Two Deceptively Simple Games about Getting Punched in the Face

Powered by Geek & Sundry

Board and card games are fantastic. But not everything transfers well to the medium. Sometimes a game has a setting with frantic action or real-time events, but it gets bogged down with sequential turns and resolution tables. While there are more than a few flops, here are two games that get action right.

Jab: Realtime Boxing

Often described as the most realistic boxing experience you can have without getting punched in the face, the tagline is not too far off. In this two player game, each side plays a boxer. Jab gives you a deck of punch cards (hook, cross, jab, etc.) which you divide roughly evenly into two piles. You can play the right pile with your right hand, the left with your left.

Players touch gloves and then start throwing punches. To throw a punch, you simply pick it up and put it on their opponent. There are three targets – two sides of the body and one head. There are no turns, but the game isn’t just about playing as fast as you can (although there is some element of that). You see, there is also a pile of combination cards. The top one is revealed and might say, “Jab, Hook” or “Jab, Cross, Cross.” If you get that combination of cards showing on your opponent, then you can claim that combo for extra points. Plus, you can throw heavy haymakers in an attempt to knock your opponent out.

There are also rules for blocks, counter-punches, entering the clinch, and scoring points. At the end of a round, the player with the most points wins the round. And the game is played until a player wins three rounds, or one of the players is knocked out.

Jab does a fantastic job of replicating the “sweet science” of boxing. Because everything is played in realtime, you don’t lose anything with turns or while waiting for your opponent to finish. The game feels frenetic just like a boxing match. And it’s so much more than a simple speed game.

It opens itself up to multiple play styles. Just like in the ring, you see fighters who punch very technically. They work the combinations, block when they can, and reach a victory by decision. Similarly, you’ll have opponents that simply swing for the fences and hope to win by knockout. And when the two styles come together, it can be amazing. One fighter strategically cedes rounds to the other all while beating him to a pulp and hoping to land the knockout blow before the match is done.

And the best part of all, you won’t get punched in the face. At least, under the rules of the game. If you act like a jerk, then there are no promises. If you are looking for a speed-based game that requires calculation and strategy, then you need to look into Jab.


Yomi doesn’t try to replicate a real fight. Instead, it seeks to bring a two-player fighting video game (like Street Fighter) to the tabletop. It has a cast of characters, each of which has a different style and unique approach. Maybe you play a speedster who wants to do as much damage as quickly as possible, or perhaps you grab someone who hits more modestly, but can chain into massive combos. The word Yomi, the game tells me, means “knowing the mind of the opponent.” It’s that feeling you get in a fighting game where you try to react to what they are about to do, rather than what they have done.

The main engine of Yomi is simple, at least in theory. Each player has a deck and from that draws a hand of cards. Most cards are either block/dodge, attack, or throw. The players pick a card and then simultaneously reveal them. Block or dodge beats attack, attack beats throw, and throw beats block or dodge. So you get a kind of rock-paper-scissors effect to see which player hits.

Easy, right? Well, it is. Deceptively so. You see, it turns out not to be as simple as all that. Sure, that initial card play might decide which character hits. But once a hit is established, a player could possibly combo it out by playing more cards. Plus, many of the basic cards aren’t so basic. They might say “attack” or “block,” but they have text which gives the card special properties as well.

So you end up with a game that is easy to explain and start playing, but has some significant depth. Experienced players will definitely have the advantage as they learn the possibilities over time and knowing the characters is also helpful. If you know how a character tends to play, then you hopefully can also intuit the best ways to counter that playstyle. You put the whole package together and it does a great job of translating the video game format to the tabletop. It especially does a great job of creating that moment where both characters are standing, waiting for the other player to make a move. Finally, they act and react and, whoever knew their opponent’s mind, gets the hit and does the damage. Yomi.

What other games take great, real time events and translate them to the tabletop? Tell us about it in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: Sirlin Games

Image Credit: Tasty Minstrel Games, Sirlin Games

Top Stories
More by Nerdist
Trending Topics