Space-Biff! Was Recently Devastated

The box art is so colorful, the Space-Biff! representative blends right in.

Back in the day, our game group used to hold these little house tournaments all the time. Mostly Summoner Wars, though we could be counted on to make a lively competition out of nearly anything, from Omen: A Reign of War to The Duke. If we could play more than one match at a time, sharing table space and laughing about each other’s flubs, we were set.

Then, for whatever reason, we stopped playing like that.

Over the next year we occasionally discussed giving it another shot. Especially if we could hold a tournament using BattleCON: Devastation of Indines, because a colorful fighting game full of thirty asymmetrical characters, dead simple rules, and outguess-your-opponent gameplay seemed like the perfect sort of thing for a winner-takes-all brawl. Even so, our plans never coalesced into an actual event.

Well. A few weeks back, entirely unexpectedly, we were treated to a perfect situation: exactly eight players, all of whom arrived exactly at 8, nobody who reported needing to get to bed early, and every single one of them ready and willing to play.

It was on.

First time I've noticed how pervy Byron Krane comes across.

Hastily-assembled boards.

THE SETUP

Everyone recognized that this was the perfect moment for our Devastation of Indines house tournament — in fact, it was I who required the most convincing, which my friends immediately doled out in dollops. Once that was resolved, we took stock of how much work it would take to get started, and decided that since we had two copies of the game on hand, and since each copy contains enough cards for four players to battle simultaneously, the only things we needed were a quick rules refresher and two more boards to play on.

The first hurdle was easily surmounted. While some people hadn’t played with the special actions cards, everyone knew the basics and had played a couple matches fairly recently. And one of the perks of using the BattleCON system is that it’s so simple that anyone can make a decent showing without having played two dozen matches. It only took a five-minute session with a handful of examples to get everyone up to speed.

The second problem, our lack of boards, had been solved before by drawing ugly soft-cornered hexagons on a piece of paper, but the group consensus was that a pencil-drawn board wouldn’t be good enough for a genuine house tournament. I recommended an upgrade to pen and heavy cardstock, but that was also vetoed. Off to the computer I went, only to deal with a paper jam, spent ink cartridges, and an image file from BoardGameGeek that wouldn’t print for some arcane Canon Inkjet reason. After some computer wizardry and the liberal application of the palm of my hand to the printer’s backside, we were rewarded with two ruler-thin dueling spaces and a set of reference cards to minimize how much time I would have to spend answering questions.

Now we were ready to begin — only we realized that we weren’t, thanks to our utter lack of experience in drafting characters or managing the actual nitty-gritty of the tournament.

We hastily decided on a quick fix, doing a massive roll-off that assigned each player three fighters. We only had one rule, which revolved around Devastation’s use of “flights” to separate its thirty characters into five tiers of difficulty, ranging from the straightforward novice flight all the way up to the mind-busting masters. For our tournament, no player could be assigned more than one fighter from the same flight, so as to prevent one unlucky bastard from getting stuck with three advanced- or master-level characters. It panned out well enough, with everyone getting a decent spread of difficulty levels.

With three characters per player, the idea was that you would sit across from your randomly-selected opponent, see which fighters they might end up dueling, and spend a few minutes assessing their respective strengths and weaknesses. Then both players would simultaneously reveal who they would field for that duel. The catch was that using a fighter precluded you from using him or her in the following rounds — so if you had rolled a fighter you were proficient with, as I had by getting bug-lady Kajia Septie Salix, you would have to decide whether to gain that edge in an early round or save them for later.

The final touch was when I revealed the tournament prize: a fifteen dollar iTunes gift card. Some of my friends objected, saying it was far too generous for me to provide the prize all on my lonesome — which of course was silly, since I have an aunt who gives me the same card every year for my birthday despite my refusal to use iTunes. Now, generous on my part or ambivalent, everyone now had a reason to compete for first place. The room was still, everyone eyeing their opponents.

With a shout (though a quiet one to keep from disturbing Baby Cate’s slumber), we were off.

Gaspar's All-Murdering Clones: Proof that BattleCON's balance is based on how cool its characters are.

From Round One: Gaspar Geddon (Joe) vs. Endrbyt (Adam).

ROUND ONE!

Opening Standings:
Steve (Runika) vs. Elliott (Byron)

Sharla (Shekhtur) vs. Geoff (Joal)
Dan (Aria) vs. Somerset (Marmelee)
Adam (Endrbyt) vs. Joe (Gaspar)

The first round was a blur of noise and color. Four simultaneous games and eight players constantly requested clarifications on who got to act first in certain situations; clarifications, for the most part, that I directed to the handy reference sheets I had printed off for this express purpose.

