Product-Pixel Tactics Deluxe
Producer-Level 99 Games
Price– Can’t buy just yet!
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 20-30 minutes (2 players)
TL; DR-A NES, an anime collection, and Final Fantasy Tactics in a card-shaped blender. 91%
Basics-Are you ready to old-school Anime rumble!? In Pixel Tactics Deluxe, the big box expansion to Pixel Tactics, players take the roles of rival armies attempting to kill the leader of the opposing unit. Let’s start by describing the cards, and then the rest will fall into place. Each card’s face has a leader half and a unit half. The leader is the main character that the enemy will try to defeat. Each leader has an attack value, hit points, as well as providing either a special action or a special ability for your team. If you rotate the card, you see the generic unit half. This side has fewer hit points, an attack, and four different colored rectangles. These rectangles are the main thrust of the game; each unit has a red, green, and blue rectangle as well as either a tan or purple rectangle. The red, green, and blue rectangles are what this unit can do or powers it, or your army, gains depending on where it is in your army. Units in the vanguard (red areas), get some powers, while units to your leaders sides (green or flank), or behind the leader (blue or rear) had different abilities. The purple boxes are one time game effects (orders), and tan boxes are trap cards that you can place on the board to activate on an opponent’s turn when some action occurs.
With that, we can get into the meat of the game. Each player starts by drawing five cards from a deck of Pixel Tactics cards. From these first five, each person will select a leader and place that character in the center of their board. After selecting who gets to go first, players take turns taking two actions for section or wave of their unit (vanguard, then flank, and finally rear). The actions a player can take is recruit (place a character in that section), attack (range or melee), spell (the rectangle says spell:some ability), issuing orders, laying traps, clearing corpses (removing fallen characters), or moving characters to different locations. After both players have taken two actions for a wave of a unit , then play moves to the next wave. Once all three waves have taken actions, the play moves back to the vanguard and the next player takes over as first player.
I’d like to expand on attacks quickly. Each unit has an attack value. When a unit attacks, it does that attack value in damage to another enemy. Unless a unit has a ranged attack, that unit cannot attack a unit behind another unit or if one of your units is in front of it. Therefore, position is important. Corpses do not block combat, but corpses do block placing new units, so unless you removed them with an action, your army will quickly be unable to place new fighters! If a unit has damage equal to its health at the end of a wave’s actions, that unit is defeated and flipped over and is now a corpse. Combat is just that simple. The game continues with each player taking turns until one player has defeated the other player’s leader and reigns supreme!
Mechanics-I like the quick nature of this game. Thinking of similar card games like Magic, each card is a spell (order) or a unit, and that opens up a range of tactical options. It’s fast, fun, and not a rules slog as different orders can’t do infinite combos or other such craziness that can build up in other games. It’s just a quick game of fun tactics that you learn in under 10 minutes and feel smart when you discover combos in the cards. It is a bit limited as this box only has two 30 card decks, and both decks are exactly the same. It’s fun, but you can see why there are five other Pixel Tactics expansions besides this one. However, to open new fun, this box also comes with drafting and league rules. If you and your friends want to open up a tournament, this box and the other expansions give you the experience you’re wanting. Well done! 5/5
Theme-This is a hard one. There is NO real story in this game box, but it also drips theme in a strange, Frankenstein combination of genres. I don’t have a clue what the heck any of the factions are or why they are fighting. However, there is a ton of theme here. Each leader has a full name and title. These titles get all kinds of fun and the powers reflect it. The generic unit side also provides you with some fun flare as the various cards have powers that all reflect exactly what you would think a card of that type should do. Honestly this game feels like a smoothie made by blending the NES game catalog, Final Fantasy Tactics, and an anime collection. What comes out is tasty and flavorful, but might not always make much sense, like green tea-flavored kit-kat bars. 4.25/5
Instructions-The rules to this game are thick, but if you just want to play a two player game of it, you will use about ⅕ of it. The rest of the rules are for alternative game modes and how to use league rules and expansions. That said, the thing reads well. It’s a bit wordy because the rules need to explain how you kill your friend and your friend has to see how that is fair in detail, but overall it reads quickly. It could use a few more pictures, but it’s not bad by any means. 4.75/5
Execution-This box serves two masters reasonably well. On one side you have players like me-I’ve never played before and this is an excellent jumping on point. Here is a full box with dividers for your growing collection and two starting decks so you can play in five minutes. On the other side you have full avid collectors. Here is a box where you get new cards, new common cards for drafting games, and dividers to make you colection fit in one well-constructed box. I only have two minor problems with this game: the leader cards in the deluxe box and card icons. Leader cards are chibi art cards of the leaders without having the basic unit side. You get several beautiful cards, BUT you don’t get cards for all the units you get in this box. Why? That makes me mad–I have toys I can’t use! The card icons help you quickly figure out how a card works. And that’s great, but they can be a bit busy. The overload of icons isn’t on all the cards, but maybe a few less would help improve readability. These are only slight annoyances and not nearly enough to completely detract from the beauty of this game. Want to see all the cards in the box? Check out our unboxing video here: https://youtu.be/uHSQNmhsFVo 4.5/5
Summary-I’ve never been much of a card gamer, but this one does win me over. I can’t stand the pay-to-win mechanics of Magic, but this game gives me enough strategy and evolving gameplay that I can have a blast for a one-time cost and in a way where I don’t have to spend days learning the complex rules of the game. I’d like a bit more theme as I don’t know why I’m killing the other player, but It also doesn’t really matter-The cards feel like they should. The rules are streamlined, if a bit wordy, and the execution of the deluxe box is amazing. My biggest problem with this box is I want more, which is always a great problem to have. If you are looking for some classic NES nostalgia, your anime fix, and a fun 20-30 minute strategy game, then this is the game you’re looking for! 91%