Puzzle Strike expansion, new base game ship Sept. 28
The first expansion to acclaimed deckbuilding game Puzzle Strike, along with the third edition of the base game, will be shipped to Kickstarter backers Sept. 28, and will be widely available Oct. 28. Both games are published by Sirlin Games, and can be played independently of each other or combined for maximum gameplay options.
Designed by David Sirlin, designer of Yomi and Flash Duel, and the video games Street Fighter HD Remix and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix, this eagerly-awaited update and expansion caters to both casual and hardcore, competitive players.
"This new edition of Puzzle Strike is the result of years of playtesting and development," Sirlin said. "I firmly believe that serious, tournament-worthy games can also be friendly to new or casual players, and we have achieved that balance with this version. Online playtesters have enjoyed thousands of games using the new rules and characters, and yet it still only takes a few minutes to teach a new player how to play."
In April 2012, Sirlin Games launched a campaign on the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter to help cover the costs of new components for the release. The initial Kickstarter goal of $15,000 was met almost five times over, raising nearly $75,000 raised in total. This outpour of support from the community allowed Sirlin Games to lower the price while including more in the box: each new set now ships with game boards and privacy screens.
"The great thing about the Kickstarter is that we can actually include more stuff in the box but offer the games at a lower price than ever before," Sirlin said. "So all players can benefit from the support of our fans. And in turn, the fans who helped us with the Kickstarter get the game a month before the general public."
Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition and Puzzle Strike Shadows are both currently available for pre-order at sirlingames.com for $49.99 each. Also newly available is a strategy guide designed to introduce players to higher level tactics for every aspect of the game. Puzzle Strike is distributed by Game Salute.
Review copies are available upon request; David Sirlin is also available for interviews. Contact email@example.com for details. High resolution images available in our Puzzle Strike Gallery.
Puzzle Strike simulates video puzzle games, such as Puzzle Fighter or Tetris, in which players must clear their playing field of falling blocks. The objective in each match of Puzzle Strike is to combine numbered gems in one’s pile and “crash” them by playing special cards (represented in Puzzle Strike by "chips," heavy-duty cardboard discs similar in size and feel to a poker chip). Crashing a gem sends gems to an opponent’s gem pile, and if a player ends their turn with more than 10 gems in their pile, the match is over. The game has a lot of interaction with other players, and includes a built-in comeback mechanism so that a player that’s down is never truly out.
Puzzle Strike uses a mechanic called deckbuilding; players start each game with a small set of chips and select new chips to add to their decks each turn, letting them customize their options with each game. Before the match, players each choose one of twenty different characters to control, each with their own unique powers. The asymmetric interactions between different characters combined with the large variety of chips to gain ensure that no two games are the same.
"I find that asymmetric games are just about the coolest things out there," Sirlin said. "Not only do you get different dynamics from the variety of ways that characters match-up against each other, but you also get to pick a character that expresses something about your personality and play style."
One of the accomplishments in 3rd Edition is the rebalanced free for all mode, which addresses several issues common to the genre. Players are no longer eliminated, meaning that players are never sitting out while their friends continue the game. The win condition was also adjusted, resulting in a game with naturally shifting alliances instead of "table politics" allowing a few players to gang up on another all match. Sirlin addressed the challenges of free for all in a blog post on the subject.
Puzzle Strike is not a collectable game, and everything needed to play the game is included with both the base set and Puzzle Strike Shadows. The two sets can also be combined for exponentially more gameplay options.
Because each Puzzle Strike set includes almost 350 thick, heavy-duty cardboard chips, the sets are expensive to produce. In order to offset production costs, Sirlin Games turned to popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter, which allows "backers" to pledge money to a project still in development. Sirlin also hoped to add more components, such as game boards and cardboard privacy screens, all while lowering the price of the game.
Thanks to the successful Kickstarter campaign, players will get the new components in each $49.99 box, $10 less expensive than Puzzle Strike Second Edition.
