Neon City. Home of the world’s first Ultra-Nuclear Silo. As with all good 80’s grand-openings, the silo was inaugurated with a tournament of champions! But as the fighters traded blows, someone else had plans for Neon City. A catastrophic meltdown of the silo caused radioactive sludge to spill out, covering the island in its entirety. Almost instantly, its inhabits began to change; mutated into horrible beasts and super powered beings. With no help in sight, those left on Neon City Island did what they had come to do…FIGHT!
N30N City RUMBLE (NCR) is a 2-player beat-em-up style card game from designer Davy Wagnarok. The game pits two teams of 5 super-human fighters against each other on the tarmac of Neon City, with the goal of driving the opponent’s fighters into the ground…or through a table…smashing them over the head with hockey sticks or filling them with bullet holes.
The prototype we received was quite rough around the edges, meaning that the aesthetics of the final product will be of a much higher quality. Artist Wilde Rudy has jumped on the project and began completely revamping the art and graphic design of Davy’s original prototype. The result is quite impressive, with a final look that is polished, nostalgic and functional. The color scheme and style is classic 80’s retro, turned up to 11. Muscles and sex appeal are over the top, true to the genre of games that inspired this analog version. To call the game “busy” would be an understatement, but it’s all intentional. The goal here is to stick to the source material.
The game revolves around a simple 4-way “rock-paper-scissors” mechanic, where players will be attacking with one of four possible moves and blocking with one of four equivalent counter moves. Successful strike attempts deal a single point of damage, but the use of special weapons, fighter-preferred attack styles, and individual super moves can modify the strikes and counters within an engagement. Successful attacks and blocks award Neon, a type of in-game currency that can be used to either buy items or activate the aforementioned special powers.
N30N City RUMBLE begins just as all good fighting games – with choosing your fighters. NCR boasts 20 rumblers right out of the box, with additional options available through stretch goals and higher backer levels. What this offers is an enormous amount of variability in the match-ups that can take place game to game. With each player drafting 5, you can customize your team to fit your play style (although all of them tend to focus on bashing in heads, just with different flair). The rulebook suggests a snake draft method, meaning the players draft 1-2-2-1-1-2-2 until teams are full. The system is sufficient, but could also be easily modified to fit your gaming group’s preferences.
Once chosen, fighters are placed on the tarmac, with only 3 fighters actually being engaged in combat at a given time. The other two are placed on the bench, biding their time until they can be tagged in at a later point. Once the BRAWL, Neon and, Item decks are shuffled, IT’S TIME TO RUMBLE!
The game takes place across several rounds until one player has all of his/her fighters KOed. Each round consists of three distinct phases:
The Pit Stop
The Pit Stop is a refresh phase, where players can switch out their battered fighters for fresh ones on the bench and buy cards from the different decks. Each Pit Stop phase, both players receive three BRAWL cards automatically and can then trade with the BRAWL, Neon, and Items decks to acquire new cards. BRAWL and Neon cards can be bought 1-for-1, but must be done so with a card of a different type. Items can be bought for two cards, in any combination of BRAWL and Neon (item cards still only count as 1 when being traded though).
Attack/Defend (Two Phases in One)
During the attack step, the first player (randomly decided at the beginning of the game) will be on the offensive. The attacker plays cards face down into their fighter’s rows, thus choosing their attack moves for the round. Attacks moves can be either BRAWL cards or Item cards. Every fighter does not have to attack each round, but the defender will get to see who is attacking before choosing who to block with. The defending player will then do the same, placing cards into their fighter rows, only with the intention of blocking the attacker’s chosen move.
Once both players have played cards, the individual combats are resolved in order, attacker’s left to right. Each BRAWL card is flipped and the chosen moves are compared. If the attack is blocked, the defender is successful and draws one Neon card. If the attack is not blocked, the fighter receives one point of damage and the attacker draws one Neon card. All engagements are resolved in this fashion, then the tarmac is cleared and the defender becomes the new attacker. This new attack round is resolved in the same manner, then both players return to the Pit Stop Phase and the First Player passes.
Martial Arts, Weapon Specialties and Super Moves
No beat-em-up would be worth playing if you only did one kick at a time and the character’s life slowly drained. What makes this style of game addictive are the over-the-top special combos and super moves that deal massive damage. N30N City RUMBLE has these personality defining moves in spades, as each fighter has a number of statistics and abilities that make them the iconic, beefy radioactive fighters worthy of 80’s fame and glory.
On a fighter’s card, there are potentially two different symbols indicating a preference or specialty for a martial art or weapon type. If a fighter manages to connect with one of these moves they will deal an extra point of damage, making you a little more predictable, but also a little more deadly.
