Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Deadly Harmony - Review

Deadly Harmony is an attempt to bring the realm of Video Game punch em ups to the boardgame forum, and I happen to think that its been done rather well in the Print and Play game. Sadly the game suffers from a lack of cool artwork and I know the game designer would just love for a volunteer artist to step forwards.

The components of the game are a deck of cards, a play mat per player and the rules. I had all of these in a single PDF which aided printing. The whole set was simple black and white printing so didn't strain my ink supply.

The play mat that each player uses is very interesting, Its a circle with a number of spaces along its circumference where various resources are going to placed.

In the center of the circle are spaces for you to record your fighters stats which are speed, power, technique and guard.

The cards come in two main types. The first are all exactly the same and simply say "miss" these will be used when an attack is made. The other cards provide a large number of variable combat technique cards. Each of these comes in one of three main categories of attack, these being Strike, Throw and Parry. There is no art of these cards but each has a section of text that describes the various ways in which the card can be modified in use.

The rules are laid out in full width A4 paragraphs and interspersed with a number of explanatory diagrams. Eveything is clearly explained and my only problem, if you can call it that ) was I didn't like the order in which things were laid out.

Lets return to the Play mat and explain it a bit further. On the right of the mat are three spaces. One, vitality, is your fighters health. Another is "Edge" and the last is Rhythm!

If during play your characters vitality is reduced to none then you have lost, also if you gain four edge tokens you will win. The Rhythm supply will allow you to maintain the "rhythm" of your attack when you would otherwise be exhausted.

The circle on the mat as I stated earlier contans a track of spaces around its edge. Two spaces on opposite edges of this circle are your resources, Yin and Yang. You'll start the game with a pool of counters on each of these, then as you play cards you will spend these resources. This is a really neat mechanic, when you spend Yin or Yang the spent counters move onto the track that leads around the circle. Then on each turn they move on one space along the track until they reach the resource pile opposite where they become available resource of that type. So spent Yin is unavailable for use for a few turns until it comes back as Yang and vice versa.

Setting up the game. You can spend some time creating characters if you want or just use pre generated ones. Then each player places counters ( or poker chips ) on his Yin and Yang resource piles. Also two chips onto the Edge pile and a number of chips equal to the characters vitality onto the vitality stack.

Then each player sorts through the combat cards and selects a number of cards equal to the characterstechnique stat. These become the players hand of cards.

Combat is straight forward but has a few steps.

Both players select a card from their hand and place if face down, and reveal them together. Cards have cost that you have to pay before anything else. For instance a strike may cost you 2 Yin, which means you place two counter from your Yin supply onto that track and will be unavailable until it comes back as Yang. If you want to, you can use any accumalated "Rhythm" chips to pay this cost.

Once the costs are paid you can read the text on the card. These often allow you spend extra various resources ( yin, yang ) to alter the effects of the card. So a strike that is not block by an opponents Parry card is may hit your opponent. What you do in this case is take a number of the "miss" cards equal to your speed stat add your strike card and shuffle these. Then you take a peek at the cards and lay them face down on the table. Your opponent then gets to turn over a number of these cards equal to his Guard stat. If he turns over the strike card your attack has missed. If he doesn't get your card, you get to turn over one card and it should be your strike card, if it is you hit. You should know which card is the strike card as you peeked before laying them down.

Normally a strike card does damage to your opponents vitality but it may also do other things such as give them a Rhythm chips. Remember as well as the cards basic effects you may have spend additional resources to increase the effect of the card.

If you happened to carry out a succesful Throw type attack then would also be able to an "Edge" counter from your opponents supply.

As well as damaging your opponents vitality and stealing "Edge" you can also cause stun damage. When stunned you have to give up a number of cards from your hand, you then get them back at the rate of 1 per turn.

Thats how it works but let me just point out some of the things that are very cool but may not be clear yet make this game very interesting.

The resource management of Yin and Yang and they way they come round as the other resource is nicely linked to the different types of attacks that use different resources. The whole Rhythm mechanism is very thematic, because having used up your Yin and Yang you can maintain the "Rhythm" of your attack by using Rhythm chips. Also the fact that while stunned you have less combat options is both clever and a real challenge.

All in all this game is well thought out, plays extremly well and is very thematic. If only it had more ART! It's free and low ink, and if you have some poker chips you really should give this a try, it's dang good!

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