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Puzzle Strike

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Puzzle Strike is a game for 2, 3, or 4 players with a lot of back-and-forth craziness and wild combos. It's played with chips instead of cards because they're easier to shuffle. Choose from 10 Fantasy Strike characters (all included), each with three ability chips. Games should take 20 or 30 minutes once you have the hang of it, and even your non-gamer friends will probably enjoy it.

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image © Sirlin Games

User Reviews (10)

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43 of 45 gamers found this helpful
“Neat concept needing a bit of polish”

A deck building game with pogs (chips) instead of cards. The concept is neat, especially for people who dislike the shuffling involved with standard deck builders (Dominion, Thunderstone, etc). Your chips act the same as cards, giving you all of the information you need.

Another major difference from previous deck building games shows itself at the beginning. Instead of every player starting with the same deck of cards, the players begin with a character who has 3 unique character chips that fit the theme of the character.

You can be a traditional martial arts master, a shapeshifting (dragon) master teacher, a gambling panda, rock golem, aquatic shaman, and more! Each of the ten characters have a play style that fits them best, from extremely defensive, to all out offensive, with risk taking specialists sprinkled in. This asymmetric start will appeal to many, as it increases variety and replayability.

Puzzle chips take the place of kingdom/village cards, and give similar variety to what we’ve come to expect in deck building games. Each player using a different character helps limit the fear of there being one optimum path to victory that everyone rushes for in a given set of chips.

The other major departure from games in this genre is the winning condition. Instead of building up victory points, you’re simulating a puzzle fighting game, attempting to be the last character standing. You are sending (crashing) gems (which also act as money) from your gem pile to an opponent, who in turn is either trying to counter-crash the gems back at you, or send gems from their pile to another opponent. If your pile builds up too high, you’re out of the game. This results in a player elimination game, but the relatively quick end to the game once players start to be eliminated limits player downtime much better than other player elimination games such as Risk.

One downside to the game is the initial balance to the characters. In games where everyone starts with the same cards, the game balances itself. When each person has a different character, extreme care is needed to ensure the characters are balanced. The work done on balancing the characters is both a boon and a curse for this game. Significant work has been done to balance the characters, but it appears that as the game has reached a wider audience, the game has needed some rebalancing. Thankfully, the designer and playtesters have been working to ensure that balance is met. Unfortunately, this means that currently, the chips in the set may not be completely even. There are suggested changes to certain chips and characters to help alleviate this problem. Currently, many games seem to follow a pattern of ignoring many of the puzzle chips and focusing on purple chips, which allow combining and crashing of gems in you gem pile (somewhat analogous to the Big Money strategy in Dominion).

With the work going on to shore up these concerns, and the fun diversion from the typical deck building games, I think Puzzle Strike will definitely stand on its own, it just appears it will take a little more time to get there. If you like deck building games, it is worth giving Puzzle Strike a try, there are interesting changes that are sure to intrigue you!

 
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23 of 26 gamers found this helpful
“Super-Size Combo Platter”

Originally posted at menwithdice.com – used with permission.

I’ll admit that I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around Puzzle Strike for the first few games. The first game took forever, mostly because we couldn’t figure out how to finish off the opponent. The second game was over ridiculously quickly, because one of us learned that part better than the rest of us. The next few games felt really scripted as we all started buying all of the same chips (mono-purple, as I’ve seen it called). At that point, I got frustrated and set it aside for a bit. I was starting to think that perhaps my list of trusted reviewers, most of whom loved this game, was badly mistaken.

Puzzle Strike is an odd sort of hybrid. It’s billed as a card game that’s played with chips that simulates a puzzle game simulating a street fighter-styled game. Think Dominion meets Tetris meets Street Fighter, I guess. It’s certainly one of the stranger themes for a game that I’ve ever seen. The game does sort of pull it off, although it’s tough to know how successfully, since the game it’s pretending to be doesn’t exist. The deckbuilding elements have no real thematic coherence; I’m ok with that, though, as deckbuilding as a mechanic is typically difficult to justify on a thematic basis. It does convey a sense of the back and forth, combo-laden, attack/block/counter rhythm of an old-school arcade style fighter, so I’ll give it credit for being able to evoke some sense of theme around a multi-layered simulation of two nonexistent video games.

