About a year ago, we had made one of the biggest mistakes in our relationship yet. We wanted to try Cuphead on the Nintendo Switch. We saw it was a cooperative game and it looked old style cute, so we figured why not. We died fighting the first boss, I think more then ten times before we got halfway through the fight and figured out our best strategy. Which was not yelling at each other to say what we needed to do apparently. Now, almost a year later, the game is staring at us from our video games shelf of shame… Even though we like the game a lot, we get more frustrated by playing it then that we enjoy our time together. With the board game now in our hands, are we sure we are up for this? I guess we’re about to find out!
How to play.
For the setup each player picks a character board, five light dices with a matching color and one dark one. Also take three health for each player and place all other tokens nearby. The wallop cards can be shuffled and placed underneath the wallop space on the game board. If this is our first game, take the first boss box and remove the cover card after you have reviewed it. Next, take the boss card and place it in the standee above the game board. Set the dial to the right health amount that is found on the boss card. The more players you fight with, the more health the boss has. Once all of this is set up, take the 13 phase one cards until you reach the king dice card and don’t look further in the deck. Shuffle the first phase cards and place them to the left of the game board. I hope you are ready to fight.
To start your fight, reveal three attack cards from the boss deck. If you reveal a ‘Wallop!’ card, also reveal a fourth card. The boss will try and attack you each round. Fortunately you can dodge his attacks by rolling your dices and placing them with matching icons on your player board. If the leftmost attack card from the boss shows a dice with two feet for example, and you have placed a dice with the two feet symbol on your leftmost space, you have dodged the boss’s first attack. For every attack you don’t dodge, meaning you have misplaced dice or simply didn’t roll the matching symbols, you lose one health. Note that attacks that show two dices also need two dices to dodge and they need to be placed on the right spaces of your player board. A dice of the second attack card can never be placed in the second space of your player board for example, since this space still belongs to the first attack card. The different colored spaces also indicate this on your board. The companion app of Cuphead will let you choose between 10, 15 or 20 seconds to roll your dices for the entire boss fight.
Other then dodging attacks, you can also try to fight back and deal damage to the boss. You can do this by rolling the shoot icon on your dices and placing them on any empty spaces on your player board. If the first attack only shows one dice for example, you can choose to place a shoot dice in the second space. Note that you can never go back, meaning if you have already placed dices to dodge a second attack, you can’t place a shoot dice on the empty space of the first card anymore. A light dice deals one damage while the dark dice deals two. You can reroll all remaining dices as many times within the time limit as you want and assign as many dices after a roll as you like. If there is a Wallop card on the table, it will not attack you. Instead, you draw an extra attack card. Wallop cards give you a chance to earn a Wallop card for yourself which can help you defeat the boss, or to survive. If you manage to match a die with a similar icon as on the card, you may take a wallop card. Wallop cards an be used immediately or saved for later use. Once the timer is finished, you can still lock in dices from your last roll. Difficult cards/attacks can always be skipped by leaving spaces open, but remember you will suffer damage if you do this. Some cards show that you can gain a parry. If you succesfully dodge the attack on this card, you gain a parry token. Parry tokens can be used to revive a player if all of their health is lost. By discarding one token, the player gains one health back and can join in the fight in the next round again. Players who lose all health, also lose all parry tokens and wallop cards. If a player cannot be revived, all players lose the game.
Once the timer is done, you can see how every player did. Resolve all attacks from left to right to see if you have lost any health. If you have placed a shoot icon and managed to successfully dodge the attack on that card, you deal one damage to the boss. If you placed a shoot icon but don’t dodge the attack, you miss. If all damage on either sides is dealt, repeat the same steps until the boss is defeated or a player loses all health and cannot be revived. If you run out of attack cards before the boss is defeated. Shuffle the attack cards and take a time token. Once the boss is depleted of all it’s health, place the current deck aside and reveal the next boss. Place it in the standee and take all phase two cards. Shuffle the cards and start the next round. Once you have reached a knockout card, you have defeated the boss. Use the companion app to determine what grade you got for killing the boss. Remaining health and difficulty are a few factors that will influence your grade. Knockout cards show you how many coins every player has earned. With coins you can buy upgrades and weapons from Porkrind’s Emporium. A couple of Porkrind’s Emporium cards will be found after each boss fight, but cards that are not bought can always be bought later. Before each boss fight, you can choose what weapons or charms you want to equip. They may not be changed during battle. Each player may have one charm and one weapon equipped.
To track you journey, you can use the save sheets that come with the game. Write down what your scores were for each boss, what weapons are bought and how many unspent coins you still have.
Playthrough of the game.
We were definitely not ready for this. We even started by saying, 20 seconds is a lot, maybe we should start at 15 seconds. Boy were we wrong. When there are only five seconds left, the companion app stops with playing it’s old school playful cartoon music, and changes it to the most stressful cartoon music there is. I found this extremely distracting and panicked every time there were still five seconds left. This resulted in me dying a lot and Tomasz desperately trying to save me with parry tokens. Since he is a fast dice roller, we managed to get to phase two in our first game. This may seem like a lot, but we were not even halfway through the first boss deck… So we decided to try again with 20 seconds this time. Long story short, we died, again. This is when we realized we needed a little more practice.
After four attempts, we managed to defeat the first boss and get our first rewards. Now with some upgrades, we are mentally preparing ourselves for boss two and the six bosses after that. This might take a while.
Ok, this game is definitely not easy, but so much fun and rewarding once you manage to win. Some more time has passed and we have learned better when to shoot and when to focus on dodging only. Since defeating bosses you have already defeated still give you some rewards, it’s a good practice and you can buy more upgrades. Every time we get stuck, we try to defeat earlier bosses to gain more rewards and buy better upgrades. Since every game is only around 20 minutes, it’s very easy to play a couple of rounds before taking a break. The creators of this game also managed to somehow translate the video game into the board game very well. There are balance differences of course. In the video game, you never stop shooting for example. You just dodge while shooting. Here, you have to find the balance in dodging good first and shooting later in order to keep your health in good shape. The art and style is very recognizable and is like a warm welcome home to those who played the video game. We did notice we don’t go for wallop cards to often since they are a huge risk. You need to be very lucky not to lose health and gain what you need from that card. Since you lose wallop cards if you die, we both just started skipping them.
Cuphead is a fast dice rolling game where you have to defeat different bosses. Practice makes perfect in this game and don’t expect to go very far for your first round. Just like in the video game, this game is hard, but rewarding if you win. We are in love with the style, cartoonish music in the app and characters which is all just like in the video game. Cuphead is easy to learn, a lot of fun with more players to and perfect for multiple situations. However, if you get stressed with running out of time, or timers, this game is not for you. In conclusion we really like this game, the style and the surprises you encounter in each box.