"Being able to give players more stuff for less money is great," Sirlin said. "And it meant a lot to know that the community believed in our mission. As an independent game publisher, we rely on the support of our fans."
Casual and Competitive
Sirlin's goal in all of his designs is to develop games that can be played by both casual players and serious tournament players. Reflecting his background as a top-tier Street Fighter player (he is the author of Playing to Win, a book about playing games at a high level), Sirlin’s games focus on asymmetric, competitive gameplay.
The primary impetus for the changes to the base game was that specific strategies proved too effective in the hands of high level players, limiting design space. The new rules have already been implemented in online Puzzle Strike (available at FantasyStrike.com) and played at length by thousands of gamers, including top tournament players.
With that in mind, the new rules also make the game more friendly to casual players, and the game features bright artwork, solid components, and is simple enough that children and casual gamers can learn it easily.
Changes in Third Edition and Compatibility
Many of the changes in the 3rd Edition set are rule changes, which are freely available online for players. Any player with an earlier edition can take advantage of these rules, including the new multiplayer rules. However, many of the original chips have been updated to enable a greater range of strategies.
The Puzzle Strike Shadows expansion—which can be played by itself—includes 10 new characters and 24 new puzzle chips that can be mixed with either the Second or 3rd Edition base sets to increase the number of matchups available to players.
Some players have wondered why there is a third edition, when the second was released in January 2011 (the first release was a very limited run in 2010 that used wooden chips). "The changes to the Combine chip make the strategy of the game even better, and give us a more solid foundation to build new characters and chips on top of. I know the more common route is to release endless expansions," Sirlin said. "But I wanted to create the best base set we can possible make so that it can continue to stand up to tournament play and give us the best foundation possible for the Shadows expansion. Plus, it's great that when new players buy this new base set, they get the game boards and screens that they used to have to buy separately."
Though such updates are common in competitive video games, most board and card games do not receive this kind of updating. Some fans feel updates indicate the game was not balanced as initially released. Sirlin said, however, that the opposite is true; updating a game based on tens of thousands of plays by expert players shows a commitment to making sure the game is the best it can be—most board games are not revised because most are not designed for high level competitive play, and they usually don't have the extra difficulty (and fun) of having to make so many asymmetric matchups fair.
For those who are familiar with the Second Edition, the following represent the major changes in the new releases:
- "Combine" chips now have a $1 cost each time they are played to encourage more diverse strategies.
- The 3- and 4-player rules have been reworked significantly: players can pick which opponents they crash gems to or attack, the game ends when one player, and players can counter-crash to help other players who are under attack.
- Once the game has gone on for a while, it enters a "Panic Time" mode that causes players to ante more gems at the start of their turn, ensuring matches end quickly.
- There are rules to describe a 2v2 "Team Battle" mode.
- A "Custom Clockwork" game variant allows players to build their own character by combining the powers of different characters together.
Free to Play Online
Puzzle Strike, both the revised base game and the Shadows expansion, is available to play for free online at FantasyStrike.com. New players can jump in and play with every puzzle chip for free.
Launched earlier this year, FantasyStrike.com offers ranked online play and casual matches with tens of thousands of registered players. A Puzzle Strike tutorial is available for new players, and may even serve as a good way for players to learn if the game if they prefer to learn by playing rather than by reading the rulebook.
Also at FantasyStrike.com is the complete version of Yomi, one of the other Sirlin Games titles. Yomi is a deeply strategic game that challenges players to predict what their opponents will do within a simulation of an arcade fighting game. The third Sirlin Games product, Flash Duel, is currently in beta testing at FantasyStrike.com and is available for subscribers to play.
About Sirlin Games
Sirlin Games creates premium, designer games, specializing in asymmetric games—the kind where players control different characters, each with different abilities and personalities. Years of care go into these game designs to make sure they strike the right balance of depth and elegance and to make sure the characters are balanced against each other.