As a game reviewer, it is always best to have the actual game on the table to allow for a serious review, not just of gameplay, but all the other aspects of a game, from component quality to aesthetics.
But sometimes you get a sneak peek at a game that is just on the verge of being produced. Generally today that means a game being promoted on kickstarter.com, a crowdfunding website where many games find the dollars to be produced.
The miniature battle game Brutality is going through that fundraising process right now, raising its initial goal of $54,000 Cdn in just 29-hours. Of course, they hope to far exceed that goal to allow for a range of add-ons and Kickstarter bonuses.
The game is by Game Devastation out of California, who was good enough to email me the rules as they exist at present, and a print ‘n ‘play version of the game components, sans the miniatures of course.
So a couple of caveats need to go here.
To start with a miniature game largely lives and dies by its miniatures. While the ones in Brutality look fantastic in representation on Kickstarter, that is not the same as handling physical pieces.
From the photos, these are going to be large models with lots of detail, so miniature painters are going to love this one.
And, rulesets at the Kickstarter stage are generally living documents, which get tweaked at least a little by the time the game is produced, so again it’s a bit of a guess on an early review like this one.
At its heart, this game is best described as a game of gladiatorial battle, albeit with a darker, fantasy/medievalesque setting.
This particular type of game is quite popular at present with a few examples recently released; Aristeia is one that falls into the same general category, and a game which will be reviewed in this space soon.
In one-on-one play, each player takes two characters into the ‘arena’ to do battle. There will be a minimum of eight characters with the game, although since Kickstarter campaigns are notorious for adding neat things to the box based on money raised that number may grow, and if expansions are forthcoming the stable of characters will certainly grow. That is the best part of a game such as Brutality, the ability to vary the characters you play, which provides lots of replay with the game as a player looks to find the ‘team’ of characters with the greatest synergies.
The heroes are playable characters that have different movement speed, special attacks, health point values, and personalities, so each offers something unique in terms of in-game mechanics and the ‘feel’ of using them in battle. Once selected, the player will place one hero on the left corner, one hero on the right corner of their side of the board. The opponent will do the same. And the ‘gladiatorial’ battle is set to begin.
That is a huge part of the game, learning how to play your two characters as a true team where what they do on the board compliments the other.
The victory condition in the game is straightforward killing both heroes on the opponent’s team by reducing both of their health values down to zero. The first team to do this wins the game.
The play area is a basic grid, but in terms of play, it is an ever-changing arena, at least on a game-to-game basis.
So, why chose this one among the choices in terms of gladiatorial games?
It is rare and either or, with games. Having multiple games on a favoured theme is never bad, and these sorts of games are tons of fun, and elements such as the large models, artifact cards, and replay potential certainly make Brutality worth a long look.
Players take turns choosing ‘environmental hazards’ to place on the board. The hazards include things such as deadly spikes and fire to toss an opponent into, which of course is part of every post–apocalyptic b-movie fight arena.
From the rules, “Players have two actions per character on their turn, out of a few options they have to use. They can move, or use a special attack. The order in which you perform these actions is up to the player. The player can also move two spaces, use a special attack, then use their remaining movement to move one more space.”
The board is not large at 7X8, so movements are pretty limited.
Once an enemy is within a hero’s attack range, the player can attack that enemy. Heroes have different abilities that they can use to attack enemies. The amount of damage their attack does to an enemy is listed on their character card. On a successful attack, the amount of damage is deducted from the attacked hero’s like total.
There are of course some twists beyond move and attack.
At the beginning of each turn, the player draws one relic card. “Some cards can be used when the player chooses, some are instant, some take place next turn, and some take place on the opponent’s next turn. These are typically positive effects for the player who pulled it or damaging against their opponent. There is no Action cost on cards and they can be played at any time on their turn. Players can only have three cards at a time, they can’t draw a card until they have less than three cards. All three cards can be spent in one turn if that is the player’s desire,” explains the rules.
These are the cards that players will find interesting in terms of learning when to use certain ones to best effect.
Before the game begins, players can select one artifact per character on their team.
“Artifacts are powerful items that players can use independent of an action. Each artifact has unique cooldowns (number of turns until they can use the cards again), so after the player uses an artifact, there is a time period where these cannot be used. Once that time is up, the relics can be used again,” explains the rules.
These are the spice of the game, and because they have a cooldown period before they can be used again, timing is everything with their use.