Under The Microscope this time – JAB: Real Time Boxing from Tasty Minstrel Games
Here’s another long-lost review. This time it’s JAB: Real Time Boxing. And wow was it a surprise!
JAB: Real Time Boxing is a boxing simulation game in which players take their turns simultaneously, hence the ‘real time’ part of the title. It requires strategy, dexterity, and excellent hand/eye coordination to be the last boxer standing.
Materials & Methods
JAB is a card game with just a few extras. It has 50 punch cards – 25 black edged and 25 white edged. They depict punches – upper cuts, crosses, hooks, haymakers, and jabs. Each card has a value and are in different colors. There are 9 combo cards showing different combination punches. And there
are 5 counter punch cards. Then there is a boxer for each player represented by three cards – a head plus right and left arms and shoulders. There are 10 health/round win tokens used to keep track of your boxer’s health and mark when a player wins a round. There is a Ding! tile and a Clinch!/Knockout! tile.
All of the components are top quality as you would expect from Tasty Minstrel. The tiles and tokens are made of heavy, thick cardboard. And the cards are heavy enough to withstand a lot of handling.
The graphic design and art are spectacular. All the colors are bright and vibrant. The art is top-notch. There is a rules book that is both clearly written and graphically interesting.
Setting up the Game: Each player chooses one of the boxers and one of the sets of punch cards. The boxer cards are arranged as shown below.
Each player shuffled his punch cards and splits the deck in two. The two stacks are placed face down on each side of the head. The Combo cards are shuffled and placed in the middle of the play area. The Ding! and Cinch! tiles are placed to the side and each player takes 5 of the health tokens.
Starting A Round: A round starts with the players flipping over their punch decks. They flip the left deck with their left hands and the right deck with their right hands. And that is how punches are delivered. The top cards of the punch card decks are played from the left hand deck with the left hand and from the right deck with the right hand. They are played onto the opponent’s boxer’s body cards. That’s how punches are thrown. There are no turns. Players place punch cards as fast or as slow as they want. As punches are thrown, piles of punch cards will build up on the body parts.
Punches: During the rounds players have the opportunity to score additional points by recognizing Combos. Combos happen when the top cards on your opponent’s body cards match the current Combo card. When a player recognizes this they can take the Combo card and yells “Combo”.
Players can block punches, thrown counter-punches, stagger and knockout their opponent. Knockouts happen when a player has no Health tokens left and their opponent staggers them. The opponent flips the Clinch! token and yells ‘Knockout’. When a player is in danger of a knockout, they can call ‘Clinch!’, take the Clinch! card, and take two Health tokens from their opponent. Then play continues.
Ending A Round: Players continue playing punch cards until they both run out of punch cards. This ends the round. A player may end a round early by calling “Ding!” and taking the Ding! token.
Scoring: Each round is scored separately. Players cover one of their boxer’s head or body piles with their hand. The opponent takes one of the other two piles. This one is used for scoring. The player removes all the block cards (These are your opponent’s cards.) They then remove the highest value card from the pile for each block card. Then they sum the values of all the remaining cards and subtracts any penalties to get a total. This total is that player’s Punch Score for that round. The winning player takes one of their opponent’s health tokens and flips it to its ‘Round Win’ side to mark the won round. Game play continues until one player has 3 Round Win tokens.
I was sucker punched by JAB: Real Time Boxing. I’m not a boxing fan so I wasn’t that excited about the game. But I thought “TMG hasn’t let me down yet. I’ll give it a try.” And I’m very glad I did. This is a unique game. I’ve never played anything like it. It is a dexterity game. It is a pattern recognition game. And oddly it’s a strategy game.
The first time I played it, we played it fast; slapping cards down like we were punching each others’ lights out. It was fun and very energetic. We didn’t score many combos or work the blocks or counter-punches. It was just go, go, go. Fun and chaotic.
The second game was different. We slowed down and watched for the combos and other scoring opportunities. It was fun and more thinky. The combos, counter-punches, and blocking really add another level to the game. It became a game of ‘the sweet science’. It really was like being in the ring. We carefully ‘placed’ our punches rather than just ‘striking out’. It was like we were dancing around each other waiting to see who would make a mistake. And when we would see an opening we would strike.
I wasn’t expecting much to excite me from this game. I was pleasantly surprised. The two modes of play, the chaos of flinging fists and the careful deliberation of the slower game. This is a gem of a game. Go buy a copy as soon as possible.
Microscope Rating: 4.5 out of 5 microscopes
JAB: Real Time Boxing was designed by Gavan Brown who did the graphic design as well. It was published by Tasty Minstrel Games who provided a review copy.