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Cardboard Children - Krosmaster: Arena

coins lying all over

Hello youse!

It's Tuesday night, and from now on that means CARDBOARD CHILDREN and it means BOARD GAMES. And card games too. And pen and paper RPGs. And gamebooks. And stuff like that. You know the drill. Anyway, the point is – it's Tuesday night from now on. We all cool with that? Good. Now...

Krosmaster: Arena is quite the game. It's a tactical miniatures game, styled after the kind of Japanese SRPGs that you PC Master Race people never get to play in your supposedly perfect worlds. I don't feel at all prepared to adequately talk about Krosmaster either, because it's a game that you'd need months and months to dig deep enough into. But man – it's time to pull the trigger on this recommendation stuff, right? Read on.


Now, apparently Krosmaster comes from some kind of PC F2P MMO thing or something. I dunno, but that sure was a lot of capital letters back there. The worlds of Dofus and Wakfu can be entered ONLINE right now, it seems, if you're that way inclined. “I can't come to bed, darling. I'm busy in the world of Wakfu.” I have no idea what I'm talking about here. Let me show you a screenshot.

Okay, what is that? No idea. Any of you cheapskates played it?

In fact, Krosmaster: Arena itself can be played online too. I haven't done that yet, because I like board games and also this is a board game column and also just shut up I just haven't. I want to talk about the board game and the board game alone.


Oh my goodness. Krosmaster: Arena is a gorgeous board game. In the box you'll find eight bug chunky miniatures, each of them fully painted. The board is a big cartoonish, colourful thing in the JRPG style. There are 3D cardboard trees and bushes and crates. It's all so cute. It really pops off the table. Not literally! That would be annoying.

I love how Krosmaster teaches you how to play. The rulebook is split up into tutorials, just like you might find in popular video games of the year 2013. Each tutorial unfolds a little bit of the game system, and you can play it out right there in the book. Yeah, just stick your miniatures onto the page of the book and run the tutorial. The first tutorial is all about moving and punching. That's all. That's how slowly the game teaches itself to you. That's a GREAT thing.

A great rulebook.

How does the game actually work? Easy. Movement points, Action points, Hit points. Every character has its own unique attacks, and maybe some special abilities. You roll dice to see if you cause any critical hits, and roll dice to see if your armour deflects any damage. You roll dice to try to LOCK characters adjacent to you (that pretty much means you keep them engaged, grapple them, strip all their movement and action points) and you roll dice to try to dodge a lock.

That's pretty much it. Where the combat just flips the fuck out and expands like crazy is in the fact that every character plays so differently.


One character might like standing way at the back, pinging off arrows, and basically being impossible to catch.

Another character might like to throw water balloons into a crowd of enemies. Right? And then in a separate attack, leap back while shooting the water balloon, making it explode to soak all the enemies. Causes damage and strips away action points that does. Brilliant.

Another character might like to summon lots of little ducks that can be moved independently. And those ducks can be sent to surround enemies and kiss them. Yes, kiss them. And then the summoner can do an attack that is enhanced by the amount of those little duck dudes that surround the target. MAGIC.

Oh, and another character might be able to leech health. And do a cool attack that pierces armour, but only hits on the roll of a critical attack on a die.

Another character might have a special ONCE PER GAME attack that blows an enemy character across the board and hits them HARD with a poisonous PUFF of I dunno what.

Another character might be able to do weird grappling assaults that inflict damage but also swap positions with enemy characters. So, like, just off the top of my head, you could use this character to assault an enemy and switch them into position beside a water balloon or a crowd of little Tofu ducks.

Is this sounding brilliant yet?


No, I'm asking you. Is this sounding brilliant yet?

In the Arena matches, the main way of playing the game, it's all about the Gallons of Glory tokens. Each player starts with 6 of these GG tokens. You win the game by stripping your opponent of GG, until he has none left. When you kill an opponent's character, you take from the opponent a number of GG equal to that character's level. But that's not the ONLY way of getting GG.

I told you this felt like a video game, right? Well, there are little coins lying all over the map. These are called Kama coins, and your characters can spend an Action Point to pick one up. Once you collect ten of these coins, you can visit special Demon Tiles on the board and spend the ten coins to claim a GG from your opponent. Ah, but wait. You can also spend coins at these tiles to buy cool shit. You can buy one-time use spells, or equipment, or even whole armour sets that will customise your character. How fucking amazing is that? It's like visiting the shop in a video game. It's more decisions piled on top of all the other decisions. And games with decisions are great games.

Oh, and there's another way you might LOSE those GG tokens. At the start of a player's turn, he'll have to roll two dice. If the same symbol comes up on each die, the TENSION rises. That means that each player has to throw away a GG token. It makes the game accelerate towards the finish. The pace of the game is never certain – it certainly keeps you on your toes. And when you roll those two tension dice you can also use the dice to give your characters special powers, or claim some coins.

There are a lot of little moving parts in this game, but none of them are fiddly or overly fussy to deal with. It really clicks together quickly. But wow – this is a game with a lot of replayability. Just seeing how the characters work with each other is delicious enough, but once you start figuring in all the upgrades you can buy during the game, you're starting to see possibilities stacking upon possibilities. It's a very clean game too. A lot of it feels like common sense stuff. Stand on a crate and you have better reach for your ranged attacks. Bushes don't block line of sight. Trees do. You KNOW all this stuff.


Ah, and it's like toys. It's like having beautiful little toys. The game is hugely expandable. You can buy booster sets with new characters, and I admit that I have fallen for this madness. I got a set with a cool cat dude who has playing cards in his hand and a smile and aw and I love him. You don't NEED to buy any of this stuff – what's in the box is plenty. It really is. Worlds of plenty. But it's likely you'll look at some images of the other characters and feel like dipping in. It has that much charm. Oh! Another cool thing. The expansion packs come with little single-player scenarios. Little puzzles you fold out, with a grid and such, and you're given a certain amount of turns to complete some objectives with your new characters. It all flows into the “VIDEO GAME ON A TABLE” feel of the whole thing. They totally nailed that. Credit to them.


And so it's easy for me to recommend Krosmaster: Arena. It's a lovely thing. Lovely to look at, lovely to learn, lovely to play. 2-4 players can pick some miniatures and fling themselves into an arena, collecting coins, powering up, and beating the shit out of each other. I haven't even NEARLY finished with it. I haven't even settled on my favourite team yet. There's just so much stuff to mess around with. And with all the available characters out there, and the new boards incoming, I can see this being a game that really lasts for me.

Check it out. Might be great for Christmas! Did you know that it's Christmas soon?

See you next Tuesday for the start of all the end of year coolness. Lists, buying guides, weirdness. I got you covered.


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About the Author

Robert Florence