24 September 2021
A fight to get it to the table
I love fighting video games. I’ve spent many hours punching, kicking and throwing countless digital combatants over the years. But sadly, I’ve yet to find a tabletop fighting game that I’ve wholeheartedly enjoyed.
The Exceed fighting system has been around for a few years now, boasting its own roster of creative characters for you to battle against your friends with, as well as previously teaming up with video game company Capcom to release Exceed: Street Fighter. Now Level 99 has partnered up with Arc System Works to release four different box sets of Exceed: BlazBlue, with each set containing four different fighters, all of which are fully compatible with each other, as well as previous games in the Exceed system.
The Exceed system on its own is a simple premise: each deck in the series is based around a single character, with the decks comprised of the same selection of basic moves, as well as a variety of themed character cards that add a unique twist to each character.
Each turn you can play one action (such as moving or drawing) then if you didn’t use the “strike” action, draw a card. “Strike” is the core way to damage an opponent, seeing you play one card face down as your opponent then does the same. Both cards are revealed then compared, with the higher speed going first. Sometimes a card attack is so powerful, it will stun the other player, stopping them from being able to use their own card at all. Cards that successfully hit then go to your “Exceed” area instead of the discard pile, which can be used to power up your character or to initiate stronger special attacks.
The key to victory lies in being able to outthink your opponent. Even if you’ve never faced a character before, you know that each deck will have at most up to two copies of a given card, with more than half the deck being the same basic moves which you also have. As players expend cards, you can track what’s been played to better plan out your attack, such as playing assault cards to quickly hit when you know your opponent has exhausted the fast fighting cards.
Whilst the game system has a reasonably sturdy core that rewards players who really commit to it, this particular wave of releases does little to sell players. The branding and, shall we say, “different” approach to card design and illustration may feel authentic to fans of BlazBlue, but it did absolutely nothing to appeal to me. If this game features cross branding to appeal to fans of BlazBlue, it does so at the risk of alienating players who’ve barely heard of this niche franchise in an already niche genre. I have friends who’ve made multiple trips to the professional EVO tournament in Las Vegas, who reacted to me having this as “oh, okay, whatever.”
And I can’t say I blame them. This set does nothing to engage me in the characters or world, but expects me to commit hours of playtime (given there’s no help sheet for how to actually play a character) to be halfway decent at it, instead of doing the card game equivalent of button bashing.
I want a fighting card game to feel rewarding early, for characters to be more unique than a handful of slightly varied cards, also looking sleek like Exceed: Street Fighter wouldn’t go amiss either. I’m sorry that this wasn’t the one for me, but maybe one day a new challenger will arrive that finally sells me on tabletop brawling.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
BlazBlue may not be the biggest name in fighting games, but fans of the franchise or who have enjoyed previous Exceed sets may enjoy the roster enhancement, even if it does little to encourage non-fans to invest their time in it
The original franchise which lead to the Exceed system, this bigger box has wholly original characters and uses a paired card system to add greater depth to every play decision. While the better standalone game, if you love expanding rosters then Exceed is the one for you.
Designer: D. Brad Talton Jr
Publisher: Level 99 Games
Time: 20 minutes
This article originally appeared in issue 59 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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