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Reviews - Scrumbrawl
 
by Dennis Hancock


Scrumbrawl

Scrumbrawl

Published by VicTim Games LLC
Game Design by Victor Moyer & Tim Bugher
Contents: Board, 58 Small Creature/Orb Cards, 100 Standard Deck Size Creature/Enhancement Cards, 4 Rules Reference Cards, 12 Plastic Stands (3 of each, Red, Blue, Black, White), Four D20 (Two Red, Two Blue – although the rules claim I should only have one of each), Two D8, Three Portal Tokens, Eight Orb Tokens, Ten Red Point Counters, Ten Blue Point Counters, and a single 36 page rulebook.
Price: $39.95

If you like the idea of Bloodbowl but don't especially feel like painting miniatures, or feel the rules may be a bit too cumbersome, Scrumbrawl might be just the game you are looking for. It combines the feel of football or rugby, wizardry, and fantasy scale gladiatorial combat. Throw in an orb that could blow up at any given moment, rendering the carrier into a puddle of goo, and you have a game the whole family can enjoy... ok, maybe not the whole family, pretty darn close though.

Presentation
When I opened up the 20"x20" Game board I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. What I wanted to see was some sort of battle-scarred field with blood spatters, bones, skulls, and other miscellaneous refuse strewn about. In reality, the board is much more low key. The field is designed to look like a sunken gladiator pit without all of the trappings you would expect to find. Along the edges, and corresponding with each 1" square, are numbers. Depending on your perspective, red numbers line the top and bottom walls, while blue numbers line the left and right walls.

Scrumbrawl - DragonWhat the field lacks, the playing cards more than make up for. Each glossy playing card has a nicely illustrated picture to go with the Creature, Enchantment, or Instant Effect displayed. They also contain a brief description of each creature, enchantment, or effect and any special rules pertaining to those cards. As a nice side benefit, the rulebook contains a complete listing of all special abilities and creatures in the game. The durability of each playing card is typical for what I would expect from any other board game, not quite as durable as a package of Vegas style playing cards, but suitable enough for your average gamer... just try not to use them as drink coasters. The mini creature and orb cards are considerably thicker than the playing cards, and rightly so. These get taken in and out of the included plastic stands repeatedly as each creature is summoned or killed. The illustrations on the mini cards match those of their corresponding playing cards, glossy finish and all.

The game tokens are your standard run of the mill pre-punched card stock. The portal tokens, as well as the orb tokens, have a larger diameter than the point tokens. My concern is that the point tokens are pretty small and could be easily lost. I suppose this isn't too much of a problem, as most gamers have some sort of glass beads or dice lying around which could be used as a suitable substitute. The dice and plastic stands are what I would describe as industry standard.

Gameplay
Scrumbrawl is designed for two to four players ages 13 and up. As the name would suggest it is a combination sporting event and all out bloody brawl. The goal is simple: the first player to get three points is the winner. There are two types of scoring opportunities: First, get one of your creatures to carry or throw an orb into one of the portals to score a goal, and earn a blue point. Second, kill enough enemies and collect three skins to earn a red point. Not all points are created equal, though – of the three points required to win Scrumbrawl, at least one of them must be blue.

I just about choked when I saw the rulebook. For a game that takes about 30 minutes to complete with two players, the small rulebook tallied up 36 pages. I was relieved when I found much of that was nothing more than stats for each creature and explanations on special rules for some of the cards. In total, the game rules are explained in twelve pages, thirteen if you count the rules for optional game modes. These special modes include team games and "last man standing".

Before any players draw cards or determine who goes first, the orb(s) must be randomly selected from the eight available (some of which have different attributes). The orb and portal locations are then randomly determined by rolling a red and blue twenty sided die and locating their corresponding numbers on the game board, then intersecting the associating columns and rows. This must done for each orb and portal to be in play. For a two player game, the Scrumbrawl designers suggest one portal and one orb. For a three player or more game, they suggest two portals and two orbs. Players then roll a D20 to determine who goes first.

Player one then draws four cards from the play deck – if there are no creature cards, the player may reveal their hand, discard the cards, and draw four new cards. If an instant event is drawn during the first turn, it is discarded and a new card is drawn to replace it. On the first turn only, each player may continue to repeat these steps until at least one creature card is pulled.

Order of play is as follows: (displayed on Rules Reference Cards)

  1. Draw Cards
  2. Place creatures and/or enchantments
  3. Movement, Combat, Orb Maneuvering, Creature Abilities
  4. Place creatures and/or enchantments
  5. Discard
Four types of cards are included in the deck: Creature, Event, Enchantment, and Alter Reality.

Scrumbrawl - CardsCreature cards are just what you expect: a creature may be summoned during your turn on steps two or four of the order of play. You may only have three creatures under your control on the battlefield at any time. During the first turn they are summoned, they can't move, maneuver the orb, or initiate combat. If a creature is summoned into the same square as an existing creature, the existing creature is destroyed... sort of like telefragging. If the creature is summoned into the same square as a portal, the creature is destroyed. If a creature is summoned into the same square as an orb, it becomes an orb carrier – this includes being summoned into the same square as an orb carrier, in which case the new arrival would splatter the original carrier, then pick up the orb. As stated earlier, freshly summoned creatures may not initiate combat, but they may counterattack.

