There's a place for every type of game and while Death Battle: The Game won't supplant some of its other quick-to-assemble but fun-to-play contemporaries, it stands beside them without any trouble.
Fans of basically any pop culture medium that contains larger-than-life warriors and heroes have had the argument before: who would win in a fight? It's a question that can fill hours of time depending on the willingness of each party to defend their choices, and it can result in some of the biggest galaxy brain takes a friend group ever experiences. Anyone who has ever fallen victim to the "Batman keeps kryptonite in his utility belt" argument is well-acquainted with the core ideas behind pitting pop culture stalwarts against each other, and Rooster Teeth has taken that and cultivated a whole series in Death Battle.
Death Battle: The Game is the company's attempt to migrate the great debate over to the tabletop scene, where arguments can finally be settled through the use of playing cards and dice. At first glance, it's pretty intimidating, too, boasting 100 cards to learn on top of 50 dice. Without knowing anything else about the game, consumers might think that it's one of the most complex additions to the tabletop scene of 2019, a behemoth of a title that will require spreadsheets and charts to explain to friends. Luckily, that isn't the case, and Death Battle: The Game manages to offer up an extremely enjoyable, if not a little simplistic, gameplay experience that will make for quick, fun distractions for pop culture fans.
Death Battle: The Game allows players to build their own custom hero through the use of Armor, Weapons, and Skills cards. Armor is the most vital - players only get three at random at the beginning of the game, and must make do with it throughout. Each time a piece of armor is beaten, it's discarded, and the first player to lose all of their armor also loses the game. The game encourages players to explore the rules for their own benefit, though, and adding an extra Armor to increase the length of the game or increasing the variance involved by reducing the number still results in a fun play experience.
Where the game gets very interesting is in the combination of Weapons and Skills cards. Each card has a symbol in the top right corner that indicates what medium they're related to, and combining cards to match those symbols results in some nice benefits. That doesn't come up that often, of course - players are at the mercy of what the deck yields them, and some cards are simply too good to pass up in a situation - but it's an added layer of complexity in a game that sometimes feels like it could do with being a bit deeper. Skills cards are played taking turns that are decided by a player's initiative (itself decided by the Armor they choose at the beginning of a round) and, because the player chooses multiple Skills, allows for mid-round adjustments based on what the opponent is playing.
Throughout all of these choices and decisions, Death Battle: The Game offers up some nice tongue-in-cheek art and pop culture references that will amuse basically anyone. Anime fans will find they're references are particularly humorous - they're also some of the more self-deprecating cards - but there's something here for everyone, and it really makes the game feel entertaining. Imagining a hero using Halo-inspired armor while also fending off opponents with nun-chucks is a blast, and is particularly fun with friends who are willing to really lean into the game and vocalize how they think their eclectic combinations of skills and gear would play out.
Ultimately, though, Death Battle: The Game is decided on the rolls of its many dice, which are accumulated and changed over the course of a round and then rolled to determine a player's fate. Some of the dice are better than others, and Armor, Weapons, and Skills all add or subtract from the dice players can roll. It's a tricky balance, and one that we're not convinced Death Battle: The Game navigates as well as it could. Some extremely well-played rounds still fall victim to lucky rolls from opponents and, while that's part of the game, it can definitely make it feel like the rounds preceding the actual rolling of the dice aren't as important as they could be.
Those are minor frustrations, though, and it's not like Death Battle: The Game markets itself like it's a deep strategy game. It's more about the experience itself, and, much like the arguments that spawned it, it feels like players are kind of making it up as they go along and hoping it makes sense by the end of the round. That's a perfect sensation to accompany a game like Death Battle, and it's a testament to the genius of the way its designed that it really does feel like arguing with a friend about which combination of skills and weapons would win in a vacuum.
For as simplistic as the gameplay amounts to being in Death Battle: The Game, it's also a refreshing tabletop experience that does just enough to innovate on its ideas to make it well worth repeated looks from those interested in a quick bit of fun. There's a place for every type of game and while Death Battle: The Game won't supplant some of its other quick-to-assemble but fun-to-play contemporaries, it stands beside them without any trouble.
Death Battle: The Game is available now. Screen Rant was provided with a copy of the game for the purposes of this review.