Today, we begin Game Tuesday. Every Tuesday, I’ll post something about the tabletop and card game hobby I enjoy so much. Perhaps too much. But like any self-respecting superfan, I’m eager to infect you with my own passion. So Tuesdays will be reserved for reviews and thoughts on the games that most people simply don’t know exist.
There are plenty of great game sites out there already, but most people don’t stumble upon them unless they are already looking for them, so if I can use my meager amount of fame to introduce hapless strangers to the wonders of traditional card and board games, then I might as well do so.
Today, I’d like to review Scrumbrawl from Vic-Tim Games (www.scrumbrawl.com). I met the guys at Vic-Tim at a convention a while back, after I’d already bought and played the game. I’d promised them a review at one point, and then life got in the way. But better late than never.
Scrumbrawl’s theme is that of a fantasy sport where various magical characters battle it out in a chaotic arena, trying to score points by getting the ball to the goal and defeating other players on the field. Chaos is the operative word. This is a game where everything can change in a moment and often does. Perhaps one second, your team will get struck down by a lightning bolt or smacked by an angry ghost. And teams will be cycling through players constantly, so no matter how cool that Chimera or Amazon might seem, don’t bother getting too attached to them because odds are good they won’t be long for the arena.
If you don’t like randomness, stay away from Scrumbrawl. It is this concept personified. The game is meant to be sat down and played without concern for long-term strategy. Instead, it’s a fast and furious battle where players dive right in and start fighting for glory. This is its biggest strength. Not since the forgotten classic Battleball have I played a game where I can just jump into the action. This means that Scrumbrawl is a great game for casual play and for introducing to players who are new to gaming.
In comparison, I really enjoy Privateer Press’s Grind fantasy sport game. It has more meat to it. On the other hand, I’ve had trouble teaching people Grind, where Scrumbrawl is as simple as set a few tokens on the board, draw a few cards, and start playing. The rules can easily be taught as you play, and that’s a great thing.
Scrumbrawl is a terrific casual game. It’s fast and furious enough that it’s always entertaining, chaotic enough that it discourages players from getting stuck in overthinking things, and easy enough that the rules can be learned without pain. But this could be said about a lot of games, so what is unique about Scrumbrawl?
It has great presentation. The cards and figure tokens that represent the various participants are all very colorful and fun. The art, in particular, takes old standbys of fantasy and makes them pop with life. Whether its the ectoplasmic vapor of the Ghost or the fearsome terror of the Giant Spider or the strange enchantment of The Stump, this is a game with a lot of personality.
Variety is another strong element. With dozens of possible characters to be drawn from the deck, it’s unlikely you’ll see the same team combos over and over again. Add to this the clever game mechanism of different type of balls AKA orbs to compete over. There’s the standard leather orb, which does nothing special, but there’s also the chaos orb (randomly teleports its carrier), the unstable orb (has a tendency to explode), and the sticky orb (hard to drop, impossible to pass), etc. There are countless random events to spice up the game. Lightning storms and sudden multiple orbs as well as earthquakes and windstorms. Scrumbrawl will never play out quite the same way twice.
This chaotic nature will be the biggest turn off to “hardcore” players who hate having an unlucky die roll undo their plans. So if you are one of these folks, Scrumbrawl is not for you. But if you can stomach a healthy dose of random madness to your fantasy sport board game, then you could do a lot worse than Scrumbrawl. It’s a solid, fun game, and worth your time if want to spend an hour watching a Dragon fight a Leprechaun for the glory of the arena.
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