Since reviewing games in earnest I’ve come to play titles that I would have previously dismissed out-of-hand perhaps, or that possibly wouldn’t of come onto my radar at all. So it’s been very pleasantly surprising that through reviewing I’ve discovered some real gems. And KAPOW! is definitely one of them.
In KAPOW! 2-4 players go head-to-head with the sole mission of beating each other to smithereens, and the winner is the person not to be K.Od first. You each start a set number of trait dice and three player boards of attack, defence and level-up. You also each have two blank action dice, which you can use as the game progresses. Each board depicts a series of traits that when combined perform the desired move. Each turn you roll your dice and assign in secret to your chosen area. As you perform level-ups you will have the opportunity to gain further trait dice, and faces that can be attached to your action dice. The more traits and faces you gain the better moves you can make, and at the end of each turn you reveal your actions and resolve them. Any damage taken by a player is monitored on the health track, and will eventually result in a victory for either the hero or the villain.
I played the demo copy of this current Kickstarter over last week and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It doesn’t matter that classic comic books aren’t really my cup of tea, or that the theme isn’t one I’d usually go for. This is all about grabbing a fistful of chunky dice and chucking with aplomb, accumulating more good stuff to add to the mix, and building dice to execute the real kick ass combinations. Yes, dice building. So if you think pool building with faces of the die then you’d be right on the money, and the good news is that this isn’t a gimmick, it’s a novel idea works wonderfully.
The even better news is that it’s just a whole bunch of fun, and the fact that it’s a light theme doesn’t mean that there isn’t some serious thought to be had. A few times I was positively crippled with the agony of decision-making, which I really didn’t expect to be the case with KAPOW! I really like dice assignment games for this reason; there’s a whole lot of action combinations, and a select amount of dice, so how you choose to utilise them is crucial. Some turns leave you in a head-scratching, nail biting predicament and that is no bad thing at all.
I also enjoyed that despite being a dice game it isn’t too random. You have options to interchange your action die faces, re-roll and reassign and there is rarely a turn when there’s nothing to be done with your dice (the ‘wild’ trait is really perfect for those moments!) All I would say is that because dice assignments are made in secret, sometimes the outcome is a stalemate situation- and this can be a little disappointing. For example, say that you pondered over a potentially amazing defend combination and your opponent matched it with an equal amount of attack- then it’s a case of ‘I guess nothing much happens this turn then’. Luckily it’s so fast paced that a matter of moments later you’re bound to get some real action- which is actually quite in keeping with the theme.
Ah yes, the theme. It’s fun, it’s colourful and isn’t totally crucial to the game mechanics. But it makes sense, and once you add the advanced ‘super boards’ into the mix this becomes all the more apparent. Aesthetically it’s very cool, especially the superboards, which are all illustrated in retro comic book style depicting different genres. Even the rulebook looks like an old fashioned comic, and I love the detail and care that’s gone into the creation of this.
Launched on 1st November, KAPOW! has already met it’s funding goal. I would love to see it reach some stretch goals for component upgrades and further artwork, because I think this game deserves to meet its full potential- it’s innovative, hugely fun and is doing something a little bit different- with successful results. Check it out on Kickstarter here.