In a time when board games can cost anywhere from $50 to $100, being able to whip out a card game that is easy to set up and relatively fun to play is priceless. Sure, you can use a regular card deck and play games with your friend, but why not play a Final Fantasy Tactics style card game instead?
As a gamer, it is clear that some of Level 99 Games’ content are tabletop versions of certain video game genres. One look at the box for Pixel Tactics and most gamers will instantly have an idea on what the game is all about. The cutesy pixel graphics plays on your love of video games (more specifically 8-bit Final Fantasy games) and the gameplay kind of does as well. To make things even more appealing, you can typically buy a Pixel Tactics game for less than $20!
Upon first opening the box and seeing the materials, you’ll see a deck of cards (half with blue backs and half with red backs) that are to be separated into piles for each player. Then you’ll notice two cards that indicate the ‘first player’ and ‘second player’. On the back of these cards is a reference list that tells each player the actions they can take during each turn. You’ll also find a cardstock with cutouts for tasks such as tracking damage.
The card layout since that is probably the most intimidating part of the game, though the instructions do a pretty good job of explaining things for you. There is text all over the card with 4 different colored rows, instructions in each row, and two characters on either side of the card. One side has a uniquely named character (the Leader side) and the other has a more generic character (the Hero side). The instructions then review the setup and the game flow.
Simply put, you choose a Leader (of which there are so many to choose from) who each have special bonuses to apply to actions or heroes (or both) throughout your game. Placed in the center of your 3 x 3 gameplay grid, the goal is to build up your army strategically and do all you can to defeat the other player’s leader. Each row is represented by the color on the cards. The first row is the Vanguard (red) and it directly borders the opposing player’s 3 x 3 grid. The second row is the Flank (green) and it contains the Leader. The last back row is the Rear (blue). Each round focuses on characters ONLY in that round’s active row. Each round only allows for you to play out 2 actions before focusing on a new row.
Attacks are carried out simply as an action and don’t require a die roll or any kind of contest to determine a hit or a miss, which certainly speeds up the gameplay. Throw in rules for melee attacks, ranged attacks, spells, and orders and you have a ton of strategies you can play out per round.
What is so impressive about this game is how every card has essentially five different uses for any game’s playthrough. A card can be used as a leader or a hero or an order for starters. When utilizing a hero card, it can perform different functions depending on which row the hero resides in. Every character has multiple strengths depending on where and when you decide to play them. This really makes for a lot of mental smoke as the same level of strategy you’d see in a Final Fantasy Tactics game.
The fun doesn’t stop there as Level 99 Games has a ton of expansions you can buy for this game. Filled with even more characters to add to both player’s decks or even just your own, Pixel Tactics has a simple and relatively fast system that can occupy the time of two card generals with very little necessary table space.
However, as you play the game, it would be nice if a play mat was included to help keep track of card placement. The Pixel Tactics Deluxe set apparently provides a mat but having a fold out mat in any of the Pixel Tactics versions should be a standard offering. Also, while the card counters are an effective way to indicate damage and so forth, it would be nice to have other 3D gems or counters that are easier to pick up and to quickly identify damage. Using card stock means you have to recognize which side the counter is on (one side is 1 dmg and the other is 3 dmg). Considering leaders take 15+ damage to kill, indicating all of that with cardstock can be a little burdensome. Of course, including this in each set would increase the cost of this beautifully priced game.
All in all, Pixel Tactics is a wonderful strategic card game that looks to have a significant level of replayability even without adding the other expansions. If you’re interested in learning more about it or even picking it up, visit the Level 99 games site.
And if you want even more reviews of tabletop games and gaming in general, check out more from BJ Brown, right here on FanBros.com!