Review – Pocket Paragons: Origins

PP box

 

Designer Brian McKay

Artist Megan Cheever

Publisher Solis Game Studio

Category Dueling

Length 3-15min

Release Date 2021

Player Count 2

Pocket Paragons: Origins is a 2-player dueling game promising lightning-fast (3-15 minute) gameplay alongside a deeply asymmetrical experience. Does it deliver? 

Review 

To set up, players will choose their fighters, gather their deck of 7 cards, set their health dial to 10. To play, players place a card facedown in the play area, flip them simultaneously, and resolve the effects. Last fighter standing wins. Simplicity in a dueling game is a beautiful thing. 

All 6 fighter decks are unique, but they mostly share the same main cards. When cards are revealed, they can do damage to an opponent, block an attack, heal the user, or ready all previously used cards. After cards are revealed and resolved, they go into the player’s discard pile, where they cannot be used again until that player plays a rest card. 

The instant-kill!

Pocket Paragons is as simple as it sounds, but there’s plenty of room for strategy and outguessing your opponent. All fighters have an attack card that will instantly defeat an opponent if it’s played when that opponent plays a rest card, so you’ll need to be careful when you rest so your opponent doesn’t wipe you out. Each fighter also has a special power that can only be used by collecting energy, Pocket Paragon’s currency. Players can get energy from certain cards, and they can also get energy from countering an opponent’s card, further rewarding players for guessing what their opponent will play. 

Moreover, each character has their own fighting style: some have 1 more of a card than other fighters, some have more blocking abilities, and some have special, 1-time use abilities. So in addition to the rest/attack and don’t-get-countered tension, Pocket Paragon offers asymmetric tension between characters who are more defensive, aggressive, versatile, sneaky, and everything in between. 

The components are fantastic. The box is compact, the art for each fighter is interesting and full of character, the cardstock is good, and the health/energy counters are excellent. The rulebook is jarringly short (even with its helpful glossary), but for good reason: Pocket Paragons is not a difficult game to learn, which makes it an ideal intro dueling game. 

Pocket Paragons feels like designer Brian McKay took the simultaneous play of attack-defense from Unmatched and cut out the maneuvering portion. Comparable games include BattleCON, Gladiator: Fight to the Finish, and Dragon Punch. Pocket Paragons is superior to all 3 because you get the tense, asymmetrical, strategic dueling game in a small package that can be played in 3-5 minutes if you do a 1-off. Best of 3 is my preferred way to play, and it’ll only set you back 15 minutes. 

It’s difficult to find fault with a game that is this short, this affordable, and delivers as advertised. If anything, some duels can come down to a lucky hit, but that’s why I like the best of 3 method because it mitigates that. I recommend this to anyone looking for an easy-to-learn dueling game that still offers decent strategy and asymmetry. Pocket Paragons provides an excellent entry point for those new to the genre as well as a fast-playing rush for the veterans. 

Solis Game Studio kindly provided a review copy.

The Bottom Line

I recommend this to anyone looking for an easy-to-learn dueling game that still offers decent strategy and asymmetry.

 

8.5

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner. Twitter: @spencerspen_sir