All You Need Is Some Nostalgia Game Soundtracks - Pixel Tactics Review

Two player games are a love and hate relationship with me. On the one hand I love a good two player game or even just a game that can be played with two players well. There are countless amounts of two-player games out there, particularly in the small games market and when you have a spouse or gaming partner, they are a perfect way to spend an evening. On the other hand I live alone currently and play most of my games at club settings or when I invite groups round, so it's hard to get two player games to the table and that does my head in. When you're at a club, it's hard to just grab one person and have a two player duel when there are others wanting to play a game.

My main games I play in a two-player setting are Android Netrunner, Innovation, Seasons, Hanabi, Marvel Dice Masters and Summoner Wars and even those last two struggle to hit the table. But I love to try others and recently my friend acquired two packs in the Pixel Tactics series and a third pack has been released albeit in short supply. As I'm doing a video review of Boss Monster currently that uses the same style of pixel graphics in it's imagery I figured this would make a good companion to review.


"I like how the game box looks a lot like an old computer game cartridge"

Designer: D. Brad Talton, Jr (2012-2014)
Publisher: Level 99 Games
# of Players: 2 or 4
Ages: 12+
Play Time: 30-45 minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 784 / 7.57
Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: n/a
Category: Duel Card Game with Variable Player Powers
  
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The object of the game is to slay your opponents leader. You will draw cards and summon heroes on to a 3 x 3 grid divided into three rows, the vanguard, the flank and the rear. These heroes are what you will use to protect your leader whilst whittling down your opponents defences and destroying his leader.

Each leader has a special ability that affects the whole unit and each hero has their own personal special ability, however this ability is changed slightly depending on which row you place the hero. So for example a Paladin character might be an effective blocker in the front row, but in the back row he instead functions as a back-up healer. Each hero can also be played from the hand to trigger a separate one-off effect.

Each player takes it in turns to proceed through each row in their unit activating hero powers and managing their cards and the turn order is reversed in every subsequent round. Heroes will attack and defeat other heroes, but the game does not end until the opponents leader is slain.

Cheap and Cheerful Pixels


The game is inexpensive to buy and you get 50 cards with a lot of text and graphics on them, some tokens to track damage and a paper play-mat. I can't complain for that price, but I do hate the look of a play mat on the table that's all creased up. The Summoner Wars Master Set is more expensive, but I love the thick board you get.

"Keeps the cost down and it's functional, but I hate crease lines!"

The tokens themselves are a little painful to get back in the box after you've punched them out, but my main gripe is their size. These are titchy tokens and can be very fiddly manipulating these in-game.

The cards themselves look pretty good though - you get that nostalgic feeling with all the pixel characters like you're looking at an old style Final Fantasy or Pokemon game. With 25 different characters per set, there's a good amount of variety as well, but it's not the variety in the pictures that's the best bit.

Tactical Overload

The tactical options in this game are just insane to comprehend particularly when you're talking about 25 cards only. Each card has 5 abilities on it, one for the leader, one for each row on the battlefield and one as an "order" effect for playing it out of your hand. So every time you draw a character you have to decide on the best way to use him depending on which ability you need more. So rarely does a hero perform the exact same function from one game to the next.

"Notice the similarities between the leader abilities and their hero abilities"

And on top of that your choice of leader completely changes the way your unit as a whole functions. I play a 2 vs 2 game at POBCON the other day and I had a leader who allowed me to counter orders being played and my teammate was able to heal at the end of every wave (wave being the term for turns in this game as you go through each row). That affected how our opponents played against us and on the flip side I had to contend with leaders who speeded up their heroes and allowed them to attack upon being summoned, i.e. hyper-aggressive.

So no game ever plays the same and that's with only a pack of 25 different heroes. Buy the other Pixel Tactic packs (not doing a separate review for each as they're pretty much the same) and you'll get even more heroes to throw into the mix.

"Think of the combos and possibilities with only these ones!"

However we come to the biggest flaw with the game and this is more down to players anyway. Some games lend themselves to AP issues, but this game practically opens the door for them. With 4 different ways to use a hero card and then up to 4 different character powers that could be used on each wave if you've got a fully fledged unit, the choices on your turn can be overwhelming. Anybody even remotely prone to AP is going to be thinking a lot in this game. Now that makes for a really fun, tactical game, but it can prolong the game out and as such it never finishes as quick as other two player games out there which can hurt its appeal.

Verdict

This is a cool little two player game, that has the option of being expanded to a 2 vs 2 game for more chaos. However doing so will make this a much longer game than it already is so I personally prefer to only play this as a head to head venture, but it's nice to have the option and with enough packs, the hardcore deckbuilders among you will get a kick out of customizing your unit pre-game.

The graphic design isn't going to impress all, you either like pixel graphics or you don't, but that's not what this game does best. It's a classic example of not judging a book by its cover. This game gives you a two player duel with a twist. The sheer amount of options available to you with each character coupled with how your choice of leader completely changes the feel of your unit is enough to blow your mind.

That being said, with all these options comes the price of chronic AP if you're not careful and even though this game has a 12+ age rating, I would be hesitant to teach this to anybody new to gaming because I think they would be overwhelmed. You've got Summoner Wars for that and at a pinch, Lords of War too. Keep this for the hardcore gamers and have a blast.


You Will Like This Game If:

  • You're looking for a more tactically involved duel style game.
  • You have any liking for similar games in this genre such as Yomi and BattleCon
  • The potential of deck-building and team matches appeals to you.

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • The pixel artwork is something you don't like or you don't like the component quality.
  • You want a simple, quick two player game for new gamers. There's too much to think about here.
  • You aren't comfortable with some combos just blowing you away at times.

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