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A card game created by James Ernest and published by his company, Cheapass Games. In Fight City, there are fine mob-controlled restaurants, plenty of weapons to choose from, and a few powerful families that are very angry at one another. Starting from your base of locations, you build a loosely-knit power structure of henchmen and accessories, hung together on mutual affinity and skills, and try to run all the other cartels in town out of money.

The mechanic in Fight City is ingenious and satisfyingly corporeal. All cards have Inputs and Outputs, in the form of small icons printed on the cards (Outputs in the top corners, Inputs usually in the bottom corners). All of every card's Inputs must always be covered by a matching Output. These Inputs and Outputs, with names like Influence, Fear, Food, Power, and Pressure, amount to alignments and determine how you must build your power structure. Location cards typically have Inputs for cash, meaning that you must place some of your 10 alloted coins (the things which you must not run out of if you want to stay in the game) on them. The side of the card on which an Output is placed also determines which cards can be built on top of which - "handedness" is a meaningful game attribute.

Character cards have Speed, Hit, and Block attributes, which can be enhanced by Weapons. (The Weapon cards are designed such that covering their Inputs with a character's Output makes their conferred bonuses line up visually with the character's own Speed, Hit, or Block stats.) Killing an opponent's character causes a hole in their power structure, and they must realign everything such that all Inputs are covered, or lose the cards they can't cover.

Fight City is played with two or more players, although I've never seen anyone play with more than two - perhaps because the game is sold as just two separate packages, with two mostly-distinct decks. This way of selling the game caused many buyers to believe FC was a collectible card game, and thus avoid it like the life-sucking leech they believed it to be. Other potential fans were turned off by the game's surface lack of silliness and human detail compared to other Cheapass material - in the designer's own words, "We don't need no stinkin' backstory!" As a result, Fight City isn't getting the supplementary cards and decks its design cries out for, and seems destined, despite its depth and enormous potential, to become one of the "forgotten" Cheapass Games.

Update: as of July 2001, both Fight City decks are for sale in a single ten-dollar box, and expansions are being speculated about.

Background: Fight City is a non-CCG card game from champion of the common man Cheapass Games. Cheapass Games' mission statement is that board games come with a lot of useless shit (eg, tokens, money, dice) which every self-respecting gamer will have dozens of already. Also, board games recycle the same ideas over and over, and often are little fun in and of themselves. Therefore, their games are packaged cheaply (hence their company's name), are sold cheaply, and radiate brilliance. To my surprise, upon opening the package, the cards were wrapped in magazine clippings ...

The game is similar to many Collectible Card Games, though it differs in many respects, particularly how interesting it is and how fluidly it plays. For once, strategy is based on how you play the game, not how much money you spend or how you create your deck. The cards are constant.

Ironically, my copy of Fight City smells like fresh lemon soap ...

The Wonderful Nuances of Fight City:

  • Well, two decks are only $10. One "starter deck" of Magic: The Gathering costs $12 last time I checked. I could write a few pages on why this game is better than Magic, but I'll stop here.

  • The Realism: It is easy to create a card game based in fantasy; one can create a system of logic which supports any game mechanics you like (ie, it makes sense that mana might come from the land in Magic: The Gathering). To create a card game which simulates the actual way life works is quite difficult. Fight City pulls it off quite well. There are cards which represent leaders, but its not explicitly stated, and there is no difficult to keep track of rules like "+1 to all creatures with Morale less than that of hero/leader" that can easily kill a game.

  • Chaos vs. Planning There are three types of turns (a player declares the turn type at the beginning of her turn): draw, build, and fight. The draw turn is used to get more resources. The build turn is all about planning and creating a strong infrastructure among your fighters, weapons, and buildings. These first two turn types are largely about planning; who should get the Sniper Rifle? is my hand sufficient, or should I try to get a better combination? However, when a fight turn is declared, all hell breaks loose. When a fight turn is declared, all fighters can make strikes on anyone they like (the player who declared the fight gets a slight advantage; but that could easily be nullified). There is no blocking, only attacking. The only way to stop a fighter from attacking is to kill her before she can strike. Often, after a battle, one can almost see smoke rising from the table.

  • Money = resource & life Each player starts with relatively little "life", or dollars. Not only that, but one must use those dollars to support cards. So, one is torn from putting more "locations" or "fighters" into play or saving one's own ass. Very interesting balance.

Some strategies about the decks:

Note: I usually play Deck B: Fear.

Deck A: Power. Power is about cultivation and defense. It sometimes takes a while to get cards out, and they can cost a pretty penny. Then you have cards like Benson Cleaners, which can very easily get you back your life. Also very powerful is Hail of Bullets, which can be quite devastating. Finally, there's the Sherman Tank, the biggest and baddest weapon of them all.

Deck B: Fear. From what I can tell, Fear is all about speed and getting out a good number of cards relatively quickly. The deck lacks the power of cards like Benson Cleaners, but there are some good strategies to make those cards mean little to nothing. The most important stat is speed, by far. If you have good fast fighters, it doesn't matter if they're dead at the round's end; use cards like Sniper Rifle, Hurtz Donut, Poison Darts, and Hot Cup of Joe to dominate. Also, even though Power can get money back quite quickly, Fear has the benefit of Fight City Hall and Mr. Ho's Chop Shop, which allow fight turns to be almost like draw turns. And there's nothing like Opportunity Creep and Grenade to get rid of that pesky Benson Cleaner's.

Favorite Fear combos: Hurtz Donut with Birthday Clown and Sniper Rifle (and a Survival Knife helps). Wily Beggar with Laptop Computer. Altruism Sedan Reed with Grenade. Juliet Pierce or Absinthe Devlin Pierce with the Sniper Rifle, supporting the likes of Black Crabs, Car Tel, Larry Parks, and Loose Cannon.

Pick this game up, it's amazingly fun and much more interactive than Magic.

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