Combo Fighter: Kickstarter Preview or Strategy Guide?

Designer: Asger Johansen

Artist: Snorre Krogh

Publisher:Kolossal Games, Plotmaker Games

Player Count: 2-4 players depending on how many decks you own

Play time 15-30 minutes

A prototype copy of Combo Fighter was provided by Kolossal Games for this preview. I want to thank Kolossal Games for supporting Jambalaya Plays Games. Everything you see in this preview is in prototype form.

There are a lot of references to games like Killer Instinct, Street Fighter, and Tekken. I hope that some of the minor references don’t throw you off.

C-C-C-C Combo Fighter!

During my pre-teen years, I spent the majority of my Saturday afternoons at Sega’s Timeout. The arcade on the other side of town, was my addiction. I took three buses to get to Northridge Mall, but I wasn’t bored during my 75 minute ride. I had Prima Strategy Guides for all the fighting games to get me prepared for an afternoon on the sticks. I played Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Virtual Fighter, and Dead or Alive religiously with whatever change I could scrape together during the week. One game I couldn’t stand was Killer Instinct (now I love it). The ridiculous combos random any could pull off with Jago or Saberwulf by mashing buttons irritated me on so many levels. I could prepare all of my combo strings and get completely crushed by a newbie. While I was taking L’s (losses) from random opponents, I started to wonder if being so prepared was hindering my fun. Maybe mashing buttons and getting off random moves is just as pleasing as being a skilled combo machine. Combo Fighter is a card battle game that somehow found a way to replicate the experience of strategic and unpredictable moments of a fighting game. Let’s take a deeper look at what Combo Fighter has to offer. Hopefully this preview will help you make an informed decision. Maybe I’m just mashing buttons on this keyboard and hoping for the best.

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Preview or Strategy Guide?

Below I have a video that I shot at Origins with Kira Peavley of Kolossal Games. The video gives a solid gameplay overview. For this preview, I want to focus on the strategy of both characters and hopefully you’ll understand the depth of each character. Let’s take a deep dive into each character from the base VS Pledge, Sno Storm and Tele “Stomp” Manava.

Tele “Stomp” Manava Strategy Guide

Stomp’s 50 card deck is pretty evenly balanced, with a very slight edge towards defense. Even with a balanced deck, Stomp uses a mix of defense and footwork cards to apply heavy damage. You aren’t restricted to the signature combos on the player card, Combo Fighter encourages players to make up more powerful combos on their own. Any combos you can create with Stomp takes massive chunks out of your opponent’s deck (health), similar to a Zangief’s Level 3 Spinning Piledriver. Every character in Combo Fighter has a Power Token. To flip the Power Token to side B, Stomp player complete a signature move called the War Dance. War Dance is kind of a warm up move that deals no damage, but it turns him into an even more lethal opponent. With +6 damage added to his Earthquake card, some of the combos he can dish out cause 20+ damage. Overall, I feel like Stomp is the more strategic of the two characters in this prototype. Players have a variety of ways to take cause significant damage without playing their entire hand. Tele “Stomp” Manava is deck destroyer. It hurts to discard that many cards at once. Yeesh!

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Sno Storm Strategy Guide

Sno Storm’s play strategy is all about offense, more offense, and a little footwork to create more offense. Sno has two interesting mechanics that give her more snap to her kicks. She receives +1 to her offensive initiative, which will help break initiative ties between two attack cards. She also has a combo mechanic that’s a damage multiplier. Each “x” on her attack cards deal damage equal to the total amount of cards played that round. For example, if a player plays a total of 4 cards in a round, each combo card with an x will be worth 4 points of damage. When Sno performs her Switch Dance signature combo, then her Power Kick finishes off combos with a bang. When her Power Token is flipped to the B side, her Power Kick card does triple damage. Take a look at this pictures below.

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Sno Storm is an example of how well-designed Combo Fighter is. In order to make sure this character is balanced and not too powerful, there had to be a lot serious play testing and I appreciate that.

Fighting Strategy

Is Combo Fighter a heavy strategic game? Not really, but you can’t place random cards and expect victory. In fact, sometimes the luck of the draw could work against you. Players might become too patience when trying to pull off the best combos and forget their deck is dwindling along the way. Just like any arcade fighting game, practice makes perfect. Since every character’s deck is asymmetric, players have a slight learning curve for each character. You will learn which combos work best by playing with the same character a couple times. For example, Sno Storm has an attack heavy deck. Since her opponent is aware of that, they will likely play defensive cards more frequently. Since Stomp relies on footwork and defense to get to his heavy damage combos, a Sno Storm player might have to mix in some footwork cards and defense cards to throw off a Stomp player. Some of the depth of the gameplay also comes from managing your deck, which is your life. It might feel like you’re jumping out to a commanding lead, but then you run the risk of burning through your own deck to pull off longer combos. You are literally playing with your life! With the six character roster that is available and strategies to learn for each deck, the strategic player has enough to keep themselves busy.

Mixing it up Examples

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It’s important to start combo with alternate styles to throw off your opponent. Each character has their way of mixing it up when players start to read your play pattern.

Why Should I back Combo Fighter?

Easy to learn. I believe you could teach this game to an 8 year old, but adults can unlock the true potential of the gameplay. Having a huge age range is a big selling point for me

Asymmetrical decks. Each character has a learning curve and multiple strategies to win

The art in this game is perfect for theme. A mix of cartoony, but with a serious tone. The cards look action packed and it doesn’t mess up the translation of the iconography.

I hear there are stage decks and a possible solo mode. Aaaah details please…

Any Concerns?

I would suggest you go with the second-tier pledge for the $30 pledge versus the base pledge. If the game has possibility of unlocking eight characters, then I want to play with at least half the roster. $15 for two characters is a good entry point, but you might want to expand right away

It would be nice to pick two characters out of the selection available. I know it’s hard to pull off shipping wise, but I’m a little picky. The base pledge has two solid characters (Stomp & Sno Storm)

I can see Combo Fighter growing and expanding for years just like an arcade fighting game, but does it have staying power? As more modes, stages, and characters get unlocked this becomes a pretty beefy package. It’s just not for everyone. Be an informed backer, they have a live tourney going on Youtube now

Final Impressions

Combo Fighter is a game that I wasn’t expecting to like so much. Plotmaker Games and Kolossal Games figured out a way to recreate the intensity and strategic gymnastics of an arcade fighting game into decks of cards. That’s impressive! I have played with three of the six characters currently available (eight potentially), and I’m convinced that there is enough meat on the bone (content) to keep players interested for a long period of time. Combo Fighter is not flawless. It’s great when the combos are flying back and forth, but sometimes the first experience can completely fall flat. A game like this could make a bad first impression because of the draw of the cards and new players having no idea how to play the character they chose. That’s okay, there is a learning curve and it leads to better gameplay the next time around. I would encourage any new players to play at least two times in a row using the same characters. I feel like that’s the best way to unlock the potential of each deck. It only takes one 15+ damage combo to get you hooked into the gameplay. If you’re looking for a card game that’s action packed with a decent amount of strategy, Combo Fighter might be something you definitely want to take a look at. Combo Fighter plays quick, is easy to learn, and a solid selection for a travel game. My prototype is staying in my backpack.

I hope today’s preview helped you make an informed decision about Combo Fighter. You can tell I enjoyed it, but that doesn’t mean it’s for you. Head over to the Kickstarter page for more information.

Combo Fighter Kickstarter Link

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