Greetings All! I am DMG Twylite…..and this article is NOT about Warhammer Champions. Okay thanks for reading bai!….
As you’ll learn below, I’m still planning to Warhammer but I wanted to put an article up in the interim so I figured it would be about the game that I’ve been playing a lot lately.
Well, I wanted to write something anyway and unfortunately, due to a delay in receiving my Onslaught Set, I haven’t been playing Warhammer lately. BUT in order to keep my fingers from accumulating writer’s rust(is this even a thing?), I wanted to tell you about my favorite Board Game which I’ve been playing a long time ever since it was first introduced to me by my friend IRL(Thanks Alex!)….
Battlecon. And because this article about how much I like the game also turned into a complete how-to-play guide, here’s the link to the game upfront: https://store.steampowered.com/app/792570/BattleCON_Online/
I shouldn’t like Battlecon. It is a complete information(sort-of?) game which I don’t typically like. It’s non-customizable which means no deckbuilding. In fact, you know 100% of the contents of your opponent’s and your deck at the start of every game. As in, you get to see what their options are and vice versa, every single turn. There’s no randomness whatsoever.
It’s also probably the best card game and one of the best board games(It has a board….it counts) I’ve ever played. And just recently, they released Battlecon Online and not only is it actually Free to Play, the way that it is Free to Play is already in line with how you would ordinarily play the game. There’s a list of fighters you can choose from and 4 free ones unlock each week. As you win games, you get an in-game currency that you can use to unlock a fighter permanently. There’s also a real-money currency that you can use to unlock skins and fighters as well. (For what it’s worth, My plan is unlock the season 2 fighters with ingame currency and spend the $25 for all of the season 1 fighters)
Oh and just to tell you how much I like this game…..I’m VERY BAD at it. I have around 70 games on the Online version with a …….45% win rate and I still love it.
So ……what is it?
Battlecon is a card game version of a fighting game that is played on a board between 2 players.
Every turn, both players put down 2 cards face down to create an attack, 1 style card and 1 base card. Then, both players reveal their attacks at the same time. The Styles and the Bases are added together to give a list of values like Range, Power, Priority, Stun Guard, etc.
You start with 20 life, and the first person to bring their opponent to zero, wins. That’s it….simple……except every single second you spend with the game shows you how deep this rabbit hole goes.
Every fighter gets a kit which includes their Unique Ability, their 5 unique styles and 1 unique base. These cards get added to the standard bases and 1 standard style that every fighter starts with.
I got permission from Marco(As someone who got deep into this game when it was a physical game only, Marco’s BattleGUIDES were invaluable to me trying to understand the strategies involved in higher level play) to be able to showcase two of the easier fighters to understand: Cadenza and Hikaru.
And I want to whet your appetite before explaining the rules in more depth so I don’t lose you because of a word count that would make you blush so I’m going to show you two of the most iconic attacks in the game.
The unbelievably insane Clockwork Shot and the absolute value monster Geomantic Drive. (If you do BattleCON a lot, you could make the case for Trance Dodge or Hydraulic Press from these two fighters, but c’mon, I’m teaching people how to play)
In fact, Clockwork Shot is so good that it colors every Cadenza game you play, either as him or against him……which is kind of the point. Cadenza is possibly the simplest character to play, he’s slow, endlessly resilient and hits like a truck that is also a robot. But once you play with him or against him after even just a few games, the mind game of “Is Clockwork Shot this turn?” alters everything from the first time you play him to the point where the game completely changes from thereafter.
I really want to talk about how good this style is, but the OG BattleCON media master himself does a much better job of it. And it even shows an idea of what the game, looks like:
Marco aka TheMechanicritic has a great video on the Threat of Power featuring Clockwork Shot:
So let’s first talk about the cards for the fighters and then let’s take a tour through the phases set up.
As mentioned previously, a fighter’s kit is made up of the common bases + the Switch style and then their set of unique styles + unique base.
Here are the common bases:
Every Character starts with these 6 bases. (Caveat: the physical game is very large with a LOT of fighters and some fighters that are not yet in BattleCON Online but are on paper have the ability to use different bases as part of their Unique Ability….Hi Gar, Hi Enderbyt! Also Riflam, A BCO exclusive character, slowly changes the numbers on his bases throughout the course of the game but I’m getting way ahead of myself)
By themselves, the bases typically counter two bases and lose to two different bases. Dodge is a special case.
