In an 8-bit blast from the past, Pixel Lincoln is a deck building game themed after the upcoming game with the same name for the Nintendo DS handheld system. Our fateful hero, Pixel Lincoln, is trying to save the world from John Wilkes Booth and his herd of not-so-merry cohorts. This gang of n’er-do-wells stole Lincoln’s hat and disrupted the time-space continuum. Lincoln will travel through time fighting puking turtles, Luchadores, and even laser sharks in his quest to bring down Booth and his accomplices.
Inside the Box
Pixel Lincoln comes with many colorful components. Such components include:
- 216 cards
- 1 double-sided level board
- 4 double-sided player tableaus
- 4 Lincoln meeples
- 2 level boxes
- 34 card dividers
- 1 level editor sheet
Getting Started and Navigating the Levels
Pixel Lincoln is a deck building game that adds a lot of mechanics not seen in any other game of its kind. To set up the game, you need to set up two different levels. Each player controls a different color Pixel Lincoln and has their own deck. To set up a level, you choose which side of each of the level boards you want to play on. Then you’ll need to build the level deck. To do this you’ll choose a certain number of Enemies, Items, Characters, and Secret Items, taking these cards from the main supply.
For example: when building a level, let’s say I need to choose 4 different Enemies, 2 different Items, a Secret Item, and 2 4 Characters. I will choose from all the cards available to build a level deck. I could take the Luchadore, Laser Shark, Puking Turtle, and Slime for my Enemies, taking all copies of the Enemy selected. I would repeat this for the other types of cards and shuffle all of my selections together. This would create one level deck.
You then select two Mini Boss and two Boss cards and set one card next to each level. These will be the big baddies you’ll need to exterminate in order to finish the game. Finally, you add three Checkpoint cards to each level deck in certain places. The Checkpoint cards work just like checkpoints in old side-scrolling video games – they allow you to recover some how and keep moving forward. Each player has a starter deck, as you will in most deck building games. You simply need to shuffle this starter deck, place your Lincoln meeple at the start of the level you want to begin on, and you’re ready to get the game started.
Players start with a hand of five cards and their player tableau in front of them. The cards will be your starting coins to purchase Items from the level/starting movement to jump Enemies, and starting weapons to defeat Enemies in the level. The game starts off by flipping the top five cards from the level deck over onto the spaces on the level board, starting with the space closest to the level deck. These will be what you encounter as you journey through the level.
A player turn consists of 3 different phases, each of which are easy to follow:
1. AMBUSH – If a player starts his/her turn with their Lincoln meeple in front of an Enemy, they must immediately defeat the Enemy or jump over it. Beardarang cards will be your initial weapons against Enemies. Each weapon card has a power value printed on it, and Enemies have a health value printed on them. You may use as many weapon cards from you hand as you wish to defeat an Enemy, totaling your power against their health – as long as your total power value is greater than or equal to their health value, you defeat them. Some weapon cards may allow you to attack enemies further back in the level, which can help you advance. If you choose to jump over an Enemy, you play a jump card from your hand and simply move past the Enemy on to the next card. If a player cannot defeat or jump over an Enemy card, he/she will lose a life and skip to the last phase. In Pixel Lincoln, players only have so many lives to lose before they’re out of the game.
2. Explore – After Ambushes are resolved, players may play cards from their hands to move through the level and acquire cards for their deck. You can acquire Enemies (which earn you points at the end of the game) by defeating them and Characters (give you points for completing certain quests at the end of the game) & Items (which are worth Victory Points and will help you defeat tougher enemies and jump further) by purchasing them. Defeated Enemies go on your player tableau, while Items go into your discard pile which will become your deck once your deck runs out. Items have a purchase cost printed on them, and you’ll need to discard currency cards to purchase them. Once you acquire or pass a card, you may move your Lincoln meeple further into the level as long as you pass open spaces.
3. Discard and Draw – Once a player is finished exploring, they clear the Equip Items and Spend Money spaces on their player tableu (the spaces where you play cards when you use them). These cards are discarded. Then the player may discard any number of cards in his/her hand and draw back up to five cards. As with other deck building games, if your deck should run out you just shuffle your discard pile and it becomes your new deck.
Through exploring you’ll eventually clean out a level of cards. When this happens, place your Lincoln meeple back at the beginning of the level and refill the level spaces just like when setting up the level. This symbolizes a side-scrolling level, just like an old 8-bit beat-em-up. Then, if you have more cards to play from your hand, you may continue exploring. Eventually you will run into a Checkpoint card. When you reach a Checkpoint, you need to decide whether you will either draw a card, place a card from your hand into your score pile, or switch to the other level. Each player on the level does this, regardless of who hits the Checkpoint first. However, the first player to hit the Checkpoint gets to choose twice.
Mini Bosses and Bosses will be under Checkpoints towards the end of the level. They act like normal Enemies, but they pack a much bigger punch and take a lot more to defeat. These guys cannot be jumped over, and if you cannot defeat them you will lose a life. Once a Boss is defeated, the level they are on is cleared. Once both Bosses have been defeated the game is over. Each player adds up the total amount of Victory Points he/she has earned and the player with the most is the winner.
Getting a Power-Up
Not only is Pixel Lincoln: The Deck Building Game a gorgeous game to look at, it provides you with an experience that you simply don’t get with any other deck building game on the market. The theme is excellent and the game’s creator, Jason Tagmire, figured out a magnificent way of providing a nostalgic side-scrolling experience with a tabletop game.
The game comes with high-quality components, and has a perfect storage solution right in the core box. The artwork is phenomenal, and as I’m a fan of 8-bit games from during my childhood, this game hit me right where it counts. There is plenty of color in all of the cards and boards, and the layout is superb. The text is just the right size, and the card artwork is just big enough to really get a good feeling of what it represents. The level boards stick to the theme perfectly, and each of the player tableaus even has its own special artwork!
The variety of cards and ways to set up levels helps ensure that you won’t play the same game twice. You can even completely randomize your level so that you never know what you’re dealing with. Each of the card sets is rated by difficulty, however, so it could prove rough when going all-out like that. The game can be very random, and you can only get the card that’s in front of you, unlike other deck builders out there. This can pose a problem. Also, many items are just plain better than others, so choosing to go to the level with the better items will definitely make things easier for you.
Still, Pixel Lincoln is a fun and enjoyable game that I’ve had the pleasure of playing numerous times. It’s great for families, and the theme really makes you feel like you’re in front of your NES again. It’s no wonder to me that the game saw a successful run on Kickstarter, and what’s even better is that Jason Tagmire really takes pride in his creation. He’s always available for questions and wants to ensure that players enjoy this game every chance they get. If you have a chance to get your hands on Pixel Lincoln, I’d suggest you do just that.
Thanks to Game Salute for providing a review copy of Pixel Lincoln for review!
- great theme
- interesting mechanics
- feels like a side-scrolling video game
- artwork is fantastic
- card/level variety offers high replayability
- game can be a bit random
- not a lot of player interaction