El Luchador Fantastico Grande! – Game Review

The name probably gave this one away already, but in case it never “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” is inspired by Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling, you know the wrestling with the crazy uniforms, over the top antics and colorful masks. Oh okay you’ve got us, all wrestling seems to feature those traits, but “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” is the Mexican version, not the WWE type.

This is a card game, the object of which is to pummel your opponents into the mat, “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” style! A successful Kickstarter campaign – that ended back in March – led to this games release within the last couple of months, really fast turnover and we’ve already spotted it for sale at a convention, which is great.

Senyac Games Australian game designer interviewFantastico?

Setup & Gameplay
Let’s look at the game setup and gameplay for 2-4 player game “El Luchador Fantastico Grande!”. Players get to play one of the six wrestlers in the game, all with awesome names like La Tigra or El Flanderoso, Captain Mexico (it should be noted Senyac Games included three male and three female wrestlers, so bravo to him for that bit of equality). Everyone chooses a wrestler (each with their own special ability) and then puts their D20 on 20, thus starting on 20 health. Players take one action card (there are 36 in the deck, 9 different actions x4) and play begins with the championship belt holder (highest roller pre game). Pick an event condition card (type of match with a set condition) and begin the match.

The controlling player draws a second action card, total maximum hand is just two cards so if you’re on two already, maybe you want to switch one or both out and redraw. Time to roll the dice and start accumulating whatever it is they’re trying to do, damage or healing. Dice are rolled and kept aside for three roll turns, you then dice total and add any card modifiers and deal the damage or healing stated. It’s all pretty basic stuff and reminded us a little of an easy rendition of something like “King of Tokyo”, so it’s easy to get into and the rule set isn’t overly taxing. If a player takes damage (after any action cards they can play have been resolved along with the character, championship belt and event condition cards) they change the number on the D20, so 2 damage, crank it back to 18. When a player reaches 0 on the die, they are out of the game, play continues until there’s one wrestler standing, in gaudy uniform, yelling like a banshee holding the championship belt above their head. HUZZAH!

So is it fun, well, some of us thought so sure, it’s fun enough, but the overall feeling was that “El Luchador Fantastico Grande!” just all felt a little flat and despite that gorgeous artwork, it’s not an overly thematic game. This was something almost all players at our sessions mentioned. There just seemed a few missed opportunities to really bring this one to the next level, like those components.

The components, oh the components, whilst the cards are great, the dice choices seem so, so strange, this will get mentioned in more detail in the build quality no doubt, but we kind of felt some odd design choices had been made, perhaps due to time or budgetary constraints.

The artwork – by talented artist Frantz Kantor – is really cool, bright and crazy characters, richly detailed and those names, well, it’s all very over the top, which suits the theme perfectly.

El Luchador Fantastico Grande card game review by gameapalooza australia tabletop game news and reviewsEl Luchador Fantastico Grande so much potential!

Game Build Quality
Oh dear, there’s something really painful when you are reviewing a game and you know you have to honestly talk negatively about it after some designer has spent ages working on it. It doesn’t feel nice, but that’s what a review is for, an honest assessment by strangers, so here goes. The dice, WHY! The dice in “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” are regular dice and you get a sheet of stickers in the box to sticker the sides. Maybe a time constraint, maybe a cost constraint, whatever the case this really brings things down a bit. Sure you can use the dice as just, well regular pipped dice and we kind of think this is how it should have been left, then you’d at least be none the wiser. The health die too, just the addition of a spin down die would have made all the difference here, maybe in the bright gaudy colors of those cool wrestlers. Or maybe a slide counter with matching artwork, something, just something more thematic. It almost feels as though the components were a rushed afterthought and that is such a shame.

This is probably the longest ‘game build quality’ section we’ve written for a review at Gameapalooza and it’s for this reason. We REALLY want to like this game and we can’t help but think if just a couple of things were different “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” would have fared so much better than it has. Proper etched symbol dice cost more sure, but up the price a bit, same goes for the box, a solid slip on lid or magnetic catch on a more solid box would have just worked wonders here, because as it is, it all feels kind of under cooked. Imagine a solid slip on lid and when you took the lid off the inside of the box was a wrestling ring… theme, theme, theme and more solid than these thin card flap boxes (a pet hate of this reviewer, so take that with a grain of salt if you don’t mind them).

On a more positive note re build, the cards are great, nice quality and great artwork (both front and back), the championship belt foil card is a nice touch too. We REALLY want to love this game because we can truly see what designer Al Caynes was aiming for with it and it’s good, it’s so good in fact we can already see others latching on with upcoming Lucha Libre themed games.

Overall
Overall “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” has so much potential, but it’s let down by light gameplay and those terrible component choices. Despite that slightly below average review score, we’re hoping Senyac Games sticks with this one and redoes it with some tweaks, because the potential, oh the potential. You have to give the designer props for even coming up with this idea and how it all works, along with the overall look of the cards, because it is all actually really very good in that regard. At the events we played it at players were split with around 40% thinking it was fairly good and the others moving on to other games swiftly, so that’s how we’ve come up with the score here (40% translates to 2 out of 5). “El Luchador Fantastico Grande” is not a bad game by any means, you should definitely try and get a session in to see if you like it (and use the pipped dice version of the rules and not those horrid stickies). If you love wrestling – and a lot of people do – you might very well like this and want it in your collection stat.

Gameapalooza House Rules
Use the dice as the gods intended, with the dots, not clunky stickers and for health, use tokens from another game, so you can see them depleting before your very eyes as you become bruised and battered by your brightly coloured opponents.

2-4 Players
Ages: 13+
Setup Time: Mere minutes
Play Time: 30 minutes

[author] [authorimage timthumb=’off’]/content/images/2016/02/gameapalooza-micro-review-icon-sm.gif[/authorimage] [authorinfo]Micro Review – So much potential. We really cannot state that enough, you can almost taste how cool this game could have been. This game wasn’t for us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for you. We found having to sticker dice a real deal breaker and the gameplay just wasn’t that gripping (sadly). Still, if you love wrestling and particularly Mexican wrestling, the theme may pull it through for you. [/authorinfo] [/author]

We’ve also got an interview with Senyac Games owner Al Caynes with loads of insight.

**

Disclosure: Senyac Games furnished us with a copy of the game for review. This does not affect the review in any way, other than we were able to bring it to our readers. We thank them for their support of the Aussie game market.