There are some questions that have always caused debate in popular culture. Questions that have divided fandoms, scholars, and families. Who would win in a fight between Superman and Captain Marvel? Iron Man and Batman? Thor and Wonder Woman? Red Riding Hood and Snow White? Mulan and Sleeping Beauty? Twisted Fables, an upcoming Kickstarter, deck-building fighting game lets you answer some of those questions.
The heroes in Twisted Fables aren't like those you may already know and love. All the characters in Twisted Fables have a cyberpunk-twist. Red Riding Hood is a wolf-tattooed cybernetic assassin, Mulan is a space warrior battling to save a shattering empire from aliens and Alice is a freedom fighter, living 2 lives as an undercover operative, trying to free her land from the reign of the Red Queen.
We've been sent a prototype of Twisted Fables to review, so all of the components and rules may differ from those on Kickstarter and the final delivered product. The copy we received has 6 fables, Red, Snow, Alice, Mulan, Sleeping, and Kaguya. There will also be a deluxe edition with miniatures to represent the characters, rather than card standups as well as 2 expansions to add additional fighters.
Twisted Fables, at its heart, is a 2D fighting game. Characters’ movement is restricted along a track of cards that allow you to create distance, but never be too far from your opponent. Each turn, players can discard cards to launch basic attacks, move, build up their defense, add cards to their decks, and use special unique attacks.
Each character begins with a set of 9 fixed attack, defense, and movement cards, each with a value of 1. The value indicates the strength of the attack, defense, or movement. Characters add in their own special level 1 cards of each type to create a 12 card deck. Decks can be expanded during play by buying cards from the shared pool of attack, defense, and movement cards with 2 or 3 value or their own special attack, defense, and movement cards. These cards are bought by spending power, which is generated by using cards from your hand during your turn. Unspent power and unused cards from your hand are discarded at the end of your turn and newly purchased cards go into your discard pile, which is only shuffled into your deck after it runs out. This makes your choice of actions hugely important during the game.
You might think you don’t want to waste power by not buying cards when you have power to spend, but as any competitive card game player will know, having non-optimized cards in your deck can work against you. Any card you buy could appear in your hand during later turns, which could stop you drawing the cards you need by filling your hand with cards you can’t use.
You also have to work your deck against the opponent you’re playing. If you’re playing Mulan, an aggressive brawler, and you need to be at close range, but your opponent is trying to keep you at range with Red, not having any movement cards means that all those powerful attacks you have are useless if you can’t close the distance. With your hand being discarded at the end of your turn, those attacks will be lost until you can draw them again, after you’ve cycled through the rest of your deck.
This tactical element to the deck construction during play can slow some games down, with the first few rounds being about building up, rather than outright damage, which works like 2 fighters circling each other, finding range in the early rounds of a fight. Of course, if one fighter decides to go all out attacking early, it can force their opponent into early aggression or to go full defense.
The card based nature does mean that bad draws do happen, which can feel oppressive if your opponent is drawing optimized hands. To offset that, every fable has an Epic Threshold on their hit points track, and when their health is reduced beyond it, they take their choice of 1 of 3 epic cards into their hand. These can have a big game impact, like Alice's Important Date, which lets her have another turn straight after drawing cards at the end of their current turn.
All 6 fighters in the core set have a unique feel.
- Red Riding Hood is a ranged damage dealer, very capable of dealing consistent damage.
- Snow White is a slow burn fable. They like to fill your deck with poison cards to stop you drawing the cards you need, and then hitting you with combo pieces linked to the poison cards in your discard pile.
- Sleeping Beauty starts the game asleep and builds up Awakening Tokens by taking damage, which they can do to themselves. Luckily they start the game with the highest HP. Once Beauty gets to 6 tokens, their character card is flipped to the awakened side, and awakened tokens can be spent to boost abilities. Once Awakened, Beauty can't defend until all tokens are spent and the character card is flipped back to asleep.
- Alice has 3 avatars, each with a + and - to attack, defense or movement. Alice can unleashed some powerful Epic and Twist cards, and having the correct avatar active can provide some awesome combos.
- Mulan is a brawler, who can discard cards when damaged to build up Qi, which can then be spent later to add to the effects of their cards.
- Kaguya is a combo fighter. They can disacard attack cards when taking damage to deal damage to their attacker. Their cards are also boosted by other effects, such as attack cards being boosted by having high defense.
With the small card pools, my first thought was that each fighter would be fairly limited in play, but having limited cards actually serves to streamline the game. Cards have to be unlocked in order, and having a bigger pool means that some cards might never be seen. With the smaller selection, you can aim for power cards, whilst maintaining balance against the rest of your deck, and still be able to work against your opponent’s playstyle.
Twisted Fables also has a 4 player, 2v2 mode, which has some incredible variation in terms of team construction. Snow White can be devastating in a long game, and having a brawler to protect her while she fills the opponent’s deck with poison cards can really put the pressure on the opposing team if they don’t play aggressively. The game plays well 1v1, but it really shines in 2v2. If planning to play 2v2 a majority of the time, the extra 4 fighters in the expansions would add in some extra variety. 2v2 mode is playable by getting the 2v2 upgrade pack with extra boards and basic action cards.
There is also a relic mode, which adds abilities that can be used on the fighting track cards. It adds a level of complexity that isn’t needed in the first few games while you learn the fighters. It can also take away from the competitive balance of the game, but is a welcome addition in terms of longevity and variation of play.
The card art throughout is fantastic and really captures the alternative feel of each character. Having seen the artwork separately, in a larger format, it almost seems a shame to have them on a small card, where some of the detail can be missed. The player boards are also extremely durable, the tracking counters are pegs that fit very firmly, and can't be easily knocked. The nature of card games means that a lot of things are in motion and you’re leaning over your board a lot to play cards, so they’re easy to knock. It's great that the developers thought of this and designed the boards as such.
With the choice of 6 fighters, there’s a lot of replayability just playing them against each other in 1v1, and the 2v2 play option adds a solid amount of longevity. It’s easy to have a favorite fighter, (if it’s not the slow burn of Snow then you’re wrong), and taking the time to perfect their playstyle is a joy in itself. I would like to see future expansions, giving some card variation for existing fighters, along with introducing more fighters, but that's simply because I enjoyed the game so much and want more.
The Bottom Line
Twisted Fables may seem limited in card pools for each character, but there’s a lot of depth to each and they all feel strongly unique. 1v1 is great, but the real magic happens in 2v2 with working out great team combos in conjunction with your own deck-building. There’s a lot of fun to be had working out how each character works, and also how to make them work effectively against each of the other fighters. The random card element won’t be for everyone, but anyone who likes deck builders will find a tight game with a lot of longevity.
Get This Game If:
- You want a deck-building brawler.
- You want a great 4 player 2v2 game.
- You want a tight deck-building game.
Avoid This Game If:
- You don’t like card games.
- You don’t want variation caused by draws.
Twisted Fables is coming to Kickstarter on 15 October 20 and a preview of the Kickstarter page can be seen here.
The copy of Twisted Fables used to produce this review was provided by the publisher.