Anime? Fantasy Strike? What’s not to love! Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips 3rd Ed. is set in the Fantasy Strike Universe of fantasy martial arts fractured by political conflict in an Olympic-style tournament. Grave, Jaina, Midori, Setsuki, Rook, DeGrey, Valerie, Geiger, Lum and Argagarg, these10 Fantasy Strike Characters will be placing their skill on display in this exciting puzzle game!
Publisher: Sirlin Games
Game Designer: David Sirlin
Ages: 10 and up
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Contents: 342 Chips, 4 Bags, 4 Screens and 4 Game Boards
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Parental Advisory: Safe for kids
Object of the Game: The player’s goal is to overflow their opponents gem pile with to many gems. If any player ends their turn with a gem pile totaling 10 or more, that player loses and is out of the game while the other players continue on till there is only one player left.
Puzzle Strike is a unique deck-building game that uses chips instead of cards. It simulates a puzzle game amongst Fantasy Strike Characters. Or as the rulebook describes it “A card game played with chips instead of cards that simulates a puzzle game that simulates a fighting game.” In Puzzle Strike, gems all into the players gem pile each and every round. The player whose pile fills up first loses. The players combined gems to create bigger gems and then crash those gems to break them apart and send them at other players. The more full a players piles gets, the closer they are to losing. However, this also gives the players more chips to draw to potentially make a come back.
Each player starts with a “deck” or bag of chips and has the chance to buy more as they play to improve their “bag.” Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, which allow for different strategies by each player. This allows a great amount of re-playability, as the combinations possibilities are very large.
There are several modes of play for Puzzle Strike: 2-player, 3/4-player free-for-all, 2 vs. 2 Team Battle, and Custom Clockwork Mode where players build their own characters.
Ante Phase – At the start of the game, each players gem pile is empty. At the start of their turn, each player takes 1-gem from the bank and places it in their gem pile.
Action Phase – Each turn a player play one Action chip (chips with a banner.) Place it on the table and follow it’s text. Chips with a + -> allow for more actions to be played that turn.
Buy Phase – During this phase all players must buy at least one chip per turn. This chip goes into the discard pile. Players may play as many chips as they legally can from their hand to the table (not the gem pile) then add their values to the +gem the player may have gotten this turn’s action phase. Subtract $1 for each Combine played this turn. That total is the amount of money the player may spend this turn. Gem piles do not count as money.
Money is lost each turn if not spent. If a player has no money they must “purchase” a wound chip for $0.
Cleanup Phase – Players put all chips played to the table or left in their hand in the discard pile then draw 5 chips.
The Height Bonus:
The higher the total of a players gem pile, the more chips that player gets to draw that turn. Here is a hint to remember how many extra chips to draw. “If the players gem pile has 3/6/9 in it, then draw an extra +1/+2/+3 chips.”
The Purple Chips:
Combine – Combine two gems from a players gem pile into a single gem if the total is 4 or less.
Crash Gem – These gems break gems in a players gem pile and send them to any opponent the players chooses. The bigger the gem crashed to more gems sent at opponents.
Double Crash Gem – This gem works the same as a Crash Gem other than it breaks two gems from a players gem pile.
Crash Gems can also be use to “counter-crash” gems from an attacked players gem pile. This is a reaction indicted by the purple shield on the Crash Gem. This does not cost an action to play. Each 1-gem from players “counter-crash” negates a 1-gem sent by the player’s opponent.
4-gems are not “counter-crashable.” These gems cannot have purple shield gems played against it as well.
Other Types of Chips:
Gem Chips – In a players hand these are money, in a players gem pile, they are used to crash to send to a players opponents.
Character Chips – All 10 characters have 3 special chips each. These chips start in your “bag/deck” and tend to push a certain strategy. These chips cannot be crashed. These chips cost one action to play unless they have shields are and played as reactions.
Puzzle Chips – Puzzle chips all have a puzzle icon at the top with the cost of their purchase inside the icon. These are part of the bank until purchased. These chips cost one action to play.
Wounds – These chips are just taking up space in a player’s deck. They are useless and worthless.
Components – Sirlin Games has always done wonderful job with the components in Puzzle Strike. The only issue I see is being careful of tearing when removing the chips from the board when opening the game. The chips are heavy; the print is easy to read on them. The rulebook is well laid out and easy to understand. The bags are serviceable. I of course prefer a softer fabric but that is such a minor complaint. The game screens are well put together with cool 8-bit art on the inside wall. The box insert is the best I have ever seen for a game organizer in the box. Sirlin Games really did well with this and I wish more companies would learn from their actually going the extra mile to label the inserts. The biggest improvement here is the addition of the game boards. This will greatly improve playability for newcomers to the game and understanding when a player can draw extra chips.
I have been playing Puzzle Strike since it first came out back in 2010 so this 3rd ed. really fixed one thing that always kept it from being a great game instead of just a good game. In the original edition, you could only send gems to the player on your left and not at any player. While that is an interesting mechanic, it always felt very limiting to me. Now that you can send gems to any opponent, you have so many more options and strategies. This was a major fix for me and really makes the game more enjoyable.
The other high point for me is the way that this doesn’t feel like just another deck-builder to me. It operates the same and has gives you as many options but it completely stands out from the other deck-building games to provide a fun, unique experience. This is why theme and little bit of thought or originality can make such a big difference in a game. With a flood of deck-builders coming out every year, having to purchase them at $40-$50 each plus purchasing expansions, plus card sleeves to protect them, it’s nice to have a game that provides an experience to make it worth the purchase price and doesn’t need endless expansions to stay fresh and exciting to play.
I am giving it 8 out 10 stars as Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips 3rd Ed. is a winner in my book. This game has plenty of strategy, options and re-playability to keep it coming to the table for a long time to come.
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