This preview is based on pre-kickstarter edition of the game. As such not all components may be final though it is my understanding that the arena and most of the art is finalised. In addition Jon from Earth to Games is a patron of the site.
Welcome to Masters of Gettown, the ‘full contact’ dice game. Stepping into the ring to the adulation of the adoring crowd you will clash with your fellow competitors, charging up your abilities in an attempt to be the last one standing. Will this be a Royal Rumble or a drunken brawl?
This is far and away the plushest prototype I have ever received. The centrepiece is a full acrylic stadium that slots together pretty well, with nice full colour arenas to slot in, and loads of dice and counters. The art style split the groups I played it with but I quite liked it, though it did speak to me of our competitors being virtual avatars over actual combatants.
Get in the Ring
The game itself is relatively straight forward. Picking up your three combat dice, you are going to chuck your ability die, the smallest of the three in first. This can trigger your characters special power if you hit the right side. The current attacker, the first player for this round, then chooses another player to attack and everyone else removes their ability dice. The 2 combatants take it in turns to chuck their other 2 combat dice into the ring 1 at a time, bashing off each others die and the arena as much, or as little, as they desire.
Areas on the arena floors can have an effect on your dice: giving you bonuses, destroying dice that land in the wrong place etc. As you whack your dice off each other you might get to hit that ability die again, but you can only use your special ability once per round of combat. The added wrinkle to the game is that your character will also have a way to gain charges. These power an uber ability for your character and also equipment that you can draft or choose in various different modes of the game.
There is some really nice flavour amongst some of the characters in the game: a sniper has to throw from further away, a bouncer locks people’s hands and a black witch curses people and makes them blind. The arenas are interesting as well ranging from a straight up brawl to gravity flipping that turn dice literally on their head depending on where they land.
Showing your Face
Throwing dice into the big acrylic arena and smashing them off each other is pretty fun. Here is some video of my group doing just that.
It’s big, brash and colourful and the arena is a lovely piece of kit. The question is does the game have enough to really grab you beyond the clashing of dice? The answer is, no. At least not for us.
The problem with the game comes down to one of balance and randomness. When you go up against an opponent you can have fun with the moments of elation and defeat but you have no control over these things. Fundamentally the game comes down to rolling 3 dice and hoping that you get a higher value than your opponent with some possibilities for re-rolls, and arena buffs and debuffs, as you bash dice together.
The charges part of the game is a really odd one. Some characters will generate charges when their ability goes off, so only one round in six (increasing if you can affect a re-roll of that die). On the flip-side some of the characters generate charges from simply doing damage, a much faster and easier way to power their ability and weapons.
The other way for all characters to generate this currency is to roll doubles or triples, requiring manipulation of the dice in a way I just cannot fathom anyone could manage consistently. I played one game as the bouncer, a character who only generates charges when his ability die goes off or via the aforementioned doubles and triples. Despite loading up on some equipment that would give me extra charges I didn’t generate a single extra charge for the whole of the game so my mega ability never came about.
The game definitely works best at a lower player count. My first contact, pun intended, with it was a 5 player game. Each round only 2 players are doing battle, leaving everyone else to watch, and it can take 5 turns before you get a chance to finally be the attacker and throw all your dice. Although there is something of a spectacle to watch, we all felt that the downtime was too much for this kind of game. I have also played it 2 player and 3 player and the 3 player felt pretty good so I would think 3-4 is probably the sweet spot for player count.
When the battle’s won and lost
I love a good dexterity game and have lots of fun with things like Ascending Empires and Flick em Up. In those games there is definitely a level of skill you can develop that is immediately obvious from the moment you start playing. You can feel that you made mistakes and how you can improve next time. With Master of Gettown I can’t even fathom how you would develop enough skill that would make the game easier to manipulate, and that leads to a intense feeling of frustration.
I’ve had quite a lot of back and forth with the designers over my concerns with the game and they have claimed that everything has been balanced well over a long time of playtesting. Maybe it has and I am just not seeing where skill and tactics can compensate for the extremely high level of randomness. Parts of the game are still in flux, so there are likely to be rules updates before the end of the Kickstarter. The team seem really responsive to feedback so if you get a chance to play it I am sure they would love to hear from you.
I went into Masters of Gettown with an open mind. It looked cool, the concept was neat and the designers are some lovely folk. I came out just frustrated that I hadn’t liked it more, but sometimes a game just doesn’t grab you. For a different perspective on the game from someone who has had more time with it, you may want to check out Both Sides of My Table. To me it’s a game with a lot of heart poured into it, but not a lot of interesting mechanics to really hold the attention. In this day and age that is just not good enough.