The Fantasy Sport Of Total Domination
Welcome to the world cup of the intergalactic universe's most brutal and violent sport!!! No, I do not speak of Blood Bowl ... No, here comes the time of Kaosball !
Presented as a mix of rugby, American football and violence, Kaosball is a game that tells you about a unique sport. What? Don't you know it? To tell the truth, it is rather normal because it received a rather mixed reception and was quickly shunned by the players. But why so much hatred?
Coming from a 2013 Kickstarter campaign, the game was released in 2014 (wow! that does not rejuvenate me). The designer of the game is the brilliant Eric M. Lang (Rising Sun, Arcadia Quest, Blood Rage), who made his first big collaboration with the publisher Cool Mini Or Not (CMON). At a time when the giant Blood Bowl was no longer published, Kaosball tried to establish itself as the new fantasy sports game.
The game offers three ways to play:
* The head-to-head, which opposes two players against each other.
* In alliances mode, where four players compete in teams, two vs two.
* In Maximum Kaos, where three to four players compete at the same time against each other.
The first big originality of this game is the possibility to play up to four at the same time. And that's pretty cool. Imagine very quickly the general chaos that happens in the arena.
During the campaign of the game, we were promised a sport game that was easy to get out, balanced, fast to play and very simple. But what is it really?
Kaosball is a sports game that places you into intense matches divided into four quarters with a break at halftime. The goal of the game is to score the most points. Until then, nothing abnormal. There many ways to score points, and most of the time without the ball. Yes, you have read that correctly. Score points "without the ball."
Kaosball is not a difficult game to learn from the rules. There are actually very few actions available.
First, you need a team. That's good because with the Kickstarter, there was no shortage of teams available due to the stretch goals. In the basic box, there are only four: the Götterdämmerung Fangs, the Mt. Clobberton Ogres, the New Purgatory Daemons and the Templeton Amazons. Oh, did not I tell you? We are in a fantasy world. We will find all the archetypes of this kind but that's not all ... In all, this is not less than eighteen teams that are available in all. Each team is made up of 13 players and a bust that represents the coach which only serves as a score tracker. Among the players, there are two categories: Runners and Bruisers.
The Runners, represented by minis with round bases, are there to play the ball. They run fast, can recover the ball and especially mark other characters.
The Bruisers, represented by square bases minis, have other things to whip. Even though they can carry the ball, they can not score. They are only there to protect and block spaces. It's not the ball that interests them but the opponents characters ... especially those who can bleed. They can therefore tackle and attack.
Each team has its own abilities and its own way of playing. As much as to say that for a first play, it can be difficult to know all the teams and all their powers. Besides the different amount of life points, you will also find they have different powers, movement and and attacks ... The asymmetry is great. But sometimes, we get quite significant balancing problems. In the base box, the Amazons are clearly stronger than the other teams. So do not expect to have the same chances playing against them.
To bring a little more fun at the expense of slight balancing issues, before each game there is an auction phase. But what are we going to buy? Will you tell me? ... Well we will bid on two things: permanent team powers or player abilities and Ringers.
Ringers are the third category of characters that can be found in Kaosball. Like MVPs at Blood Bowl, Ringers are the stars of the sport. Represented by hexagonal bases, they are unique characters up for auction. In addition to their own abilities, the Ringer has those of their team. They also have the abilities of the Runner and Bruiser. Just that. We do not laugh with these stars. They are very interesting mercenaries. But I assure you, you can only have one Ringer per team, per game.
Once the bidding phase is over, we prepare for the match. This time, we are still not laughing. The sport of total domination will be able to begin. At the beginning of a player's turn, you check to see if any points have been scored (according to the positioning of your players). Then, you can choose a possible action between two.
The first is to play an Energy card. You apply the power indicated on it. Playing such a card replaces the activation of a figurine (unless it explicitly states otherwise). The card thus played remains in front of the you until the end of the quarter.
The second is to play a miniature of you team, that is not stunned. Again, depending on the type of character, the actions are a little different.
If it is a Runner: it can sprint (and try to get the ball either on the ground or from an opponent) and ... that's all. If it is a Runner: it can sprint and take the ball on the ground, but not from an opponent. Tackle or attack an opponent at a distance of three spaces (the field is composed of square). Remember: Ringers can do anything.
The difference between the tackle and the attack is the finality. If successful, a tackled player is unavailable until the next turn. An attacked player loses life points and if he dies he leaves the game as a trophy for the attacker.
Of course, the defender will be able to react before. This is called the reaction (original, yeah!). When a character enters the killzone of a player, before any other action, they can make a reaction. Whether during a fight or during a reaction, we will proceed to a contest. Instead of a traditional roll of dice, the contest is a clash of cards. So be careful, here is one of the most complex but also the most original and intelligent things in the game. Normally, you choose a card from your hand, and simultaneously reveal and add the abilities of the team. The highest value wins.
Simple. Yes, but it's not all that. Before looking at the result, you will first look at all cards accumulated in front of both players. Remember, I told you that when you play a card, you keep it. This is also true with this contest. If by chance, inadvertently or due to bad luck, the card that you just revealed is of the same value as a card already present before you, it simply becomes dead. A dead card is lost to the player who played it. Sad huh. If two dead cards are returned then we still resolve the contest and the cards will be worth 0.