I’m not sold on the chips. I’m an old-school card gamer. I played Magic:TG during the Legends/Revised timeframe. I have more cards for the Star Wars CCG, Legend of the Five Rings, Middle Earth: The Wizards, and Seventh Sea than I care to admit. ****, I’ve probably still got a couple of Shadowfist decks lurking around somewhere. I love the feel of a deck in my hand, I like the way that they shuffle, I like the tactile sense of moving cards around as I plan my next turn, and I like that I can store them in a box that will fit in my backpack. Chips? Not so much. They don’t shuffle as well and they take up more space. Visually, though, they really work for this game. I don’t think that piling up cards would have the same sense of impending doom that a stack of chips somehow manages to convey. Plus, parts of my Dominion set are beat to all **** after what’s probably approaching one hundred plays, and I think these chips would fare better under repeated use. Overall, I think it’s probably a smart design move, even if it does have some tradeoffs.

The game itself invites comparisons to Dominion probably more than anything else, although in practice they play very differently. The goal of Puzzle Strike isn’t accumulation of Victory Points – it’s elimination of opponents. It’s a brawl, not an economic engine. Each player has a Gem Pile that consists of gem chips that have been ante’d or added by an opponent. This pile serves several distinct purposes: it creates the game clock, as a player is eliminated when his or her gem pile is at ten or more at the end of the turn; it’s also the primary accelerant, as players draw an increasing number of chips as their gem piles grow; and it’s the primary offensive and defensive stockpile through the Crash and Counter-crash mechanic.

A turn begins with an ante, typically a 1-gem added to a player’s gem pile. Players then receive one Action and one Buy in that order, similar to Dominion, after which any leftover chips are discarded and a new hand is drawn. Action chips can attack, react, perform utility functions such as drawing chips or creating additional actions, or crashing. Crashing is the main mechanism for dealing damage to your opponent while reducing the number of gems in your own pile. Crash-sphere chips (or purple chips, hence the term mono-purple that I mentioned previously) come in several flavors. A basic Crash Gem removes one gem chip from your gem pile and sends a number of 1-gem chips at your opponent equal to that gem’s value. In other words, crashing a 3-gem sends 3 1-gem chips. Combine chips replace two gem chips from your pile with a single chip of equivalent value, allowing you to send more chips in the direction of your opponent when you crash. And Double Crash Gems – wait for it – send two gems’ worth of 1 chips. Combines also allow an extra action, so it’s not uncommon in the late game to start chaining purple like a madman. Combine-Combine-Crash is a typical turn in the later game. Crashes can also be played as a reaction – if an opponent crashed a 2-gem, you can play your own counter-crash, sending a number of gems back at that player to cancel out incoming gems and perhaps return gems to his or her gem pile. However, 4-gems can’t be countered, so a player must decide whether it’s better to crash now or wait to combine further, hoping to reach the uncounterable point.

Players start with ten chips in their bags: six 1-gems, a crash gem, and three character chips. The current game includes ten different characters, each with three unique chips. Characters specialize in different strategies; Setsuki has an edge in creating combos, Rook has a defensive flavor, and Lum is a push-your-luck character that likes a large gem pile, for example. The character chips are played as actions just like any other action chip, but because they’re unique to the character, they lend a bit of asymmetry and flavor to the game that I appreciate.

