Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s web page or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!
- For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Show the table who is the toughest by taking out any who oppose your mighty will!
- Gamer Geeks mixed!
- Parent Geeks approved!
- Child Geek approved!
Remember having intense conversations with friends at school about which toy character would dominate another if put into the boxing ring? I do. I spent way too much time thinking about why Soundwave would kick the metal butt of Megatron, and how Snake Eyes would be the clear winner if he fought Storm Shadow. Now we can put these types of debates to rest and determine the final answer by pitting classic characters into a battle royal to the finish!
IncrediBrawl, designed by Jacob Leeman and to be published by V3G, will reportedly be comprised of 120 Character cards (30 per player in 4 matching sets), 40 Power-Up cards (10 per player in 4 matching sets), 10 Location cards, 4 Rule Reference cards, 50 Glory tokens, and 1 First Player token. As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the game component quality. We will state that we absolutely LOVE the art style. One part whimsical and one part badassery (which is actually a legit word – look it up).
Characters and Power-Ups
The primary cards played in IncrediBrawl are the Character cards. The Character cards cover a very wide range of the mundane and the bizarre, from classic Pirates to seemingly defenseless Kittens, and each represents a single combatant who is ready to throw down some punches. All Character cards come with a Character Name, Power Type, Power Level, Power Guide Chevron, Ability Trigger, Ability Description, and of course, a wonderfully stylized illustration of the character.
A character’s Power Type defines the medium in which it delivers pain. Physical (represented by a “Sword” icon) means the character uses some sort of physical weapon, Natural (represented by a “Scratch” icon) means the character uses some sort of weapon that is naturally part of the character (like claws, for example), and Energy (represented by a “Lightning Bolt” icon) means the character uses some sort of energy-based weapon or spell to attack. The Power Ability Chevron is used to quickly define what the Power Ability will destroy. The Power Level is used to resolve ties when 2 or more Characters have the same Power Type, as well as determining the order in which Abilities are triggered.
The Character card Ability Trigger and Ability Description should be pretty self-explanatory. In total, there are 4 Ability types in the game. The “Play” Ability (represented by a “P”) is triggered as soon as the Character card is revealed or brought into play, the “Lose” Ability (represented by an “L”) is triggered only if the Character card selected loses the Brawl, the “Win” Ability (represented by a “W) is only triggered if the Character card selected wins the Brawl, and the “Other” Ability (represented by a “!”) are a very special case that represents an Ability that is triggered during very specific situations.
The Power-Up cards only display Ability Triggers and Ability Descriptions. These are used in a game variant and are further described in the “Game Variants” section below.
Game Set Up
Note: IncrediBrawl is very customizable when it comes to game play and offers its players a number of different ways to go head-to-head at the gaming table. This portion of the review will cover the most common way to play the game, referred to as “Casual Mode”. Additional details on alternative ways to play the game are documented in the “Game Variants” section below.
To set up the game, first hand to each player a Rules Reference card. It makes for good light reading while the rest of the game is being set up.
Second, find the “Grassy Meadow” Location card and place it in the middle of the playing area. A strangely serene location to host a bunch of rabble rousers, eh? Reminds me of that time I LARPed and ran with a bunch of other players across a very large field to meet our enemy. We were all exhausted by the time we finally “clashed” in the middle. Most of the “army” used inhalers before swinging their NERF swords. The rest of the Location cards are left in the game box and are only used when playing the game in “Gamer Mode” which we summarize in the “Game Variants” section below.
Third, place all the Glory tokens to one side of the game playing area and within easy reach of all the players. This is refered to as the “Glory pool”. From the Glory pool, each player will take 1 Glory token.
Fourth, separate the Character cards into different decks, one deck per player. Each Character deck should include 1 copy of every character in the game. This portion of the game set up might take a little bit of your time, especially if all the Character cards are disorganized. Have the players help, as many hands make for quick and easy work. It also serves as a great opportunity to discuss some of the Character cards.
Fifth, each player will shuffle their individual Character deck, place if face-down to their right, and draw 5 Character cards. This is the player’s starting hand. Leave room next to each Character deck for a discard pile.
That’s it for game set up. Time to crack knuckles and jaws!
IncrediBrawl is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. Each round is referred to as a “Brawl” and within a “Brawl” are a number of “Scraps”. A typical game round is summarized here.
