Review: Ultimate Warriorz
|Release Date||2011 (recently reprinted)|
Designer: Guillaume Blossier
Publisher: Surfin’ Meeple / Matagot
Category: Family Game, Fighting Game
Player Count: 2-8
BoardGameGeek Rating: 6.9 (646 votes)
Price: $39.99 MSRP
It often happens in board games that a particular idea—microgames, Viking-themed games, deckbuilders, what have you—permeates the hive mind and results in a glut of similar games. In 2011, King of Tokyo took board gaming by storm, but it was not the only game of “big monsters fighting each other with dice” to hit that year. Ultimate Warriorz from Matagot also arrived in 2011, but hasn’t had the same exposure. Is that simply a matter of having the spotlight stolen? Let’s find out!
The game is light-hearted, but it is about warriors and monsters fighting to the death in a colosseum-style arena. The art is cartoony, but some characters are shown only partially clothed, and again, the entire point of the game is violence.
The more I play board games, the more emphasis I place on their aesthetic appeal. It seems to be that publishers have the same mindset, as they are constantly trying to invent new ways to use components, and Ultimate Warriorz is no exception. The cards and standees look great, but the “arena” in which the characters fight is fairly unique. The game includes four sets of “pillars” that you actually stick into the box after turning it upside down, wedging them between the base and the lid. As you can see in the image to the right, it makes a for a pretty cool scene. I do wish the small, standard dice were as impressive as the rest of the components, though.
The cartoony presentation gives a more kid-friendly, comical view to the violence that ensues once the game begins. The ultimate goal is to either be the last man standing or the one with the most points if several players survive the full seven rounds. Points are actually the life points of other players, so there’s an immediate motive for attacking each other. And really, that’s all the cards do—they give you ways to move and attack. There are also clever incentives to distribute the damage equally—getting “first blood” on someone gives bonus points, and there’s a group penalty if anyone is eliminated in the first three turns.
The actual attack cards are designed very well. Each card has an initiative value that determines turn order. Cards are chosen simultaneously, which adds a great psychological element. In general, slower cards are more powerful, but your targets might not be where you expected by then. Cards then have variable attack power for melee and/or ranged attacks, and each warrior has two cards with unique abilities. Attacks are resolved by rolling dice; hits happen if the die roll exceeds the target’s current defense value (which changes with each card played). Each player also has one lucky charm for getting out of a tight jam: you can turn one die of an opponent’s or make them re-roll up to three dice. You can only do this once per game, though. It’s a tightly designed, well-balanced system.
The elegance of the combat and card play means you also end up with multiplayer politics in its purest form. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Games are filled with constant cries of, “Attack him! He’s winning!” or threats of vengeance. While King of Tokyo used its king-of-the-hill gameplay to remove real multiplayer politicking, Ultimate Warriorz embraces it wholeheartedly. For me personally, I lived on this style of gameplay for years with multiplayer Magic: the Gathering, so I welcome it. However, this game doesn’t have nearly the design space for clever maneuvering that Magic did, so sometimes you are quite limited in how you can retaliate when the groupthink is not in your favor.
There’s another big issue for me in terms of this design, and that’s the dice. This game has probably the same amount of luck as King of Tokyo, Smash Up, or other “beat each other up” games, but its presentation is too “naked” in Ultimate Warriorz. Other games at least give decisions to make and (the illusion of) control through re-rolls of dice, or pip and/or card manipulation. Very little of that is present here. You can make an opponent re-roll once, but that’s it. If you can’t roll well for your own attacks, then forget it. Even if the luck evens out over time, it comes across in a way that can be frustrating. A clever move might hinge on a reasonable die roll, and then you have no method of adjustment when it turns out poorly.
That complaint is a considerable one, but it doesn’t completely overshadow the game’s other strengths. It’s extremely accessible (I’ve already explained nearly all of it to you), it has a great presentation, and it’s over quick (you could play twice over lunch). And apart from the occasional frustrating die roll, the gameplay is good. While there are a few similar games I might reach for first, I’m never upset to play a game of Ultimate Warriorz.
Thank you to Matagot for providing a review copy of Ultimate Warriorz.
The Bottom Line
Ultimate Warriorz has too much raw luck and not enough finesse to rise to the top of the pack, but it's still a very fun game with a great look and easy-to-grasp rules.