Every fighter also has three abilities at the bottom of their card: an offensive Strike, a defensive Counter, and a dreaded Signature Move. These are the moves that will have you shouting “HADOKEN!” and “FALCON PUNCH!” at your friends, as you spend Neon to supercharge your fighter for huge effects. Pay the cost and time it right, and you could be KOing an opponent in one shot or completely negating that cinder block they threw at your head.
While the Strike and Counter moves can only be activated while you’re respectively attacking or defending, Signature Moves can be tapped into at any time, even as an interrupt – even from the bench. Wahhhh? This means that all five fighters are constantly involved as they could be buffing your active fighters or messing with the match-ups from the sidelines.
Once all five of a player’s fighters are napping on the concrete, the match is a wrap. The winner stands tall as top dog of Neon City. Until the next contender shows up, of course.
When we were contacted by Davy Wagnarok about NCR, I knew that we had to get our hands on this game. Partly because the style and theme was excellent, and partly because Davy Wagnarok is kind of a lunatic. We haven’t been doing this for too long, but he is easily one of the most enthusiastic and mindful independent designers I’ve had the opportunity to work with. He cares about his game and is ready to take feedback and do what needs to be done to make it the best it can be. It’s hard not to appreciate that. The real question at the end of the day though, is simply: Is this game worth playing? The short answer, based on a consensus of The League, is YES!
While the basics surrounding N30N City RUMBLE are not the most inventive, they do offer an innovative twist on other popular video game inspired fighting games, such as Yomi and BattleCon. The overall package feels nothing like its competitors, making it easy to justify having all of these games on your shelf. NCR stands out as something truly unique, both in gameplay and style, making it of particular interest to me. Outside of the rock-paper-scissor mechanic, I can’t think of any other game that bears similarities.
Gameplay is fast and aggressive, with big swings in damage. It can feel a bit random and chaotic at times, but that really feeds into the theme as a whole. It also makes those perfectly calculated strikes and blocks all the better, as you managed to reign in the madness for a turn and reap the benefits.
The rulebook is a work in progress, with a lot of gaps that need to be filled. Personal communication with Davy has been stellar though, with him taking suggestions from reviewers and Kickstarter backers alike, leaving me hopeful for the end result. Even as it stands, the game is easily playable and new players can be up and running in minutes. NCR offers enough decision making and variety to keep players guessing – always engaged with their opponent. Special powers, for the most part, add extra options without making things too muddled or complex. Preferred weapon types and martial art styles help to ease the randomness, as they give players the ability to make more informed choices. All of this is wrapped up in what will be a very slick package when the final product hits your doorstep.
Now, there are some points of concern, primarily with balancing. Characters all have unique benefits and provide different options for players – some are better at attacking, others defending, others card draw and support. With a team of five, it’s easy to get a little bit of everything or customize your strategy however you please. One of the reoccurring issues I encountered with new players was trying to manage all of these options. The new graphic design has alleviated much of the text clutter from the original prototype, but it is fair to say that there’s a lot to keep track of in regards to fighter abilities. Fifteen powers across 5 fighters, many of which have very different triggers and offer benefits, can be overwhelming for the first few games. NCR really requires some dedicated play before you can discern a group of fighters whom you enjoy and can really master. While I would expect most people to play the game enough to overcome this barrier, it is most definitely a point of consideration. You can have a blast your first time sitting down, but an opponent who knows their team could have an upper hand.
Additionally, I found the 3v2 and Last Man Standing rules to be somewhat problematic. I didn’t describe them in detail above, but essentially these options allow multiple fighters to gang-up on a player with fewer contenders, creating a bit of a “runaway leader” problem. If you get too far behind in NCR, the game works against you, making it very hard to come back. While this is quite thematic – 3v1 would almost always favor the majority – it can feel quite defeating to see the end turns before it actually happens. Your super powered street fight becomes a bit too much like reality at that point. I’d prefer to see some sort of super-move catch-up mechanic to help level the playing field a bit.
With all of this considered, I can safely say that we found N30N City RUMBLE to be a lot of fun. But whether or not it belongs in your home really depends on a number of factors. Most importantly, does a two-player fighting game even appeal to you? If so, there are a lot of things to be found in NCR that really no other game offers. You may also want to consider if neon colors put you at risk for a medical emergency, such as stroke or seizure. If so, you may want to pass. Or buy some sunglasses.
All kidding aside, the Print & Play is available, alongside the full rulebook, on the Kickstarter page. There’s no reason not to give this one a shot.
I was super jazzed to give N30N City RUMBLE a shot after hearing about the prototype. The video on the Kickstarter page grabbed my attention and since a lot of my gaming is against Buns, the idea of a beat-em-up card game for two really appealed to me. I found the game really easy to learn and it played quickly, so it kept me interested. The art is really neat (both the updated and original prototype art, in my opinion) and I really appreciated the coordination of attack and block colors. I struggled to some extent with building a strategy, as far as trading cards versus holding on to them to use for attacking and defending, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying myself. I didn’t play with many character combos, as we just drew random teams, but I think the idea of drafting and building a team so I can coordinate my abilities is excellent. This game is definitely promising and I look forward to some rumbles in the future!
