- For ages 12 and up
- For 2 players
- Approximately 45 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Bluffing and Misdirection
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Enter the ring and battle the foot-fist way!
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek approved!
Hong Kong and American actor, film director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, philosopher, and founder of the martial art Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee, said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”. In this game, you are a well-trained and disciplined fighter of the mixed martial arts (MMA). You have practiced for months and now stand in the ring to test your abilities and that of your opponent’s. Pain is certain, but victory must be fought for.
Uncaged: World Fighters, designed and published by ZeMind Games, is comprised of 50 Move cards (25 Attack and 25 Defense), four Fighter cards, and one Level Change card. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The artwork is colorful and stylized, with detailed characters and illustrations that clearly communicate the action taking place in the fight (along with the pain of defeat and the exhilaration of putting your opponent’s fighter into a world of hurt). Not included in the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and some paper to keep track of Health, Stamina, and Decision point values. You can download a free score sheet from the game publisher or create your own.
Get Ready to Fight
To set up the game, first either shuffle the Fighter cards and randomly deal one to each player or let each player select the Fighter card of their choice. Each Fighter card has the same starting Health and Stamina values, but has a different ability they can be leverage during the fight. While no one fighter has an advantage over the other, using the abilities of the fighters as part of your strategy is super smart.
Second, randomly determine who should be the starting Attacker and the starting Defender. The player who is attacking takes the 25 card Attack deck (red card backs) and the other player takes the 25 card Defense deck (blue card backs).
Third, each player now places their Fighter card in the middle of the playing area, face-up. Next to the Fighter cards, place the Level Change card. Place the Level Change card so the “Standing” position is face-up. Then each player shuffles their deck of cards and places it face-down to their immediate left.
That’s it for game set up. Time to see who came to play and who came to pay – IN PAIN!!!!! (no not really)
Fighters Ready? Begin!
Uncaged: World Fighters is played in three rounds. Each round includes four combos with each combo containing a max total of five exchanges (a defensive and offensive move). All Rounds begin with the Level Change card in the “Standing” position. This indicates that each of the fighters are starting the fight on their feet. As the round progresses, the Level Change card will be flipped from the Standing to the “Ground” position, and back again (depending on the cards played). Fighters begin each round with full Stamina, although their Health will be different each round.
Come Out Strong!
Each round has four combos. To start a combo, each player draws five cards from their draw deck and an additional three more, as provided by their fighter’s Stamina, for a total of eight cards.
Each player now looks at their hand of cards and decides which of the cards drawn they want to play. Players should take a moment to reflect on what they have available to them, as only five of the cards they are holding can be played! Once the player decides on the cards, they place them face-down in a row in front of them in the order in which they will be revealed, with the first card in the combo to be shown on their left and the second and sequential cards being placed to the first card’s right. This is referred to as the player’s combo row. Cards build off each other, so keep that in mind when placing them in the order to be played.
A) Level indicator (where the move is performed) and its type (comb breaker, level change, punch, block, special, grapple, and kick)
B) The name of the move
C) Damage inflicted if the move is valid and unblocked
D) Move category (attack, defense, and or wrestling moves)
E) Card requirements that must be met or the card is considered invalid
F) Card effects that are resolved before the next exchange in the combo
Depending on the deck you are using, your goal will be slightly different. The Attacker’s focus is on inflicting as much damage as possible by creating chains of successful moves, while the Defender is focused on either ending the combo (thus ending the attack) or taking the fight to the ground, where they can inflict damage to the Attacker.
Show Them What You Got!
After all players have placed their cards, the remaining cards stay in the player’s hand, but are not revealed. The player who is the Attacker (the red deck) reveals their first card in the combo, flipping it face-up. Both players determine if it’s a valid card (meaning the card to be played is possible via the Level Change card face showing and any prerequisite moves are valid). If it’s valid, the player pays the cost (if any) and resolves the action on their card. To help keep track if a card is valid or not, tip invalid cards sideways after they are revealed. If a card is tipped sideways (invalid) it won’t count as a prerequisite! Cards do not have to inflict damage to be considered valid.
The Defender now reveals their card and does the same thing, determining if the card is valid and then resolving it accordingly.
The damage to each fighter is then calculated, taking into account card and fighter ability modifiers. Attacker inflicts damage first in most cases. Damage reduces a fighter’s Health value. This completes one exchange in the combo.
Shake It Off!
The above is then repeated for the next card exchange in the combo row unless the combo has been broken by a card’s ability. If the combo has been broken or all the cards in the current combo have been played, players pick up all the cards in the combo row, in their deck, and in their hand, shuffle, and pass to their opponent. The attacker is now the defender and vice versa. The Level Change card does not change its card facing and the current Stamina value is unaltered, meaning the players might draw fewer cards than they did at the start of the round.
Round Over! Get Ready for the Next Round!
The round ends when the fourth and final combo has been played. A combo is, again, at most five exchanges, but it can also be fewer. This means a round of game play is never the same number of cards. The fighter who did the most damage receives one Decision point.
