Sometimes a joke just outstays its welcome. There is possibly no better example than the 'Over 9000' meme which became so popular a while back that it was in danger of completely overtaking the internet. Luckily for everyone, it died out and is now relegated to ironic use or the occasional old person who doesn't really know what they're doing. Now IDW has decided that it makes the perfect title for a tabletop game and released Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 just to prove it.
Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 puts players in the shoes of their favourite Dragon Ball Z characters. Each player picks a fighter and must brawl their way to victory enough times to get their power-level to go 'over 9000'. The basic gist of the game is a simple token picking game which has a lot of marked similarities to rock, paper, scissors.
Overall the game comes in a pretty simple package. When I first opened the box I was curious about how they were going to make a fighting game out of such a small number of components. The game features 12 double-sided character cards, 7 reference cards (although it's only supposed to contain 6) and 46 tokens.
Each turn the players draw a new pool of tokens and slot them into different places on their character card. Then each player takes it in turns to select an opponent, then each member in the combat selects a face-down token and reveals it at the same time. Each token has a different symbol which affects what it does depend on whether you're attacking or defending.
The main issue with the gameplay is that it's kind of uninteresting and uninspired. As I said above it basically boils down to 'rock, paper, scissors' but with more steps. There is some limited strategic elements, in that you can slot token to activate special attack or combo tokens together. Most of the time you're going to end up just picking an opponent and hoping for the best. You might as well sit there rolling dice with your friends and declaring the highest roller the winner.
The rulebook is also another sore point. While the rules are overall pretty simple to understand and learn, the rulebook doesn't convey them all that well. The order the rules are told in is baffling. For some reason, the turn is fully explained under the 'combat' heading for example. On top of that some rules which are never explicitly stated. Instead of saying what happens with each token in combat rules just say 'resolve the combat appropriately'. While it's certainly possible to extrapolate what these rules mean, it's not particularly helpful, especially if you're playing with younger gamers.
There are some mechanics in Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 which do help a bit. Each character has special abilities which can be busted out to change things in the user's favour. Some of these abilities are super useful like being able to change the type of token you've used even after it's been revealed, but some of them are of questionable value. For instance, the ability to take your opponent down a power level if you go up a power level in a very specific way is useful in about 1 out of every 20 games you'll play. There is also a mechanic where any player who ends a turn with at least two of their token slots empty goes up a power level. This does help to prevent players from ganging up on anyone, but realistically it doesn't do anything to make the game feel more interesting.
The reality is that unless you're a Dragon Ball Z superfan then you'll probably end up pretty bored by Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 after your first game. The artwork is nice and appealing, but points aren't really earned for that when the art is just taken straight from the anime. The selection of characters is pretty fair but there are some questionable choices on display there too. For instance, I don't doubt that Android 18 is someone's favourite character, but she seems like an odd choice when there are some true fan favourites missing, such as Broly and Gotenks.
The Bottom Line:
Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 is an overly simplistic game, which somehow manages to be more complicated than it needs to be. The rules don't explain themselves very well and when they do explain things they do so in a really weird order. The entire game basically boils down to 'rock, paper, scissors' but with a bunch of extra steps, and let's face it that game wasn't even that much fun to begin with. While the artwork is good, it is taken directly from the anime so Akira Toriyama gets all the credit there, and they could probably have chosen some more interesting characters than the baffling inclusion of Krillen and Android 18.
Get this game if:
You think using Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide things doesn't take long enough.
You're a DBZ superfan who needs every last bit of merch.
You need to distract some anime-obsessed 12-year-olds for 10 minutes.
Avoid this game if:
You want to play as someone like Broly or Gotenks.
You want an actually interesting and fun DBZ fighting tabletop game.
You don't want a tiny box cluttering up your board game shelf that you will likely use only once.
This copy of Dragon Ball Z: Over 9000 was provided by IDW.
Where's the score? The TechRaptor tabletop team has decided that the content of our tabletop reviews is more important than an arbitrary numbered score. We feel that our critique and explanation thereof is more important than a static score, and all relevant information relating to a game, and whether it is worth your gaming dollar, is included in the body of our reviews.