The first of my series of three Fantasy Strike themed card games will be available next week (EDIT: both regular and deluxe versions are now available in the US.) The game is called Flash Duel, and it comes in regular and deluxe versions. Let's take a look:
The regular version is just a box of cards. This makes it very small and portable. The deluxe version has a fancy wooden box (with LASER engraved logos on the sides), a cooler dueling board, two wooden pieces for the characters, and five wooden win tokens (more laser engravings, woo!). Here's what you get:
This shows the board for the deluxe version (two wooden pieces that fit together like puzzle pieces) compared to the regular version's "board" (five cards that you lay end-to-end to create the dueling track):
I think you'll best enjoy the game if you go into it know what it is and what it isn't.
What Flash Duel Isn't
It's not Magic: The Gathering. I will not sell any "collectable" games, as that's purely a mechanism to rip you off. My games are all self-contained games. Also, it's on the opposite end of the spectrum of complexity of Magic: The Gathering. Gamers sometimes use a subjective term called "weight" to express how complicated a game is (not a value judgment, just a descriptor). Flash Duel is decidedly "light weight," while my other two games (Yomi and Puzzle Strike, coming in a few months) are both "medium weight."
Light weight has its advantages (remember, we're talking gameplay "weight" not physical weight). It means the rules fit on a single piece of paper. It means you can teach this game even to non-gamers like your mom. It's a gateway game, meaning you can get non-gamers into gaming with you, to prepare them for medium-weight games like Yomi and Puzzle Strike. ;) Finally, light weight means fast. You can play Flash Duel in less than 5 minutes, so you could even play it inbetween sessions of more mammoth games or at a bus stop or something.
What Flash Duel Is
Flash Duel simulates a practice duel between two Fantasy Strike characters preparing for a tournament. They fight along an 18-space linear track, so positioning is important.
The game is inspired by a game called En Garde by Reiner Knizia. I've, how shall we say...cleaned up the game and the rules so that they are coherent and without loopholes, and so it makes sense as a competitive game. One example is the discard pile. When we make a competitive game, we have to ask "what skills are we testing here?" In Flash Duel, the point is about getting at the proper distance, and bluffing about whether you are weak or strong at particular distances. The point is certainly NOT memorization and card counting. In Knizia's game, the discard pile is face down, which is a very awkward choice and actually infeasible in just about any reasonable card game. We know the value of cards as they go into the discard pile, so it's possible to memorize them all. Optimal play demands that we do. Can we write the cards down as they go into the discard? If not, why not? If so, why even have it hidden at all? Some sort of record keeping tax the game wants us to pay?
The number of cards in the discard make this problem even more awkward in En Garde. With only 25 cards shared by both players, and 10 of those cards amongst the opening hands, we're talking about memorizing about 15 cards. Small enough that anyone could do it if they really tried, but what a boring and tedious thing to make people do! I thought this was supposed to be fun, so let's ensure that the discard pile is public information. Look through it whenever you want. This removes an annoyance, yet removes zero of the strategy or fun of the game. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say that Flash Duel is coherent and at least feasible as a competitive game. You don't have to worry about sloppy stuff like that here.
Next, Flash Duel, like all my games, is asymmetric. There are 10 characters to choose from, each with different gameplay. So instead of En Garde's 0 characters, 0 ability cards, and 0 matchups, we have 10 characters, 30 ability cards, and 45 matchups. That's a hell of a lot more interesting. Balancing asymmetric games is tough, so most designers shy away from it. In my opinion, asymmetric games have a lot more to offer. You have a lot more to explore and experience from all sides, but you only need to learn one character to play, so the complexity to participate remains low. My experience balancing Puzzle Fighter, Street Fighter, Kongai, Yomi, and Puzzle Strike all helped work toward a stable state of balance for the 10 characters here.
Also, Flash Duel has the unusual property that you can actually play without the character cards if you want. That way you can play a really simple game to get the hang of things (or as you explain it to your mom), then you can add in the concept of having your character's three abilities later. (Note to all moms: sorry, I know you can be gamers too!)
This is a really small initial run that's only available online through Amazon, and only to US customers (boo to Amazon on that). We'll work up to bigger runs and more countries later, but for now, supplies are going to be very, very limited. I really just wanted to let SOME of you experience the game sooner than later, without waiting to ramp up production first.
Board Game Geek
If you have any questions about the game, or if you're one of the playtesters who helped develop it, you might post on Flash Duel's boardgamegeek.com entry. It's barren now, but don't be shy about getting things going, or at the very least, becoming a fan of the game on bgg.
Sponsoring an Independent Artisan
So there's Flash Duel, a light weight, simple game that might whet your appetite for the medium weight games to come! If nothing else, I invite you to support Sirlin Games in my crusade to offer non-rip off games (no rares or random packs) with solid gameplay, careful balancing, and the best production values I can muster. It's been interesting competing with entire graphic design departments of other companies in my spare time, while I'm not designing, balancing, and manufacturing my games, ha. Oh and your support here means making a Fantasy Strike fighting game is that much more possible. Tell a friend! And check back here in the next few days for info on ordering. Thanks!