Fatal Knockout is live on Kickstarter right now, as of the time of writing. (16th March 2023) You can find a link to it here. This is a preview copy sent to us for our early opinions. No money exchanged hands. Some art or components may change in the final game.
OK. I don't want to beat around the bush here. This is a fantastic game.
If you enjoy two-player skirmish games, then you will love this.
If you enjoy arcade fighting video games and want to see how that will feel in cardboard form, this may very well be for you.
If you like programming games, or clever card play, you may well love this too.
First up, lets check out the box. It opens into three pieces. The bottom splits into two, and then one of the pieces, our choice, can be inserted into the lid to form the arena. Looks awesome, doesn't it! The art can change depending on who is fighting, or what you prefer the look of.
This is all for aesthetics, and I am all in on this. I love it. The only functional part of the box is the nine blocks where the fighters enact their battles. It's linear to replicate the video game style this game is trying to re-create. If you just had a flat board with nine blocks it would work just as well. But this game is all about the drama. I love it.
Each character comes with its own unique player board, deck of cards, reference card, player handbook, and standee. It is all very easy to sort and get playing. Set up is a breeze. Each of the characters is completely different. Some have weapons and can attack from range. Others are good in the grapple and want to be up close. One has a guitar and can use it to make vicious melodies. Another has lightening fast speed, and can nip in, attack, then run away again. They are all brilliant to play with, fun to learn, and offer a very different game experience.
The cards themselves look complicated at first, but very quickly become incredibly simple to read and understand. the above two cards are for a character that can change their stance mid fight. This allows them to be stronger in certain attacks and movements. Generally you work top to bottom, and do one of the options on each horizontal level. But MIXUP means you can work from the bottom up if you prefer. So, the card on the left lets you change stance and then attack in the three spaces in front of you, but only the first if you are in stance red, and only the second and third, if you are in stance green. The card on the right looks way more complicated but it really isn't, lets go through it.
Remember, due to MIXUP, you can do these three actions in any order you like. First, you can move, or change stance. If you are in yellow stance already, your movement could be up to three spots. Just one if not. Next, you can either attack in front or behind you, depending on where your opponent is. Again, your range is affected by your current stance. Finally, you can attack directly in front or behind you, either for one damage, or two if you are in red stance. Simple huh?!
The fact that you can choose what you do, and MIXUP helps a great deal as this is a programming game. You see the number in the top left, this will determine the order the cards are acted out in. First, the starting player will play one card face up, followed by the other player. Then the starting player can play another card if they wish, or end that round. If they play another, they will do so face down, as will the other player. They can then if they desire, play a third card, again, face down. If they do this, the other player must do the same. So, you will end the planning phase with either two face up card, or two face up and two or four face down cards. When this is done, all cards are flipped face up and arranged into sequential order, lowest to highest. So, you need to think hard about what order you want to do things and plan accordingly. But the flexibility on the cards, often offering a lot of choices, give you the chance to adapt and react in the action phase.
The cards also offer added flexibility with a status power in the top right. Both these cards can be used to simple reverse the orientation of your fighter if you desire. See the icon in the top right? This allows you switch the side you are facing and then ignore the card. Other status' show that you can only use certain cards if you have suffered at least two damage, or gain a shield. Shields simply block one damage either from the front or back, depending on where you orientated the shield when you placed it.
The final part of the card, and now you know most the rules, is the green icon at the very top in the cards above. This lets you move forward one space on a a meter track on your payer board. As you move up it you will gain various bonuses such as shields and the chance to exchange cards in your hand. But when you reach the end, you can add into your deck of cards, your character unique ultra card.
These cards allow each fighter to enact one huge power move, once per game, which will be sure to cause huge damage. Above, the card on the left is for Guitarist. It allows him to play a Chorus, which is when they exchange three previously acquired notes, for one big attack. Then acquire three more notes, before finally attack for a second tie with another Chorus. This feels huge and wildly satisfying if you manage to get this card, and use it.
Everything about this game just screams fun. It feels all the usual mechanics, rules, and complications with a skirmish game have been stripped bare. The game is so pure. So fast, fun, and full of twists and turns. It's a simple race to see who can inflict five damage first, which I have found only takes around 10-15 minutes, and 4-7 turns. This makes this game feel very much like something I would recommend you play just like a video fighting game on a console. Multiple fight, game after game. Strap in, get comfy, and enjoy the fun.
Each character comes with its own reference card, along with the book to explain their own unique rules and fighting options. This game is just so accessible. I am blown away at the level of detail that has gone into this game, from a designer who seems at the start of their board game design journey. Massive congratulations has to go to them for this.
As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this. It is just so fun. I would urge anyone who has got this far to go check out the page now, and see if this is something that may be for them.
Now, who wants a fight?