Board games will normally consist of worker placement, strategy, battle, luck/dice, and engine building. However, Level 99 takes the core idea of a fighting video game and translates it almost perfectly into a board game. It definitely isn’t as fast as a video game, but it does take quite a bit of skill and technique to master when trying to anticipate enemy movements and maximize damage like players would do in a video game.
BattleCon really does have all the bells and whistle‘s that you normally find in a high-quality fighting game. Between a variety of unique characters, great back-and-forth battling, and high risk/high maneuvers, it’s amazing how much it does feel like you’re choosing moves for your character. The battle system is actually quite simple, each player will choose a baseline move and a style that is specific to their character, each of those cards will have stats that are combined and compared with the opponent’s stats. Then players will attack, do damage, absorb damage or be stunned according to the stats and what’s on the cards. And then those cards that were used are set to the side and you refresh some other cards back into your hand. This simple rotation and flow gameplay ride the fine line of randomness and strategy. You’ll plainly see what your opponent has played, and you know all the cards in their hands very well, you just don’t know exactly what they’ll do next. It’s a fun and fair guessing game and after a lot of playtime, it becomes an excellent dance of wits and strategy to outsmart your opponent.
As much as the battle system is a really great baseline for the game, the unique characters is what hits it out of the park. Fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter have unique fighters with different moves, but most of them have similar moves, move sets, and basic ideas: attack, block, attack, dodge, repeat. There are a lot of small nuances in these characters, but you can basically pick up any character and just smash buttons and do okay. But if you consider games like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, or even Marvel VS Capcom 2, each characters’ moves, strategy and abilities are so vastly different from each other that a player has to spend some time familiarizing themselves with a character before being able to do almost anything at all. This is a really heavy learning curve to the game. It’s never unfair, but just the knowledge of how characters will work and the best strategies do give quite the advantage to seasoned players.
There are only a few minor issues in this game, the steep learning curve being one of the biggest ones. Another issue is that there are so many different tokens and cards that are unique to each of the characters that would’ve been nice if they were organized in a better way or even reduced down to be easier to set up and play. Also, I think the rule book is pretty bad at explaining things, you’ll have to watch a video or two and refer to the book in order to learn how to play.
Overall I would highly recommend this game for players who enjoy aggressive strategy and actual fighting games. If you like 1v1 battles, this is a pretty good recommendation. I’ve yet to try the 2v2 version, but I’m sure that it just adds extra layers of complexity and chaos, but probably wouldn’t be as smooth or refined as experience as the 1v1 battle. It is a complex game and not easy to master, but if players can put in the time and are willing to make the climb to better understand BattleCon it’s well worth it. And if you really love the game, dozens of new fights have been released and can be added to the roster for more levels of variety and challenge.