Solo Contest: ¡Lucha Lucha! – The Journey

In the on-going series, Fairway reviews the sixth-place finisher in the Solo Game Challenge contest from The Game Crafter: ¡Lucha Lucha! – The Journey.

¡Lucha Lucha! is a one-player (with a two-player mode) game in which the player is a Mexican Luchador trying to become the best Mexican wrestler. As with all of the contest entries, I used a slightly different scoring matrix from the contest.  Here’s how the game did:

Total Theme (5) Art / GD (10) Solo
Creativity (5) Other
58% 4 6 8 6 3 2

Initial Impressions ^

Box shot!
  1. The theme and Luchador art were immediate draws. However, the art was used really only for the character and opponent card illustrations it left a lot to be desired for the rest of the game.
  2. The opponents and characters were creative and unique.
  3. Aspects of this game were really tedious: the calendaring mechanism to space out matches and training (and rest). 
  4. The game tended toward “easy” and there were repeatable strategies that seemed to ensure winning every time.
  5. The game has an optional, two-player variant.

How to play ^

In  ¡Lucha Lucha!, the player is one of a few would-be Luchadors. The player starts by taking one of the four Luchador character cards, the resource tracker boards, the style points board, a set of dice and a set of tracker cubes.

Each character card shows the character’s starting life (hit points) and attack (the number of dice used during matches). The tracker boards will be used to track training through your career as well as rewards you might earn from matches.

Next, the player sets out the calendar cards.  The twelve cards are divided into four stacks of three. Calendar cards show the arrangement of matches during the month (solo or tag team) as well as days used to rest and train. Each stack of three calendar cards corresponds to the four levels of luchador opponent cards (from one-star to four-star). Each level of luchador opponents represents stronger and more difficult opponents. These luchador cards are separately shuffled and placed face down in a draw-pile near the stacks of calendars.  A tracker token is set on the first day of the first month.

After that, you’re essentially ready to play.

A game is played, potentially, across all 12 months. The objective is for your luchador to win one match at each level before you run out of months in that level.  If you do succeed, you win. If you make it to the end of the three month window without a win, you lose.

To start, the player flips the top opponent card from the one-star pile.  Then, using a cube to track days, the player spends non-match days resting and training until the first match.  If you train one day, you rest for three days. As you rest and train, you use them to convert for energy, money and strength that will improve your luchador’s overall chances in each match.

Once you reach the first match, the game really begins.  There are two types of matches: solo and tag team. The primary difference is that with tag team matches, you are often able to assign who does what and to whom when attacking and when hitting — assuming that your opponents’ special powers don’t interfere with those abilities.

To win a match, you need to overcome your opponents defense and land hits equal to or greater than their life before they do the same to you and do so before the end of the final round (rolls of the dice). 

Your luchador’s attack value (base or as modified by training) is the number of dice you roll during each round.  When rolling values (and ignoring special powers), a roll of two and three equal blocks; four through six are hits; and ones do nothing.  Your opponents have their hits and blocks pre-determined (there is no rolling for them, usually).

Once you roll, you assign each die to an opponent.  In order to land a hit, you must assign more hits than the opponent has blocks. And for your opponent to hit you, you must have assigned fewer blocks than the opponent had hits. For each hit (in either direction), the luchador’s health is reduced.

In addition to these basic attacks, most opponents have special powers which alter how matches work. Similarly, all the player luchadors have a special power that can be invoked.

If the opponent’s health is reduced to zero, you win the match and collect the prize at the bottom of the card — in tag team matches, you collect the prizes immediately as one of the opponents goes down.

If you win a match, you’ll finish the current month and then, either, elect to move to the next level or do another month at the current level at the end of the month. This process continues until you win a match (or not) at each level.

There are other elements of the game: style points and objectives. At the end of the game, style points are used to determine your fame — winning apparently isn’t enough.

Where it shines ^

The theme. We were immediately drawn to the theme. It’s definitely an unusual idea and a game theme I don’t have in my library. Much of the game meshes well with that theme: everything from the advertising and special events to the characters to the . 

The luchadors. Both the player characters and the vast array of opponents was amazing. There was a wide variety of characters (men & women) with some surprising and hilarious powers. I particularly liked the opponent that stole money.  The fact that there were so many luchador headshots was no small feat. On this front, the game was really at its best.

Matches. We also enjoyed how matches played out, in general. This was obviously the core of the game and the part the players enjoyed the most. The only concern is that (unless we misunderstood the rules) there was not a lot of tension about whether we’d end up winning.

Art. Where it was present it was good and fun.  This was mostly for the luchadors, and the objective cards.  Everywhere else, the art was inconsistent and sometimes the graphic design failed to take advantage of what the game had.

Where it struggled ^

The calendar. Probably the most tedious part of the game was the calendar. Thematically it was consistent. But it lead to two main areas of concern. First, it was monotonous. Rarely did anyone deviate from the standard train-rest*3 schedule unless the calendar forced you to do something different. Felt like this could have been handled some other way. Second, there was a perverse incentive to finish out all three months (or six) months at the first levels and essentially max out your character. There was no real limit on this. The same thing happens for style points too: the more matches your compete in, the more style points, the better your final score.

Character development. Probably because of the first point, no one felt deeply satisfied with the character development through the game. Yes the opponents got more difficult, but your character was essentially capped in both life and attack, which players arrived at very early with little or no risk of going backwards.

Losing the game? It never felt like we were ever at risk of losing the game, even in the fourth level. A loss or two still meant a bunch of other opportunities to win. As we played, we realized that this is why the style points mechanism is there. But those points weren’t well-integrated into the game play and, for players, were an afterthought most of the time — often forgetting to add the three for victory.

Conclusion ^

It’s hard to stress how much we loved the individual luchadors (both the characters and the opponents) in ¡Lucha Lucha!. These alone would make the game worth it for a fan of Mexican wrestling. The game also features a good amount of dice-chucking and character development. We really just wanted more and more that focused the actual playing time on those aspects of the game and made the point-scoring aspects of the game more integrated.

¡Lucha Lucha! is available on The Game Crafter.

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