A really good graphic used to illustrate this was created by Tim the Enchanter(And totally not a Daemon Summoning Circle…..no really it’s not….okay maybe just a little)
All of these numbers are added to the numbers on the style to give you the attack’s base characteristics.
Since the game is played on a board with 6 spaces, range and movement is a large part of the game.
The blue number is Range. Shot can hit 1(directly in front of you) to 4 spaces away from you. It also includes minimum range sometimes such as with Burst, that can’t hit the space directly in front of you(But it moves you back 2 spaces at the start of the beat/turn so unless they countered with Shot or Drive…..)
The red number is Power. This is how hard something hits. So that aforementioned Clockwork Shot hits for 6 damage at range 1-4.
The yellow number is Priority. It tells you how fast your attack happens. You compare this total number against your opponent’s total number and the highest number goes first. So that Geomantic Drive attack pair has a priority of 4 vs. Clockwork Shot’s priority of -1.If you and your opponent both have the same priority number, you will Clash! If you clash, you both choose a different base and re-reveal with the same Style. You can clash all the way down the line if you both keep choosing the same priority numbers. (Once you get more familiar with the game, clashing is an important tactic in its own right to cancel your opponent’s best attacks by choosing an attack pair that has the same priority value, forcing the clash and making you both choose different bases) This matters and interacts with the last number because of a game rule called Stun.
If your attack hits the opponent first, they are stunned and they do not get to hit you back…..except for the last number. (I’ll cover the Stun effect a little later, It’s worth it I promise, Yes I know it’s already a long article, I’m teaching you to play the best board game ever….you’re welcome)
The fourth number is Stun Guard. It is amount of damage it will take before you become stunned. So Drive has 0 stun guard, but Strike has 5. If your damage beats their Stun Guard amount, you will stun them. So, this means that even though Drive will hit the person with Strike first because of its 4 priority, the person with Strike will be able to hit back for more damage resulting in a positive trade of 1 damage in their favor.
Priority and Stun Guard work together to create a really rich dynamic between speed and power. Going fast to stun your opponent won’t always work.
(The Soak 3 on Clockwork Shot is a keyword that cancels out that much damage first. So even without taking Cadenza’s Unique Ability into account, you would need to hit him for 6 damage to stun him….he cancels the first three damage with Soak, and Shot has a stun guard of 2).
So that’s a quick overview of bases that everyone starts with and they form the backbone of the game but they aren’t what makes the characters so awesome so let me show you Hikaru’s kit.
I’ll start with his Unique Ability: Geomancy.
Hikaru starts with 4 elemental tokens that he can use during the Ante phase(I’ll go over the phases a little later since it actually makes more sense once you see the cards, but for the time being just know that you have to Ante before you and your opponent reveal your attack pairs but AFTER you’ve selected them face down)
Here are the 4 tokens Hikaru gets to use. Once he ante’s them, they are gone until one of his attack pairs gets them back.
Since everyone also starts with 1 shared Style and 1 unique Base, here is Switch and Palm Strike.
Yes, Switch says you get to switch your finisher….Yes, they are pretty much as cool as you think they are without being gamebreaking…..(This game is so rad, seriously)
And Hikaru’s styles are:
And then his two finishers which you get to choose 1 of at the start(but Switch can change it for you).
Now, I’ll talk more about how to use your finisher in a moment but I wanted to first show you Hikaru’s complete kit before showing you Cadenza’s so you can see how very different these characters will play out during a battle despite sharing the common bases AND THESE ARE ONLY 2 OF THE MORE SIMPLE FIGHTERS! (Seriously, every fighter feels so different from the next, it’s a bit incredible how much design space L99 managed to find)
I present to you Cadenza’s kit which is wildly different.
So, remember when I was talking about Stun Guard on Clockwork Shot? Specifically for Cadenza because of his Unique Ability, that’s not 100% true since if he would be stunned he can lose 1 of his 3 Iron Body tokens to avoid being stunned from damage.
(Why would you want to ante them for stun immunity instead? Because certain characters have cards that Ignore Stun Guard or can stun an opponent as an ability which Stun Guard won’t prevent but Stun Immunity will….but that’s outside of this article’s scope)
These are Cadenza’s styles and his Unique Base, Press.
Along with his two finishers (I’ve died to a Feedback Field an amount of times that I’m uncomfortable admitting)
So just by comparing the different styles and the unique base, they have very different plans they are looking to leverage.
