Review – Trials of Indines

2D fighting + Gloomhaven? Yes please.

ToI cover

 

Designer D. Brad Talton, Jr.

Artist Fábio Fontes, Eunice Abigael Tiu

Publisher Level 99 Games

Category Fighting/Dueling Game

Length 15-30min

Release Date 2020

Player Count 2-4

Have you ever wished you could play a tabletop version of your favorite fighting video game? Level 99 hopes to fulfill that wish with their extensive BattleCON line, and today we’ll take a look at Trials of Indines, which includes 10 characters and everything you’ll need to start playing. 

Content Guide

There is a male and female character in this pack that both show some skin. There’s also a character who uses drinks to give himself buffs during the fight. 

Review 

In Trials of Indines, the goal of the game is to reduce your opponent’s life to 0. Each player will choose a fighter, collect the necessary tokens and cards, and use the character’s unique skills to outplay the opponent. 

Gameplay in Trials of Indines happens in beats. During each beat, players will play a style card and a base card. All characters share the same base cards (save for 1 character-specific base), but all characters have specialized style cards that grant bonus abilities or buffs. Although most characters have around 13 cards, with only 9 being available at a time because 2 pairs are always in the discard area, the fact that you play 2 cards at a time to create a fighting combo helps it feel like you have a lot more options. 

In addition to special abilities, the cards each have 4 stats: range, power (damage output), priority (determining when you attack), and guard (protects against getting stunned). When players flip their attack combos, the player with the highest priority gets to perform their attack first. Then, so long as the defending player wasn’t stunned, they get to attack next. When the beat is over, players discard the 2 cards they played as a pair, collect the oldest discarded pair of cards, and the next beat begins. 

The simplicity of a beat is nuanced by additional actions that cards provide such as moving, pushing or pulling the opponent, dodging, etc. Moreover, as play progresses, players will collect force tokens (Trials of Indines’s currency), which can be used to purchase power, priority, and guard buffs for the duration of the beat. 

Brad Talton Jr. did an excellent design job as far as the card play system goes. It reminds of the Gloomhaven pick-2 mechanic, but Trials of Indines came out a year before Gloomhaven. Moreover, the way you have to discard pairs of cards is genius because some characters do have overpowered card combinations, but once you play a pair of cards, you won’t see them again for 2 turns, so you can press your advantage. This balancing factor is essential for balancing the diverse group of characters in the Trials of Indines box, let alone for the 50+ characters currently available for the BattleCON line. 

The characters here are a lot of fun. They each come with their own tuckbox so you can easily store their cards and tokens together, a page of backstory flavor text, and a complexity level, which is helpful for deciding which characters to try when you’re first learning the game. All the characters are scaled so you can feasibly play a novice complexity character against an advanced complexity character, but there are certainly some matchups that are slanted towards a certain character. 

My favorite characters in Trials of Indines are a mustached outlaw who pushes opponents against the edge of the map in order to do bonus damage and a brewmaster who has access to special drinks that give him buffs and weaknesses for a certain time. Other notable characters include a shade named Burgundy who paints the arena and can attack from almost anywhere, an archmage who uses her staff to do insane amounts of damage to opponents, and a monkish character who uses ice and steam. 

The characters in Trials of Indines are all different enough to warrant trying, but after a couple plays, I found players tend to gravitate towards a certain type of character. There are 6 classes of characters: brawler, disruptor, mage, slugger, tactician, and  tinkerer, each with their won general strengths and weaknesses. While Trials of Indines is at its best as a 1v1, you can also play it as a 1v2, 1v3, and 2v2. These modes can be especially fun if everyone understands the game. 

All of those character-specific goodies fit right in the lovely tuckbox!

The components are good, although expect to do a bit of assembling. I had to fold the character tuckboxes and sort the cards into piles for each character. It’s odd that the cards didn’t come pre-sorted, but not a major annoyance. The cardboard tokens are of fine quality, although some of the force tokens look similar to some of the character tokens. The game board is oddly large, given that play happens in a 1×7 (1×9 if 3+ players) grid, but it helps set the scene. The box is the perfect size and fits everything nicely without having to squeeze stuff in. Miniatures for the characters would be cool, but the standees work great and help keep the cost down. 

The rules could have been clearer. I get that this is a game where you have so many different characters that it’s difficult to account for every little nuance, but sometimes those nuances really matter, and if they’re not clarified, they can create a really frustrating experience. Betrayal at House on the Hill runs into this sort of problem with its many diverse haunts. It’s not a bad thing to have a lot of diversity in a game, but it does make it difficult to account for every situation, and it especially stings when you have to frequently look up rules in an otherwise fast-playing game. 

When it’s not slowed down by unclear or unmentioned rules, Trials of Indines takes the video game fighting experience and delivers it to us slow-thumbbed tabletop gamers in a fast-playing yet strategic package. If you’re looking for a tabletop game that plays like a strategic 2D fighting game, look no further than Level 99’s BattleCON line. Trials of Indines is a great place to start. 

Level 99 Games (Asmodee North America) kindly provided a review copy. 

The Bottom Line

A fun 2D tabletop fighter with some excellent cardplay reminiscent of Gloomhaven. Not for everyone, but worth a try.

 

7.5

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