I was asked to review Title Bout II, a boxing game designed by Jim Trunzo and published by his company Straight Jab Media (a fitting name.)
I’ve worked with Jim a bit at Nocturnal Media and enjoyed his design on Gunman’s Law and Gladiator: Quest for the Rudis, and he was gracious enough to give me a complimentary copy of Title Bout II for this review. It’s been a while since we’ve done a review, so let’s dig in!
I’ve always liked boxing and fighting games, and I was excited to get this.
What Is Title Bout II?
Like the header says, what is Title Bout II? It’s a boxing simulation board/card game. It’s an interesting beast, mostly charts, cards and numbers, low on immersive qualities (visually) and high on the simulation of boxing rounds.
It utilizes a “Action Deck” to replace dice and provide a series of randomized actions, outcomes and special effects that allow you to simulate the back and forth in a boxing ring.
I was a little surprised by the small size of the box when it arrived, but it’s jam packed with components.
There’s over 200 cards, a center board, fighter status boards and a small selection of various tokens.
Each round, fighters struggle for control of the momentum of the fight, attempting to hit their opponent, wear them down, score points from the judges and manage their stamina and endurance against the drain of the ring.
There’s 100 heavyweight boxers to choose from, creating a near infinite amount of possible showdowns that never happened in real life (or recreating famous historical bouts).
The Action Deck is 100 cards, and there’s a small assortment of Strategy Cards that allow you to customize the game and event.
The overall quality of the components is nice, though the cards are a bit thin, and will require card sleeves to maintain their integrity over long use (this doesn’t matter to me, as they’re still better than some truly terrible quality games I’ve gotten and I sleeve all my card heavy games anyways.)
The boards are nice and sturdy and lay flat. The two rulebooks (which appear split due to printing constraints) contain all the information you need to play the game (more on that later.)
The game play is both simple and complex at the same time. Boxers determine whose in control, an strike is made, an outcome is determined, and then the next round happens.
All actions are resolved by flipping cards from the Boxing Action Deck and checking various numbers on them.
Here’s where the game can get complex. The rule-book is well written, but it is not organized well. There’s little cross referencing, which can provide some confusion when playing the game the first time, as rules are sometimes hidden in unusual sections, in the other rule-book, or not clearly called out.
All the rules are in there, but their interactions or locations can be frustrating to find. Our first game consisting of lots of hunting to make sure we were doing everything correctly. We still missed some items that we had to address on our second play through.
That being said, this is a problem solved by playing the game (or if the designer were to release a PDF index, detailed flow of play with page numbers, or similar), that one could easily get around.
The actual resolving the game actions is not complex and quite fun! There’s a lot of back and forth and sudden bursts and ups and downs, like one sees in a boxing match. The scoring is fun, and our match up felt close!
It is certainly a simulationist game, and there’s a lot more strategy in maneuvering the fighter, dealing with the ups and downs of the ring, and more. Our first game felt rather mechanical and uninvolved from a player agency standpoint, but once we’d played once, we were able to see the places where we could exert our control into the game and our second go around was dramatically different and player driven.
I’d give this game a rating of 4 of 5. I liked it enough, that I preordered the Middle Weight Cards off the Straight Jab Media website, so I could expand the game! That’s as good a sign as I can give!
With a PDF index, a video series detailing the various phases and turns of the game, or similar, it’d easily bump up to an 4.5. This game is a complex, detailed, and daunting opponent at times, but it’s fun, manageable and interesting.
It just needs to be made more approachable to new players!
Perhaps I’ll undertake such a video series. I’d like to see this game get more traction. I find two-player sport sims board games to be among my favorite sort of board games.