Step 1: Select Characters
This step requires all the players to select 1 Character card from their hand that they will use during the round. Keep in mind that all the players have the same Character cards. This means it’s perfectly possible that 2 or more Characters of the same Power Type can be in the Brawl. It also means that players can keep track of what Characters have been played by their opponents and use that to their advantage when determining which Character card they select for the round. Selected Character cards are placed face-down in front of the player.
Step 2: Reveal Characters
This step is only triggered AFTER all the players have selected their Character cards and placed them face-down. On the count of “3”, everyone reveals the Character card they selected by flipping it over and placing it face-up in front of them. All the players should take a moment to cackle madly or groan in despair.
Step 3: Trigger “Play” Abilities
This step is only relevant to those Character cards that have a “Play” Ability. “Play” Abilities are resolved in sequential order of a Character card’s Power Level, with the lowest Power Level going first. If any new Character cards are brought into play due to a “Play” Ability and they also have a “Play” Ability, they are resolved AFTER the original played Character cards are done being resolved and then in sequential order based on Power Level.
“Play” Abilities are as diverse as the many different Characters in the game. Some examples of “Play” Abilities include:
- Take 1 Glory from each opponent (Pirate)
- Randomly draw 1 card from the discard pile and add it to your hand (Zombie)
- Swap this Character card for the topmost Character card on the discard pile (Magician)
Step 4: Resolve Brawl
This step is all about getting down to business, which is putting down your opponents.
If playing a 3 to 4 player game, players will pair off to complete a series of “Scraps”, which are like micro Brawls. A Character that is left standing after a Scrap goes on to fight any other Character that is still standing. Note that losing a Scrap does not trigger a “Lose” Ability, nor does winning a Scrap trigger a “Win” Ability.
To determine who wins a Scrap and eventually the Brawl, compare each Character card’s Power Type. In essence, it’s a bit like Rock Paper Scissors.
- Power beats Natural
- Natural beats Energy
- Energy beats Physical
In the event that Characters battle each other and share the same Power Type, the Power Levels are used to determine who wins the fight. In this case, the Character card with the HIGHER Power Level will win.
Characters that lose a Scrap do not continue in the Brawl, but remain face-up on the table. Characters that survive a Scrap will eventually battle each other. In the end, only one Character will be left standing.
Step 5: Trigger “Lose” and “Win” Abilities
The Brawl is now over and this step triggers the winner’s “Win” Ability and all the loser’s “Lose” Abilities.
All “Lose” Abilities are triggered first. Again, the Power Level is used to determine the sequential order of things. Finally, the winner’s “Win” Ability is triggered and resolved. The winner of the Brawl also takes 1 Glory token from the Glory pool and adds it to any other Glory tokens they have previously won…or stolen. In some cases, more than 1 Glory token is taken based on abilities and current game play conditions.
Step 6: Draw a Card
The final step requires the players to discard all their played cards for the round and draw 1 card from their Character deck. This card is added to their hand. If the player has no cards in their hand prior to drawing a new one, they draw 5 cards instead of just 1.
This completes the round. Unless there is a winner, the game continues to the next round starting with step 1 above.
King of Brawlers
IncrediBrawl can end two different ways.
- The game immediately comes to an end when a player has collected 10 Glory tokens. This player is the winner of the game.
- The game immediately comes to an end when a player plays the last card in their hand and is unable to draw a card due to their Character deck being exhausted. All players now count their collected Glory tokens. The player with the most Glory tokens is the winner of the game.
IncrediBrawl comes with a great deal of customization right out of the box. The method in which we explained how to play the game above is referred to as the “Casual Mode” of play. There are two other modes available.
- Family Mode: This mode of play removes the Character abilities and only 1 Glory token is collected per Brawl win. This is essentially a very thin and slim version of the “Casual Mode” and is highly recommended for non-gamers and younger Child Geeks. During game set up, do not give each player 1 Glory token.
- Gamer Mode: This mode of play is the same as the “Casual Mode”, but invites the players to incorporate what the game rules refer to as “Options”.
“Options” are additional small rules that can be included that add a slightly different level of complexity.
- Location Option: This option introduces the full accompaniment of Location cards. Game set up is the same except that all the Location cards are taken, shuffled, and placed face-up in the middle of the game playing area, with the “Grassy Meadow” Location card on top. The winner of each Brawl can then decide if they want to continue the next round in the same Location or discard the current Location card to reveal the next face-up Location card. Previously used Location cards are placed at the bottom of the Location deck. Location cards provide bonuses for specific Character and Power Types.
