[Editor’s note: The following preview is based on a complete, but not finalized, product; in advance of a crowdfunding campaign. -dc]
I’m going to start with a bit tongue-in-cheek snark here. There are three giant Menaces that could be the “big bad” boss in Tokyo Sidekick. They are increasingly difficult adversaries: King Kaiju is “normal”; Dōkan, Castle of Darkness, is “hard”; Fuji Sengen is “nightmare”. It doesn’t really matter who you pick for your first few games, however, because you won’t live long enough to see them.
Seriously, I have yet to win a game of Tokyo Sidekick. BUT I loved it enough to want to try again (and again… and again…)
Every game I played of this my group got better and better as our understanding of the game and the characters increased. Our last game was going incredibly well, until it wasn’t. I’m going to lay it out this way, there is an important element of deck/engine building to this game, but you have to be very aggressive from the start. If you get complacent you won’t make it. There are four main ways to lose in Tokyo Sidekick: first, if you don’t resolve enough yellow or red incidents as they come up around the city, there is a Destruction Gauge that will periodically increase and if it reaches 15 you lose. Similarly, if you leave a red incident unresolved too long you lose. If you can’t draw cards from the Damage Deck when you have to take damage, you lose. If you can’t draw a villain from the Villain Deck, you lose, although I have a hard time envisioning that last one happening without running out the Damage Deck first. That’s how we lost most of our games, taking too much damage, too quickly to deal with it.
It’s important to remember that we played with a prerelease copy of the game, and I can say for certain there have been some changes to the rulebook compared to the one we played with, and it’s reasonable to assume there could be some additional tweaks before it hits shelves. But even the rulebook we had is an above-average rulebook. There are a lot of gameplay examples and character details packed into it which makes it look more intimidating than really is, so don’t panic when you see it. There are some finicky details that you need to get right but the actual gameplay is pretty straightforward.
Each player starts with a Hero and a Sidekick. There are certain characters that are connected via storylines and the rulebook gives suggestions for functionally ideal pairings, but you can play as any duo you like. Each player also has a starting deck with 3 single Energy Cards of each type plus one double Energy Card of whatever type their chosen hero specializes in. As the game progresses they will have the opportunity to spend their experience to Power Up and purchase additional double or triple energy cards (along with other bonuses). Each hero also has three unique Ability Cards that they can unlock, as well as a gadget they can unlock to give their Sidekick more power.
The game starts with six incidents spread out around Tokyo plus one random Villain. The heroes will use their hand of Energy cards to move around the city to incidents like getting Mrs. Hamato’s rat out of a tree, or whathaveyou. They gain experience for resolving these incidents and even more when they battle Villains. Each incident has an Energy cost that must be spent to resolve it and every Villain has a Defence and Health number that heroes must beat to defeat them. Not unlike incidents, Heroes spend energy to battle the Villains and when they spend the energy type they specialize it’s worth double, plus there are tons of ways to amp up your attacks. You’ll want to do that as the villains get tougher and tougher.
When you collectively defeat 2 Villains, the Heroes start to face more powerful Supervillains. When you defeat 2 Supervillains, you get noticed by the Menace. Defeat the Menace, you win. Sounds simple? Yes. Easy? Not a chance. Every turn new incidents pop up around the city and the active player takes Damage for every undefeated Villain on the board. Each round there is an extra phase called Crime Time that brings out new Villains and increases that Destruction Track I mentioned earlier.
To be blatantly honest, this game needs a training pants mode or something because it would be nice to win for once, or at least be able to get the massive Menace standees on the board. You have to understand, the nature of a good cooperative game is that they are always difficult to win. The key is that the game has to be good enough to make players want to come back and try again (and again… and again…) Wait, didn’t I say that very thing at the beginning of all this? *scrolls up* Yup, I sure did. Guess this is a good game.
I really did enjoy playing this, and I really do want to play again. I wish this prototype hadn’t gotten caught up in shipping delays, but the good news for you, my fine reader, is that the Kickstarter campaign has already surpassed its funding goal and the stretch goals are clipping along nicely. You can read more about the campaign in our previous CrowdFUNding Spotlight, and there are still a few more days to get in on the ground floor. But don’t wait long, the Tokyo Sidekick Kickstarter ends September 2, 2020.
TheRatHole.ca does not accept payments for our reviews but may have received a promotional copy of this game for review.