Overall, the game comes together nicely when played on its own terms. For players familiar with Dominion, it’s easy to approach this game thinking that strategies will port over. They don’t. Big money is a default strategy in Dominion that represents valuation in that game fairly well. Against inexperienced players, simply buying treasure cards is often a successful strategy, because treasures have a high valuation and contribute directly towards ending the game through purchasing victory points. Although Puzzle Strike’s basic mechanics are very similar, the end game condition changes the valuations significantly. The default purchase in Puzzle Strike isn’t gems – it’s purple. Players need to have access to combines and crashes to stay alive. A player in Puzzle Strike purchasing only purple (along with some gems to make buying purple more reliable) will function in much the same way as a big money player in Dominion. This can lead to a feeling of scripting at first, as it did with my family. Everyone buying purple gets boring really quickly. However, learning the correct valuations in this game is critical. Puzzle chips (the common action chip available for purchase) can serve as a crucial accelerant to push a player into a leading position relative to another player only buying purple. The key thing to know about playing Puzzle Strike is that purple is the meat and potatoes, but other chips are spice that makes the meal work together. Once players start to grasp that valuation, then the game begins to open up and present some real strategy.

Although at first glance it might not be immediately obvious, this is a game that will definitely reward repeated plays. Players need to grasp the tempo in order to succeed. Anyone not correctly prioritizing early buys can find themselves in a deep hole within just a few turns. The game does have a few nice accelerating measures – for example, higher gem piles grant additional draws, so as a player comes closer to elimination, the number of options available will increase. This adds a compelling risk-reward calculation; getting closer to elimination isn’t necessarily a drawback as long as your deck is balanced. The downside, of course, is that it can be particularly unforgiving on inexperienced players. If it were a longer game, I’d consider this a flaw. However, the game is short enough that repeated plays are likely, and I’m always in favor of designs that reward familiarity. Sirlin seems to value this type of design, and it shows in Puzzle Strike.

Since Puzzle Strike’s first release, Sirlin has published an expansion known as the Upgrade Pack. I’ve only ever played the game with the Upgrade Pack components, but I have to say that I’ve come to find them indispensable. The best elements for me are the player mat and screen. The mat, essentially a mouse pad designed to look like an old-school arcade screen, provides clearly delineated areas for the various piles of chips that are created during the game. I think it’s a great add – having played Quarriors, which does something similar with its piles of dice, I’ve often found myself wanting exactly this sort of thing for that game. The mat makes clear to all players exactly what chips are in what state, invaluable from a bookkeeping standpoint. The screens serve a similar function by providing a hidden area to place one’s “hand”. This does address one of the key downsides to chips, specifically that they are more difficult to conceal than cards. I wouldn’t play this game without these two accessories. The Upgrade Pack also contains redesigned character chips for all ten characters in the base game. Most characters have been tweaked slightly, some significantly. Sirlin’s intent was to address balance issues that had surfaced at expert-level play. I’m not nearly experienced enough with this game to be able to judge effectively how well they meet that goal, but I appreciate that I can play mirror matches now using the updated chips. There are also several additional puzzle chips that add some fun options; there’s nothing revolutionary in that mix but they’re well balanced and integrate seamlessly into the set, so I’m definitely happy to have additional options.

I’m glad I put this game on hiatus for a bit. If I had posted my initial impressions back in December, they wouldn’t have been very favorable. Puzzle Strike wears the garb of a typical deckbuilder, but the asymmetry and conflict turn it into something more. It’s a game that rewards familiarity and continued practice, and in an era where a lot of games have a shelf life of less than a dozen plays, I’m glad to have titles like this that push against the philosophy of disposable releases. Puzzle Strike manages to reconfigure a mechanic that’s starting to feel overused into something that might not be exactly revolutionary but is certainly a solid evolutionary step in deckbuilders, one that I’m glad to have in rotation.

 
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25 of 32 gamers found this helpful
“A Modest Twist on Dominion, but Unpolished”

Puzzle Strike is a deckbuilding game with a focus on volleying “gems” (basically negative points) back and forth between players. Each player chooses a character with a different initial deck and plays their chips (cards) in various combinations to buy new chips from a common supply, manage their decks, and send gems to opponents. The theme is, if anything, even lighter than Dominion’s, with next-to-no artwork and many chips given obviously meta-game names (there’s a chip similar to Market called “One of Each”, and a chip similar to Witch called “Really Annoying”).