Cadenza is looking to play a more powerful and methodical game, relying on throwing exceedingly powerful attack pairs almost every single turn but he really only needs to land a few of them to knock the opponent out. He excels at coming out on top by trading blows but is fairly predictable in what his “best attack” for this beat is(Whether he uses it now or saves it until after you’ve tried to dodge or counter it however….) and has a bit of a weakness at range. But his lack of speed is not as large of an issue as it might be for a different fighter given his powerful Unique Ability.
On the other hand, Hikaru is an extremely versatile fighter with the ability to answer virtually anyone else’s game plan with his own but not able to reproduce the same level of pressure as someone like Cadenza turn after turn so he needs to use his tokens to elevate his gameplan from simply countering the opponent’s moves to being aggressive himself. He’s capable of spikes of damage but can’t replicate those numbers turn over turn like Cadenza.
There are two last concepts to discuss before going over the actual How-to-Play portion, Force Gauge and Movement. Let’s start with Movement.
Movement in this game is versed in a few different terms:
Move: Move in either direction.
Retreat: Move away from your opponent
Advance: Move towards your opponent
Close: Move towards your opponent without passing them
Move Directly: this ‘teleports’ you to the spot without passing through the spaces in between
Push: Move the opponent away from you
Pull: Move the opponent towards you
Movement in this game is also balanced in terms of when you do it and how much flexibility the effect gives you. Some movement is non-optional, some of it is optional. You can’t move into your opponent’s space so you simply skip over them(without counting the space) but you continue in the direction you were moving. So you can advance past your opponent or be pulled past them.
As an example, Drive says advance 1 or 2 as a Before effect. You must advance at least 1 (if you can) but you can go 2 spaces if you want.
Compare this with the effect on Mechanical. At the End of the beat, you can advance up to 3(but you don’t have to if you don’t want to since you can advance 0 since it says “up to”)
And finally contrast that with the Movement on Rocket Press, Before activating: Advance 2 or more. So you must advance at least 2 but you can go farther if you want….But because it doesn’t have any other optional movement, the one thing it cannot do is only advance 1 space. Let me show you what that means with the grid.
Any space that says OK will allow Cadenza if he starts in it to hit Hikaru with Rocket Press(one of his finishers). Any space that says NOT OK will not hit Hikaru. (And against Hikaru, you should really be using Feedback Field instead but I’m trying to illustrate a point about movement okay?!)
If Hikaru is in space number 2, Cadenza can use Rocket Press from any space other than space number 1 to end next to Hikaru to hit end up hitting him since Rocket Press does not say “Up to 2”, it only says Advance 2 or more. If we are in space 4, we can advance 2 (passing over Hikaru without counting his space) and end adjacent to him. Spaces 6 and 7 we advance at least 2 and then can go further. Space number 3, next to Hikaru can’t advance 2 so we won’t advance but we already adjacent(Lucky….)But space number 1 will put us out of range after we use it.
If Hikaru was in the corner(space 1), we would only miss from space 3 since we cannot advance 2 and therefore wouldn’t advance(once again, due to the wording), but any other space we could get adjacent from. We wouldn’t be able to advance 2 from space 2 either….but we simply fail to advance and clobber him anyway.
Speaking of Rocket Press, let’s talk about the last big concept: Force Gauge.
Everyone starts with 2 Force, and gains 1 at the end of every beat with a maximum of 10 force. If you have 7 or less health remaining, you gain 2 Force instead. Force is used for 3 possible different ante effects and is used to activate your finisher.
During the ante phase(we will talk about the phases in just a moment), You can spend 2 Force to ante one of the following effects(Also look at how slick even the Ante tokens are!):
As long as you have enough force, you can ante 1 or more of these effects but not the same effect twice. (So you can ante both +2 priority and +1 power for a total of 4 force, but you can’t ante +2 priority twice. HOWEVER, if you have a different ante ability such as Hikaru’s elemental tokens, you can ante Air for +2 priority and then use Force to ante +2 priority as well)
Force is also how you activate your finisher. If you have Force equal to your current life total, you can use your finisher instead of placing an attack pair. A finisher is a complete package when you use it so you only activate that card by itself, you don’t pair it with a style or base. It wins priority ties(Your opponent can’t clash it which comes up quite often)
So let’s dive into how to play(And you should really give it a try, actual no-jokes free to play gameplay here is the best I’ve ever seen)
Both players are put on the board with 1 player on space 3 and the other player on space 5 to start. Certain characters may have markers or tokens that get put on the board at this time from their Unique Ability.
