March 7, 2014 by loudmouthman
The D6; a humble dice with a long and glorious history. Its roll, if you can pardon the pun, in the eternal struggle of gamer versus chance is well documented. With it we have battled Balrogs, we have raced horses, and taken apart armies with nothing more than a chance bounce from a well placed diorama. Now it takes on a new challenge. One of theatrical display and crowd pleasing results. The D6 rolls onto the wrestling mat and into the lively and colourful world of Luchador! from Backspindle Games. The exclamation mark at the end of Luchador says much about this game so I will take great pains to continue to use it.
Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!
Most games present themselves from the table but Luchador! announces its presence in every game session. You will know when Luchador! is being played in your gaming group. Many contemplative moment of a tabletop general will be interrupted by the whooping and hollering and strained hispanic accents as players roll dice and grandstand for the audience. Luchador! is not a game for quiet time, it is a game to warm up the mind and the body. It is a game to invigorate players and spectators alike. For most sport simulation games the results and the scores are delivered in gentle rolls and careful curating of dice. Sums are made and scores are decided; its all very British, it is all very gentlemanly, and civil. Luchador! sweeps all that off the table in one grand gesture.
When you first hear about Luchador! you discover all you might expect. Players roll dice to decide if they hit, miss, block or counter block each other. They roll to decide on damage or to see if there is a chance of pinning their opponent. The game ends when an opponent is either knocked out or pinned down unable to escape. When you read it like that you may very well shrug and walk away and think; why bother? Take another look. Only this time observe the game with an air of the theatrical; embellished with a hint of role playing and a touch of very un-British cheer. The play area is a small cardboard fold out representing the Wrestling ring. There is where every dice that falls can be counted. Any dice that fail to land or come to rest touching that mat are out for that round. Frenzied rolling of dice can be detrimental to your success should you roll too many die from the mat. Again, in a very un-British twist of sportsmanship there is no polite waiting on your opponent to roll before you do. Dice are rolled by both players, together in the same moment, with the simple hope of possible knocking an opponents dice from the mat. Suddenly this game just jumped up a notch in focus; this is not simply a game of luck but an element of skill in battling your dice across the ring.
As your dice (four in all but I will come back to this) come to rest the round has not ended. If your opponent has not been struck critically enough to secure a pin move you can re roll any dice that came up pin. Again that moment of a re-roll provides the opportunity to knock out an opponents ‘Hit’. Again the roll needs to not only land directly on the cardboard ring but you are adjusting your reactions in the hope of savagely removing any opportunity your opponent had. Now the dice rolling round has ended and the opportunities are tallied; dice rolls that say Miss are removed obviously your luck failed and your opponent has avoided damage. Dice that say Hit are compared to your opponents and if they have a Block then those hits are again discounted. Counter Blocks turn the tables and damage is paid back. For each hit you can roll a single green attack dice or should you have two hits on the mat you might opt for the larger special Luchador! Dice whose rolls may deal out greater damage or alternatively land a stunning failure.
Each Luchador! player begins with 21 health points which after green or Luchador! dice are rolled against them begin to deplete and by 14 points the Player may be susceptible to rolls of pin from one of the four main attack dice. Now this is where the game encourages a louder than usual board game approach. You have three rolls in which to recover from being pinned. You need to roll three blocks in three rolls and on each roll everyone, the player, and the audience, is encouraged to count the rolls; “One-uh”, “Two-uh” and by “Three-uh” you’re “Out!” there’s no come back from that you are out of the game. You might not be alone though; you may have entered the ring as part of a tag team and if this is the case the game may still roll on. The Tag team elements, pitching two players against two players follow the rules as before with the exception that each player chooses if it is their turn in the ring. It is not that simple though, as this is no gentlemanly game with nods to your opponents. If you want to swap team mates on the mat then you have to raise your hands in the air and high five your team mate to signal swap.
At its heart Luchador! is just another dice rolling game but it has an element of theatrics and story telling and it wants you to yell your victories, and cry your defeats and swear revenge from the sidelines. As a filler, as a game between the games, Luchador! deserves its space on your shelf for its simple casual play mechanics and its grand standing, mucho macho bravado, theatrics which it calls out for. So that’s the game and theatrics what about the components?
Those All Important Wrestling Masks…
The dice have heft and comfort in their roll and they do not feel like an after thought and they have survived quite a few games, rolls, tumbles and on one occasion a cup of coffee. The wrestling mat is unfolding cardboard printed on solid stock but I do think there might be a need for some plastic backing at the hinges following the many packs and unpacks. The rules are clear enough with plenty of examples and pictorial guides as to potential results. The wrestler cards, over sized from playing card stock, are glossy and look to withstand long term use but after a few games you find that you are not paying attention to the card merely tracking the health.
All of the above taken into consideration Luchador! is a pleasant change in tack from the usual zombie hunting, alien stomping, Cthulhu chomping madness which abounds in dice based games. As for how it will change or be expanded I can say that having had a sneak peak at the rules for the next level of Luchador! I think the designer is taking the right tack in providing a tactical difference in each of the wrestlers which should change up game play approach for future games; but more on that when I see it. For now if you spot a Luchador! box in the wild go ahead and grab it; its the filler your game group deserves.
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"Luchador! is not a game for quiet time, it is a game to warm up the mind and the body"
"Luchador! is a pleasant change in tack from the usual"