Can you last 5 minutes against your opponent? Not likely with the speed of these duels.
|Designer(s)||Brian McKay||Artist(s)||Multiple Artists||Publisher||
Solis Game Studio
Pocket Paragons is pitched as a game of 3-minute duels, which certainly meets that expectation in our playthroughs of the game. Gameplay is extremely straight forward and almost feels like an enhanced rock-paper-scissors at times with the the way each set of player cards have counters for other character cards. Did I mention each character deck is only 7 cards? Yes, combat is quick and requires reading your opponent and watching which cards they have played.
Box and Components
I am reviewing the media kit version of the game that only contains 6 characters and their respective cards. I won't be commenting on the quality of the health/energy dials or the box. The cover picture provides a look at what is included in a standard retail version of the game.
The cards are a good quality card stock that has a little flex, but it seems like it would take a good bit of bending to cause damage. The first thing you may notice when looking at a lot of the cards is the differences in art style; each set has a different art style because of collaborations with different publishers to bring in their characters to this universe.
During the Kickstarter, the publisher has announced 4 different boxes of Pocket Paragons. One is with their own unique characters and the other three boxes include characters from other IP. The other IPs include Temporal Odyssey, AEGIS, and Rivals of Aether.
The contents of the retail boxes are:
- 6 Characters and their character cards
- 2 Health/Energy dials
- Potential stretch goals
Characters will track their current health and energy with the dials. Health is fairly standard and represents how much life your character has remaining; this is decreased by attacks and increased by healing. Energy starts at 0 during matches but will increase based on certain actions during the matches; energy will unlock ultimate abilities that we will touch on later.
Each card deck will contain a character card and 7 ability cards. The ability cards each have an ability type on them. Most ability cards are able to counter other types of ability cards so watch for that; what each card counters is shown on the lower left of the card. Most characters will have one card of each type, but depending on their IP, some may have a little different balance to better suit their source material.
Games can be played in one of two styles: single game (normal) or tournament set. Single game is a 1 vs 1 style that will likely last a few actions since each player will use one character. Tournament sets will allow players to select three characters to take into combat and send each of them out one at a time until defeated; other special rules will be discussed about tournament play but is overall the same.
Players will select their character(s) and take their character cards. Place the deployed character card and their ultimate card on the table, set health dials to 10, energy to 0, and take all of that characters other cards into their hand. Additional characters will be set to the side for now.
You are ready to play.
Game play occurs simultaneously and is played over two phases.
Selection Phase: Each player will select one of the cards from their hand and place it face down, and both are revealed when both players are ready.
Resolution Phase: Player will examine the selected cards and resolve any effects in the following order:
- Check if either of the select cards counter the other players card. If they do not, continue to the next step. If either card is countered, the countered card is returned to that players hand without triggering; as a reward for the countering player, they increase their Energy by one.
- Resolve listed abilities and damage on each card; some cards will also negate damage so be sure to read the ability text before reducing your health. Damage taken is updated on their character health dials.
- Cards that are used are Exhausted and placed in a face up discard area; the opponent should be able to see all used cards.
- If neither character has fallen, repeat the Selection/Resolution Phases with new cards.
That is how simple gameplay is. The strategy is all about selecting the right attacks at the correct times.
Cards that are Exhausted remain Exhausted unless a card's ability allows you to pick these cards back up. Each player has a Rest card that will allow them to pick up their Exhausted cards "Readying" them and award that player one Energy. Resting is risky because if the other player uses a Weapon card, they instantly Execute your character (reducing your health to 0).
Each character has Ultimate cards. Ultimate cards are not available initially, but once you reach the required energy as shown on the bottom of the card, the Ultimate card becomes available and reducing the current energy to 0. There are two types of Ultimate cards:
- Passive Ultimates: These Ultimate cards remain on the table but provide an ongoing effect as shown in its description.
- Ability Ultimates: These Ultimate cards come to your hand and are used like the other ability cards providing unique powerful abilities. Once you use these Ultimates cards, it will tell you whether it is Banished or Stored. Banished cards will be removed from the game while Stored cards return to the table and is unlockable again when you gain enough energy.
There are additional terms that the rules go over in the Glossary, but I won't go into all of those here.
Normal matches end once one character has been defeated; however, Tournament sets allows each player to select three characters, ends once all three characters are defeated, and do something a little unique after each character is defeated.
After your first character is defeated, you will select one card from their deck to pass along to your second character. Whatever card you select will replace that Ability card type in the second characters deck. For example, you decide to pass along an agility card from the first character; you will find an agility card from the second character to remove to make room for the swapping in card.
After your second character is defeated, you will repeat this process, but the third character will inherit the first characters card and one card from the second characters deck.
There are some cards that can't be passed on; these cards will have a little crossed out circle icon in the upper right corner.
After each match of a Tournament Set, the remaining character is restored to full health. This is mentioned in the How to Play video, but I didn't see this last piece specifically called out in the rules.
The game is true to its word: it is a 3-minute dueling game that is quick to learn and a lot of fun. I love the idea that the game will unite characters from different IPs sort of like Nintendo's Super Smash Brothers did for video games. The artwork is great, the mechanics are mostly straight forward, and iconology is fitting for the game. While I cannot comment directly on the health dials or the box, both will likely be good quality and suitably sized for what you are getting based on the images.
This game is already fully funded on Kickstarter and has about a week left. You can check out what their different tiers are and decide what options work best for you.
6/14/2021 Update: This game is now available for preorder on their backerkit page.
We received the product in order to write an honest review; all reviews reflect the honest opinions of the writer.
Most of the pictures used in this article are from the media kit provided by the publisher.