In the world of Fabulosa, magic has created a utopia: no war, no conflict and a lot of bored wizards. Super Fantasy Brawl is that world's entertainment. Using powerful magic, wizards go back in time to pluck all manner of warrior from the most infamous to saintly. Then they cast them into an arena to fight each other and produce the best events ever! Welcome to Super Fantasy Brawl; an arena battler area control game designed by Jochen Eisenhuth and published by Mythic Games.
The current ‘super fan’ pledge features a huge box crammed with 12 Champions, tokens, game board, objective cards and champion cards. The biggest downside to it, will be your postal worker throwing their back in as they lug it to your front door! Players attempt to score five victory points to win. These are achieved by taking out an enemy champion for one point (though they can return to the board quickly with a simple respawn mechanic so you don’t ever lose your champions) or scoring various objective cards which are generally focused on controlling elements of the game board. Each player will draft or be allocated three champions, which are represented by very large (54mm) models. Champions bring six skill cards that are often two from each magic core (Yellow, Blue and Red). So as a team you form a deck of 18 skill cards. You draw a hand of five cards, deploy your champions and trap tokens on the board. Then you are ready to BRAWL!
A turn consists of first checking if any objectives are scored, then playing up to three skill cards (one for each colour). Cards are unique and dictate the action being taken: attack, move, leap, push, pull or heal. These are the general skirmish type abilities you would expect from a battler but no dice are rolled: combat is driven by the simple equation: Damage Minus Armour = Wounds caused. The ‘modifier’ to this are ‘reaction’ cards. Champions bring one of each and can offer protection (armour boosts, movement) to the more aggressive (attack back, stun enemy etc). So although most attacks will do exactly as you expect, there is always the chance that your well-laid plans might be disrupted... Alternatively you can simply choose to activate each colours’ core ability, as at times you may not have cards for each colour or want to play them. The turn then passes to your opponent.
What makes Super Fantasy Brawl so interesting is managing the limited number of cards in the skill deck and the way the objective deck cycles. An objective is presented the turn before it becomes ‘active’ for scoring, allowing each team to react and jostle over achieving it. At the end of a full turn (both players completing a cycle), the objective card moves along a track and is worth 1VP. At the start of each player's turn, they check to see if they meet the victory condition, so opponents will always have the chance of denying an opponent scoring. But as the objective remains unclaimed, it becomes more valuable (2VP) then less valuable (1VP) before ‘falling’ off the track completely and can no longer be scored. So timing is critical to optimising your score. This creates games that are unique, leading to some intense engagements. Taking out your opponent's champions will also net you victory points and the champion who just caused the take out will ‘level up’ (flip the card to gain a small boost).
There is a very clever feeling of balance between both the direct conflict and use of positioning abilities as a route to victory, allowing players to play the game as they want without feeling one or the other strategy is necessarily better. A solid blow or a subtle push can each prove to be critical to winning.
With just 18 cards in total and cycling at least 5 cards a turn, knowing your skill deck and using what you have to hand can be both bitter and sweet at the same time. Often arena battlers can flood a player with choices, resulting in a slower pace of play. With so few options in your hand each turn, Super Fantasy Brawl forces you to make the most of what you have. Hand management, key positional plays and timing decisions make Super Fantasy Brawl a hugely strategic game. There's an element of luck in the draw (which can be influenced) but with this game leans heavily towards skill.
Super Fantasy Brawl can certainly serve up any sort of imaginations. The setting, of plucking champions from a fantasy timeline allows you to field all manner of creature and hero: from infamous pirates to flaming bird people, ratkin assassins, necromancers and stalwart ice dwarves. Whatever champions you choose are brought to life with the amazing artwork from Johannes Helgeson, Bayard Wu, Stéphane Gantiez and Irek Zielinski.
The game sets up pretty quickly and plays just as fast once you know your team and cards. With 15 Champions currently on offer and another 9 Champions due to hit Kickstarter on 9 March 2021 there is a lot going on for Super Fantasy Brawl. This game is good to play as a fun quick blast for two players, or you can set up knockout tournaments or play with four players as a team game. However you choose to play, Super Fantasy Brawl won’t hold back any punches if you put the time in to learn it. With its vibrant art work, cartoonish imagery, satisfyingly chunky models and simple yet deceptively deep game play, it is a super smash hit.
(Review by Danny Strahl)