It’s fair to say I’m on record as a huge fan of Professional Wrestling. I’m also a big fan of tabletop games and RPGs. Unfortunately, satisfying both these obsessions at once has been a real challenge for me, especially as of late. Luckily there’s a new game on Kickstarter that’s relieving that particular itch. I like to think that El Luchador Fantastico Grande is speaking directly to me, but I hope I’m not the only one that feels like that.
El Luchador Fantastico Grande is the first game from Senyac Games, an indie startup that was kind enough to invite me into the playtest. The game tries to capture the feel of a Mexican wrestling main event using little more than four dice and some cards with stunning artwork.
The setup is simple enough. Each player selects (or is randomly assigned) a Luchador, sets their lifepoints to twenty and essentially lets loose on each other. This is the highlight for the game for me. Each character is uniquely designed with their own flavour, their own gimmick and their own style. It was very easy to forget that I wasn’t actually Mother Russia and that Mr Big Businessman was actually my good friend and not the “filthy capitalist pig dog” I had been calling him. The advanced rules enhance this element as well, allowing you to use special abilities, unique to each character. Real effort has been made to differentiate the playing pieces and it really spices the game up.
The mechanics in the game are simple. Roll four 6-sided dice up to three times and calculate whether you’re attacking (low numbers) or healing (high numbers). 3 and 4 are “Misses” and this is where my group ran into a few problems. The rules state that “you may use three of the dice to be usable at any time” and that they must match type to have an effect. We found it quite difficult to get three of either attack or defence until we started counting the “Misses” as, literally, attacks that had missed. The game turned to quite heavy damage quite quickly, and any attempt to go for healing was not really worth the risk. Once it became clear that up to three dice could be used things smoothed out and the game became a lot faster and more competitive.
The rolls are buffed – or nerfed – by using cards. This is where the game’s art really shines. Each attack is humorously illustrated and increases the flavour ten-fold. You don’t get a boring +1 Damage card, you get “Jalapeno – The Seat of Destiny” which depicts a chair to the face. The cards also provide a saving grace allowing you to heal quickly, or lay an extra powerful attack on an opponent. It’s a great way to ensure that there is more strategy to the game than hoping the dice you need come up. And with the ability to play a card at any time, a turn where nothing happened was thankfully rare.
Suitably the win condition of El Luchador Fantastico Grande is to be the last player standing holding the belt, which can also be exchanged to stop damage. The belt is possibly the most interesting item I’ve seen in games in a long time, functioning as both a victory token and an albatross. While it’s essential to hold on to it to win the game, while you have it, you can’t heal. However, the belt can be exchanged to whoever is attacking you to reduce your damage to zero.
Towards the endgame this created an infinite loop for the group I was playing with. The champ and the last challenger continued exchanging the belt for a good 3 turns each until a lucky blow knocked one of them down. This was probably the weak point overall for those of us who were eliminated early, but the exchange certainly seemed entertaining to those still playing.
The long and the short of it is despite a few rule ambiguities and the aforementioned infinite loop problem, El Luchador Fantastico Grande is a very solid game. It’s well designed, it has a fantastic flavour and there’s even a nice role playing element that fits nicely alongside it. It favours randomness which makes it a good party game, but there’s enough strategy that you don’t feel beaten by lucky rolls. I highly recommend you check it out.