This Beatdown: Streets of Justice review was made after playing the game six times. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Beatdown: Streets of Justice?
Beatdown: Streets of Justice is a cooperative push-your-luck fighting game from Matt Barr and Piston City Games. Your goal is to make it through two waves of criminals and then take down the boss by using your heroes’ attack combos.
Beatdown: Streets of Justice Gameplay
Beatdown: Streets of Justice is played over three “fights,” with the final fight being against the boss. You need to defeat all of the enemies in the first two fights and then beat the boss to win the game.
To begin a game of Beatdown, you’ll choose your heroes, mix in those heroes’ special cards with the other attack cards, get your initial hands of attack cards, and choose one of the bosses to face. You’ll then draw enemies for the first fight (based on the number of players) and you’re pretty much ready to go.
Each fight is a back-and-forth contest between the heroes and the enemies, with Player Attack Phases followed by Enemy Attack Phases. During each round of a fight, you’ll choose your targets and then use your attack cards to build combos against enemies in hopes of taking them down before they have a chance to strike back.
Each attack card has a combo rating (lower is better). After you play your first card, you can attempt to make your attack stronger by rolling your 10-sided combo die to see if you can play another attack card. Your roll has to be equal to or higher than your current combo rating, which is a combination of your attack cards’ combo ratings and any modifiers in play, such as your hero’s combo rating. When your combo roll succeeds, you can play a card from your hand or blindly from the top of the attack deck, covering the right-half of the previous attack card. When you fail your combo roll, the enemy you’re fighting gets to attack you. Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, you can always choose to keep pushing your luck or you can apply the damage that you have.
When you roll a star during your combo roll, your roll is an automatic success and you get to use the Critical Hit effect on the next card (if it has one). Star icons on cards can make it easier to get Critical Hits. Critical Hits also allow you to draw a free Loot card, which will either be equipment or a powerful Combo Closer that you can put on your hero board.
Attack cards can have a number of other special effects on them. If you play a Tag-Team card as the last card in your combo, you get to help out another hero during their next attack. You can discard Kardma cards instead of playing them to get a special ability, even during other players’ turns. The other common special effect a card can have is the Tempo Effect, which triggers when it’s placed in a specific position in your combo.
During the Enemy Attack Phase, all of the enemies get to attack the players. You draw an Enemy Attack card for each enemy, see who they target, and then take the damage. Enemies can also have critical strikes, which activate when they target an area of a hero’s body that isn’t protected. The bosses have their own unique rules and powers that can make some enemies stronger.
When your group finishes a fight, you go into the Shopping Phase where you get a chance to use your trophies (defeated enemies) to heal your heroes and/or buy Loot cards. After that, you set up the next fight.
You’ll win if you’re able to defeat the boss. You’ll lose if every hero is knocked out (health reduced to zero) at the same time.
- The push-your-luck combo mechanic is fantastic and it makes sense thematically. It brings plenty of tension to the game since you often want to go for that extra bit of damage, even when your combo rating gets high. It’s just a very fun and exciting system.
- There are a bunch of bosses to face and each one makes the game play out differently. Some bring in special enemies, some make specific types of enemies stronger, and some will even come into the fights before the final showdown. All of that stuff changes up how you approach each game.
- I really like the Tag-Team and Kardma cards. They add in some great cooperative actions and they encourage good communication so everyone can get their timing down.
- The game plays well at each player count thanks to the different setups included in the rulebook. I like it best at three players because it’s quicker than the four-player game while still giving you multiple players to help when using cooperative actions, but I enjoyed the two and four-player experiences, as well.
- Mixing only the special cards of the heroes you’re using into the attack deck was a good idea. It’s another thing that makes each game play out slightly differently.
- I also think they did a good job with the graphic design, especially on the attack cards. It’s easy to see the combo ratings and the attack strengths on each card, even when they’re all stacked on top of each other.
- There are also some nice (and funny) surprises in the decks that can show up from time to time.
- The randomness/luck factor of the combat system works for this type of game, but the randomness of the enemy deck can make the game very easy or very challenging. I don’t mind when it makes the game tougher, but if you happen to be facing a boss whose main strength is making specific types of enemies stronger and you don’t draw those enemies, the game can be less enjoyable.
- I think the art is pretty cool in a nostalgic way, but the game doesn’t really pop when it’s on the table. It could be the lack of shadows or the thick black lines around each character… I’m not sure what it is. I just don’t see many people getting excited about this game when they first see it, which is a shame because (spoiler) it’s a really good game.
- I wish there were more Enemy and Enemy Attack cards. Both decks have enough variety, but because there are so few of them you have to shuffle cards back into those decks quite a few times per game. I think the game would have better flow if the cards that were played were simply discarded.
- I’m not a big fan of the way the rulebook is laid out. The “Common Rules Mistakes” and the iconography reference is at the front of the rulebook while the setup information isn’t until page 8.
Beatdown: Streets of Justice reminds me of old beat ’em up video games like Renegade, Double Dragon, and Final Fight, and I think the designer did a really good job of making this feel like one of those games. To be honest, my expectations weren’t very high for this one, but I’ve enjoyed every play of it so far and the seven people I’ve taught it to have also had a good time playing it. We had at least a couple of moments each game where everyone put their arms up and cheered, which is what I’m always hoping for when I’m playing co-op games.
I love Beatdown’s unique combat system and this is also one of the only cooperative board games that focuses solely on the combat – the only other one that I can think of is RWBY: Combat Ready – so I’ll definitely be keeping it. I’m looking forward to playing the other bosses and using some different hero combinations.
If you enjoy fighting games and/or push your luck games, I highly recommend taking a look at Beatdown: Streets of Justice.
Update: Beatdown was included on the Top Cooperative Board Games of 2019 list!