At setup, you have all your styles and bases available. You choose which finisher to start with and two attack pairs to discard at the start of the game. These will get revealed at the same time as your opponent’s at the start of the game.
So maybe for Cadenza, our first discard pile will be [Style]Switch Grasp[Base] and our second discard pile will be [Style]Grapnel Strike[Base] and our finisher will be Feedback Field.
Our discards are placed face-up and our finisher is revealed at the same time as our opponent’s.
There is no hidden information about what options you have, both players know exactly what the other player can do each turn. In the physical game, you had a reference card you gave to your opponent. In BattleCON Online, you can actually scroll through their options while you are selecting your own attack pair.
The first phase is the most important. This is the phase where both players choose an attack pair. 1 style and 1 base and they lock that attack pair in(Face down in physical play, BatteCON Online has a timer of 3 minutes to choose….that seems like a lifetime, I 100% promise you it’s barely enough when you are thinking of what you can do, how your opponent can counter your move and finally settling on a pair)
After both players have set their attack pair, we move to the ante phase. The ante phase starts with whoever was active player the round before and moves between players until both players pass.(The only random effect in the game is a random player is chosen to ante first on turn 1) Some characters don’t have ante effects from their Unique ability but they still have Force Gauge ante’s available. So if you were to ante +1 power, your opponent can (and usually will) ante +2 Stun Guard. Both players need to pass in succession to move to the Reveal phase so you always have a chance to respond to your opponent’s ante if you are able to.
And then we get to the big moment: the Reveal phase.
During the Reveal Phase, a few things happen. First, you and your opponent reveal your attack pairs. Then any Reveal effects happen first(if it ends up mattering, the player who was active player last turn applies their effects first and then the second player, but it usually doesn’t matter).
For instance, Hikaru’s Trance and Sweeping styles both have reveal effects. Then you add(or subtract) both players attack pair numbers and modifiers like reveal effects or anted tokens to find out their Priority values.
If there is no tie, whoever has the highest priority is the Active Player this round and the other player is the Reactive Player. And we would move to Start of Beat.
If there is a tie, you clash. Both players choose a new base from among the options in their hand to set and re-reveal. If the priorities are the same, you do this again until 1 player has a higher priority. That becomes both players attack pairs for the beat and the original base chosen that was clashed goes back to their hand. (Once you get a few games under your belt, trying for the 3 priority attack pair that will clash Switch Dodge becomes fairly commonplace)
Once we get to Start of beat effects, the timing of when things happens becomes apparent. Start of Beat effects happen with the Active Player doing all of their effects in whichever order they choose and then the Reactive Player fully completing theirs.
So even though the Burst base only has a priority of 1, since it’s Retreat 1 or 2 effect happens at the Start of beat, it can put you out of range of your opponent’s attack despite going second. Likewise, Dodging happens at the Start of beat as well.
After Start of Beat effects, The Active Player gets to go first.
In order of timing, effects can happen:
Before activating: this happens before you actually check to see if you hit(So you move before you hit with Drive for instance). After Before activating effects have all been completed, your attack checks to see if it will hit. If the opponent is in range of your attack and no other effects would make you miss (such as Dodge if you moved past them during Start of beat), you will hit the opponent. Once you have hit your opponent, you will still hit them with your full effect even if a on Hit effect moves them out of range(such as Grasp). You can’t “unhit” your opponent once you have reached this point.
Hit: this happens once you’ve confirmed the opponent is in range but before you do damage which is the next window. So Grasp will move the opponent 1 space, etc.
Damage: if you deal 1 or more damage, on Damage effects will trigger here(if you deal no damage because of zero Power[you can’t have less than zero], or if they have Soak equal to or greater than your power, your on damage effect won’t happen). For instance, Sweeping moves you after you hit your opponent and dealt damage. So it’s useful for getting away after you’ve hit them(hopefully it advances you over and past them and right out of their range or Sweeping’s reveal effect of giving your opponent +2 power is going to show you the price tag of a style with 3 priority).
After activating: this happens after you’ve hit the opponent and dealt damage, but before they get the chance to activate. (Neither Hikaru nor Cadenza have After activating: effects on their cards but other characters do)
(Technically, if you reduce your opponent to zero life with your attack, you don’t get an after activating effect, either…..but you don’t really need one.)
