Tag Archives: David Sirlin

Street Fightin’, Man – Puzzle Strike Third Edition / Puzzle Strike Shadows review

David Sirlin is a guy who really gets beat ‘em ups – and you’d expect him to, having had a pedigree that includes working on the excellent Street Fighter HD Remix. He’s also pretty good at putting together tabletop games of his own, as proven by the sheer majesty that is Yomi. In my opinion it’s one of the best two player games ever created, truly reflecting the back and forth of an arcade fighter and providing a fun play experience. Another of his games, Puzzle Strike, has been around for some time and has developed a loyal following. Now the latest version is available – Third Edition – with boasts that it’s the best yet… but does it match up to the task?

Before you even get to play, be ready to put some work in; there’s nearly 350 circular chips that need to be punched out from thick cardstock and sorted out into the various sets. Thankfully the plastic insert included is one of those rare useful examples, labelled with the chip types so you know exactly where they should go. When everything has been sorted out, it’s time to begin by choosing a character (there are ten included, all taken from the Fantasy Strike universe that also covers Yomi) and grabbing the three chips that represent them. A few 1-value gem chips will also be thrown into your cloth bag; these are both the game’s currency and what you’ll use to attack your opponents.

Good lord, that’s a whole mess of stuff (and it’s all very nicely put together too).

Gameplay is very straightforward, even more so if you’ve ever played a deck builder. Starting off by drawing five chips from your bag, you then have a few options open to you. As you might expect, one of the central concepts behind the game is working towards building combinations that will allow you to buy more chips and perform actions. Doing so will increase the possibilities to attack your opponents (the game handles between two and four people) – and that’s exactly what you need to be doing.

At the start of each of your turns, you must take a 1-gem chip and add it to your pile. Combine chips will let you push these together (two 1s making a 2, for example) and Crash chips see you throw them at your enemies. Any gems crashed into someone will split back into 1s which they can defend against, assuming that they have the correct chips to hand. Any that aren’t defended are then added to the opponent’s gem pile and if they have ten or more in there the game is over. It may sound convoluted but once you get a couple of rounds under your belt you’ll be hurling chips across the table with reckless abandon…

Once you get to grips with the rules, games are fast. While the main focus is on two-player affairs (indeed, there’s a whole tournament play aspect that centres specifically on that), three- and four-player face-offs are quick-paced, hectic fun. As with many deck building games, learning the rules for each individual type of chip will give you a distinct advantage, but even if you’re a newbie you should have an enjoyable time with Puzzle Strike. Should you be one of those gamers who are intent on learning just how each of the ten included characters work, you’re in for a challenge; there are literally millions of set-up combinations so be prepared to invest some major time. Or, you know, just get on with playing and having fun.

The four symbols: The Arrow bestows an extra action, Piggybank lets you save a chip over to your next turn, $1 means more money to buy stuff and the Circle allows you to draw another chip. Easy!

Everything in the latest version of the game has been streamlined to make it easier than ever to play. The rules are simple to understand but are also constantly evolving – be sure to check out the website for any updated and alterations. The use of symbols is clear throughout, meaning that you can work out what you’ll (hopefully!) do on your next turn in no time at all. Though there’s not an immense amount of art in the game what is there is very pretty indeed, especially in the rulebook. The visual focus is more on the clarity of design and it has to be said that Sirlin and his team have succeeded in producing a striking looking game – no pun intended.

For those who wish to throw themselves deeper into the Puzzle Strike experience there is an expansion available too: Shadows. Entirely playable as a standalone set, you can actually mix and match characters and powers between the two boxes however you please. Shadows offers an entirely new set of chips to play with; I’ve experienced a more aggressive vibe from them though, so if you want to start interacting (ie: fighting) with your opposition much quicker, you may wish to investigate the big blue box as well as the pink one.

As you can probably tell, Puzzle Strike is about as Ameritrashy as games can get. A gloriously arcade-style experience, if you prefer all the luck to be removed from your game you should probably avoid it. That’s not to say that there is no strategy in there, however; adapting your style around the ten chip-piles that are out for that round means a lot of thinking on your feet. Reacting to opponents’ moves is a big decision; do you take a few hits in order to take more chips at the start of a round, leaving you open to a quick loss? Should you turtle up and hope the other players take each other out?