Many have said that that this game is about “attacking” other players rather than building up points, but I don’t think that describes the difference very well; the gem piles are effectively points, it’s just that you gain points by playing cards instead of by buying cards. So it’s kind of like playing Dominion: Prosperity with cards like Monument and Bishop and without the standard green cards. In a multiplayer game, you do also get to choose which opponent to send negative points to, but it’s hard to see how that adds anything other than a kingmaking issue.

Puzzle Strike makes it much harder to build an “engine” than Dominion does, with +action effects being very expensive; this might have been fine, except that many characters have around 3 terminal actions in their starting deck (which is 2 hands big). With +actions heavily limited and a starting deck already overburdened with (untrashable) terminal actions, your viable purchase options seem to be very limited a lot of the time.

Tragically, Puzzle Strike failed to follow Dominion’s example in limiting the cumulative effects of attack cards. One chip forces each opponent to discard 2 chips from their hands (not “down to 3” like Dominion’s Militia) and then lets you play another attack action (not any other kind of action, ONLY another attack). Lots of turns that game where my opponent played 3 of these in a row (no other chips required) and made me discard my whole hand.

I also personally found several mechanics to be just…distasteful. Players with more gems (i.e. negative points) in their pile get to draw bigger hands, so you can intentionally let your gems build up to make bigger plays, but I felt that strategy was unsatisfying no matter which end of it I was on. Certain characters are intentionally designed to have advantages over specific other characters, leading to lop-sided match-ups. The type-limited +actions and negative money seemed annoying to track without adding much depth. Maybe these things only bother me? I’m not sure.

And Puzzle Strike’s rules definitely lack Dominion’s rigor. Reading the rulebook revealed important nuances of some chips that I could not have guessed simply from reading the chips themselves.

Overall, Puzzle Strike has some modest differences from Dominion, but it doesn’t feel all that different, and it lacks much of Dominion’s polish. If you’re a major deckbuilding fan, I could perhaps see playing this occasionally just for variety, but I would have a hard time justifying purchasing this over another Dominion expansion.

 
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18 of 24 gamers found this helpful
“A Bag Of Chips > A Hand Of Cards”

In the age of mindless iPhone apps and Facebook mini games, having a board game that simulates a simple puzzle game seems like a gimmick. However, Puzzle Strike has uncovered the fun of the puzzle game and wrapped it around a deck-building mechanic to produce a wonderfully fun and engaging board game.

In Puzzle Strike, players take the role of a fighter, attempting to take out their opponents by overflowing their gem piles. Players can collect and eventually crash these gems, sending them to their opponents. Each fighter has unique abilities that are augmented as the game advances by puzzle chips that help the fighters attack their opponents more effectively.

Puzzle Strike is greatly re-playable as it comes with 25 different puzzle chips, only 10 of which are used in any particular game. In addition, 10 different fighters can be found in the game, each of whom plays a little bit differently.

Great Fun!

 
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23 of 32 gamers found this helpful
“Gem of a game!”

Puzzle Strike is a real gem of a game- literally! You know those games for consoles or computers that have you breaking gems, like Bejeweled or Puzzle Quest? Puzzle Strike is sort of like an analog version of that.I almost said “board game”, but there’s no board. It has a Dominion-like “deckbuilding” mechanic… although you’re not building a deck, you are instead buying chips that you will draw from a bag. Players each have a gem pile that is growing, and, if left unchecked, will cause you to lose. Every turn, you add another to the pile. You use your chips to perform “fighting combos” that usually result in you breaking gems and sending them to your opponent’s pile. What makes it really interesting is that you each play a character. There are ten characters to play, and each has three unique character chips. The game is a blast, and is rapidly becoming one of our favorite games. My wife and I have yet to play it more than two player, but I’m certain that it will translate well to multiplayer. Definitely worth the purchase!

