Sirlin Games creates premium, designer games, specializing in asymmetric games—games where players control different characters, each with different abilities and personalities. Players each choose a character at the start of a match, each character matchup providing a fundamentally different experience. Years of care go into these game designs to achieve the right balance of depth and elegance and balance the characters against each other.
Based in Emeryville, California, David Sirlin founded Sirlin Games in 2005 initially as a consulting company while he worked as a designer on games for other companies. Sirlin, a top-level competitive Street Fighter player, had transitioned from playing games to designing them. His work for other companies includes the updated classics Street Fighter HD Remix and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix. Sirlin also developed the online card game Kongai for the popular gaming website Kongregate.
In 2010 Sirlin Games published its first game Flash Duel, a quick card game for two players that simulates the experience of jockeying for position in a fighting game. The first release featured 10 characters from the Sirlin's Fantasy Strike universe. Created for Sirlin's games, the Fantasy Strike is populated with colorful warriors, powerful magic, and transforming dragon masters.
Later that same year, Sirlin Games would publish the first edition of Puzzle Strike, a deckbuilding game simulating video puzzle games, like Puzzle Fighter or Tetris, in which players must clear their playing field of falling blocks. Puzzle Strike used the same Fantasy Strike characters as Flash Duel, giving new players of either game a common reference point. Made using wooden chips instead of cards, the first printing of Puzzle Strike was popular with those who played it but was produced in very limited quantities.
January 2011 was a major milestone for the company because it featured a second printing of Puzzle Strike, this time in a larger quantity. The 2nd Edition used heavy-duty cardboard chips that were lighter and easier to produce.
The other release in that month was Yomi, a card game that evokes the "mind reading" aspect of fighting games (the word "yomi" is Japanese for "reading"). Yomi had been in development for as long as Sirlin Games had existed, but it had taken Sirlin years to balance the game to his satisfaction.
An impetus for forming his own company was the desire to be able to spend enough time balancing and tuning a game, something Sirlin felt was often lacking from other game releases. Yomi was the first game Sirlin could give as much time as he wanted. Both Yomi and Puzzle Strike 2nd Edition sold out very quickly after receiving very high acclaim. Tom Vasel, the host of the gaming podcast The Dice Tower gave Yomi a glowing review, naming it his game of the year. Puzzle Strike was given the same honor by Ken B. of gaming website Fortress AT, and the unexpected popularity overwhelmed the initial print runs of both games.
FantasyStrike.com, the official place to play the Sirlin Games catalog online, officially launched in February 2012 after two years of development. The capacity to play the games both online and with physical cards has been a major boon to the community of loyal players, who have taken it upon themselves to organize regular tournaments on the website. FantasyStrike.com allows users to play the games free of charge by using a rotating selection of characters. Players who want to unlock new characters may do so by either spending "gold" purchased or earned by playing matches, or by paying a monthly subscription fee to access all game content.
In April 2012, Sirlin Games launched a Kickstarter campaign to help offset production costs on Puzzle Strike's first expansion, Puzzle Strike Shadows. Using data gathered in part from players on FantasyStrike.com, the expansion featured a number of rule updates to further refine balance and strategy. The Kickstarter campaign met its goal in only two days, raising almost five times its original goal. Puzzle Strike Shadows and the new Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition were able to include new components not in the original Puzzle Strike sets, and sell at a lower price.
Future plans for Sirlin Games include shipping the new Puzzle Strike games (on track for a September 2012 release to Kickstarter backers), continued balance work on the first Yomi expansion, and a new customizable card game that Sirlin has been working on for years.