Who would win in a fight: a ghost or a ninja? A robot or a dinosaur? A leprechaun or a dragon? Such timeless questions have been debated thoroughly and adamantly over the ages, tirelessly consuming the minds of philosophers, kings, and statesmen alike in their quest for enlightenment.
Well, them…plus pretty much anyone with a few minutes to kill.
Alas, definitive answers to these koan-like riddles never came, as the only real way to know for sure was to test such hypotheses. Thus, in the end most debates ended at an impasse, as there was no real way to round up a viking, an alien, and a unicorn to truly know for sure.
Somehow, and against all odds, a mysterious group has managed to amass a host of fantastical creatures together into one spot for the sole purpose of settling age-old arguments over who is the ultimate fighter. As champions of the this cause to determine who truly is the most epic (and for bragging rights), players pit these creatures against one another in a short card-driven series of winner-take-all bouts.
As a purely card-driven game for 2-4 players, Incredibrawl has minimal setup, allowing players to get right to the fighting. The game consists solely of a set of Character and Power-Up cards for each player, a centralized Location deck, and the all-important Glory tokens. Incredibrawl offers three play variants: Casual, Family, and Gamer. Casual Mode is the most common, and as it’s the style that the designers recommend for new players, this summary focuses primarily on Casual Incredibrawl.
To start, each player is given an identical deck of randomized Character cards and one Glory. Then the starting Location card is revealed and players draw five cards.
Incredibrawl is played over a number of turns. First, every player selects a Character card from their hand and places it face down along their side of the Location card. They are then revealed simultaneously. Some Character cards have abilities that trigger upon being revealed. If so, resolve them.
Next, players resolve the brawl itself. Despite the term “brawl”, it’s really more of a series of duels. Players compare their Character card to that of the player across from them (3-player sessions differing slightly). Each Character card consists of a specific type of power – Physical, Natural, or Energy. Duels are resolved Rock-Paper-Scissors style, with Physical beating Natural, Natural beating Energy, and Energy beating Physical. If both cards have the same power type, the higher powered Character wins.
In 3-4 player games, the winners of each duel then face off to determine the winner of the overall brawl. The winner gains a Glory token, and any Characters who trigger off the player winning or losing are resolved. Lastly, everyone draws a card, and a new turn begins.
Alternatively, in Family Mode, players ignore all Character abilities and do not start with any Glory. In Gamer Mode, there are three optional modules players can mix and match using. First, the Location deck gives bonuses to different Characters during the brawl. Second, Power-Ups are one-time use cards providing a variety of effects and are mixed into a player’s deck at the beginning of the game. Finally, the Select-A-Brawl option permits players in 3-4 player games face opponents other than those directly across from them.
In any case, the game ends immediately once a player reaches ten Glory. They are crowned the ultimate victor of the Incredibrawl and now have unilateral final say over the “Who Beats Who” arguments from now on.
Everyone else better get used to their wacky logic conclusions.
A Grand(ish) Melee
Incredibrawl bills itself as ‘a chaotic, casual card game’, and this proves to be about as succinct of a tagline as you can get. It also happens to be remarkably accurate for understanding this type of game. Make no mistake: Incredibrawl is not remotely tactical or highly cerebral by any stretch. Rather, it has you grab on to randomness by the tail with both hands as it takes you for a ride.
Fortunately, doing so turns out be a worthwhile endeavor. How exactly does a Samurai, a Roboshark, and a Yeti all lose to a stage Magician? Can a lowly Pirate really take out an Ogre? There’s only one way to find out. Truly, Incredibrawl is one Filler Game with an easy to teach ruleset and amusingly unpredictable results. This is further reinforced by the game’s visuals: Incredibrawl’s amusing cartoonish artwork is particularly fitting and lends itself well to the game’s laid-back attitude.
Indeed, playing Incredibrawl is more about the experience than anything else. There’s about as much world cohesion here as there is in a game of Super Smash Bros, and it’s next to impossible to reliably manipulate the results of a brawl in your favor. If you walk into this game expecting anything more than a zany half hour of diverse cast of Characters duking it out, you will be disappointed. Consequently, this game is unlikely to appeal either Immersionists or Strikers. In Incredibrawl, you don’t play to win; you play to see who eventually emerges atop the heap of Character mashups.
The best way to absorb this experience is through a table of four players. However, this fact does come with a caveat: in playthroughs where everyone continues to win Glory equally, the game’s cheeky appeal can begin to wane if the game goes beyond that half hour threshold.
Regardless, Daredevils should be right at home in this arena. They’d ideally like marginally more control over turn results too, but they’ll also be quite content selecting an arbitrary Character from their hand just to see what happens. Luckily, that’s the game in a nutshell.