- Power-Up Option: This option introduces the Power-Up cards that provide players the ability to be much more competitive and tactical in their attempt to beat their opponents to a pulp. During game set up, give each player a full set of 10 Power-Up cards. Each player will have the same Power-Up cards available to them in the game. The Power-Up cards are shuffled in with the Character cards and drawn during game play. Their use and timing is based on the Power-Up card description. When played, they are placed in the discard pile as normal.
- Select-A-Brawl Option: This option adds much more to the game and is not recommended for use with new or inexperienced players. The First Player token is used and given to one lucky player. After each Brawl, the First Player token is given to the next player in turn order sequence (going clockwise). When playing a Character card, the players get to determine who they will be fighting against, starting with the first player. Only two players can fight each other at a time during a Scrap. If a player is paying attention to what Character cards have been dealt, they will be able to take advantage of known weaknesses in their opponents’ decks.
There are a few subtle game adjustments that need to take place before the game begins based on the number of players at the table.
- For a 3-Player Game: Randomly give the First Player token to a player. This player will battle the winner of the first Scrap.
- For More than 4 Players: The base game can take up to 4 players at maximum. Adding an additional set of IncrediBrawl allows for a 5 to 8-player game! The game play is the same, but an individual round will include more Scraps. Use the First Player token if playing with an odd number of players to indicate which player will battle the winner of all the Scraps. It’s recommended that Location and Power-Ups be avoided when playing with 5 or more players to keep the game play moving at a fast pace.
Lastly, the default number of Glory tokens necessary to win can be altered to increase the game’s length. For a shorter game, reduce the Glory tokens needed. Obviously, for a longer game, increase the necessary Glory tokens needed.
IncrediBrawl falls squarely in the same realm as Smash Up, Munchkin, and a number of other games that are meant to be casual and fast. While I can see players using tactics and logical thinking, the game is not all that deep. In fact, what IncrediBrawl uses to determine who wins a Scrap and a Brawl is nothing more than a retooled Rock Paper Scissors method of elimination. The Power-Ups and Abilities, however, provide the players with the flexibility to pick and choose how they want to go about battling others, as well as benefiting from the battle’s outcome. There is also a great deal of luck involved in the game, although a player can eliminate the amount of luck by simply keeping track of what cards each of their opponents is playing. That is, admittedly, pretty advanced for most players and won’t be used often in the game, if at all. This is meant to be a casual game of comedic fun. Any player who is actively counting cards might be taking the game much more seriously than it warrants.
For the Child and the Parent Geeks, I think IncrediBrawl will do very well. These two groups have shown a quick grasp of games like IncrediBrawl and have enjoyed them. The illustrations will appeal to the Child Geeks and the game play appears to be fast and engaging, which will appeal to the Parent Geeks. I think we’ll see mixed results from the Gamer Geeks. Clearly many of the Characters in the game are playing to a Gamer Geek’s love of geek and pop-culture, but being “culturally hip” does not a good game make. Not that I’m suggesting that IncrediBrawl is a bad game by any means. I just think it’s a very light game that will appeal to the more casual Gamer Geek and make the more hardcore Gamer Geek roll their eyes in disgust. But, really, if I can even get a hardcore Gamer Geek to play IncrediBrawl, that’ll be a feat in itself. The most elite of elitists can smell casual games over 100 miles away. It’s creepy.
The level of energy it will take to teach IncrediBrawl is based on what game mode is being played. Casual and Family Mode will take you all of 5 or fewer minutes. The Rule Reference cards are going to help players determine how Scraps are resolved and the card abilities are only triggered at specific times, making it easy to determine what is triggered and when. If you introduce the additional options, the game only slightly becomes more difficult. Only in the sense of what cards should be played, however, not actual game play. If you spend more than 10 minutes explaining the game, you are clearly playing with individuals who do not speak your language.
And while the game is very easy to grasp, there is a bit of reading necessary to play the game competitively. That being said, a card’s abilities and powers do not trigger until played. At which point, they are visible to all the players at the table. A younger Child Geek who cannot yet read will miss an opportunity to think a bit deeper about their plays, but the game itself is not so deep as to suggest that lack of being able to read eliminates a player from the gaming table. Based on how the game is played, I see no reason why our younger Child Geeks can’t play the game on their own with older players reading the outcomes of their cards for them. This is especially true if playing the game in Family Mode where abilities are not used.
And so, after teaching the game to both of my oldest little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on IncrediBrawl so far.
