Where Combo Fighter is concerned, the video game inspiration is clear, but there’s no license to contend with, allowing designer Asger Johansen complete creative freedom.
As a site that covers both video and tabletop games, there is nothing better for B3 than when a publisher decides to take a much loved video game and convert it into a really good card game. Sometimes, such games are fully licensed, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how the license is used.
Combo Fighter is a game about first breaking the opponents guard (by winning a face off between two cards) and then chaining follow up attacks to beat your opponents life (represented by the cards remaining in their deck) down to zero. Each game lasts about five to ten minutes, so the pace is fast and frantic, making Combo Fighter an excellent filler to play between larger games or when eliminated from another game.
The base game, which is what we have access to, contains four individual decks; each of which contains fifty cards that are exclusively associated with a single character. With that in mind, the various decks tell a story about the personality of the character in question, as well as providing that character with their own identity in terms of how attacks chain. At its most basic, this means that some characters have powerful attacks that are hard to chain, whilst others can land numerous lighter blows.
Mechanically speaking, Combo Fighter is very simple to play, although I will also suggest that the rulebook is not as clear as I would like it to be in terms of how it articulates the flow of gameplay. The initial face off between fighters is simple enough — each player chooses one of their cards (from a hand of five) to play. These cards are categorised as Attack, Block and Footwork, which broadly translates to Rock, Paper, Scissors in a more traditional sense.
Each of these attacks is indeed categorised in a way that allows it to directly trump one other category, just as Rock breaks Scissors in the traditional interpretation, but each also has its own speed rating. This ensures that ties are very few and far between, whilst also thematically preventing players from opening a large combo (at least not often) with a heavier, slower attack.
In all cases, the loser of the initial card comparison will simply discard their card and deal no damage, but the winner will be able to keep playing cards — potentially the remaining four in their hand. This is achieved by matching the key symbol on their next card with one of the symbols that is shown down the left hand side of the card that either opened the attack, or was played, most recently in the chain.
This, ultimately, will lead to a sum of damage and potentially some other effects. Usually, damage will reach between five and around fifteen, but some fighters can deal more damage in a single combo quite easily. All fighters have access to some signature moves, which are shown on the fighters card. They allow additional damage and effects to be triggered when the combo fires off.
These factors give Combo Fighter an interesting mixture of luck and skill that allows players of all skill levels and experience to stand a chance. Much as in an arcade beat-em-up like Street Fighter, the button masher can sometimes steal a win, but over two or three rounds, the more experienced and skillful fighter will likely walk away with victory, albeit not without taking some calculated risks.
With a good mixture of skill and judgement in its gameplay, Combo Fighter is sure to appeal to a wide range of people. Add to this an attractive, comic inspired art style that is actually quite cool and understated, and you have a game that grabs attention for all the right reasons. The characters are split evenly between men and women with many ethnicities represented. It’s also excellent to see women represented as competent, independent fighters and not as sexualised “boob armour” wearing objects of desire.
Overall, Combo Fighter does very little wrong. It is possible that very serious gamers will drop it too quickly having passed it off as a game dependant on the luck of the draw, but I think it is as often about bluffing and puzzle solving, as it is about luck. The better player will almost always win out over a three round fight, yet at all times a plucky newcomer will have a chance to snatch the victory. Combo Fighter is an excellent card game that looks and plays well enough to find a home in any collection.
Combo Fighter is available now. If you’d like to find out more about it, you can visit Kolossal Games, here.
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