Cage Match Update: Less is More

Cage Match has changed, big time, yo.  As discussed in a recent post, Cage Match was a complex game that I felt needed an EZ Mode, so I went ahead and developed an EZ Mode of the game that I liked pretty well.  Many, many elements of the game were removed, including all fighting positions besides the STANDING position.
Well, once I figured out how I could include an EZ version of the GROUND position, I realized that this “EZ” mode would capture enough MMA feel to serve as the entire game.  Much as I love the CLINCHING position, I don’t need it, nor the authentic-but-complexity-adding need to pass the guard before trying for submission moves.
It was very painful to remove over 50% of the content I had spent over a year creating, but by doing so, the game is instantly several degrees faster and simpler.  It flies by now, with matches being completed in 5 minutes or less, or 10 minutes for the really long ones.  In the 15-30 minutes it used to take a single match, you can now reel off 3-4 matches.  Less is more.  Simpler is almost always better.
The game we’ve been playing for the past year, that’s now the “Advanced Game,” and I would still love to release it at a later date.  I wanted to make a game that really offers almost everything there is in a MMA fight, and I created one, but that version requires complexity that might alienate those who aren’t really into both MMA and board games.  I still want to do it, it’s just not the one I want to lead with.  I do still think things like Collar Ties and Passing the Guard need to be captured in a MMA game, and in some version of this game.
For now, though, this “easy” version of the game is now The Game, and there is no longer a need for an EZ version.  Here is my rationale for making such a drastic change:
  • Our target is MMA fans who like games and gamers who like MMA, but not necessarily hardcore fans of both.  It needs to include the MMA fan who is a casual gamer, and the gamer who is a casual MMA fan.
  • The Advanced Game is really for hardcore MMA fans who are hardcore strategy gamers, e.g. docmogs and me.  They would love it for sure (and we do), but that’s a much smaller group than what we’re targeting.
  • For the MMA fan who likes games but isn’t a hardcore gamer:  They probably don’t want to spend 20-30 minutes learning a new game.  They’ll spend 5, though.  They might even have fun playing 3-4 matches in 20-30 minutes.  That’s enough to break it out on fight nights.
  • For the hardcore gamer who is a light MMA fan, e.g. you, dear reader:  MMA may not be my cup of tea, but you say it’s only 5 minutes?  Ok, I’ll give it a try.  Hey, that was fun, I’ll play again.  Hey, this is a pretty fun, very quick 2-player game, for only $20?  Hmmm.
  • For the hardcore MMA fan who is a hardcore gamer:  This probably doesn’t satisfy you as well as the old product, to be honest, but it is still the best MMA game you’re going to find on the market and has plenty of theme to it.  If there’s enough interest, we’ll release the Advanced Game, which would be a simple and cheap set of new components.  As my goal was to develop the most authentic MMA board game possible, I really do want to release the Advanced Game someday, but it starts with a successful launch, and this shorter version should result in a more successful launch.
  • In this particular case, we’re less interested in making the best game possible, and more interested in selling the most games possible. This will sell more because the short duration and mild learning curve will appeal to more people. Though to be honest, while this game is less involved, I’m not sure it isn’t better. For example, I feel like  “death by ground strike” is an essential possible outcome of a MMA match that needs to be included, but it used to be a really annoying way to spend 20-30 minutes losing a game.  Death by ground strike is still part of the game but when it happens now, it’s over in 5-7 minutes, so no big deal.
  • Along with that, the ground game in general is so completely streamlined.  You don’t spend much time there.  You either gain a submission or escape.  I think this is better.
  • It’s just way better to go from a 2-step process of determining the outcome of your actions, to a single step.  Used to be, you had to find the intersection on the screen, then find the icon on the card and read it, and even then, there were typically several steps to follow.  Now, you just find the intersection, read the short copy, and the steps you take from there are few.


  • Ground Past Guard Grid (or really Ground pre-past-Guard Fight Card… the Ground Fight Card now skips passing the guard and goes straight to the submission attempt)
  • Passing the guard and most of the ground moves
  • Clinching action pad, including Collar Ties and Knees (sniff-sniff, I love those)
  • Muscle and Muscle Rating (I liked that too)
  • Weight class no longer matters (just included for flavor… but I’m thinking about this)
  • The position chart (will be part of hit point chart)
  • Focus action (from all positions; I like it but one less row/column)
  • Dodge action from STANDING position (boring anyways)
  • Most of the reference cards
  • Separate Fight Card — we don’t need it!  (edit one year later:  We don’t need it but the UI is so much better with it)
Other component changes:
  • The screens lose a set of complicated icons, and just have a 4×4 grid on one panel, and a 3×3 grid on another.  The grids might include some iconography for color, but the copy is pretty short and easy to follow (my Dad read it and immediately understood, and he’s not a gamer or MMA fan at all.  Edit one year later:  We took the grids off the screens and put back on a separate Fight Card.  Better UI).
  • STANDING action pad on one side, both GROUND action pads (dominant/submissive) on the reverse side. There’s no longer a need for a separate “Ground” action pad component and as mentioned, CLINCHING is out entirely (sniff-sniff).
  • 2 new female fighters!  On the reverse side of each male fighter, I’m putting a female fighter, just to save printing space.  You can fight men vs. women if you want to but some men can’t fight some women (since they’re reverse sides of the same card).  I personally never mix the genders, though there’s no reason you can’t if you want to.
Other game changes:
  • With only a 4×4 grid (or 3×3), it’s much easier to find the outcome.
  • You only roll the dice for certain outcomes, not every turn.  Loses some drama but it really speeds things up.
  • Along with the above, the copy is much, much shorter and easier to follow.  This, along wit the 2 above bullets, is the key to making the game much simpler and easier.
  • The old “Parry+Strike” which let you choose your follow-up attack, is now a very simple 6 body damage, every time, no roll necessary.
  • The old “Shoot & Clinch + Take-Down attempt” is really simple:  Shoot.  If you win with it, you can go to Ground with no roll necessary.
  • There are no critical double 6s anymore, no miss double 1s either (edit: I re-introduced double 6s always win, double 1s always lose)
  • I currently haven’t figured out how to work in combos, but I’d like to.  (edit: Done, and at the very last minute, simplified)

Still the same:

  • All the other STANDING moves like Hook, Cross, etc.
  • Submission moves and ground strikes
  • Focus, gaining, adding to moves, spending on power moves and specials
  • Some “roll off” dice rolls
  • Head and Body being separate damage
  • Special moves (though they are changing for many fighters)

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