Brawl: Catfight: Tamiya
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BRAWL is a real time card game. That means each player goes at his own pace, with no turns. It's a fighting game, where the object is to play the most "Hits" on your side of the table before the game ends. That usually happens in less than a minute. BRAWL is packaged in 35-card decks, and each deck represents a unique character with a different mix of cards, and each player needs one deck to play.
BRAWL can also be played in a turn-based "Training Mode." This is a strategic game variant which teaches you how the cards work without all the pressure of the real-time play. We think you'll enjoy both styles of play, but we prefer the real-time game.
Tamiya has lots of boyfriends, but her best friend is her giant wooden hammer! The other girls tease her because she's so good in school, but she just knocks them out cold.
I'm a college senior at the University of Minnesota and was introduced to Brawl almost a year ago by a Ph.D. student in my lab. Over time, I've purchased all 16 Brawl decks (including the first 6 which are unfortunately now out of print). Needless to say, I've now spent quite a bit of money on Brawl, but it's been worth every penny.
Here's what I like and dislike about the game:
1. Speed! Brawl is a 'real-time card game', meaning that there are no turns. Your goal is to play your 35-card deck as quickly and intelligently as possible, such that you can be ahead once you get to the bottom of your deck and reach the all-important Freeze cards that can stop game play. It takes about a minute to play a game of Brawl, and another minute to deal with the 'aftermath': counting points, getting the decks back together, and reshuffling them. This means that it's easy to play a game or two during a lunch break, in between classes, and so on. You can play with up to 16 players, and even a 16-player game will only take 1-2 minutes to play and another couple minutes for 'aftermath'.
2. Easy to teach. It takes about 10 minutes to explain the rules to a new player and play a couple of turn-based practice games. It's also the sort of game where you can learn some of the rules in small chunks: you won't need to know the rules about cards that aren't present in the decks that you're playing with. Plus, decks are rated as Easy, Moderate, and Advanced, so you can start beginners out on the Easy decks.
3. Number of players. Brawl can be played by 2-16 players, as long as each has a different deck. I've had extensive experience playing Brawl with about 10 or so players (basically, our entire lab). In most other games, changing the number of players can really affect the length and strategy of the game; that's certainly not true of Brawl. Basically, in a 3+ player game, all the players sit in a circle, choose one deck, and play two simultaneous games of Brawl: one with the person on their left, one with the person on their right. Playing Brawl with 3+ players adds a lot of interesting dynamics and strategy to the game; for instance, you can try to play cards when your opponent isn't paying attention to you, but is focusing on his/her other opponent. It also pays off to watch what important cards (especially Presses, Reverses, and Doubles) have been played in your opponent's other game, since you then know they can't play these cards against you.
4. Variety. You'd think Brawl would get boring quickly, since the games are so short and there are only about 10 different types of cards. If you only buy two decks, make sure neither of them is rated as Easy, or the game will get quickly boring. But buying 4 or 5 decks will get you 6 or 10 different 2-player combinations, and this is where the fun of Brawl really lies. Games with 3+ players add a whole new element of strategy; if that gets boring, there are also 4- and 6-player 'tag team' rules that can lead to intense, strategic play.
5. Balance. All the decks seem to be relatively balanced. Decks rated as Easy can hold their own against the more Advanced decks; you've just got to play your cards faster and get to the end of your pile before your opponent can play all of his/her nastier cards. Easy decks are especially fun to play in 3+ player games, and they seem to be vital for 'tag team' play. With that said, I think there are some decks that are used more often in our group. These tend to be the more advanced decks, such as Pearl, Bennett, Rent, Tess, Crane, Sonia, and Ting Ting. (Ting Ting's 'Wild Block' cards are evil incarnate.)
6. Not like Falling. Cheapass Games, building on the success of Brawl, has introduced a few more real-time card games, including Falling and Fightball. I'm not a real fan of either, nor are the other people I play Brawl with. If you didn't like Falling, don't let that prevent you from buying Brawl; the games are really much different. (On the other hand, Cheapass' new real-time game, Light Speed, seems pretty good, though I've not yet played it extensively.)
1. Speed! There are some people who just can't handle playing at the speed Brawl requires. This usually isn't a physical issue, but a mental one: some people just seem to be unable to deal with the quickly-changing nature of the game. People who enjoy lengthy analysis of a game won't like Brawl. If you *only* like games like bridge, chess, go, Risk, etc., Brawl might not be for you. There is a lot of strategy in a typical game of Brawl, but that strategy is typically found in short, furious bursts, not in the form of a long-range plan or strategy.
