Published on December 12th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen2
How To Wakfu Your Dofus
Krosmaster Arena is the board game version of an online game of the same name, a tactics board game where you use colorful warriors to eliminate your opponent.
The creator of Krosmaster, Ankama, is a French company who is more famously known for its MMOs: Dofus and Wakfu, as well as the anime based on them. All of Ankama’s games share a setting called The World of Twelve, though each game is set during a different time period in the world’s history. Krosmaster started as a mini-game that players of both their MMOs could play together or launch by itself and it was branded as a shared expansion between the two MMOs.
Krosmaster has been gaining a lot of popularity recently- I think this is because of its superb pre-painted figures, its equally wonderful rulebook and connection to a hot intellectual property. It also helps that each figure you buy for the board game comes with a code to get a free copy of that figure for your account in the online version of the game.
It’s a clever marketing trick, a great way to drive interested parties to your other products. That is marketing of the sort that I can’t hear anyone complaining about, as it really ads value to the end customer. If nothing else, that customer is sure to know someone who would be interested in using the code.
I am also a huge fan of cross-media applications of a single setting: if I like your video game I will definitely buy your action figures, watch your anime, read your comic book and eat your breakfast cereal. I’d love to see more board game companies take on this idea in some form or another, even if only by using the same setting in each of their games.
I mean, isn’t it less work in the long run anyways? Instead of producing a bunch of games with various history, fantasy and sci-fi settings slapped on top that never really achieve any sort of depth, why not just make one really thought out original setting? Having one large setting is a really good way to increase brand recognition, and it makes your products more visually coherent while on the shelf next to each other.
Krosmaster Arena does a great job of representing its original digital version. The minis are made of PVC and come fully pre-painted, and the sculpts look just like the chibi figures on the cover. I love the goofy expressions on their faces, the silly nature of it all takes me right back to watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid and it’s great. The characters are original and memorable, like the Queen of the Tofus- who looks like a fried chicken franchise mascot crossed with a super hero.
The scenery tokens are really cool looking, but I think that they’re a pain to set up and they fall apart very easily. I know they’re meant to come apart as part of play, but I prefer to glue them together and then just remove them from the board when they’re “destroyed”. I use hot a hot glue gun, but if you do this be careful to not get the glue where you’ll be able to see it when it’s all assembled.
Krosmaster itself is a straight forward, relatively simple grid-based tactics game with each player controlling 2-4 figures. Stats are simple (there are only three of them), powers are easy to read and implement and the dice are fun. I really like the action point element, especially with characters who have abilities that I can use effectively in multiple combinations.
While simple, Krosmaster Arena does require planning ahead. This is especially true when playing a summoner character because your summed pets go after you do, which means if your character wants to land their combo you need to get your summons into position the turn prior. This usually means denying areas of movement to your opponent and funneling them where you can gang up on one figure, all of which takes a decent amount of planning.
The characters in the base set all seem balanced, though some pairs of characters work better together than others. Rather than random selection, I prefer to use a 2-player ban/pick system as popularized recently by the MOBA community. The youngest player gets to ban a character that neither player can use, then the older player bans. The youngest gets first pick of characters, but the older player gets to pick his two characters at the same time. Youngest then gets last pick.
In case you don’t want to learn by rules that read like stereo instructions, the designers have included what amounts to a set of game tutorials to the front of the rulebook. These are much like tutorials you would expect to find at the start of a video game, and they slowly introduce game ideas in a series of small puzzles that can be easily solved.
These extra instructions that show you how to play the game, instead of just being a design document, are very valuable in teaching the game to players that are new to the hobby. It’s especially helpful for younger players wanting to learn how to play with the rest of the family. These instructions were so well received that you can actually buy it as a separate game: Krosmaster Junior. It comes with four pawns that you can use to play “seven mini games” and includes cards that let you play the figures in the full version of Krosmaster as well.