Plaid Hat Games has taken on worlds of fantasy, magic, and even surviving the zombie apocalypse, but its newest title, Super Punch Fighter, brings the genre of fighting games to the tabletop, and it does so in a truly fun and captivating way. Super Punch Fighter tasks players with taking out their opponents in a hex-style arena using all the hallmarks of the genre, including button presses, combos, ring outs, and more, and you'll do so with a roster of zany characters that all boast creative and most of all deadly abilities. You'll need to plan ahead and adapt to your opponents though because button mashing won't get it done.
Players in Super Punch Fighter pick their fighter and take all of that character's Fighter Cards, which pack all the various moves and abilities that are specific to that character. You'll also take four Button Cards to begin, which represent the various buttons you'd press on a controller and are used to either form combos or activate the button's singular ability like to draw a Fighter Card, move, attack, and more. Once everyone is on the grid, you'll then have to start strategizing on how best to knock your opponent down, but you don't just want the KO, as the ultimate goal of the game is to amass 9 stars so you can claim victory.
It's this factor that opens up the gameplay and strategy considerably. Certain fighters are more melee based and need to be up close to get the most out of them, but even they still benefit from being smart with your moves and not just charging in like a freight train. Take Khan Queso for instance, whose range is typically on the 1 or 2 side. Sure you can go in every chance you get, but in my experience other players can use that to their advantage, readying cards that allow them to push, pull, or throw you off the board, and most of those are 1 range cards, so you're playing right into their hand. At times a better strategy is taking a minute to seek out the board's various Power Up spaces to either expand your Button Cards or Fighter Card deck, which then allow you more options the next time you are in range of the other fighters.
Having options feeds directly into one of the most compelling mechanics of the game, the combo system. Even after one turn, you have a solid sense on how to use it, but over time you start to see just how deadly it can be with some proper patience and planning. Characters like Business Lizard can unleash a hail of damage as well as hit his opponents with frustrating debuffs, but this will require you to have several duplicate Button Cards on any given turn to activate them back to back to back. That means you'll want to draw cards every now and then, but that also means you might have to give up a full action, so you might have to get set up a bit before you can unleash an attack. It's this push and pull every turn that keeps things interesting, though the Button Cards being individually usable means you will always have something to help move your overall plan forward.
Efficiently attacking your enemies and utilizing the board will help earn you stars, accrued by knocking someone's health down to a different color, pushing someone off the board, or earning an achievement, which get randomized at the beginning of every game. The more players you have the more fast-paced and chaotic this process becomes, but that's also part of the fun. The game can play up to 6, though I had a blast in a 3-player duel as well.
I played with several of the game's characters, and they each have their own vibe and gameplay style. Mad Hogger (a personal favorite) has surprising range and, yes, her pigs do fly across the board at times, making her a perfect character for someone who wants to pull and throw their opponents across the board. Dr. Curium focuses on magical abilities and is the only character to feature a self-healing ability, though she is also one of the best damage dealers in the game. Tchotchke excels at being able to dish out multiple attacks in one turn, so if chained right you can dish out some big damage and accrue several stars all in one go.
Illustrator Tyler Johnson also gives each of the characters a visual charm and personality all their own, both on their Fighter Cards and on their custom Fighter Dial. In fact, the overall production quality and aesthetic of the game earn an A+ on all fronts. The Fighter Dial features all the information you need at a glance, including a large portrait of your chosen fighter and all without taking up a ton of room on the tabletop. The board is a bit smaller than you might expect, though you quickly find it is perfectly fine for the game's playstyle. While we would love miniatures of these delightful characters, the standees work just fine, and we imagine helped keep the price down a bit compared to other board game releases, as Super Punch Fighter is only $39.95.
That value is only bolstered when you include the game's Minion Rush mode, which is for 1 to 2 players This is basically a horde mode, where you or you and a partner can work cooperatively against minions that spawn on the board. It might seem easy at first, but things ramp up pretty quickly after a few card pulls, and is one of the few single-player mods that I actually will go back to in the future. The core mode is the true star of course, but it's nice to have a genuinely entertaining option if you are limited on players at the table.
If you are a fan of the fighting game genre, you will absolutely adore Super Punch Fighter for its smooth learning curve, unique roster, and underlying depth, especially as you learn to get the most out of the game's rich combo system. Even players who don't love the genre will have a delightful time playing with friends, and whether you're at a full tabletop or flying solo for a bit, Super Punch Fighter packs just the right punch.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Game Design by Robert Klotz
Illustration by Tyler Johnson