 
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7 of 9 gamers found this helpful
“Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips 3rd Ed. Review by David Lowry”

Anime? Fantasy Strike? What’s not to love! Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips 3rd Ed. is set in the Fantasy Strike Universe of fantasy martial arts fractured by political conflict in an Olympic-style tournament. Grave, Jaina, Midori, Setsuki, Rook, DeGrey, Valerie, Geiger, Lum and Argagarg, these10 Fantasy Strike Characters will be placing their skill on display in this exciting puzzle game!

Publisher: Sirlin Games

Game Designer: David Sirlin

Players: 2-4

Ages: 10 and up

Playing Time: 20 minutes

Contents: 342 Chips, 4 Bags, 4 Screens and 4 Game Boards

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Parental Advisory: Safe for kids

Object of the Game: The player’s goal is to overflow their opponents gem pile with to many gems. If any player ends their turn with a gem pile totaling 10 or more, that player loses and is out of the game while the other players continue on till there is only one player left.

Puzzle Strike is a unique deck-building game that uses chips instead of cards. It simulates a puzzle game amongst Fantasy Strike Characters. Or as the rulebook describes it “A card game played with chips instead of cards that simulates a puzzle game that simulates a fighting game.” In Puzzle Strike, gems all into the players gem pile each and every round. The player whose pile fills up first loses. The players combined gems to create bigger gems and then crash those gems to break them apart and send them at other players. The more full a players piles gets, the closer they are to losing. However, this also gives the players more chips to draw to potentially make a come back.

Each player starts with a “deck” or bag of chips and has the chance to buy more as they play to improve their “bag.” Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, which allow for different strategies by each player. This allows a great amount of re-playability, as the combinations possibilities are very large.

Modes:

There are several modes of play for Puzzle Strike: 2-player, 3/4-player free-for-all, 2 vs. 2 Team Battle, and Custom Clockwork Mode where players build their own characters.

Turn Phases:

Ante Phase – At the start of the game, each players gem pile is empty. At the start of their turn, each player takes 1-gem from the bank and places it in their gem pile.

Action Phase – Each turn a player play one Action chip (chips with a banner.) Place it on the table and follow it’s text. Chips with a + -> allow for more actions to be played that turn.

Buy Phase – During this phase all players must buy at least one chip per turn. This chip goes into the discard pile. Players may play as many chips as they legally can from their hand to the table (not the gem pile) then add their values to the +gem the player may have gotten this turn’s action phase. Subtract $1 for each Combine played this turn. That total is the amount of money the player may spend this turn. Gem piles do not count as money.

Money is lost each turn if not spent. If a player has no money they must “purchase” a wound chip for $0.

Cleanup Phase – Players put all chips played to the table or left in their hand in the discard pile then draw 5 chips.

The Height Bonus:

The higher the total of a players gem pile, the more chips that player gets to draw that turn. Here is a hint to remember how many extra chips to draw. “If the players gem pile has 3/6/9 in it, then draw an extra +1/+2/+3 chips.”

The Purple Chips:

Combine – Combine two gems from a players gem pile into a single gem if the total is 4 or less.

Crash Gem – These gems break gems in a players gem pile and send them to any opponent the players chooses. The bigger the gem crashed to more gems sent at opponents.

Double Crash Gem – This gem works the same as a Crash Gem other than it breaks two gems from a players gem pile.

Crash Gems can also be use to “counter-crash” gems from an attacked players gem pile. This is a reaction indicted by the purple shield on the Crash Gem. This does not cost an action to play. Each 1-gem from players “counter-crash” negates a 1-gem sent by the player’s opponent.

4-gems are not “counter-crashable.” These gems cannot have purple shield gems played against it as well.

Other Types of Chips:

Gem Chips – In a players hand these are money, in a players gem pile, they are used to crash to send to a players opponents.

Character Chips – All 10 characters have 3 special chips each. These chips start in your “bag/deck” and tend to push a certain strategy. These chips cannot be crashed. These chips cost one action to play unless they have shields are and played as reactions.

