You’ve probably seen Jonathan’s ‘Hands On’ series, where he shows off new independent games in development up in Brisbane. Well, here in Melbourne we’re not going to let them have all the fun, so this weekend I sat down with indie games designer Al Caynes, creator of El Luchador Fantastico Grande. I’m confident in saying it’s the only dice-rolling card-duelling game about Mexican wrestlers slugging it out available anywhere, and right now it’s looking to Kickstarter to crowdfund its way to publication.So how does the game work? It’s simple enough – you and up to three other players each get a random wrestler to play as, twenty health, and one random action card to start with (more on these in a bit), and you’re ready to go. When it’s your turn, just take 4 regular six-sided dice and roll ’em – 1s and 2s are hits, 3s and 4s are misses, 5s and 6s are heals. After you do that, you can re-roll as many of the dice as you like twice, and after that they’re locked. Any fans of King of Tokyo will be right at home with this mechanic. Here’s the kicker though: when that’s all done, you’re only allowed to keep three of the results, and you need three of a particular kind of roll to do anything at all – so two hits do nothing unless you can roll a third one with them, and same goes for healing. So there’s no hedging your bets here – you gotta pick what you’re rolling for and go all-in with it.
Once you’re done rolling, if you managed to land a hit you get to pick who you’re attacking. That player then takes as much damage as the total shown on the dice you rolled. If a player is ever knocked down to 0 health, they’re out of the game, and the winner is the last person standing. Them’s the basics, but there’s a few other things worth mentioning: firstly, those action cards I mentioned earlier? Everyone draws one at the start of their turn, and they let you surprise your opponents with things like extra damage or switching dice to another result. Then there’s the belt: this is given to whichever player goes first, and they get one extra damage with each attack but can’t heal while wearing it. Any time they get hit, though, they can forfeit the belt to their attacker. Finally, each wrestler has a special ability that can be used once per game (with the exception of Mr. Big Businessman, whose ability is permanent). These abilities help spice up the game a little without having too much of an impact on proceedings.
Al played a couple of 1v1 games with me, and I like to think that my expert performance in the second game, wherein I masterfully played a +3 damage card on my attack and followed up by using my wrestler’s ability for an extra 2 damage for the win, almost made up for my play in the first one, which could be more accurately described as him smacking my wrestler in the face with the belt until he stumbled out of the ring. The games were fast, not lasting more than five minutes each, and that felt right. As Al told me, he’s a fan of quick games you can have a laugh over during a lunch break, and that casual style really shines through here.
After we’d given the 2-player game a go, we were joined by a couple more people and had a round of 4-player free-for-all. In contrast to the duel, this one lasted a lot longer (maybe 15 minutes or so), since you only get to attack one person each turn, so it felt like there was a lot more incentive to sit back, heal, and just let your opponents whale on each other, while you sip a nice Chianti and watch them go at it [note: perhaps this is why I never made it as a professional wrestler]. There’s also a team mode, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try that out.
After we’d played a few rounds, I asked Al about his plans for the future of the game should the Kickstarter campaign be successful. Apart from the stretch goals (including custom dice for backers), he hinted at add-ons in the works that would include new cards and focus on the more fantastical elements of the game. He also told me each wrestler had their own backstory included and he hopes to elaborate on the game’s story after launch.
So there you have it: if you’re into Mexican wrestling, or know nothing about it and you’re just looking for something light-hearted and quick to play in your spare moments, consider backing El Luchador Fantastico Grande. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s a game that revels in its silliness, and it’s designed by someone clearly passionate about the art of game-making. Go check it out.