The word “miniatures” might appear in the name, but there’s nothing small about Street Fighter: The Miniatures Board Game. From its 3D terrain to its Amiibo-sized pre-painted figures, this game’s table presence is nothing short of formidable. But does this tabletop fighter have the gameplay to match its premium presentation?
As one would expect, Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game pits World Warriors against one another in combat. 1v1 battles are the default, though this game comes with variant rulesets that support larger player counts. This includes 2v2 battles, tag team battles that inject a touch of Marvel vs. Capcom flavour to the mix, 3v3 in the style of King of Fighters, and even a chaotic free-for-all mode. I personally prefer the tension that comes with a 1v1 duel, but the slew of variants that support up to six players, it’s a more viable pick for most game nights.
The starting roster features Ryu, Chun-Li, Ken, Zangief, Sagat, and Vega. This selection covers a decent spread of character popularity and play styles. It’s just enough to get started and other characters are also available for purchase from the Jasco Games website.
Each character is represented with a phenomenal figure. In a world where unpainted thumb-sized minis are the norm, this game’s pre-painted Amiibo-sized figurines are a sight to behold. Intricately sculpted right down to the ripples in their clothing, these figures bring a lot of eye candy to the experience. Extra kudos for designing the figures in such a way that they don’t require out-of-place stands that take away from their visual splendor. Even outside the context of the game, these figures make great display pieces.
All of a fighter’s attacks and abilities are driven by their custom deck. Each deck has been tuned to translate their in-game abilities to the tabletop. For example, Ryu can attack his foes from a distance with fireballs. Meanwhile, Zangief brutalizes his opponents with close-quarter grabs. There’s just enough variety in each deck to cover the game’s major archetypes, which means you’ll likely find at least one character that clicks with you.
Further adding to the game’s visual appeal are its board and 3D terrain. A two-sided board serves as the ground for the dojo and the military base. Each map features a slightly-different layout and very different terrain.
Of the two, I greatly prefer playing on the dojo stage because its trees and rock terrain are easy to set up. By contrast, the military base’s boxes and missile racks look amazing, but they take considerably more time to set up. I’d rather get going quickly rather than burning an extra 15 minutes to set the stage, but that’s your choice to make.
Other components include eight custom dice and six character trackers. These dice feature symbols to represent attack, defence, and EX meter values. Character trackers are meant to keep tabs on health and EX meter, but two design quirks prevent them from working their best. Both spinners are a bit too lose, making it easier to lose track. Worse yet, a major oversight on the EX meter wheel doesn’t feature a 0, despite the game needing players to track when they have no EX meter. A rare and disappointing production miss in a premium product.
When the battle begins, players take turns maneuvering around the battlefield, attacking, blocking, and countering. The core of the game occurs when the attacker places a face-down card. As the defender, you can simply choose to block in hopes that you can roll enough shield icons to cover any damage. However, the dice are weighted in the attacker’s favour, which could open you up to eating a huge combo.
As an alternative, you can attempt to play a card of the same type to counter the incoming attack. Successfully predicting your opponent’s next move can not only help you avoid damage completely, but it oftentimes leads to a counterattack. In the matches I’ve played, the player who successfully counters more attacks is much more likely to win.
The problem with counter moves is that a wrong guess leaves you completely open to attack. Also, counters force you to burn a card, lowering your potential damage output while also leaving you short on counters for future turns. How important is for you to completely reverse the next attack?
Though the root of the combat is a rock/paper/scissors like exchange that players of most skill levels can grasp pretty quickly, the choice isn’t entirely random once you start exploring the game’s depth. Based on where your opponent is standing, you might be able to deduce what move they’ll play next. For example, most projectile attacks can only be triggered from a distance while strikes are generally used in close. Once you get really familiar with the game and your opponent, you might be able to shut down specific plays because you know that your opponent likes to attack with certain attacks that also act as great combo starters.
Further depth comes from additional mechanics derived from the source material. Your EX meter can be spent EX moves, which allow you to power up certain attacks with an extra die. While your eight-bar meter can be used to perform eight EX moves, you might want to spend that resource towards two crushing super moves or one potentially-devastating ultra combo.
While you’re on the attack, you can trick your opponent into blocking with a bait card, which gives you extra meter and allows you to move your opponent. On the defensive end, you might be able to greatly minimize the impact of an incoming attack by sacrificing an event card for two extra dice. If you simply want to move around and hit stuff, the game is easy enough to pick-up-and-play. But for players looking for something with a bit more depth, this game possesses more complex mechanics to explore.
One of my concerns going into this game was its decision for combat to occur in a 3D space. Though it runs counter to the video game’s single movement plane, I like its implementation here. Being able to maneuver in a 3D space while also having the ability to knock your enemies into walls or objects for extra damage adds yet another layer of depth to consider before upper-cutting your friends into missile racks. If you want to be a purist, you can house rule the game to fight on a singular row. That, or you can splurge for the stretch goals pack that includes a special board with “2D” levels.
The one aspect of the game where randomness is introduced is in combat resolution. Players will roll attack and defence dice to resolve how much damage is doled out. Though smart decision-making will overcome a hot hand more often than not, the dice not working in your favour can be frustrating at times. Especially as an attacker rolling all eight dice to perform an ultra combo, it can be deflating to inflict little damage due to a bad roll.
I understand that whiffing on an ultra combo is totally a thing that happens in the video games, but the aspect of landing minimal damage during these ultimate moves is a bit more of a thematic stretch. There are edge cases where you might juggle into an ultra combo in a way that doesn’t fully connect, but it’s harder to thematically justify why your ultra combo did poor damage due to a bad dice roll.
Within the context of this specific game, I’m ultimately okay with dice for combat resolution. It lowers the barrier of entry in a way that opens things up to a wider audience while still giving more serious players a lot of control elsewhere. I’m glad that the game designers noted in the manual that their intent was to make this experience one driven by 60% skill and 40% luck. For those looking for a title that’s more deterministic in nature, the manual suggests other Street Fighter titles in the Jasco Games’ collection with a more serious slant.
Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game is a heavy-hitter. Save for the silly misprint on the EX meters, the production quality of its components are top-notch. Its figures are good enough to serve as display pieces outside of the game itself. And while the gameplay may intentionally fall a bit short of standing up to tournament-level scrutiny, it finds a great balance of depth and accessibility that works for causal and competitive play. This is a fight you want to take inside.
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