Two of the matches went almost as expected. The more-experienced Geoff beat Sharla in a Joal Kalmor vs. Shekhtur Lenmorre match, though he only managed to win with two points of life left over after Sharla’s Shekhtur danced around him for the majority of the fight, either meaning Geoff was rusty or that Sharla was far better than anyone expected. Similarly, Steve’s Runika Zenanan got an early lead over Elliott’s Byron Krane. Byron made a minor comeback once Runika’s artifacts started breaking, but Steve’s lead was comfortable enough that all he had to do was wear Elliott down over the next few rounds.

More interesting was the upset battle between Adam and Joe, which pitted the customizable Endrbyt against Gaspar and his clones. If we were betting folk, money would have been on Adam, but in the end it was Adam’s inexperience with his opponent’s fighter that proved his undoing, as his pre-fight selection of styles, bases, abilities, and finishers didn’t jive with Gaspar’s relentless battery of clone attacks. By the end, Gaspar won with a significant 11 life remaining, setting up Joe as the most distinguished contender of the first round.

Of course, the most gripping match was between myself and Somerset, a spousal duel to the death — par for the course in this marriage. Not wanting to waste my most comfortable fighter, I elected to fight with a complete unknown, Aria the razor-haired robo-female. Somerset chose a more familiar face in Marmelee Greyhart, whose ability to slowly gain Concentration counters and then cash them in for enormous benefits finagled her an early start, especially when she pulled a Petrifying move that stole Aria’s priority and left her badly beaten for the round, followed by a Meditation that blocked one of my best attacks and set me up for a brutal counter-punch.

Unfortunately for Marmelee, two rounds of heavy Concentration had left her exhausted, and the match began to turn around once I got some of Aria’s turrets onto the board — a Magnetron to slow Marmelee down, and a Turret to sap her life whenever she ended a beat adjacent to it. I managed to pin Marmelee into a deadly corner with both of Aria’s turrets, stunning her and therefore stripping her Concentration counters before she could gain enough for another big attack. She eventually escaped my trap, just in time for a Photovoltaic Burst, which destroyed my own turrets for an increase in power — just enough to put Marmelee down, winning the match with only three life left. Somerset was sent, along with the other defeated players, to the Rump Bracket, and we shall speak of them no more.

Final Standings:
Steve (Runika) vs. Elliott (Byron)

Sharla (Shekhtur) vs. Geoff (Joal)
Dan (Aria) vs. Somerset (Marmelee)
Adam (Endrbyt) vs. Joe (Gaspar)

More like Iaxus the Shatterer, mmm Kaitlyn?

From Round Two: Kaitlyn Van Sorrel (Steve) vs. Iaxus the Shattered (Geoff).

ROUND TWO!

Opening Standings:
Steve (Kaitlyn) vs.
Geoff (Iaxus)
Dan (Malandrax) vs. Joe (Pendros)

With only two fights mattering in the second round, things quieted down as the intensity ratcheted up. There were swear words whispered beneath our breath, frustrated hand-wringing, and lots and lots of time spent at our opponents’ reference cards.

The first fight was a complicated one. Steve took control of Kaitlyn Van Sorrel, a ranged fighter who creates wormholes that increase the range between players, though usually only for her enemies. Under regular circumstances, she would be able to hit her opponent with long shots, while her opponent might be too distant to attack even if they weren’t standing too far apart.

Unfortunately for Steve and Kaitlyn, Geoff’s choice of Iaxus the Shattered was uniquely prepared to deal with those long ranges. See, Iaxus sets up slowly-growing planes with various effects; the Tidal Plane, for example, moves an opponent each time it grows, while the Singularity Plane increases everyone’s range. After growing large enough, these planes collapse, giving Iaxus even better abilities — so the Tidal Plane lets him move directly to any space, while the Singularity Plane gives him a solid 1-8 range for a single attack.

This wasn’t always easy for Geoff to capitalize on. Planes grow at the start of each round and whenever Iaxus takes his first beating, and if his opponent’s attack collapses the Plane, then that opponent gets to choose the next one, maybe even picking one that benefits them more. Furthermore, if all five Planes enter play and are then collapsed, Iaxus is immediately defeated.

However, the long-awaited total planar collapse never arrived. By capitalizing on the Planes that negated Kaitlyn’s abilities, Geoff managed to scrape out a victory — though it was hard-fought, the longest match of the entire tournament, and Geoff only survived with two life to spare, the same margin he had managed against Sharla the round before.

Apparently Malandrax gets off on getting beat.

From Round Two: Malandrax Mecchi (me!) vs. Pendros Schalla (Geoff).

