Pixel Glory Turns the Strategy of JRPGs Into a Competitive Deck-Building Game
With its design inspired by classics like the Final Fantasy series, Pixel Glory is a fun and fast-paced deck-building game for JRPG fans everywhere.
While JRPGs are more often known for their epic battles against colorful monsters, memorable characters, and (more often than not) some quirky charms, the in-depth mechanics of many JRPGs make them ideal for tabletop gaming. Though JRPGs largely haven’t made much of a bridge between video gaming over to tabletop, Pixel Glory is among one of those games that takes the more strategic elements of classic JRPGs and adapts them into a competitive (and fun) tabletop experience among four players.
During PAX Unplugged 2018, I played through a round of Pixel Glory, a deck-building card game that released a few years ago but, after having some hands-on time with the game, is a tabletop game that I think is worth putting into your rotation for game nights, especially if you have a love for classic 16-bit era JRPGs.
From the design of its artwork to the core mechanics of the game, Pixel Glory is meant to feel like the card-building version of a classic JRPG like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, along with some Pokemon-like mechanics thrown into the mix. However, the basics of the game revolve around being crafty with your card combinations, and coming out on top of your competing players as you gather spells and take down monsters in a dungeon.
To do this, players utilize a variety of spells that bear one of three elemental powers with varying weaknesses — fire, water, and earth, a la Pokemon — to defeat monsters. Through round after round, players will draw from their decks which contain a variety of spell cards, ranging from basic elemental spells to more advanced techniques and abilities, with the ultimate goal being to accumulate the most points from defeating the most monsters (or at least the most valuable ones) after defeating the dungeon’s main boss.
Pixel Glory is played between two to four players, and largely consists of two phases over the course of 20-30 minutes, making it ideal for shorter tabletop gaming sessions or as a quicker-paced title between longer games. The first of these phases is the auction phase, where players use bidding cards (numbered between 1-9) to bid on specific spells that come up each round. After revealing a set of three random spell cards, players put their bidding numbers face down and, once flipped over, then choose their spells based on who “won” the auction: the player with the highest numbered card chooses their spell first, the player after that chooses the next, and so on.
After the spell card deck runs out for players during the auction phase, the game then shifts over to the combat phase as the players then begin dungeon crawling and taking down monsters with the spells and cards they gathered during the previous phase. However, the strategy of Pixel Glory comes into play with the fact that you are competing against the other players for monster kills so that you can gather more Glory points than your competitors, making it key that you save your bigger, flashier spells for when you can finish a monster, as opposed to giving your opponents a chance to take away a kill and steal points from you.
It was here that I found Pixel Glory to be an engaging tabletop adaptation of the traditional JRPG-style combat it employs, with the basic elemental system giving it a fun Pokemon-style feel as using certain elements against specific enemies will give you damage bonuses. Unlike most other JRPGs where you typically play with a party of characters all seeking to claim a common goal or victory, Pixel Glory upends that notion by giving it a competitive twist as players try to kill off monsters not just for survival, but for personal gain.
With this being the case, I had to be super cautious (and strategic) about what spells I played and when, as I didn’t want to leave the opportunity for my opponents to swoop in and grab a kill. As each player during their round has four cards in their hand at a time, players have to then use all of the cards in their hand during their turn (aside from saving one card in reserve), making it impossible to just bide your time and stock up cards for big kills. Instead, the game encourages either chipping away at monsters just enough so that you can potentially finish off a monster when its health is low, followed by chaining together your spells for a large amount of damage at once.
While I ended up losing the match (spoiler alert), Pixel Glory does at least provide a few paths to victory so that players that may have a hard time catching up to more dominant players won’t be left entirely in the dust. Specifically, one of those systems comes through the use of combo points, which players accumulate when they do damage to a monster but don’t necessarily manage to finish one off. At the end of your turn, if you attacked a monster but didn’t kill it, you’ll earn one combo point: when you gather three combo points together, you have the option to either automatically kill one monster from the board, or to draw four more cards and then extend your potential to cause more damage and nab monster kills.
Initially learning the game took a few minutes, but by and large Pixel Glory is simple enough that players can pick it up within a few rounds of play, and with a pacing that keeps most games to a length of about 30 minutes, it delivers a bite-sized experience fueled by JRPG-style nostalgia. With retro artwork that calls to mind the early days of Final Fantasy and mechanics that should easily be grasped by those that played Pokemon, Pixel Glory delivers a fast-paced tabletop experience that I’m sure a lot of JRPG would enjoy getting to play, but (thankfully) with far less grinding involved.
This post contains affiliate links where DualShockers gets a small commission on sales. Any and all support helps keep DualShockers as a standalone, independent platform for less-mainstream opinions and news coverage.