Gaming À La Modes
Aside from being a visually pleasing exercise in marginally controlled randomness, the most distinguishing characteristic of Incredibrawl is the variety of ways it can be played. With three different Modes to choose from, Incredibrawl is surprisingly modular for a game that is otherwise exceedingly straightforward. It’s evident there was a clear design intent to make the complexity of the game scalable depending on who may be playing, and by and large this approach works.
The default entry point, Casual Mode, focuses strictly on the interactions between the different Characters and their various powers. This mode provides some light decision-making over which Character to play into a brawl and when, but any semblance of strategy is largely absent.
Certain Characters are worth using simply for their card effects, but most of the time you’re just as likely to throw down the Alien or the Cowboy simply to see what happens. Players are able to hedge their chances by playing more powerful Characters in case of ties, but since combat in Casual Mode is almost entirely determined by the nature of the three Powers, who emerges victorious from these pop-culture brawls is the equivalent of rolling a die. Only more entertaining.
Family Mode goes one step further in embracing the chaos. It removes Character powers entirely, making the game a purely random affair driven solely by which Character you feel like playing. Family Mode is effectively Rock-Paper-Scissors with pretty pictures, making it both the weakest and least successful variation of Incredibrawl to play. Yet while this mode rightfully won’t entice most, it does provide an outlet for young players to experience the antics of Incredibrawl free of pesky things like resolving cards or reading in general.
On the other end of the spectrum lies Gamer Mode, which conversely infuses more complexity to the game. Gamer Mode gives Incredibrawl, a more robust nature, and its increase in game variance raises its overall replayability.
The Location deck, for instance, creates asynchronous brawls by introducing settings that can help or hurt players and Characters depending on Powers, card types, whether they win the brawl, and so on. Beyond all-important Glory, the winner of each brawl is given additional incentive to win by choosing whether to stay at the current Location players trying their hands at the next locale.
The other major Gamer Mode option is the inclusion of 15 Power-Up cards to your deck. Power-Ups run the gamut of effects, from reversing Character’s Powers to swapping cards in your discard pile, to ensuring that even if you lose a brawl you still get some sweet, sweet Glory. Power-Ups provide a small but noticeable strategic element otherwise lacking in Incredibrawl, potentially giving you the chance to alter the predetermined outcome of a battle once Characters are revealed. Almost ironically, using Power-Ups generate even more uncertainty to the outcome of turns while simultaneously giving you more agency and control.
Although both Locations and Power-Ups are optional, Incredibrawl’s madcap antics thrive best when both elements are utilized. Used in tandem, they elevate the game from going through the motions of charmingly disorganized free-for-all turns, where Ninjas take on Trolls and Kraken face down Spacemen. And then they all lose to a Ghost. Or a Princess. Or something.
Ultimately, having multiple play methods makes Incredibrawl very accessible by casting a wider audience net. However, that doesn’t intrinsically mean the game will resonate with everyone. Socializers, for example, will enjoy Incredibrawl’s quick, simplistic, and exuberant nature – particularly in Casual or Gamer mode – fitting right into their appreciation of lightweight and interactive games.
On the other hand, because the game revolves around goodnatured pandemonium more than tangible progression, this is the exact opposite kind of game Architects prefer. Likewise, even using all of Incredibrawl’s advanced Gamer Mode options won’t generate enough strategic avenues for most Tacticians, as the inability to plan beyond the current turn (if at all) will feel to them more like an exercise in futility than one of entertainment.
Rules Of Three, Let It Be
Incredibrawl’s great medley of configurable play styles also proves to be a bit of a double-edged sword. That is, by trying to offer something for everyone, processing the game’s rules can be slightly more complicated than they’d otherwise need to be for a game of its caliber.
This applies both to the variety of ways to play as well how the game changes based on player size. Namely, Incredibrawl jumps through hoops for three-player sessions. While two and four player games are highly intuitive, the extra steps required to play Incredibrawl with three doesn’t gel with the game’s otherwise streamlined processes. Between the minor extra complexity and diminished gameplay enjoyment compared to other player sizes, we recommend just avoiding three player Incredibrawl altogether.
Normally when a game leaves the bulk of its functionality to pure chance, it tends to either become repetitive or be heavily swingy. Through its options to increase variation in the game and simple combat resolution, Incredibrawl avoids both pitfalls while still keeping the player experience fresh and light. With their swords, claws, and otherworldly abilities, the game’s Characters are highly diverse, but seeing disparate units face off is also part of the game’s affable charm. With its amiable artwork, quick turns, and modular rules, Incredibrawl embraces its chaotic nature in a lively and upbeat way. Incredibrawl is one game far more about the journey than the destination, providing an appreciable little filler game that may not have much control over whether or not you win, but one where you find yourself wanting to see how it ends all the same.
Incredibrawl is a product of Vision 3 Games.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4
Replay Value: 3.5
Physical Quality: 4
Overall Score: 3.5