This Street Masters review was made after playing the game five times.
What is Street Masters?
Street Masters is a cooperative fighting game inspired by classic beat ’em up and fighting video games. Each game you and your teammates take on a criminal organization and your goal is to defeat that organization’s boss.
Street Masters Gameplay
To set up a game of Street Masters, each player will grab one of the six fighter decks and put their character’s main card in front of them. Then you’ll choose one of the four Enemy decks, which has the boss, their minions, and other cards. Finally, you’ll choose one of the eight Stage decks, which will include setup instructions, important objectives, and event cards. The heroes, the boss, objective tokens, and crate tokens begin the game on the board.
Each round consists of a Fighter turn, an Enemy turn, and a Stage turn.
During the Fighter turn, each player gets to take a turn, in any order. When you take your turn, you’ll draw a card from the Enemy deck, possibly adding a new enemy to your hero’s play area, and then you’ll get to take three actions. In any order, you can move, play one card, and perform one other action, which could be an action on one of your cards in play, moving additional spaces, interacting with a card or something on the board, or gaining defense tokens. After you’re done taking actions, any enemies in your play area will activate, then you’ll draw a card, then the next player will take their turn.
During the Enemy turn, you’ll activate every card in the enemy’s play area. During the Stage turn, you’ll activate every card in the stage area and then draw a new Stage card.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll be spending most of the game fighting the enemies on the board. To attack, you’ll roll the number of dice shown on your card, plus any modifiers, and each die will end up giving you a hit and/or a block token. There are exploding dice in this game, so when you roll the Critical symbol, you count it as a success and roll again. There are three main types of attack: punch, kick, and grapple. When a character is attacked, they can block if they have a matching block token. When your fighter blocks, you flip that token to its power side, which will charge up your fighter’s special ability.
You’ll win the game if you’re able to defeat the boss. You’ll lose if any of the heroes are defeated or if you trigger a Stage card’s loss condition.
Besides the standard Arcade mode, you can also play Story mode, which is the game’s campaign mode. Story mode adds in new cards, such as allies, rivals, and upgrades for both heroes and enemies. You can also use those cards in Arcade mode to make the game easier, more challenging, or just to mix things up. There are also Story decks for each of the heroes, which you can choose to include when playing through one of the main Story decks.
For more info on how to play the game, check out the Street Masters rulebook (PDF).
- There’s a ton of variety in Street Masters, even just in the core game’s box. The Enemy and Stage decks can be mixed and matched to create different experiences, and every combination of heroes forces you to come up with totally different strategies. Plus, you can play through the Story modes or just add in some allies and rivals. This game has extremely high replay value.
- Each fighter is unique and they can all pull off some cool combos. For example, Gabriel has a lot of abilities that allow him to play extra Strike cards for massive damage, while Ying Hua is great at messing with the enemies’ decks. Also, each deck is pre-built with very satisfying synergies, which makes learning how to pilot each one more enjoyable.
- Flipping the defense tokens to power up your fighter’s best ability is both thematic and awesome. It adds in some cool tactical choices and it makes it so there are very few feel-bad turns.
- I love me some exploding dice! And they’re especially great in this game because you can easily visualize your fighters getting more punches and kicks through and possibly pulling off unexpected knockouts.
- This is a very attractive game. The card art is definitely the highlight, but the boards and miniatures also look really nice.
- Street Masters is surprisingly easy to learn how to play. A lot of that is thanks to the excellent rulebook and the helpful Turn cards that everyone has, but it’s really just not a very complex game. Everyone I taught the game to was comfortable with the rules after only a couple of rounds.
- My biggest issue with Street Masters is that it’s just a bit too easy. I’ve had a couple exciting finishes, but so far I’m 5-0 with at least one game played at every player count. We even included three rivals in our last three-player game and were still able to get the win. As I pointed out above, I love the exploding dice and the defense tokens/power up system, but those two things, plus the fighters’ overall strength, seem to give the players too much of an advantage.
- There’s a lot to keep track of in this game, so it’s pretty easy to accidentally forget to do certain things on your turn and it makes the game play out a bit slower than I want from a fighting game. It can be frustrating because if you forget an ability in play or you skip a step on your turn – everyone seems to forget to draw an Enemy card at least once per game – you might have to rewind the action and rethink your turn.
- It’s tough to get the rubber miniature bases on the miniatures. Of course, if you paint the miniatures, this will be a non-issue.
Street Masters isn’t as challenging as I was hoping it’d be, but I’ve still had a lot of fun playing it. All of the characters have their own unique styles, the enemy and stage decks make each game play out differently, and the game has a great look to it.
I think Street Masters is a very cool game and I can see why so many people love it, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it too many more times. I prefer the pacing of another beat ’em up-style game, Beatdown: Streets of Justice, and I’d say Marvel Champions is more challenging and just a better all-around game while scratching a similar itch. This is just one of those cases where a really good game just doesn’t fit in my collection.
I definitely do want to try the Sadler brothers’ other games that use this excellent modular deck system. I’m especially looking forward to playing Altar Quest.