Event Cards come in two flavors: Played Events and Instant Events. Played events are used at the time and choosing of the player who holds the associated card, during any phase of any players turn. Instant Events are played as soon as they are drawn, with the exception of each player's first turn. Instant events have a series of instructions that are to be followed, and once the outcome is determined, they are to be discarded and a new card drawn. If the new card is an Instant Event, follow the instructions, discard, and draw. Repeat until no new Instant Events are drawn.

Enchantment cards also come in two varieties: some are to be played on a creature, others are to be played on a whole team. Enchantments will state they are for a creature or are a team bonus. Without enchantments, creatures are only able to take a single wound before they die. Enchantments act as armor of a sort, absorbing a second wound. An enchanted creature getting wounded doesn't die – instead, they lose their enchantment and can fight on. The effects of an enchantment will be stated on the associated card.

Alter Reality cards come in denominations of 2, 3, and 5, and may be used to alter just about any die roll. The user of the card may alter a die up to the number displayed on the Alter Reality card. Alter Reality cards cannot be used to affect orb scatter placement if it would mean placing an orb/portal/creature outside of the arena, or to alter instant effects or creature ability rolls to a result of less than one or greater than eight.

Each creature card has several stats: Throw, Catch, Range, Movement, # of Attacks, Attack Rating, and Defense Rating. The throw and catch ratings come into play when one creature decides to throw an orb to another. The throwers 'throw' score is added to the catchers 'catch' score, then the player rolls a D20. If the result is less than or equal to the sum of both creature's scores, the throw was successful. If the throw is failed, a D8 is rolled to determine the scatter location of the orb. Should the orb land in the square of another creature, that creature picks up the orb. The Range score determines how far a creature can throw an orb. Once a creature throws an orb or takes a swing at another, their movement is done, so it's important to use all movement points before throwing or attacking. Using movement and then throwing an orb is a good way to cover long distances, assuming you can make that catch. Once a receiver has caught an orb, they are free to use their movement and then throw again if they desire. Adjacent creatures may hand off an orb if they desire to do so.

There may be instances in which a player does not want to catch an orb, for instance, if that orb is the 'Killer Orb'. The rules for this orb state a carrier of this orb is destroyed at the end of the controlling players turn. If your creature just can't seem to make it to a portal on your turn, you may be better off throwing it at an enemy. In this case, the thrower makes an attack using their throw score versus the intended target's defense score. At this point, the spiky orb of death hurtles through the air, presumably at the target's head. If the shot connects, the target takes damage, possibly killing it in the process.

Scrumbrawl - Unstable OrbAlong with the 'Killer Orb' there are seven others that should keep things entertaining. For the 'Unstable Orb', the controlling character makes a D8 roll at the end of their turn. On a roll of 1, the 'Unstable Orb' explodes, killing the carrier and taking out everything adjacent to it, portals and all; on a 2-4 it merely destroys the carrier; and on a result of 5-8, the carrier can breathe a sigh of relief and fight for another round. The 'Slippery Orb' requires the player to roll a D8 any time a creature attempts to pick up, throw, or hand off, resulting in a 50% chance the ball gets fumbled. The 'Chaos Orb' relocates the carrier at the beginning of its turn, during pick up, catch, or hand off. The 'Shield Orb' allows the carrier to take a +4 point bonus to their defense. The 'Heavy Orb' eliminates the flying characteristic while carried, and cannot be carried by weak creatures. It also penalizes -1 Movement and -3 Range to normal creatures, while strong creatures are completely unaffected. The 'Crystal Orb' shatters on a fumble, failed catch, or a drop by a destroyed creature, while the 'Leather Orb' has no special rules at all.

Ranged and Melee attacks are similar to one another. The attacker's ranged or melee attack score is compared to the defender's defense score. Both players then roll a D20 and add their respective scores to the number rolled on the die, and alter reality cards are then taken into consideration along with any enchantments in play. The highest score wins the combat, with ties going to the defender. If the attacker has multiple attacks, they then proceed with whichever are remaining. In the case of a failed Melee attack, the defender has the option to counterattack and possibly kill the assailant. A roll of 1 is always a miss, and 20 is always a hit. The only way to defend against an attack roll of 20 is to also roll a 20 for defense. It may seem like a rare event, but during testing my opponent managed to do this on three separate occasions during a single game (beginners luck?). The winner of a combat may collect the loser's creature card, called a skin. Three skins may be redeemed for one red point.

After a player scores a goal, the portal disappears and a new location is determined by rolling the red and blue D20s. A new orb is also randomly drawn and then placed on the field in the same manner as the portal.

Conclusions
On my first play through, Scrumbrawl sounded complicated, but once we were halfway through the game, we already felt like a couple of experts. Scrumbrawl is a fun and surprisingly simple game with enough random elements to keep everyone guessing what will happen next. You can strategize all you want, but instant events sometimes have a way of throwing the best-laid plays awry. The manufacturer's price of $39.95 seems a little high to me, Scrumbrawl feels more like a $29.95 game. Ultimately it's your call, but if I had paid $39.95, I'd probably be just a tad bit disappointed.

Ratings

Ease of Play: 4 of 5 Stars. The rules may seem complicated at first glance, but they really aren't.

Presentation: 4 of 5 Stars. The game board is average, but the illustrations on the playing cards are pretty nice.

Replayability: 4 of 5 Stars. The random elements of Scrumbrawl are enough to keep it exciting.

Overall Feel: 3 of 5 Stars. The price is about $10 too high in my mind.

Total: 3.75 Stars. I enjoyed the game, and will continue to enjoy it for years to come. Ultimately the extra $10 isn't really going to break the bank, it just doesn't feel justified.

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