Puzzle Chips – Puzzle chips all have a puzzle icon at the top with the cost of their purchase inside the icon. These are part of the bank until purchased. These chips cost one action to play.

Wounds – These chips are just taking up space in a player’s deck. They are useless and worthless.

Components – Sirlin Games has always done wonderful job with the components in Puzzle Strike. The only issue I see is being careful of tearing when removing the chips from the board when opening the game. The chips are heavy; the print is easy to read on them. The rulebook is well laid out and easy to understand. The bags are serviceable. I of course prefer a softer fabric but that is such a minor complaint. The game screens are well put together with cool 8-bit art on the inside wall. The box insert is the best I have ever seen for a game organizer in the box. Sirlin Games really did well with this and I wish more companies would learn from their actually going the extra mile to label the inserts. The biggest improvement here is the addition of the game boards. This will greatly improve playability for newcomers to the game and understanding when a player can draw extra chips.

I have been playing Puzzle Strike since it first came out back in 2010 so this 3rd ed. really fixed one thing that always kept it from being a great game instead of just a good game. In the original edition, you could only send gems to the player on your left and not at any player. While that is an interesting mechanic, it always felt very limiting to me. Now that you can send gems to any opponent, you have so many more options and strategies. This was a major fix for me and really makes the game more enjoyable.

The other high point for me is the way that this doesn’t feel like just another deck-builder to me. It operates the same and has gives you as many options but it completely stands out from the other deck-building games to provide a fun, unique experience. This is why theme and little bit of thought or originality can make such a big difference in a game. With a flood of deck-builders coming out every year, having to purchase them at $40-$50 each plus purchasing expansions, plus card sleeves to protect them, it’s nice to have a game that provides an experience to make it worth the purchase price and doesn’t need endless expansions to stay fresh and exciting to play.

I am giving it 8 out 10 stars as Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips 3rd Ed. is a winner in my book. This game has plenty of strategy, options and re-playability to keep it coming to the table for a long time to come.

 
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8 of 26 gamers found this helpful
“Dominion minus the multiplayer solitaire feeling.”

I love Dominion. Who doesn’t? But when I acquired Puzzle Strike Dominion started hitting the table less and less. Puzzle Strike shines because of the player interaction mixed in with the Dominion formula. If you like Dominion but want to interact more competitively with your opponent, you should give Puzzle Strike a shot.

 
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4 of 21 gamers found this helpful
“Much preferred to Dominion”

I am a fan of the console game this is based on (Puzzle Fighter), and I think the designer hit the feeling really well. There’s a few issues I have with the power of some of the chips, but an upgrade pack and expansion are in the works which seems likely to give it even more legs!

You can play it online at http://www.fantasystrike.com/dev

 
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5 of 29 gamers found this helpful
“Amazing game”

This is an amazing game. It offers a lot of unique strategy, game play effects and every game is pretty much a different one. One of the best games I’ve ever played and I find it to be one that I play very often.

This game resembles the many different Bejeweled-type fighter games you see for various handheld gaming systems (PSP, DS, etc.). Players each select a character chip, a little money and your characters three unique chips. After this, you will go about buying chips from the bank to add to your deck, while you try to crash gems that are sitting in your gem pile. At the start of each round, you get 1 gem. The objective, of course, is to fill your opponents gem bank to 10 or more gems.

The game offers a lot of unique customization, and your play strategy will change with different bank set-ups and different character chips. While definitely not for everybody, it provides a unique spin on the Deck Building Genre.

 
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My First Favorite!
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6 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“Not a fan.”

I have played this a couple times and have never wished someone would win so much in my time gaming. I found it too similar to Dominion and the interactivity it added didn’t make it more enjoyable to me. I also did not like the chips instead of cards. Cards just feel natural in my hands. Components seem good quality though not sure how they will hold up to tons of play as you can’t really sleeve them.

 

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