Kapow! is a superhero game that looks like a comic book come to life. 2 Ton Porcupine has created a vibrant and fast-paced game that immerses players in a contest of one-on-one combat. Designed for two players (aged 13 and up), Kapow! features dice pool building with the ability to alter the Action Dice with upgrades to the sides of the dice. The simultaneous rolling, placing, and revealing of Trait and Action Dice are followed by the excitement of a superhero vs. supervillain throw-down.
Designed by Doug Hettrick, Larry Bogucki, and Carl Van Ostrand, Kapow! has the colorful imagery you would expect from such a theme. The artwork by Keith Hinman is dynamic and the components are clear and easy to understand. The panels of the rulebook are done with a comic book style which pairs well with all of the boards, screens, and pieces included in the game.
The game includes three Heroes and three Villains to choose from. The Player Screens give clear definitions of the symbols on the dice, which will dictate how each of the dice can be used. Placed behind each screen are boards with menus of the actions available during the three main phases of the game (both players get the same Attack, Defend, and Power Up Boards). Players can optionally assume the role of a Hero or Villain, placing a Character board behind their screen alongside their Player Board. A Life Tracker Board is placed between players and markers are provided to indicate the current health of each player.
Players roll their dice behind their screen and commit them to various spots on their boards. Any die used must have the correct corresponding side on it before a Power or Purchase becomes available for activation, but your die does not need to be completed to be used. The choices here capture the feel of real-time combat. Should you focus on Attack or Defense? Or do you Power Up, increasing your potential for a more powerful attack later? And watch out for your opponent trying to land a Sucker Punch! Such decisions mean games evolve differently each time.
Once both players have their dice locked in, they reveal their play areas by removing the screens. A combined shout of Kapow! is (almost) mandatory. The Villain starts the action in the first round, but in following rounds the player lowest on the Life Tracker Board will go first. Players activate powers with a quick calculation, provided all of the requirements have been met. Attack Value is calculated first and then compared to the opponent’s Defense Value. Any amount of damage that gets through is deducted from the defender’s Life Tracker score. Bonuses from character boards may also factor into the Combat Phase, giving the game added flavor.
The third phase of a player’s turn, the Power Up Phase, is when upgrades are purchased and health can be recovered. Players can earn new Trait Dice, Action Dice, or die faces to be placed onto Action Dice. Crafting of the Action Dice happens at the time of the player’s choosing (this can be done at the time of purchase or they can be set aside for later use). Again, the helpful player screens have charts that list the symbols appearing on the dice. Making sure you get the right dice added to your pool is a key element to eventual victory.
The final phase of a round is simply clearing the dice from the boards and determining the starting player for the next round. Rounds continue until the moment when one character reaches zero on the Life Tracker Board. The game ends immediately as the knock-out blow connects. Kapow!
2 Ton Porcupine has a limited number of copies from the first print run of Kapow! and is planning a reprint soon. Check out the game, including prices, on their website. If you want to get even more information on the game, there is an entry in the database on BoardGameGeek, as well.
Kapow! features proven game mechanics, such as customizable dice and dice pool building, and successfully melds them together into something new and exciting. The competition can feel like a CCG, Collectible Card Game, pitting you against an opponent that might make an unexpected move. Once players are familiar with the selection process on the boards, games take about twenty to thirty minutes. The artwork is fantastic and captures the feel of comic book action. The icons on the components are easy to understand and the screens have everything you would want to reference. Younger players (young than the 13 years listed on the box) may need assistance when calculating the Attack and Defend Values, but otherwise should not have any difficulty. There are also rules included for playing two Heroes vs. two Villains.
An additional, promising note – the credits page features the phrase “Part One” next to the title. Could more characters be heading our way soon? Stay tuned to this channel for any continuing adventures in Kapow!