It’s a perfect thing to bring to the table to show ardent video gamers that cardboard can be entertaining too. Could Puzzle Strike be the first great crossover title? I’m thinking it’s certainly a very enjoyable experience that’s even more fun if you get the various tropes you’ll stumble across, but even if you’re not adept in the ways of Capcom and the like you will soon discover it’s a great game regardless. David Sirlin’s design manages to present its theme better than countless other deck builders currently available and I highly recommend it, even over a title like Dominion, especially so if you’re a fan of the genre and a looking for something a little meatier.

If you’re over in the USA, Puzzle Strike Third Edition and Puzzle Strike Shadows are both available now from the Sirlin Games site for $50 apiece. If you’re in the UK you’re probably best off getting in touch with Gameslore who currently stock it for £39.99 – well worth it considering how much is in the box! Ready…? Fight!

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Episode 25 – On the Cards

Goodness me, somehow we’ve managed to wend our way to a quarter century of episodes! Have a listen right here or grab the episode from iTunes!

This time around I’m joined first by Johnny O’Neal, brand manager over at Spin Master, to talk about their latest CCG Redakai. Based on a new cartoon series, it’s aimed at a younger market but that doesn’t mean that we’re looking at a lazily thrown together license – Redakai has a design team behind it that has a fistful of Magic: The Gathering champions at the helm, as well as Ascension – Chronicle of the Godslayer‘s Justin Gary. Couple that with a truly innovative card system (they’re 3D and lenticular!) and this could bring a whole new generation of gamers to the hobby. After that, I speak with David Sirlin, creator of one of 2010’s greatest games, Yomi. With a heritage in video games – most notably 2D fighters – David has created a beat ’em up using cards and a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic. It’s a brilliant game that deserves your attention (check out my review right here).

As usual, you can get in touch with the show via email (mine’s michael@littlemetaldog.com) or follow on Twitter (@idlemichael). Also, as mentioned in the show, we’re aiming to get over to Essen for the Spiel ’11 convention, so if you ever thought about donating, now would be a good time!

Now… show links anyone?

Eagle Games, this episode’s sponsor – http://www.eaglegames.net/Default.asp

Redakai official site – http://www.redakai.com/

Spin Master – http://www.spinmaster.com/

Sirlin Games – http://www.sirlingames.com/

Play Yomi (and more) online – http://www.fantasystrike.com/

The Dice Tower Network – http://dicetower.com/

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Two Worlds Collide – Yomi review

£65. Sixty. Five. Pounds. Sterling. That’s how much a copy of Street Fighter II cost me for my Super Nintendo back in 1992. Nearly twenty years ago I paid £65 for a video game… but man, what a game. Yes, it was only the basic version (Championship Edition came out soon after and let you play with the bosses like M.Bison) but I hammered that game into the ground. Whether you were facing off against the AI or a real life opponent, there was one simple reason I loved to play SFII – the satisfaction of landing that final knockout blow.

Even now, it’s particularly good when you manage to beat someone who’s as good as you (and so much better when they’re more skilled than you are). Getting into the zone, your hands working instinctively as you bash buttons to pull off those glorious specials… it’s almost like you’re able to tell what your opposite number is doing before they move. Reading them. And that brings us neatly to card game called Yomi.

According to designer David Sirlin, Yomi means ‘reading’, that ability to know your opponent’s next move and adapt your play to counter it. David has a history firmly grounded in fighting games, particularly the Street Fighter series (a couple of which he worked on) and Yomi is the latest release from his independent game company that has a rather familiar feel. If there was ever a game that succeeded in capturing the world of a video game in tabletop form, Yomi is it.

Two players face off against each other using one of ten preconstructed decks, each representing a character from Sirlin’s Fantasy Strike universe (also seen in the excellent Puzzle Strike). Every card is double ended and shows two different moves: the numbered ones represent basic attacks, throws, blocks and dodges, while face cards show more powerful abilities that require a bit of work to pull off.

Basic cards look like these. Every card has at least a couple of options to select from, so choose wisely!