Hopefully, you dealt more damage to your opponent than their stun guard value so they won’t they don’t get to do any of these steps as the Reactive Player
If they are not stunned(You should’ve hit them harder?), they will now take their turn in the same order. Once they are done, the next phase is End of Beat effects.
One important note about this phase is that even stunned players still get their Start and End of beat effects. So even if you stunned a Hikaru who used their Trance style, they would still get their token back at the End of beat.
Then the Recycle phase happens and this is where the final bit of genius in the game happens.
You move your 2nd discard pile to your hand then you move your 1st discard pile to the discard 2 space and then you put the attack pair you played this turn into your 1st discard pile. (If someone used a finisher this round and their opponent isn’t dead, the finisher card is removed from the game and you don’t recycle your discard piles. Also if you used your finisher and your opponent isn’t dead…..womp womp frownfase)
So that Clockwork Shot we are so afraid of? Once the opponent uses it, you know that they can’t play either Clockwork or Shot against you for two more turns.
Do they have both Burst and Dodge in their discard piles? They are “cardlocked” and probably can’t get out of the way of your attack this round.
So because you know what they can do and what’s in their discard piles, you know what options they have left to deal with your attack (or vice versa). Sometimes this means never playing your most powerful attack since your opponent knowing you can still play it can make them play around it the entire game. This is exactly the Threat of Power that Marco mentioned in the video I linked previously(Oh you didn’t watch it yet? You should, it’s really good and it has actual gameplay in it too, Here’s the link again because I know you are lazy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOmJafA6Upo )
The last part of the recycle phase are gaining 1 force(or 2 if the player has 7 life or less).
There are 15 beats in a game, if neither player is dead by the end, the player with the higher life total wins. (If both players have the same life total, the Reactive player on the final beat wins)
So that’s HOW you play….but it’s not really WHY you should play.
This game has astonishing levels of depth for a simple set up. Even this how to play document doesn’t do the ease of intuitive play for this game justice.
Find who is faster
Do start effects
1st player does their attack
If the 2nd player is not stunned, they do their attack
End effects happen.
That’s the whole game right there and some of those steps won’t happen in every beat. It’s a very simple game, mechanically.
But the depth that is possible with just a solid game mechanic and familiarity is out of this world.
So should I play Battlecon?
Probably? Higher skill level games feel like the better player wins the vast majority of the time. But the learning curve can be steep so if you will get discouraged by losing a lot (Remember how I still lose over half my games?), it might not be for you.
It’s hard to say that I would play it in place of TCG’s in general or Warhammer in specific, because despite both being competitive card games, they scratch different metaphorical itches for me. Warhammer is a constant question of trying to “solve” the meta, BattleCON is a constant question of balancing killing your opponent while preventing them from killing you
But damn if every game of Battlecon isn’t an unreasonable amount of fun, win or lose. I’ve battled hard-scrabble games to be won or lost by either opponent based on how solid our read of the opponent is.
If you are interested in checking it out (and you really should), here’s the link again: https://store.steampowered.com/app/792570/BattleCON_Online/
As soon as my Master Set arrives from shipping(Hopefully soon >.<), I’ll be back in the Warhammer mix, grinding my way back to Master. I’ve even set up to be able to look into streaming some of it so that might be a reality too.
As always, Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on the battlefield.
Reach out to me if you want to ask me about the game, You can find me in discord as [Heraldor]DMG Twylite, ingame as DMG Twylite, and now in Battlecon as Twylite.
P.S. In case you were wondering how cool this game is, My main fighter is Evil Hikaru…..yes for real and yes he’s as cool as it sounds. Not only that, his voice actor is nothing short of the absolute best thing ever(Did I mention this game has actual voice acting?)
In fact, LET ME WIPE THAT FACE OFF YOUR LOOK!(Yes, he actually says this and it’s almost as good as his defeat monologue which puts Vader’s NOOOOO to absolute shame)
Special thanks to Marco/TheMechanicritic for helping me out with some of the Images and letting me link his YouTube channel in this article(Yes I know that I thanked him earlier, I’m doing it again, deal with it). I’ve watched his BattleGUIDES for years now through the multiple physical BattleCON releases including their most recent one for Unleashed and they have a late backer option available that I may or may not be taking advantage of for an amount of money my wife would probably frown about.
Link to the late backing Kickstarter here: https://level99.pledgemanager.com/projects/battlecon-unleashed-the-ultimate-battlecon-edition/participate/