But it’s no good knowing what’s bad. What’s good? Even better, what’s a good place to start? There’s a bewildering array of games out there and some are more accessible than others. A poor choice, especially for a beginner, can put a person off games for life.
If you’ve watched out first episode, you’ll have seen one suggestion. Here’s another. This a particularly good game for converting people to the our gaming cause because the rules are so damn easy that it beggars belief.
This, my friends, is Kung Fu Fighting, a card game so accessible that you can pretty much start playing the moment you get the shrink-wrap off the box.
You’ve probably guessed the point of the game already, am I right? Every player is martial artist whose goal is to remain the last person standing while clobbering everyone else into bruised submission. To this end, they’re dealt a hand of cards that represent various martial arts moves, weapons or fighting styles. These can be anything from a simple punch to a split attack, which strikes two players, to a table or even a chair, should you prefer your voilence to be sponsored by Ikea. They then play these cards against other players, while also holding back other cards that represent defensive moves or counter-attacks.
Each player also has the most basic character card in front of them, a card that keeps track of just three things:
How healthy that player is right now (their Chi total).
What fighting style they’re currently using (if any).
Any weapon they might be armed with (I like the umbrella).
The best thing about the game is that absolutely everything tells you what it does. There’s no referring to the instructions, nor any quibbling over ambiguous rules. No sir, you won’t be talking your way out of a fist to the face today.
If you were playing Kung Fu Fighting, your turn would go something like this:
You’d discard any cards you didn’t want, draw cards to replace them, then employ as many varieties of laquered pugilism as you wanted until your cards are exhausted or until you are. Anyone you’ve thumped adjusts their Chi total accordingly, and then play passes to the person next to you who, by that time, might well have a score to settle. Simple.
But attacking isn’t as banal as laying down a Punch! or Throw! card, because many of these cards can be chained together to form far more powerful attacks. Many cards are attack enhancements, with names like Spinning! or Magnificent! and cause much more damage than a basic Kick! would. Play these together and you can launch a Fast! Wild! Throw! or a Flipping! Running Up The Wall! Kick! that can knock someone’s Chi back to last Tuesday. Calculating damage is as simple as adding up the numbers on the cards, plus any bonuses you get from your current fighting style. Each style gives bonuses to certain kinds of attack, or against players who are using certain other styles.
As I said, there are also blocks that other players can employ against you, or even counter-attacks they can send straight back, against the run of play. Some attacks can disarm, while others force players to discard their fighting style. Now and then, if you’re very lucky, you’ll draw a card that allows you to regain a few precious points of Chi, but the real trick to remaining conscious is the careful balancing of your hand between offensive and defensive cards.
And that’s it. That’s as complicated as Kung Fu Fighting gets and the game becomes very speedy indeed. As other players are drawing and playing their attack cards, you’ll be wondering who to strike next and whether to risk a complex, powerful move that might all be lost to a single block, or whether to break your bamboo cane over someone’s head in the hope of drawing a new weapon next turn. But even these are decisions that you can make on the fly.
Kung Fu Fighting isn’t one of my favourite games, but it’s so quick and easy to play that it’s difficult to turn down and I’ve found myself enjoying it in all sorts of places because it’s so small and portable. My girlfriend loves it and we’ve used it to while away the time in airports and on ferries. It’s certainly not bad for two players, but it works particularly well for a group or four or five, as this presents all sorts of opponents fighting in all sorts of styles and really gives you a chance to enjoy the full range of moves you can pull out the deck (something since boosted by More Kung Fu
Fighting). It’s also a really, really good game if you’ve repressed your inner thug and enjoy telling people, in great detail, about the imaginary violence you’re subjecting them to. But I wouldn’t know anything about that.
*Or, if you’re lucky, Gay Monopoly.
(EDIT: For gamers in Britain, it’s not quite as easy to get hold of KFF as we’d like and most of the copies bouncing around have been imported. As we always would, we encourage you to support your independent games shops and ask them if they can get hold of a copy for you. You might be surprised how helpful they can be.)