The basic game works on the Rock / Paper / Scissors principle. Attacks beat Throws, Throws beat Blocks and Dodges, Blocks and Dodges beat Attacks – get that down and you’re halfway to understanding pretty much everything. You each draw a card from your hand and reveal simultaneously – the winner of the face-off then gets the opportunity to do a little extra, depending on what type of card they revealed. Using an Attack or Throw will generally allow you to perform a combo, (potentially) letting you get some hefty damage in. Each character has a limited amount of combo points meaning that you can’t just go all-in and destroy your opponent in one go – you need to consider what you have in your hand and see what works with what you’ve played. Many cards are labelled up as Starters (which begin combos), Linkers (which add to or end your chain) or Enders (which complete the combo, even if you have points left over) but even if you get a decent set in, you may not necessarily do all the damage you planned.

This is down to the Jokers. Each deck contains two and they have a couple of uses. In the case of combat (that phase where you choose a single card), playing a Joker beats Attacks and Throws. If you’re successful, you get to search through your decks and pull out two Aces, the most powerful cards in the game. However, they can also be used to bluff your opponent… when one player is allowed to combo, the defender may place a card from their hand face down. The attacker then chooses whether to lay more cards for the combo down and, when finished, waits for the defender to flip the card. If it’s a Joker, all cards bar the initial one are discarded – no damage is taken apart from whatever the first card dealt out. If it’s not a Joker, everything hits for full damage. This element of bluffing isn’t mandatory, but certainly could prove useful. In a game that’s all about reading your opponent, the ability to trick them out of hitting you with huge combos should not be underestimated.

Jokers are very powerful, especially when you need to fish out some Aces in order to batter your nemesis.

Fighting games are also emulated in other ways. Some Attacks hand out chip damage, still hurting a player even if they manage to successfuly Block. All ten characters have their strengths and weaknesses and are remarkably well balanced – you never feel at a disadvantage no matter what deck you’re using or who you’re fighting against. The artwork throughout is reminiscent of classic beat ’em ups from the great companies like Capcom and SNK – you can see that Yomi has truly been a labour of love for David Sirlin. He’s spent over six years getting Yomi right and it really shows. After your first few bouts getting the rules straight, you’ll be getting through games in no time – the straighforward ruleset quickly becomes second nature and you get used to each character’s special abilities. While there’s a few other smaller things to pick up (you can be knocked down, certain abilities require one or more Aces to be discarded, that kind of stuff) but the vast majority of players should be able to pick up Yomi pretty quickly. The fact that every card has a succinct explanation of what it does and what it can possibly link into means that bouts in Yomi move along at an impressive pace.

A couple of examples of characters from Yomi. The story makes about as much sense as your average beat 'em up, but who cares when the game is THIS GOOD?

So, I’ve been pretty positive thus far… but yeah, there’s a couple of downsides. Nothing major, but they may well skew your opinion on whether you’d like to pick it up. First of all, price: Yomi is pretty expensive, even moreso if you’re outside the USA. That £65 that I spent on Street Fighter II? If you’re after the full set of ten Yomi decks, you’ll be looking to pay that and more besides especially when you consider shipping on top of that. Now, admittedly you get a bunch of other stuff included in the Collectors Set – playmats and the like – but that is a lot of money to hand over for a single game. However, in the interest of balance, you are getting a complete game for one payment – many folks are comparing it favourably to something like Magic: The Gathering where you can be constantly having to catch up with newer, more powerful cards. Yomi is self contained. Yes, it’s pricey, but you won’t need to buy anything else.

Second, it’s increasingly difficult to get hold of especially if you’re looking for the Collectors Set in the shops (though it’s available directly from David’s site). It’s easier to get your hands on pairs of decks that are also available, but these work out to be more expensive. If you’d like to pick up the game, your easiest route is to just head to http://www.sirlingames.com and grab it from there. You’ll be supporting a truly excellent independent game producer that has made it his mission to produce excellent games to a high quality. Put the pad down, pull out a couple of decks with a mate and get ready for a battle like you’ve never experienced before.

Yomi was originally released in late 2010 by Sirlin Games. Designed by David Sirlin, it is strictly for two players and is (currently) available from sirlingames.com – if you’re lucky you may find it in your Local Game Store, but don’t hold your breath. Sets of two decks cost around £17 here  in the UK, while the Collectors Set on the site is $100 plus shipping. Worth it? Definitely. But if you’re cheap, you can also get a Print and Play version for buttons – only $15 and a few papercuts! –  or play the excellent online implementation for FREE at www.fantasystrike.com – Now FIGHT.

Edit: David has said over on BGG that if you’re looking for your local store to stock Yomi, you could do a lot worse than badger the guys at GameSalute to help you out!

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