Are you already starting to see the breakaway side of the game? There is a lot of pretty important guessing, but also a bit of luck in the deck of cards.
It's not complicated enough? So you also have cheat cards. These cards will also be added to those in front of you. They can often be played anytime. They have various effects such as canceling the result of a fight, adding values, withdrawing them, ... But the power they bring is not free. They may cost you victory points at the end of the period. Cheating is bad, you see.
A quarter will end when a player, at the end of their turn, has at least nine cards in front of them. Players then proceed to a small clean up phase where you'll calculate your points. If you have some, you can try to corrupt the referee by using your teams gold (that that you didn’t use in the auction phase) to remove cheating cards accumulated by a player. Then, a new quarter begins.
The halftime and after the fourth quarter are a little more special. In addition to the small clean up, you will be able to score or lose points based on the deaths that have transpired and the number of times cheating has occurred. And if at any time you can not return up to five players onto the field during a quarter, you are directly eliminated.
It's okay ? I did not lose you? Well. Now, we need to know the most important and thematic information. How do we score points? In the field there are two marked areas. The first, located behind the opponent's starting zone, will give five points to a player who is positioned on it but also at the beginning of each round. The other is in the center of the field and will earn as many points as the number during the quarter-time at the start of each round.
But for that, it is necessary to be still in possession of the ball and not KO'd. These two areas can be won only with a Runner. A sports game with goals that earn points makes sense. But we can also earn points with the most death. Whenever there is a death, the miniature is kept by the attacker to tally their score. At half-time and at the end of the game, whoever was most murderous gains bonus points. For example, at four players, six points are awarded in the first half and twelve at the end of the game (up to eighteen points) for the deadliest team, and all that is without touching the ball!. As we saw we can also lose points if we cheat too much.
At the end of the match, the team with the most points wins.
Kaosball is far from being a simplistic game. It is not as complicated as it may sound, but it is more subtle than one would have thought during the kickstarter campaign. In my opinion, what has served the game a lot is the way it was presented. It's a fun game, undoubtedly. By cons, it is a game that requires a minimum investment. Master your team, adapt to others, juggle between positive and negative cards, know how to position yourself ... It's a game with a good learning curve. Learning that has not been brought to light. It's a shame because, under it's obscure aspects, hides a very original game and very pleasant sport.
As is often the case with CMON campaigns, KS attendees have a big advantage over those who picked it up in the shop. Those who wanted to complete their range by taking teams will pay a steeper price. Especially when buying a team, you did not know what it really was compared to others. This is because the game has a real imbalance between the teams. Some are much stronger than others. Even though this offers an additional challenge for those who are optimistic and like that quality. The satisfaction of winning or losing can sometime leave a bizarre taste, leading to lots of people running away from this game. Luck also occupies a prominent place, which can frustrate players who never get good card hands. The one who accumulates dead cards will have difficulty going up this slope. Even if with seven cards in hand, the luck can be moderated.
I also think that people were expecting a faster game where you could score a lot of points with the ball. However, the bonus of killing a character seems too important compared to the difficulties of scoring. Even if this is true during the first few games, when you start to get to know it well, you quickly notice that leaving a player in the major scoring zone can be much worse. But yes, it's not a game where you will easily score points. There is also the team play aspects that can be found in other sports games with eg. long passes, incredible breakthroughs in the defense, etc. Without being too cerebral here, reflection is always present to choose your shots. But luck is here as well and your choice depends on what is drawn into your hand.
Even if the total domination remains undone, the game has so much to give, but you need to give it a chance.The components, you will not be disappointed with, as the figures are beautiful. The universe has been picked from a bit of everything you know and goes in all directions. Cowboy, Samurai, Ninja, Amazon, Goblin, Steampunk, Pirates, Hellcats, Valkyrie, Werewolf, ... anything goes. Madness is assumed, as the art is cartoonesque (when we see some Ringer, we understand quickly). The two artist, Andrea Cofransceco (Arcadia Quest, Super Dungeon Explore) and Mathieu Harlaut (Arcadia Quest, Zombicide), seems to have taken a lot of pleasure referencing other mediums.
Board and cards are good quality and the individual trays with the magnetic side can slightly warp but remain pleasant. It puts you quickly in the mood. I would have liked a special box to contain everything. That would have been easier to store and transport (but that's something most publishers almost never think of).
Kaosball clearly comes from traditional sports games. It is more strategic than it looks and it's a game with a learning curve. CMON believed in it, even creating special rules to create a league. But the game was quickly forgotten by the community and the publisher. Too bad. Even if the total domination remains undone, the game has so much to give, but you need to give it a chance.
Technical Score 8/10
Minis are beautiful, composants are good. It is difficult to carry everything (if you backed everything, like I did) because of a lack of storage. The team’s board can warp.
My BGG Score 9/10
(Excellent game. Always want to play it..)
Easy to play, easy to learn but not so easy to master. The game is very fun if you don’t take winning to seriously.
Combined Score 8,5/10
A good score for a good game. And now it's over to you...