A while back I had the good fortune to interview a Kickstarter Zen master and Eisner nominated fellow by the name of Paul Roman Martinez. With over 100K in successful projects, Martinez publishes an online web-comic called Adventurers 19XX.
The plot follows a paranormally blessed group of heroes in the early part of the twentieth century called Adventurers 19XX as they battle equally gifted but nefariously inclined villains part of an organization called the Black Faun.
The comic is a fantastic mash-up of pulpish, steam-powered eclectic characters and influences. In its electronic pages, Aztec villains fight alongside the likes of Aleister Crowley and chemically vat-grown homunculi against talking bunnies and All-American southerners wielding Lucky Baseball Bats. Since I stumbled across it I have been devouring the chapters whenever I get the chance. It’s a comic that is right up my alley and I greatly suggest giving it a read.
One spawn of the comic is Martinez’s self-developed and crowd-funded 2-6 player game called Assault 19XX.
Assault 19XX is a turn-based card game where Players win by proceeding along a jumbo-sized Victory card track that has 13 Victory point slots with different effects as players reach each Victory level. First to 13 Victory points wins and players receive Victory points by damaging opponents during combat or through special card effects.
Components (Basic game and included expansion)
24 Character Cards
122 Luck and Character Cards
48 Chapter Cards
2 faction markers
6 colored health markers
1 six-sided die
Players are given one of the more than 20 jumbo-sized character cards representing characters from the Adventurers 19XX comic-verse. One player randomly determines whose faction each player is on, the good guys who are the Adventurers 19XX or the bad guys, the magically addicted Black Faun.
Players can either compete on teams, the preferred and implied method, or in a free for all style. Players are then given three random cards from their faction and allowed to select one to play for the game.
Once a player chooses a Character, unique Item and Luck cards specific to that character get handed out. A single Luck card and 4 Item cards are next dealt randomly to each player to form their hand and a health token is given out with starting health being Green on a five-panel geared health track at the base of the Character card. Play then proceeds clockwise starting with the player who originally determined the factions. Players are meant to sit in a staggered setup where team-mates are separated from each other by sitting next to enemies.
Each round players draw 1 Item card to their hand and may play any number of certain ‘instant’ yellow cards, or equip any number of equipment or ‘Luck’ cards to their character, provided they have available slots. Slots include a Group slot, a Head slot, Left and Right arm slots and two small Weapon slots
Item and Luck cards form two separate decks. Items cards are drawn once per turn but events like damaging an opponent, rolling a natural 1 or other cards allow players to draw more cards from either deck.
Players obtain Victory points either by attacking and successfully damaging an opponent or by special cards that give free Victory points or the like.
Attacking and defending is resolved by adding up values assigned to characters, including their stated Luck value, Attack value a random d6 roll and any instant cast or equipped Luck or equipment cards. This attack score is compared to a players defensive total, which is calculated the same way, but minus the d6 and includes their Defensive value instead of their Attack value.
Any time an opponent takes damage from an attack a Victory point is scored, and that player takes 1 point of damage and 1 point only. Special weapons can increase this damage, and other Item cards do direct damage but don’t award Victory points.
Based on the Victory cards, other cards are drawn depending on the slot level, with chapter cards giving other benefits as the game progresses.
The game play is at first enjoyable, as you play cards from your hand and immediately equip or use the best weapons or abilities you can.
The problem for the game is that there are no opportunity costs to not attacking or not using your best weapons or Items. There are no ‘save-up-for’ investments required and therefore no incentive to do anything other than attack or throw everything you have at an opponent, who will throw everything back. And with only 1 card draw per turn, you can easily exhaust your resources by round three.
The Luck based draw of Items also lends to one-sided outcomes, as a team who is better equipped will invariably become virtually impervious to attack, as I found in game-play; my team mate and I could not damage our opponents even with a perfect roll, so we ended up attacking simply for the chance to get a roll of 1 which is a clover and gives you an extra Luck card.
So once your opponents ramp up, there is little you can do to stop them.
The character abilities themselves also are vastly imbalanced, with some clearly overpowered while others barely effective.
However the artwork is excellent and the theme is top notch. The era accuracy with cards like the Browning Automatic Rifle and MG08 Machine gun and Wheel Tank are just generally cool cards both in terms of design and artwork. There are some odd choices however with a stop-light (Kibosh) that removes cards or the electric torch (flashlight) which adds to defense. But it was a great kick to play the characters from the comic and at the same time admire the art.
Suggestions would be just an increase per turn of card draws and more ally-helping cards to make the game more cooperative. Static attack and defense values usually suffer from an over abundance of power in one player or team, like in Munchkin where players with better card draws can simply win by Luck alone. The overall mechanic is decent, there just needs some slight tweaking to make the game chug along more smoothly.
I would suggest the game simply for the artwork alone, and if you want to house-rule it to make it a bit more balanced, take out some of the cards from the Item and Luck decks along with some of the character cards to make the game a bit more even handed. Also just add maybe 1 or 2 to the per turn card draws and maybe even make Item equipments single or multiple use only, i.e. ammo, or even add a cost to equip them, such as discarding cards equal to their attack values before you can equip them.
With or without these minor tweaking you can definitely try Assault 19XX, enjoy it and