I still think it is a game the Parent Geeks will approve of. The boxing element might turn some off, but the violence of hitting another person is never communicated well enough through the narrative of the game to make it feel like you are hitting someone. At its core, it is a card game and the players simply play cards. The intent is to simulate boxing, but not the act of throwing a punch. Rather, the focus is on the strategy and tactics a boxer needs to utilize when in the ring to determine their opponent’s weaknesses and then exploit them. This is problem solving at its finest. Add in the need to think fast and focus on what needs to be done, and you have yourself a game that teaches that paying attention is all important.

Child Geeks, this is a game you cannot play right out of the box as it will require an adult to help you learn how to play it. It would appear that all you would need to do is play cards quickly, but do not fall into that trap. A player who wildly swings will only connect once in awhile. A player who waits for an opening and makes ever swing count will win the game every time. This is because the emphasis is on brains, not brawn. Think about the cards you are matching and where you want to play them. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities and you’ll find them. The patient player will see their opponent’s weakness before their opponent does.

Jab: Realtime Boxing is a wonderful game to experience. The first time you play it, you’ll be tempted to simply play cards quickly. This is a rookie move and expected. But after playing against another player who has experience, you’ll quickly realize that a well placed jab is worth 10 wild upper-cuts. As already mentioned, this is thinking game. Your goal is to not only outplay your opponent, but also outthink them. For Child Geeks all the way to Gamer Geeks, this will prove a rewarding challenge. Quick reflexes only serve to fulfill the wishes of a quick mind. The player who thinks the fastest will have an advantage over the other, but speed will be the determining factor when two players are equally matched. In the end, the player left standing is the one who worked the hardest for it. Do try Jab: Realtime Boxing the first chance you get and get ready for a hard fight and a very entertaining game!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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