Designed By: Tyler Smith
Art By: Tyler Smith
Released: On Kickstarter Now (Ending July 18th)
Player Count: 2-6
Time to Play: 40-60 Minutes
Move over Root, there is a new contender in town for the "most adorable wargame". Today we are talking about BattleFish, which is currently live on Kickstarter! In BattleFish, the little fish have decided they are done being the prey. Planning their ascent to the top of the animal kingdom meant finding a way to outgun their opponents, so what did they do? Well, they built robot suits to fight in, of course!
BattleFish takes capture the flag to the extreme where you use your sea creature operated robots to find and take down your opponent's flags. Be the last fish standing and you win!
BattleFish can be played individually or on teams. Decide which game mode you wish to play. For teams, you will need either 4 or 6 players.
Pull out the specialty cards and shuffle the standard cards.
Multiplayer set up:
Give each player one of their teams base cards (one player will have a flag and one player should have a Big Red Button
Deal 7 cards to every player
Lay out your defense. Look at your hand of cards and place the base card at the bottom and place at least one blue card on each remaining spot. Use the remaining cards to reinforce stacks of your choice (up to 3 cards may be in each stack)
Shuffle the specialty cards back into the standard card deck and deal each player 5 cards. These will be players opening hands.
Individual mode setup is almost the same, except each player gets both boards for their team and gets one flag card and one big red button. When dealing players their initial cards give each player 11 cards instead of 7.
You are now ready to begin.
How to determine the first player:
Whoever most recently ate seafood goes first. Play will continue clockwise after that.
How to Play:
In BattleFish players can do one of two things on their turns, attack or fortify. If your flag is ever captured in battle, you immediately lose and are out of the game. Players will continue taking turns doing this until only one flag remains. That fish (or team of fish) is now the ruler of the ocean.
If choosing to attack, you can only attack the players directly to your left and right. To attack, you select one stack on an opponent's base and attack it by playing up to three cards from your hand. Whoever has the highest total stack wins. If the attacker wins, the stack is removed from the game. If the defender wins, they get to choose up to three cards from their stack or the attacker's stack. They put the selected cards back on their stack. Cards are numbered 1-10 and there are 8 of each number.
If choosing to fortify, players can do two different things (or a combination of these things). They can add cards from their hands to a stack (limit 3 cards per stack), or they can remove cards from a stack and add them to their hand (limit of 5 cards in hand). This is a good way to bolster your troops that are on the front lines.
After taking your action, you will end your turn by adding a card to the reserve pile and drawing back up to five cards. The reserve pile can be used by you (or a teammate if playing on teams) to help defend a stack or strengthen an attack on a future turn.
If you capture a base card and it is the flag, that team is eliminated. If they are the last opposing team left, you win! If you capture a base card and it is a big red button, you get to add that to your hand and use it on a future attack. It is worth 15 points. If your big red button is captured, you are not out, but you will need to be careful on future turns because it's super powerful!
In addition to the standard cards, there are also a variety of specialty cards that can be played at any point in the game. These cards allow you to gain an advantage over your opponents! Our favorite was clearly the spy card, which is a cat that allows you to peek at an opponent's stack before deciding to attack it.
Lastly, BattleFish comes with shark cards, which can be used to create house rules!
From the moment we saw the absolutely charming art of BattleFish we knew we wanted to play! BattleFish lived up to our hyped-up expectations. We loved how BattleFish managed to capture the feel of capture the flag in such a creative way.
We really do need to take a moment and discuss the art though. BattleFish has some of the most creative, dynamic card art that we have seen in any game. The fish are quirky, cute, and powerful looking somehow all at the same time. There are so many cool little details on each card, and there are SO MANY different pieces of art in the game. We are always super impressed when a game designer does their own art for a game and we cannot think of how long this must have taken to design. And with the stretch goal already hit on Kickstarter, every single one of the 126 cards will have unique art. BattleFish is a joy to see on the table.
Regarding gameplay, the option to play individually or on teams makes BattleFish a good game for those who like games that are versatile. We like the rule that you can only attack the person to your right or left. This stops players from ganging up on a single player, which usually halts the fun for that one player. As you eliminate opponents, you wind up being able to attack different players, which was a cool experience.
We also really enjoyed the different specialty cards. They allowed for a little bit of mystery when it came to attacks. You could no longer safely assume that if you had a 30 point attack, that you would automatically win. Bombs allow you to divide an attack in half but can be countered by a bowl of water. Invasion doubles the value of a single card in battle. Spies let you peek at opponents' stacks. Reinforcements allow you to take two actions in a single turn. And finally, retreating allows you to redistribute cards from a captured stack, rather than lose them. We like that these cards add a little extra strategy. With a hand limit of only 5 cards, you have to decide if it worth it to hold onto the specialty card, or go searching through the deck for more powerful attack cards.
BattleFish is a great entry-level war game. Unlike many games of that genre, the art is very family-friendly and for those like me that find games like historical games less exciting, this is a much more enticing spin on the theme. BattleFish makes a good alternative for those who want a cute wargame like Root, but don't want to have to learn asymmetrical factions. I am a huge fan of Root, but really struggle to teach it to new players because everybody's character plays differently. As BattleFish is not asymmetric, you have the best of both worlds, cute art, and easy to teach. We love a game that is quick to teach to others because it means it is more likely to get to the table, especially with non-gamer friends. BattleFish can easily be explained, set up, and started in just a few minutes. The ease of entry for us is one of the big selling points for BattleFish.