First Impressions: Flash Duel
Here's a rundown of the game. In terms of flavor, it's two fighters preparing for an upcoming tournament through sparring. They're not trying to kill each other, just land the hits (at which point you assume they are capable of doing great combos). In gameplay, it's a lot like fencing or a legitimate martial arts competition (see Karate Kid). It primarily emphasizes the elements of spacing & pressure with a minor in prediction in that you have to figure out what cards the opponent might have in their hand. It does indeed play very quickly unless people are giving deep thought to their moves (Max Geiger can change that a bit). The characters are quite well-balanced, though one particular character troubles me. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to beat him, and I'm still working on that.
Pros: Players that like it cite that it has depth in strategy without too much depth in rules (or at least the appearance as such). There's a fine basic game here, but the inclusion of varying characters means the game can consistently be interesting in different perspectives. I personally love a card game where I have to focus so strongly on positioning.
Cons: People who disliked it were better able to articulate why they didn't like it, so this is going to seem heavier than the pros. Some didn't like the level of public information, and how card-counting is actually encouraged. I won't go too far into detail, but I consider this a pro because memory is not meant to be a tested skill in this game. Pandemic has a similar philosophy. Some actually disliked the fast nature of the game, and I'm fine with letting people decide a game just isn't their kind of experience. Others had a problem I actually share in that the rules are supposedly to be taken literally, but the intent is still unclear in certain situations. I have submitted my feedback on those specific situations on the Sirlin.net forums to get them resolved right from the designer himself.
Here's the characters involved, from left to right (click the image to see in detail).
Grave Stormborne, Wind Warrior: He is your typical samurai character. He's got the personality of a cardboard box, but he's very well-centered. He focuses just enough on defense that he can stop the opponent's efforts and then counter. To play him effectively, you as the player have to know both your opponent and his character.
Jaina Stormborne, Phoenix Archer: She is about as reckless as you're ever going to see in Yomi, but that doesn't really come across here. In this game, she's the archer. She wants to keep the opponent away and snipe at them. She also has some small motivation for that: land at a certain space away from her, and you instantly lose on her turn.
Master Midori, Master Dragon: Probably the most aggressive attacker here, this guy transforms into a dragon and makes all of his attacks more powerful until he has to move backward. If he can keep up that aggression, he'll probably get there. I'm still struggling with how to beat him.
Setsuka Hiruki, Ninja Student: She is all about movement. If she wants to, she can cover 15 spaces out of the 18 you get for the board. Don't bother staying out of her range, it's impossible. She loves to run as hard as she hits.
Garus Rook, Stone Golem: My favorite type of character, though difficult to play. He's a walking tank and a man of extremes. He can overpower the opponent's attacks, and then show you why you shouldn't have got in his face.
Jefferson DeGrey, Ghostly Diplomat: For him, I very much envision a Darth Vader type of character. He pushes and pulls the opponent, ultimately using what feels like a force choke on the opponent. I've heard another perspective (which is probably accurate) that as he backs away from a hit, his ghostly companion comes up from behind.
Valerie Rose, Manic Painter: My favorite for so many reasons! First, she's bi-eyed and bisexual. Yay for representation! She has a sweetspot range at which point she can change the cards in her hand as she desires. You definitely want to stay out of that space, or you will be punished.
Max Geiger, Precise Watchmaker: This guy can make the game run longer than usual, since he can do tricks with the discard pile. He's also the only one that can effectively do a dashing strike backwards and do it better than normal. You get to essentially shape reality how you wish.
Lum Bam-foo, Gambling Panda: For those who just love to roll the dice and have an emphasis on luck, this guy is high-risk, high reward. He has an alternate win condition of achieving a straight in your hand, though you can only win this way on a light space. He can make the game end quickly too, by raising the stakes so the current game becomes twice as important.
Argagarg Garg, Water Shaman: Turtle players rejoice, for this guy is a star pupil in the dojo of not attacking. He wins the game when time runs out. That's not to say you shouldn't get the hit in when you can, but he's just fine with sitting back and defending.