RWBY, an internet animated series from Rooster Teeth Productions, is now celebrating 5 seasons of content, a spin-off, multiple video games, and now a Board Game. RWBY Combat Ready was designed by Arcane Wonders and is published by Rooster Teeth. It was yet another of Rooster Teeth’s successful Kickstarter campaign. This board game allows players to fight as titular characters and take on villains from the show through a series of campaigns that they can create as they play.
RWBY Combat Ready is a cooperative board game for between 2-5 players. Players can select to play as Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, or Penny. Each character has their own character figurine, deck, Scroll (which tracks health and experience), and semblance token. The character decks come with black-bordered cards, your characters beginning attacks, and gold border cards—ones you can upgrade to. There is also a special Ultimate move that you can separate out. Each player will draw six cards from their main deck while they place their ultimate attack and upgrade decks to the side.
Once the characters have been selected and you’ve set up your decks, you’re then able to pick what kind of challenge you want to face. The three villains in the game are Roman Torchwich, Adam Taurus, and Cinder Fall. Each of these villains comes with their own decks that will have the top card dealt blindly. The Scenario Book tells you what each of the Villains starting health is and experience you'll obtain for successfully defeating them. On the back of each of their cards they have a stance: Aggressive, Balanced, Subtle, and Event.
Knowing what stance is on the back of their card means that you can predict how they’re going to move next turn and plan accordingly. If the villain is Aggressive, their card will likely have a higher speed but not deal as much damage. Subtle cards aren’t as fast but will likely cause a buff/debuff status. While those are the general rule of thumb to keep players on their toes, there are a few wild cards. It can create some great moments going into a battle, assured that you’ll win only to have the villain surprise you.
Through the villain deck, you will also have the green Event cards. When an Event card is at the top of the deck at the start of a new turn, it must be revealed immediately. Its effect will be something that will serve as a huge detriment to the players. The events being revealed are the villains equivalent of being able to upgrade cards. Some event cards work as flat buffs to the villain, such as a +1 to their speed, and other villains may have cards that allow them to summon more minions. The reveal of an Event card can really shake up a battle and players can find where they were successfully combating their foe before turned into getting blocked more often than not. As you play RWBY Combat Ready, the challenge continues to increase, so you don't want to draw out the battle too long. These event cards do a fantastic job shaking up the playing field, giving the battle a natural growth for the Villain and can quickly put hero characters into pretty dire spots.
The Objectives are side-missions that you’ll be completing while also fighting your main villain. Some can be straightforward, such as having to fight the minions of the villain, but others have side objectives like diffusing a bomb, searching for hidden snipers, or even fighting your own friends. RWBY Combat Ready objectives are color-coded according to their difficulty and will explain what you need to do to get the objective set up, what the rules are, and what the victory condition is.
The base game comes with 18 different objectives allowing you to not only scale the difficulty but also add variety to what you’ll need to be doing. The variation of games that could be played will allow people to never experience the same game twice for many playthroughs. The simplicity of this setup also allows confident players to start off with multiple easier objectives to add a bit more chaos.
Paired together, a Villain and an Objective gives you a Scenario. If you and your team are up for more challenges, you can link together multiple Scenarios to create a Campaign for yourself. Included in the RWBY Combat Ready Scenario book are four different three-Scenario Campaigns that not only give new players examples of a Villain and Scenario but also special rules you might want to add to handicap yourself, as well as recommended player and difficulty. This is a great addition that lets you begin to judge the game while not accidentally giving yourself too difficult or easy an experience.
The final piece to get started is setting up the Game Board. This will be the focus of the battle and will be used to track the status of the Round as well as the Villain’s information. There is a space for the Villain Deck, Villain and Hero Fury tracks for player pieces, the Villain's health, and any Speed or Damage bonuses that the Villain may earn. Here is where you can lay down tokens for the Villain health found in the Scenario book. The amounts listed on the Villain damage and speed bonuses cannot be exceeded. While you might be able to lower their speed bonus from +2 to +1 if they’re already sitting at 0, unfortunately, there’s no way to drop them into negative numbers. This board is neatly laid out and clearly displays to all players what’s happening in the battle.
Now that absolutely everything is set up, you can start RWBY Combat Ready. Each duel is a battle between the villain and one hero known as the Active Player; who this is can be decided among the team and their figure is placed in the Hero Fury space. If an event card isn’t being revealed, the active player gets to play their card first. Important information includes the speed in the top left, the damage represented by symbols on the left-hand side, their battle effect, and an assisting effect at the very bottom of the card. The game board is the focus of the battle, which further reinforces this idea of Player vs Villain with other battles going on in the background that fans of the show will immediately recognize.
