Sunday, 29 April 2012

Review - Iron Man Battling Card Game

As I have already posted my Marvel Heroes review to this site, I thought it would also be a good idea to put up my review of Iron Man Battling Card Game. This review first appeared on in February 2011.

Iron Man Battling Card Game box

Iron Man Battling Card Game
Published by Milton Bradley
Designed by Craig van Ness
For 2 players, ages 6 to adult

It's actually quite surprising how many fun games are out there just under the radar, and today's offering is really rather good: Iron Man Battling Card Game.

This is actually just a retheme (with a few minor tweaks) of a game that has previously been released with a Transformers theme and a Star Wars theme, but I didn't know that when my wife bought it for me for the princely sum of £1 (brand new, sealed, from a real bricks and mortar store!).

£1 for an Iron Man themed card game is a bargain in my book, even if the game turns out to be a mess. Luckily, this game is well worth keeping in the collection.

It ships in a box big enough for holding two decks of regular sized cards, and I was pleased to note it is a proper box with a removable lid, not one of those horrible tuckbox things with the flaps on the side.

Iron Man Battling Card Game card decks
The decks contain exactly the same cards with different artwork.

Inside the box is a sheet of paper with the instructions for a basic and advanced game, and two decks of cards. The cards are regular-sized, and very nicely illustrated, but they are those flimsy cards that you tend to expect from mass-produced Hasbro / MB games. I honestly don't see the point in sleeving them, but if you did, they wouldn't fit back in the box.

The decks are themed, with one deck for Iron Man, and one for Iron Monger, and each consists of 58 battle cards and five victory cards. So, just to make it clear - this is a two-player game.

I won't discuss the basic game rules (they are basically the advanced rules without using special power cards), but I will give a very brief rundown of how the advanced rules work:

Each player lays out his five victory cards face down, then shuffles his play deck and deals a hand of seven cards. Many cards simply contain an attack value, while other cards have a special power, in which case their attack value is 0.

The game plays in rounds, and each round consists of three battles. In the round, each player selects three cards and places them face down, keeping four cards in hand. Play then begins, with each player flipping over their first of the three cards.

The player who has revealed the card with the highest attack value is winning the battle. His opponent can now either play cards from his hand to add to his attack total, or concede the battle. If he decides to play cards, he must play enough to beat his opponent's attack value. Of course, his opponent then gets a chance to play cards in an attempt to regain the lead, so the battle can rage backwards and forwards or end rapidly depending on cards drawn.

If at any point, the attack values are the same and both players have committed the same number of cards to the battle, then both players must select a card from their hand and reveal it at the same time in an attempt to break the deadlock, and this can happen as many times as required until someone has the highest attack value, at which point the battle can continue in the normal way.

Once one player has retreated, you begin the second battle, which happens in exactly the same way, and then if necessary you play the third battle. Whoever has won the most battles wins the round and gets to flip over a victory point card; a new round then begins. First person to flip over all five victory point cards is the overall winner.

This would be an incredibly simple, luck-driven game if it wasn't for the inclusion of a large number of special cards that can change the flow of play. These special cards do things like allowing you to draw more cards, removing an opponent's card from play, allowing you to retrieve cards you have already played, or doubling the value of every card you have played in the current battle.

The best thing about the special cards is both decks have exactly the same cards included (just with different illustrations), so you will always have a good idea of what your opponent can still play on you, based on the cards he has already used. With a bit of card counting, you will have a good idea when your opponent has exhausted his best special powers, and you will know when to retreat to conserve your own cards for a battle you are sure you can win.

Iron Man Battling Card Game example cards
Example of a basic attack card.

Of course, this is only a light, two-player game, and there is a certain amount of luck involved based on the cards you draw. However, there is definitely more strategy here than I was expecting. Because you keep all the cards you don't play in a round for the next round (you always draw seven more), sometimes it can pay to let your opponent win, knowing you will have the edge later on. This same rule applies for individual battles within a round - sometimes the best thing to do is retreat, allowing your opponent to win a battle, because you believe you will be able to win the other two battles in that round anyway.

There is also strategy involved when deciding which three cards to play face down at the start of a round. You don't really want to play a powerful card face down as your third card, because if your opponent wins the first two battles in the round, then you will waste that card; however, if you play only low value cards, your opponent will always start off forcing you to play cards from your hand, and you can very quickly find you have run out of cards.

The game actually reminds me of Blue Moon, but I actually enjoy this one a lot more (I sold my copy of Blue Moon because I thought it was a bit stale, and my wife hated it). A certain amount of strategy, but not enough to blow your mind, combined with a quick playing time and a theme I really like, all wrapped up in a small, portable game, makes this one a winner for me. It's great when you only have 15 minutes to spare, and it can be good as a light filler before playing something with a bit more meat.

And, you know, it cost a £1...

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