While my professional career has been a little rocky lately, Action Force, my recent tabletop game purchases have been exceptional. I own a lot of games. Over 150 last time I checked. Some might think that’s too many, and they would probably be right. Then along comes this recent string of games that are all undeniably awesome, and I think it’s not nearly enough.
As a tabletopper, I love playing a good board and / or card game. In fact, if I had one weakness in this hobby it’s that I rarely play a game well enough to master it. There’s no exception with the game I’m reviewing today, but that’s mostly because it is filled to the brim with such possibilities.
By the way, is tabbletopper a thing? It should be if it isn’t.
Devastation of the Indines by Level 99 Games (www.lvl99games.com) is, hands down, one of the most rewarding, intriguing, and downright enjoyable games I’ve played in ages. Part of the BattleCon series of games (stands for Battle Connection) the game can be best summarized as a card-driven battle game that simulates a classic 2D fighting arcade game. At its simplest, Devastation is a one-on-one fight between fantastic characters. What makes the game shine though is that it isn’t trying for a literal interpretation of the genre. It understands that a card game can’t simulate the battle of reflexes and combo mashing that can be found in arcade fighters. It wisely opts to take advantage of the card game format to do things an arcade fighter couldn’t do. By building off the framework with new and interesting ideas, the game really manages to be the best of both worlds.
Teaching the game is relatively simple. It’s as simple as choosing a fighter, reading their reference card, and jumping right in. Sure, you’re likely to spend a couple of turns fighting ineffectively, but within a few turns, everything will start to click. Understand how to play this game isn’t that hard. Playing it well is another matter entirely.
Every fighter has their own rule unique to them. Eligor the paladin expects to get hit, but, if played correctly, hits back harder. Marmalee the sorceress collects concentration counters that allow her to trigger powerful effects, but those counters can be lost when she’s hit by her opponent. Pendros the druid drops environmental tokens on the board, and he’s all about making sure he and his opponent end up in the right position to take advantage of them. The framework for all the fighters is the same, but the special rules mean that no two play exactly alike.
And that’s merely three of the novice level fighters. There are 30 fighters in all, ranging from simple characters like these to incredibly complex characters like Tanis the ghostly puppeteer who jumps from puppet token to puppet token in unpredictable ways and Iaxus the dimensional guardian who plays special plane cards that alter the rules of the match for both players.
In addition, the game features four boss characters who are specifically designed to fight groups, allowing for a rich multiplayer experience. Any fighter can also be upgraded to boss mode, allowing for an odd number of players to enjoy a match. There are arenas that can also add a level of complexity and risk.
It’s difficult to describe just how much this game shines, especially with repeated plays. This is deliberate. While Devastation of the Indines can be played casually, it works best when played often. There’s so much in this box that it can be a little overwhelming, and when I first bought the game, I jumped from fighter to fighter with gleeful abandon. It was great fun, but only after I decided to stick with a fighter did I start noticing how deep this game is. If you play multiple matches in a row with the same fighters against the same opponent, the game play grows more complex. It reminds me of when I used to play 2D fighters. The game wasn’t only about the fighters, but the metagame of learning your opponent’s style (and them learning yours). The best 2D fighters were a constant back-and-forth as players adapt strategies, overcome those strategies, and find new, unexpected ways to win. Because this is a tabeltop game, the reflexes and complex memorization of a traditional fighting game have been replaced by a battle of wits.
I could talk about this game all day, but it has risen to the top of my Must Play List, and while it has a hefty price tag, the amount of content is staggering. There’s also its smaller, more affordable, completely compatible predecessor War of the Indines. Both are highly recommended, Action Force. And if you can’t trust the world’s fourth or fifth most famous tabletop game enthusiast, who can you trust?