N30N City RUMBLE is a product with as much personality as its whacky designer, Davy Wagnarok, which is making a strong statement. At first glance, it is clear that a lot of thought and care has gone into what this game was meant to be. Without a doubt, the retro beat-em-up theme and the chosen game mechanics are a match made in radioactive heaven.
I think the theme hit home for almost all of us as everyone in The League – outside of myself – is a child of the 80’s (missed it by a year…). Still, I’m just as much of a fan of fighting games, neon, and anthropomorphic rubik’s cubes as anyone else, so I’ll say it worked for all of us. Every player that sat down across from me stared at the variety of strange fighters and unique personalities, puzzled, until they eventually cracked up laughing at one aspect or another. Cheesy flavor text, nostalgic references, and over the top card art all make this game a sight to behold.
I do think that there’s some work to be done to design a dedicated timing structure, as well as make some things more explicit in the rules, but these are small comments. Primarily because, after talking with Davy, it’s clear that he knows all of these things, they just need to be added in.
The game rewards repeated play by allowing you to gain mastery over the different fighters, which is exactly what I’m looking for. One-off games work well, but I also want the option to craft and design a team to challenge other players. NCR offers that to me.
The concerns presented by The League above are valid, but I still think that this game shines among many of the other independent designs out there. What Davy has done with N30N City RUMBLE should be commended, primarily by having this game on your shelf. This style of two-player card game is rare and NCR offers a fresh and unique experience that is easy to pick up. If you are even remotely interested in this game, it’s likely that you can find enough things to love about it to validate ownership. I am trying hard not to spend money I don’t have to design my very own fighter…but maybe that’s just me.
I was only able to get in one play of NCR, but I enjoyed it a lot and want more! This game really takes me back to my Sega Genesis/Streets of Rage addiction from when I was 10. The style of the game is what really stands out and hits you right in the nostalgia. When playing your BRAWL cards it actually felt like you were throwing and blocking punches at your opponent. The new design and artwork is an astounding improvement over the prototype we played with. I only had 2 gripes with this game. First, the lack of item use. It would be cool to start with 2 or 3 of these at the start of the game. The Item deck has so many cards and I just wanted to see what item I could grab next but that meant sacrificing other cards which I needed for my attacks and defense. My second gripe, which Buns has mentioned in Overall Experience, is that once you get your opponent down to 2 fighters, you can easily take control of the game. Of course you are not guaranteed to win at that point since you need the luck of the draw. I recommend everyone to go back this project now!
Fans of retro video game fighters, such as Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, will find that NCR really scratches the itch to button smash your opponents face in. The simple paper-rock-scissor base mechanic works well. The variable player powers and preferred fighting styles help to ensure that you and your opponent stay on your toes at all times. While it may be more beneficial to use a Kick, I may find it advantageous to sweep the legs instead, knowing that the defender is more likely to suspect the Kick as my character’s preferred fighting style. I was also thoroughly amused by picking up an 80’s style boombox and bashing my opponent’s face with it, all the while giving it an extra boost with the energy of a disco ball card played from my hand. I wish this scenario would have happened more though, as we barely made our way through the Item deck; finding it much more cost efficient to buy Brawl and Neon cards.
Analog fighting simulators are not everyone’s bag; including me. I will always prefer an electronic fighting game to the analog experience; however, NCR has just the right amount of rich theme, flashy art style and downright wackiness to pay fitting homage to an era of video games long gone (yet not forgotten). If you enjoy games like Yomi or BattleCon, you’ll love the gameplay, nostalgia and pure character that NCR brings to your table.
I only have had the chance to play NCR once, so I’ll give you my brief first impressions. From the absurdly hilarious flavor text to revealing an item card that lets me hide behind a household appliance as defense, I did have fun with this game. However, I felt as though the mechanic towards the end of the game that lets you gang up on your opponent when they have less than 3 fighters was just mean. There didn’t seem to be any way out of the situation, especially since I still had 5 fighters, so what was the point of going on with the game besides the joy of completely pummeling Buns. Sure its thematic, but I felt like a horrible person for doing it. Finally, I’m not a huge fan of the paper-scissors-rock fight mechanic that I’ve seen in a couple games. I feel that it’s more of a guessing game and that there isn’t enough strategy for this type of game. However, I accept this as the type of game that it is and still enjoyed myself.
The League of Nonsensical Gamers would like to thank Davy Wagnarok for kindly providing us with a prototype of N3on City Rumble for this preview.
N3on City Rumble is currently funding over on Kickstarter. If this game piques your interests, head on over to the campaign page by Aug 15, 2014 to claim your own copy. For $29, you receive a copy of the game along with all reached stretch goals.