Players now shuffle the Move cards, but keep the decks they currently have. The Level Change card is flipped back to “Standing” and each fighter gets their Stamina back, but their Health remains at its current modified value (no healing between rounds!).
And Your Winner Is…!
The game continues until one of the player’s fighters is knocked out (Health reduced to zero) or the final round is completed. If a player knocks out their opponent during anytime in the game, they are the winner. If the game ends with the final round and both fighters are still standing, victory goes to the player who has the most Decision points.
To learn more about Uncaged: World Fighters and its current and upcoming expansions, visit the game’s website.
The Child Geeks liked how easy it was to plan their attack and were sometimes frustrated by how it was resolved. According to one Child Geek, “You can’t just play the cards you want to in this game. You need to play the cards that will work together.” The Child Geek makes a good point. You might have a lot of great cards in your hand, but what you need to do is play the ones that will work and in an order that makes sense. There is more thinking involved in card plays than initially believed necessary when planning the combo and this threw our younger players off until they got the hang of it. When they did, they got dangerous and cocky. As one Child Geek put it after smashing his parent in the ring, “King Kong calls me sir!” Which is hilarious and correctly represents the Child Geeks’ level of enthusiasm for Uncaged: World Fighters, resulting in a full endorsement.
The Parent Geeks were less thrilled with Uncaged: World Fighters. While they found the game easy to understand and challenging to play, they didn’t think the game play itself was that interesting. According to one Parent Geek, “Maybe if I was more into MMA or even into wrestling I’d like this game more. As it is, I think it is an OK game, but I don’t find it all that interesting to play.” This sentiment was not shared by all. According to another Parent Geek, “This game does a great job of putting you into the head of the fighter! You have to think about not only what you can do, but what your opponent can do, too! I really like that because it lets me get into the head of my opponent by bluffing and doing a lot of table talk while I plan my next punch!” When the final round ended the Parent Geeks took a vote and the results were mixed.
The Gamer Geeks were also mixed. According to one Gamer Geek, “This feels like a much more complicated game of War at times, where we are just comparing values. But this isn’t War. It’s much deeper than that. But I don’t feel like the game every really grabbed me and threw me down to the mat, you know?” From a Gamer Geek’s elitist point-of-view, Uncaged: World Fighters was seen as light and, at times, a bit longer to play than seemed necessary. That is to say, the Gamer Geeks felt the game itself dragged a bit at times when cards were being resolved. However, the Gamer Geeks also found a lot they enjoyed. As one Gamer Geek put it, “Look, it is hard to make a fighting game. You have to consider not only the goal of combat but also the dance. If this was War, we’d just be comparing values. Instead, we need to plan our attack, adjust our approach, and consider all the alternatives. I think the game does a good job of showing us just how complicated combat can be.” When the final punch was thrown, the Gamer Geeks all rubbed their jaws and agreed that this game didn’t knock them out, but it did leave them hurting for more.
Uncaged: World Fighters is nothing like War. Don’t believe that nonsense. There was much debate when the nonsensical card game was compared to Uncaged. From my point of view, comparing the two games is like saying a paper airplane and a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor are “similar”. Sure, they both go through the air, but that’s about it. Uncaged is a numbers game, but you don’t know what the numbers are or how the math should be done until after the cards are revealed, validated, countered, and resolved. This is a thinking game. Not a lot, mind you (you can play this at 2 AM in the morning with little sleep – we know – we tried) and still have a lot of fun and meaningful game play.
What Uncaged is not is a really deep game. Yes, as stated, you must think your moves through, but only to a point. The validation of a card is pretty straight forward and you will only be tripped up if you are exceedingly unlucky, you decide not to diversify your moves, or you forget how cards work. And while the cards you play are interesting to think through, the real fun comes when you reveal them. And absolutely talk smack at the game table before and after the cards are shown. This is part of the fun and what makes Uncaged a brawl both played in the mind and at the table. Like most games, you need to get into the head of your opponent. Doing so will help you engaged and predict. Do what you can (without being rude about it) to get on your opponent’s nerves. They’ll most likely mess up and you’ll win the game.
Like all martial arts, it isn’t how fast or strong you are. It’s about your level of discipline and knowledge. The same applies here. Play smart and cool and you’ll do great.
One aspect of the game I wasn’t sure about until I played it was the Move decks. Each player uses the same deck but it states that the game was designed to be a deck-builder. You cannot build a deck with just the base game and it’s not clear how you would do so with the expansions available and the ones coming up. A shame. As the game plays now, you know what your opponent is capable of because you know their cards. While not a detractor, it was disappointing that I couldn’t create a mixed martial arts fighter with the arts I wanted to mix. Make sense? It’s like having a blender that only blends milk at one speed. Random, yes, but always the same, too. I hope the expansions give the player creative control, which I would gladly try, as I liked Uncaged. Liked it enough that I played it at 2 AM when I should be asleep. Look, I’m in my 40’s. There is no good reason for me to stay up past 9 PM. Boy, did I feel punchy later in the morning (rimshot).
Do give this game a try when time permits to see if it knocks you out or just leaves you feeling a bit sore.
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.