WBG Score: 6.5
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: The Op
Designed by: Patrick Marino
Games can be fun, tense, tactile, strategic, funny and thinky. But panic inducing? Well apparently that's what the makers of Cuphead felt the board game world needed more of!
A Cup of Rules
Cuphead is a real time dice game based on the popular Cuphead video game. To set up each player takes a character board, the dice of their colour and three HP tokens, trust me you’re going to need these!. Place the boss board in the middle of the table with the HP dial and then pick your boss deck from the 8 included in the game. You’ll want to start with one and work your way up. Take the cards out of the box but don’t shuffle them! Place the boss card on the table and set their health dial depending on player count. Take the cards until you see a card that says stop and now you can shuffle the ones you’ve just taken to form a draw deck. Now you just have to decide your time limit for either 10, 15 or 20 seconds!
On a round draw three cards from the boss deck and play them face up. If you draw a wallop card then draw a forth card. Each card has either one or two symbols that the boss will attack with that turn unless you block them with the dice. When you're ready, start the timer and roll the dice as many times as you need to gather the symbols you need to block that attack and hopefully do some damage.
As you frantically roll the dice to get these symbols there’s a few things to remember. You must complete a card before moving onto the next one. You can skip a card but you won’t be allowed to go back and complete any that you skipped. If a card has a single symbol on it you can (if you roll one) assign a shoot symbol in the second slot for that card to deal damage. If you do this with your black EX dice then you can deal two damage. After your sweat filled time is up you resolve the cards. One at a time seeing who blocked, who did damage and who took damage.
If a player loses all their health then the game is over unless another player uses a parry token to revive them. You keep going like this until you have defeated all the bosses in the pack at which point you gain coins and can buy upgraded gear to take with you into the next boss deck. Simple?!!
A big old mug of chaos
I’ve not played the video game that this is based on but its reputation very much precedes it as being notoriously hard and fast paced. Since playing Cuphead: A fast rolling dice game I watched a couple of playthroughs and I can definitively say that this game absolutely captures that about the video game.
Cuphead is chaotic fun at its most chaotic. Before each round starts there’s a literal calm before the storm, people limber up their rolling hands, take some deep breaths and even try and decide if they can utilise any training techniques from Mr Miyagi. Wax on, wax off can be best applied in this game, only sped up to eleven!. As you press start on the timer app the music kicks in and you become aware of about four different things going on around you.
First your focus is on your dice and the outcome of each roll, what you can place on the board (if anything ) and if you can afford to spend a dice to shoot with or if you need all the dice you can for the next card. Next your brain is trying to interpret the symbols on the die faces. Some bosses in later decks have you substituting some symbols for others. Third you become aware of your team mates shouting “double feet, come on double feet, yes!!! right now jump and shoot, jump and shoot!” Lastly you hear the timer music getting ever faster as the time ticks down, aaaand stop! Now breathe a sigh of relief as you take stock of the last crazy 20 seconds and then see what the damage is amongst your team.
We’ve had a lot of fun with this game and the more players the better in our opinion. The higher player count may give more chances of losing as people start to lose HP but it’s also just more of a laugh as you see people panicking to get that last roll in before the end. The elation of getting that last symbol on the last roll is awesome and if it doesn’t go your way then you can’t help but laugh. No matter how much it may go against your gamer instincts, Cuphead isn’t a game that I think should be taken too seriously when it comes to winning or losing purely because you may find yourself losing a lot!
It’s easy to dismiss Cuphead as a game of pure luck……although it is largely. Getting a good first couple or rolls is always satisfying but not getting any of the symbols you want can be just as disheartening. Having unlimited re rolls is great and does mitigate the luck to a point and it’s then just down to how quick you can roll and assess your dice. Getting a wallop card helps as well, as do some of the special weapons and powers that you can acquire for completing the various decks.
There is some strategy in the game, the ability to skip cards, whilst damaging may be your best bet if you find yourself rolling a lot of one symbol. Sometimes choosing to suffer one hit rather than risking taking more is the better option. Choosing to use a shoot die early to be guaranteed to do damage and limiting your die pool for the next cards or wait and hope for the best at the end is always an interesting choice. Whatever you choose you’d better make it quick because time is short……very short. If you’ve ever screamed at a quiz show because a contestant can’t do something in 30 seconds then try this game. After 20 seconds of this under pressure you’ll have all the sympathy for them.
A Chalice of caveats
The next few points I’m going to make may seem like I’m trying to dissuade from checking this game out. That’s not necessarily the intent behind them, I’m just trying to make sure that this game is the best fit for people. While it can be said that most games are not for everyone. Cuphead has a lot more things that may not be the right fit for everyone.
Cuphead can be a difficult game and if you're the type of person who doesn’t like games that start on hard mode then Cuphead may not be the game for you. This can be especially true if your luck isn’t going your way on a particular night. I’d advise to watch some playthroughs on youtube and if you think it would have you packing it away after failing an early boss deck, never to play it again I would suggest that this isn’t the game for you. My advice would be to not take this too seriously, forget the grading system and just play to laugh and see how you get on.
If you're not a fan of real time games then this definitely is not for you. If you played Pandemic Rapid Response and thought that was too much then this game is probably not for you. I’d imagine if you don’t like real time games then you probably stopped reading sometime during the rules summary. If you did stick around then, thanks for sticking around!
If you're someone who doesn’t have the most dexterous hands then this could be a struggle. It’s not to say you can’t play it, you absolutely can but if you get some bad rolls then being able to reroll the dice quickly is a sure fire advantage and I worry that if you’re not able to do that then the game could feel frustrating.
Lastly, whilst this is not a one and done style game there is a possibility that by the time you’ve finished all the boxes you’ve had your fill. That’s not really a knock on the game itself because it’s fully replayable and it may be fun now and then to pull out a random box and see how you go, but I know that once some people “finish” the game they may feel that they’re done with it.
Cupehead does have a solo mode and that does feel easier. I’m not sure why that is, possibly because it’s easier to heal back up but it doesn’t feel as hard as the multiplayer so maybe playing solo may help with the sense of achievement and help you feel like you’re making progress though the decks.
There’s also a fun timer app you can use, it’s not necessary, but it does make getting your grade a lot simpler (if you wish to play that way) and the music does add to the feel and the tension.
For us we like to play this when we’ve got half an hour to spare at the end of the night. We pull out the next boss deck we’re on and play through it. For us that’s the perfect way to play the game.
Cuphead is some crazy fun that we can pull out at the end of a night, especially after a heavy game and just have a laugh with and not take it too seriously. It’s frantic, quick to set up, quick to play and weirdly enough it’s something to wind down at the end of the night.