2. Price. While each individual deck is reasonably priced, buying all 16 can be a bit spendy. I recommend starting with Crane and Sonia. Crane is very well-balanced, with 1 of almost all the 'tricky' cards -- he's therefore rated as 'Advanced'. Sonia fills in the gaps with her Presses and Reverse. The Catfight decks don't explicitly rate difficulty levels, but I'd rate Sonia as 'Moderate'. This will expose you to nearly all the cards, except Wild Block and Hit-2, which are modified versions of the standard Hit and Block cards. For variety, I recommend getting a third or fourth deck as well. Then, play Brawl with some people; if they like it, encourage them to buy a couple decks, different from yours. Repeat this a few times with a few different gamers and soon you will have all 16 decks available to you. :) Once you realize what sorts of card combinations you like or dislike, you might want to buy another deck or two that caters to your preferred style. Reviews and card counts of each deck can be found on various web sites; unfortunately the review guidelines don't let me include a URL.
3. Mild rule difficulties. The basic rules of Brawl are very straightforward; the main problem here is that of synchronicity. For example, there is a card called Clear that removes a Base from the game, and a card called Hold that makes a Base unclearable. If these two cards are played simultaneously, what happens? However, this sort of situation doesn't happen very often, so you can either talk it out when it does, or create a convention that resolves these disputes. I suggest the rule 'If a Base's clearing is under contention, it is not cleared, and the Clear cards are removed from the game' since this also covers another case where the remaining 2 bases are simultaneously cleared by 2 opponents (which is illegal because 1 base must be in play at all times.)
4. Card quality. This is only an issue with the original set (Bennett, Pearl, Morgan, Hale, Darwin, and Chris). These cards are flimsier than the newer decks and will tend to show wear pretty quickly, especially due to the fast-and-furious nature of Brawl play. Thankfully, the newer Brawl series (Club Foglio and Catfight) are made of higher-quality card stock and don't wear as badly. I also recommend playing on a smooth table so that cards can be quickly swept aside without danger of nicking or bending the edges and corners.
I was looking for a fun and easy to learn game I could play with my wife, so I picked up two decks of Brawl. I figured, 'What the heck--they are only a few bucks each. Why not give it a shot?' Boy, what a pleasant surprise! Brawl is simply an irresistable game that will have you saying, 'Come on--just one more round!'
Each character deck has a different mix of hits, blocks, and counters, so the same strategy of playing will not yield the same results. For example, my wife, who plays with the 'Chris' deck, has to work frantically and quickly when she is blocked; whereas I, with my 'Darwin' deck, can play a little slower, since I have a lot of tricky cards I can use to befuddle her. By slow, we are still talking mere seconds, since the games are over in about a minute!
You will find yourself racing frantically, flipping cards and trying to use split-second thinking and reflexes to get the upper hand on your opponent. It is not unlike a variation of War, but with all the faults of that game removed.
Is luck a factor? It is only if you are playing slowly. You will find that you can simply speed up your rate of play when unlucky cards appear.
What makes this game a must-have is the fact that you can learn the basics rather quickly, but you begin to realize after a few rounds that you could have played your hand a little differently, and a little more intelligently. Brawl is a game that requires real strategy, in addition to reflexes.
But perhaps the biggest reason why this game deserves 5 stars is the ratio of fun to cost. You will be hard pressed to find a better value for your gaming dollar. (Did I mention that the artwork and quality of the cards is outstanding?)
Pick up a couple of decks, grab your spouse or a friend, and have at it!
Take a few minutes to learn the game, and you are about to experience an exciting surprise from this tiny, cute card game. Great mix of quick reflex and tactical thinking. Just like playing an extremely fast-paced, real-time strategy game.
Brawl provides 3 levels of decks. Easy decks play very quickly (very little thinking, almost only reflex), while advanced decks play relatively slowly (more variety in your cards, more thinking). This makes the playing balance just right.
You will find yourself continuing to play this highly addictive card game. Each play takes less than a minute! It's cheap! Buy all the decks!
Pssst... got a minute? Grab a deck and have a fight! You and your opponent place your base cards side by side between you, and the battle begins. Play cards as fast as you can to either side of any base card. You may play hits, blocks (to prevent further hits), presses (to cancel a block), clears (to get rid of a base altogether) or freezes (to halt play on that base). A base card may be added, but no more than three can be in play at once. For each base, the player who has more hits on his side wins it. Win more bases and you win the game. Two decks are available in each of three skill levels. You might also enjoy a multiplayer game in which you war against your two adjacent contenders.