My own performance suffered from a surplus of arrogance. Once again I saved my best fighter — Kajia Septie Salix, renowned for leaping over her foes and swarming them with bugs — in favor of someone I hardly knew. Surely I would beat Joe? He was a relative newcomer, after all. Then he selected Pendros Schalla, known for his environmental traps with a variety of effects from healing to direct damage or swifter movement. My own selection was oddly similar: Malandrax Mecchi, also a trapper, though using a very different system for his own devices.

The fight went poorly from the start. I stumbled onto Pendros’s lightning storms, while Joe somehow maneuvered Pendros away from my best-laid electroshock and wall spike traps, never reaching the edges or center of the board when I planned. Joe, an unsurpassed good sport, argued that it was because I was planning my moves for a game against a good player, someone who made optimal moves rather than Joe’s bumbling.

That was nice of him to say. It made me feel a little less horrible when Pendros shattered Malandrax’s spine.

Final Standings:
Steve (Kaitlyn) vs.
Geoff (Iaxus)
Dan (Malandrax) vs. Joe (Pendros)

When it comes to fist-fighting, I suspect the appropriate quantity of dress lies in the average between these two.

The Final Fight: Karin Brandtford (Geoff) vs. César Grist (Joe).

THE FINAL DUEL!

Here it was. The last fight.

Geoff’s only remaining character was Karin Brandtford, a scantily-dressed babe who fights alongside her werewolf brother Jager (in puppy form only, unfortunately). Her abilities often revolve around the way she positions herself, her opponent, and her puppy pal, setting up coordinated attacks if she can get their placement right. Joe, on the other hand, was César Grist, a revolving door of power who waxes and wanes between unstoppable and self-stunning.

Right away Joe found the advantage. Geoff managed to land a few light hits on César, though never quite enough to overcome his stun guard and leave him staggered for the round. This meant that César was able to do much more damage to Karin each beat, despite never quite having a higher priority. Thankfully, Jager was positioned between them at the precise moment of one of César’s most vicious strikes, soaking some of the damage thanks to Karin’s Full Moon style.

This continued for a few rounds, with Karin pinking at César only to get thrashed in return. By the end of the fifth beat, it looked like this would be our quickest fight yet, with César standing at five life and Karin at one.

You read that right. One life point.

We never knew until we played with Joe just how easy it is to make BattleCON a surprisingly sexy game. "Mmm, yes, I could do a FUELED DRIVE. Or maybe, oh yes, UNSTOPPABLE SHOT." *rawr*

Joe contemplates his options, sexy-like.

And then something wonderful and strange happened.

Realizing that the direct approach was heading towards imminent defeat, Geoff started playing Karin more cautiously. He had her dash as often as Joe could set up finishing strikes. Between Karin and Jager, they danced around the board, the dog doing more damage than Karin did. At one point, he used Claw, making Jager shred César up close. The next moment, Jager dragged César away with the Dual move, pulling him out of range of a finishing blow. Later, a Coordinated move forced César to move into Jager’s protected space — twice in a row, for quite a bit of damage all at once. Geoff even used the Lunar Cross finisher to good effect, swapping Karin and Jager’s positions and giving Karin a huge range, dealing a huge chunk of damage. And all this time, Karin twisted out of range of César’s attacks, never once opening herself up to an attack.

Meanwhile, Joe and César were just hanging on. César is a tough cookie, with plenty of options for blocking damage, and even death requires two hits rather than just one. And when he was about to take his final hit, the activation of his own finisher, Endless Vigil, made him functionally invincible for the round.

At the twelfth round, both players stood at one life.

Finally. This match took forever.

The final beat.

In the end, the match was determined by something as simple as priority. With his best moves drained, including his finisher, and undoubtedly exhausted and addled from such an intense match, César resorted to a slow Unstoppable Burst — while Karin’s Full Moon Grasp was fast enough to land first. So much for unstoppable, eh César?

After seven rounds at one life, this was the immediate result:

SPACE-BIFF! INSIDER! — Geoff left the gift card at my house after the tournament, so Joe stole it. Thus, Geoff knows how to win a battle, but not how to win the war. There's a life lesson there.

To the victor go the spoils.

Final Standings:
Geoff (Karin and Jager Brandtford) vs. Joe (César Grist)

Objective complete.

And the best part? The instant it was over, someone grinned and said, “That was great. When are we doing it again?”

Posted on February 4, 2015, in Board Game, Game Diary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. That…was….awesome! I can’t wait until I get Fate of Indines so I can do a smaller version. Thank you for writing this up!

  2. Truly, that WAS awesome. Well done! I need to play more BattleCON.

  3. I shall take the win next tournament. Especially if you add a Christopher’s Streak House gift card 😉

  4. Very cool! It’s been too long since you’ve written something like this!

  5. A Streak House must be a classy strip joint I’m not familiar with. Classy ’cause Steve wouldn’t spend his winnings at anything less. Looking forward to humbling you once again. -F

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