After the Active Player has played their card the sideline players have their turn, they can go in whichever order they please. They have the option to join the Hero player in fighting the villain, attempt to deal with the selected objective, or use the assist ability on the bottom of one of their cards to assist another player. In the case that they help to fight the villain, the speed of the attack will become whatever the lowest speed is. If the side player has taken some damage or just isn’t needed, they also have the option to heal up one point of health and draw another card if they’d like.
While it’s the Active Player that’s the focus of the battle, the flexibility of the sideline players really opens up the game. Here’s where you can start to really look at your cards and see what kinds of feats you can pull off while making sure you’re always headed to your goal. This is also a good point that players on the table can decide what they want to do and where their priorities should currently lie.
Once all players have played a card, the top card on the Villain deck is revealed to the table. You will compare the speed of the villain’s attack with the Player speed making sure to apply any bonuses to either side. If the player wins, they deal the collective damage of all of the players involved in the battle, they move up the Hero Fury track according to how much damage the Active Player dealt, and then apply any effects and move the Villain one space. If the Active player won their round they gain an experience point, if a sideline player attacks and hits something, plays an assist, or has a successful encounter with an objective they gain an experience point. You also gain experience for each objective completion and for defeating the villain that will help you grow.
The Duel will end when either the Hero Player moves into the Ultimate zone and activated their Ultimate, or the Villain gets to Bash range and wins a round. While the player can activate their Ultimate as soon as they get in the zone there are added benefits for trying to reach the end in the form of additional experience and damage. If the villain ends the round bashing you and you’re in the Ultimate zone your Ultimate will automatically trigger dealing high damage. When the round ends all attack and speed bonuses are reset, the Villain goes back to the start of their track, and the next player becomes Active beginning their one on one fight. This pattern of rounds and Duels continues until the Villain has been defeated.
To give you more firepower as you play RWBY Combat Ready you’re able to use your experience points to upgrade the cards in your hands. In the lower right of the golden border cards in your upgrade deck you’ll see what Tier they are from T2-T4 and an experience cost underneath. If you have a black card in your hand you might be able to spend 5 exp to swap it with a T2 card in your upgrade deck. You can only swap a card for the next Tier up so if you want a powerful T4 card you’ll need to make sure you have a T3 in your hand first.
These upgrades can be done at any point in the game so if you see an opportunity of attack that you need to upgrade for first then you’re more than able to. As everything goes into your upgrade deck you won’t be able to get back any T1 card but if you swap a T2 for a T3 you can then use the experience to get that T2 back at the cost of a T1 card. This deck builder element allows you to power up your cards according to your situation, that they might turn around and leave you ill-equipped for others.
Once you’ve defeated an enemy and cleared the Scenario the players will regain their health completely and be allowed to use up any remaining experience on their Scroll. Any experience they’re unable to use will get reset to 0. It’s at this point that the players can give themselves a pat on the back and pick a Villain and Objective once more. The cards that you have upgraded carry on between Scenarios allowing players to ramp up the difficulty as they progress through their campaign. This allows for you to make a gameplay session of RWBY Combat Ready as long or short as you would like. There are additional rules and suggestions in the Scenario book that will also facilitate to the lengthening of the game.
The Bottom Line:
As a cooperative experience, RWBY Combat Ready not only allows all players the ability to work together to face a common foe but also with the rotating Active player makes sure that no player sits to the side while others take the lead and do the most damage. Every player will have their chance to both deal damage as well as support one another.
The flexibility of the game, starting with just one Scenario or playing a full campaign, means if you want to play a session in an hour you’ve got more than enough time. If you clear your day plans though don’t be surprised if you find yourself into a fourth scenario. Adding in Deck building elements further shakes up each session and gives players a great feeling of growth and power in their character as situations that might have really hurt you you’re now able to get out ahead of.
Get this game if:
You enjoy co-op board games
You're a fan of RWBY
Avoid this game if:
You don't like deck builder board games
You don't have any team players to play with
You don't want to invest time in creating strong characters for tougher challenges
RWBY Combat Ready was reviewed using a copy the author received for backing the game on Kickstarter.
RWBY Combat Ready is a co-op board game experience that is faithful to the fast combat of the show. With a unique Active/Sideline player system everyone gets their share of the spotlight, while also getting to play the support role at times. While fans of the series will get a huge kick out of playing this with friends even those who aren't familiar would have a fun time.