UnPub Mini, Part Four - Pixel Lincoln
Pixel Lincoln is a game with my kind of attitude. Just the title was enough to interest me, and I was attracted by its 16-bit artwork.
I wasn't sure what to expect of a deckbuilding game, as I had never played one of those before. So at the beginning of the game I was perplexed at the amount of setup required to give each player the exact same cards, while preparing the random stacks of cards for players to run through as if they were side-scrolling video game levels. It took me the longest to figure out that the discard pile is not an oubliette, but more like a recycle bin. Using weapons or items doesn't mean they are gone for good. When you run out of stuff, the discard pile gets shuffled, and becomes your arsenal again. Had I known this from the start, I would not have been as hesitant to use my weapons.
The cards themselves had goofy characters, enemies, and items. Why there were so many meat-based items, I do not know, but I thought it was funny. Examples include: Sausage Link Whip, Chicken Cannon, and Berserker Burger. My favorite weapon was the Beardarang, where Abe tears off his Amish-style beard and throws it at an enemy. The game designer, J. Tagmire, explained that in the video game version of Pixel Lincoln, the Beardarang doesn't actually come back. Instead, it hits an enemy, falls to the ground, then Lincoln regrows his beard.
I imagine that when a beard regrows instantaneously, it makes a sound like, Ffffffoomp!
Pixel Lincoln's enemies were a loosely organized mix of animals with mechanical appliances grafted onto them, and masked wrestlers. Go figure. The theme was not consistent, but that enhanced the silliness which I found appealing. Card artwork reflected this lighthearted sentiment, with characters and items that spilled out of the frame.
Speaking of card layout, many cards were burdened with a lot of information. There could be power, cost, sell value, multiple taxonomy symbols that could be used to unlock characters, cheat code button patterns, and they were not all labeled. So there was a fair bit of memorization to do when learning the game.
My only other criticism is that there was not a lot of interaction between players. For the most part, my father and I battled against the levels. This may have been intentional. Consider the original Super Mario Brothers. If you played a two-player game, player 1 started as Mario, and either completed the level or died. Then it was Luigi's turn. It wasn't until Mario 3 that the two players could actually interact, though rarely directly. Pixel Lincoln effectively recreates this style of play, in card game form.
Since my experience with Pixel Lincoln at the UnPub mini, J. Tagmire has made changes to the game design. Now you don't collect enemies into your discard pile, and you are forced to move left-to-right through the cards lined up for your "level." The latter makes the game even more reminiscent of a side-scrolling video game.
Overall, this was a fascinating experience for me. I learned what a deckbuilding game is, and saw a unique mesh of two totally different types of game media. From what I gleaned about the other deckbuilding game in the room that day, Mecha Mayhem, Pixel Lincoln was more intuitive. At least Pixel Lincoln lacked what the Mecha Mayhem game designers had to repeatedly explain to players was a "statistical randomizer," the "Pilot" card which did nothing. Why the heck would you want that?
At the time that I write this, Pixel Lincoln still has about a month to go in its Kickstarter campaign. They have already reached their unambitious goal, but it's still a great way to get the game as soon as possible.
Recap of the UnPub Mini event in West Chester, PA, from May 19, 2012.