“I love how many characters there are in this game! And I can play any of them? That’s awesome!” ~ Liam (age 8)
“When I fight you, Daddy, I will still love you if you lose, OK?” ~ Nyhus (age 5)
Awwww…isn’t that sweet? I WILL DESTROY HIM!!!! Oh, don’t give me that look. My 5-year-old is the Master of Flying Under the Radar. He’ll be fine. Let’s play IncrediBrawl and see if this game of quick fisticuffs is worth our energy or we are just wasting our punches. Yes, I could have gone with seeing if the game was “incredible” or not, but that felt too easy. Plus, I got to use “fisticuffs” in a sentence, which is always goodness.
The Child Geeks, as predicted (I’m getting really good at this prediction “thing”), had a great time with IncrediBrawl. We played all three game modes with them and included all the game’s bells and whistles. Depending on the overall skill and age level of the Child Geek, they either liked the Casual Mode or the Gamer Mode. None of our Child Geeks enjoyed Family Mode once they learned how to play the game. I am also most pleased to report that younger Child Geeks who cannot yet read can play IncrediBrawl. Not as well as their peers, but they played cards, won Scraps, claimed Glory, and had a blast. According to one Child Geek, “What I like about this game is that it’s different each time we start a new round. It keeps me interested.” When the Child Geeks weren’t playing the game, they were looking through the Character cards and trading them like it was a collectible card game. A few of our Child Geeks attempted to make a custom deck, much in the same way they create their Pokémon decks. This actually worked until an opponent figured out that their deck was primarily composed of Characters of a specific Power type. Their opponent would then create a deck of Characters who were full of Power types that automatically won battles. There was a great deal of debate on this point if such deck building was fair. I reminded them all that deck building wasn’t even part of the game. They just looked at me like I was crazy. And speaking of crazy, the Child Geeks were crazy for the game and all voted to approve it.
The Parent Geeks rather enjoyed the game and found it to be a lot of fun to play with their family and as an enjoyable casual game with their peers. Most of the time, however, the Parent Geeks had a hard time playing IncrediBrawl with just their peers as the Child Geeks always came to the table, became interested in playing, and demanded to be dealt in. The Parent Geeks couldn’t refuse them. According to one Parent Geek, “This is an easy game to learn how to play and an easy game to enjoy. It’s fast, fun, and at times, intense.” The “intensity” the Parent Geek suggests is in the game occurs when a player makes it through several Scraps or the final count of Glory tokens is so close that each round feels painfully overly important. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.
The Gamer Geeks were mixed. As predicted, the more casual and laid back Gamer Geeks found IncrediBrawl a delightful distraction that they thought would be a lot of fun as a game filler or as a last game of the evening. They also found it to be a game they could more than tolerate playing with less experienced players. According to one of these Gamer Geeks, “There’s a lot of luck in this game, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had. I don’t mind having to think less about how I play a game if it makes me happy.” And making them happy it did, but really only when all the options were used. The Location cards were very much enjoyed and the Gamer Geeks debated which Character cards did or did not get bonuses. Some of the Location card descriptions are a bit ambiguous which invited heated arguments. The more hardcore Gamer Geeks, who I blatantly tricked and cornered in order to get them to play IncrediBrawl, disliked the game. According to one very sour Gamer Geek, “This is a nonsense game of picking cards at random and then fighting another card at random. I might as well spend my evening playing Rock Paper Scissors or thumb wrestling.” Ha! So bitter. But not all Gamer Geeks who enjoyed the more advanced games thought IncrediBrawl was a bad game. According to one of these Gamer Geeks, “This is not a bad game, but it’s very light. I can see myself playing this, but rarely.” In the end, the Gamer Geeks were divided into three groups: the “Yeah’s”, the “Meh’s” and the “Yuck’s”.
I have always enjoyed these casual games as long as they are not overly simplified or feel highly repetitive. I have room at my gaming table for the very casual to the very complex. I look at my personal gaming collection as a buffet: there’s a lot it can offer and there’s something in it for everyone. IncrediBrawl is one of those games that will appeal to many players because of its easy rules, its quickness of game play, its colorful presentation, and its clear intent of delivering fun over complexity. Gamers who only want to collect games that burn brain cells will give this game a miss, which makes total sense.
Personally, I enjoy IncrediBrawl. I am on the record stating I don’t think much about Smash Up, primarily because I think the game is trying to be more than what it’s capable of, resulting in a game that feels weighed down by its own ambition. IncrediBrawl has only one goal and that is to be entertaining. Which I think it does and does very well. It’s a game that is light, quick, and makes me smile. I always have the time to play games like this. After all, a game is meant to amuse and compel. IncrediBrawl does this without throwing a single punch.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.