We’ve all seen the soap opera of a wrestling match and the famous snatching of victories from the gnashing jaws of defeat, and Luchador! manages to replicate this very, very well.
What’s It All About?
Luchador! is all about bringing the vivid colour and over the top personalities that inhabit the wonderful world of Mexican wrestling to beautiful life in classic dice rolling, board game action.
Sticking close to its theme, this game of Mexican wrestling dice is bold in its looks, and chaotic in its delivery, but, does it capture the feel of the world it depicts, or, does it plummet from the top rope and land in a broken heap in round one.
Let us paint our faces, strike a pose, and take a look…cue the entrance music.
The true beauty for myself in Luchador! comes from the fact that the game is built with fun in mind first. Forget about tactical choices and intricate details, cast notions of strategic planning to the winds, and set any harboured ideas of long thoughtful turns, off to sea. Luchador! is all about quickfire dice rolls and beating the fight out of your opponent with as much style and flair as you can muster! And, it’s pretty bloody good.
A typical two-player game of Luchador! is a relentless see-saw battle between the extravagant wrestlers, where in true alignment with the sport, the balance of power constantly shifts. Wrestlers regularly come back from seemingly insurmountable odds to get the pin and claim the Championship belt, and it’s all built around the chucking of some wonderfully colourful dice, a brilliantly simple ruleset, and some simple strategy. I love that we have a game that can be picked up and played in minimal time, that then delivers big in terms of fun, laughter, and, if you end up in the loser’s corner, mild despair fused with rematch demands.
I expected it to be quite difficult to capture the feel of a wrestling match in board game form. We’re talking about a sport that prides itself upon the noise and the spectacle. However, thanks to the very simple, but effective, rules at play here, Luchador! does a pretty stellar job of hitting the wrestling sweet spot. This in part is due to the brilliant choice of components. Every wrestler is brought to life with a little cardboard character and stand, each also has a backstory to flesh the whole experience out and give some foundations to their special moves. The board too is simply fantastic, being a depiction of a classic wrestling ring, ropes and all, and the custom dice are decked out in the different wrestler colours, meaning we end up with something that looks like the board game equivalent of a family bag of Skittles, and proves a real head turner when on the table.
I never got the chance to play the first edition of Luchador!, but here in the second edition we get some lovely added depth in terms of the advanced rules. And although the term advanced is used, in reality these additions are equally simple to add to your game. What this brings is a little more contrast between wrestlers, so each now have their own unique strengths and weaknesses based upon their character that are triggered during a bout and the tumbling dice. It’s a very nice addition, and something that adds a surprising extra level of detail and thought to a typical match.
The bout itself is guided by the fall of the custom dice. These dice depict actions such as hits, blocks, and pin attempts. Then, each wrestler’s rolls are compared to see how the round plays out, damage is inflicted, counter moves are performed, and, in true Luchador style, flamboyant signature moves are attempted. These moves come via a special black Luchador dice that can be used when two hit dice are traded, but, they can also backfire and leave your wrestler stunned for a round. Some folk will undoubtedly be turned off by the idea that the journey the game takes from start to finish is determined by the luck of the roll, but I am someone who has zero problems with games opting for lucky rolls over strategic thinking. And if anything, in this instance it is a perfect fit for the theme, and the joy, tension and anguish built from the fall of some strikingly colourful dice is quite brilliant to behold.
Another personal high point comes from an area that might be a bit more of an acquired taste. It comes from the fact that although the box points to a game for two to six players, I actually found quite a lot of pleasure in playing it solo. It requires looking at the game as character vs character rather than player vs player, but with nine playable character choices and a couple of belts up for grabs, running a solo tournament was quite a lot of fun…or maybe I’m just bordering on the odd.
Finally, Luchador! is a game that holds appeal across generations. The bright colourful characters and components are sure to capture young imaginations, and the simplicity makes it a game suitable for the little in-between moments peppered throughout a typical games night. The learning curve is gentle, the play is slick, and the fun is real.
What’s Not So Good?
The biggest downside with the game in my opinion is in its overall draw to the table. Luchador! is a game you really have to in the right mood to play. And, with so much competition for time in the spotlight, it might be one that spends much of the year gathering dust and shelf wear, in-between the occasional appearance. I can only put this down to it being possibly slightly too shallow for its own good. Each match will produce a different result of course, but the route is largely going to be the same with every play.
Add to that, we also have a game that I believe is going to warrant only two or three matches before being popped back on the subs bench, so I think Luchador! is a game that will only make fleeting appearances on games nights, despite its undeniable quality.
The cardboard characters and ring will undoubtedly start to show signs of wear and tear after repeated plays, this goes with the territory unfortunately. Anyone familiar with the likes of King of Tokyo will know what lies ahead.
Elsewhere, the fact that the core of the mechanics is built upon the luck of the roll will be a definite downside for many potential players. I would of course urge them to cast aside any preconceived ideas and give it a whirl, but, some things are set in solid granite, and some players want depth, strategy and thoughtful play, and those are elements Luchador! simply cannot deliver.
Where’s The Appeal?
For myself the big draw is in the combination of simple ‘pick up and play’ rules, and the superb aesthetics evident in Luchador! The game can act as a brilliant little filler, is easy to teach, and demands little from its players beyond chucking a few dice and embracing the fun. The competition element is of a light, friendly variety, and the slight depth in terms of the character advanced rules means every match can see players adopting slight tactical nudges in different directions.
The fact a game can turn in the blink of an eye from defeat to glorious comeback knockout victory is another excellent element. We’ve all seen the soap opera of a wrestling match and the famous snatching of victories from the gnashing jaws of defeat, and Luchador! manages to replicate this very, very well. When it happens and you land on the good side, it’s a memorable moment worthy of a few fist pumps and mild opponent mockery.
Additionally, there is zero requirement to be a wrestling fan to enjoy this game. I haven’t watched a wrestling event in over thirty years, but I had a blast in the ring with Luchador!
One For The Kids?
Luchador! is a great game for younger players! The mix of simplicity and bold looks means everyone can be playing without assistance in no time, and will love the looks whilst doing so. I played this with my seven-year-old son and he was smitten by it immediately. The dice-based action is reminiscent of games such as King of Tokyo, and results in players of all ages competing from a level footing. This lack of advantage based upon age is another reason Luchador! is the sort of game that has a wide-reaching appeal. On top of all this the characters are brilliantly brought to life in glorious cartoon fashion, and its Mexican wrestling, a sport filled with colour and entertainment!
Luchador is a game that deserves to leap from the top rope and crash beautifully onto every player’s table at some point. It is the sort of fun-fuelled, extravagant, dice-chucker that does nothing by halves. The action is simple, colourful, and relentless right up to the point one of the brave warriors falls to defeat.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, not only in terms of theme, but also in the heavily luck-based mechanics, and it isn’t a game that I see ever dominating a gaming session. It isn’t the sort of game that will always have you keen to play either. But, it is a delicious filler with some serious clout whenever the urge to throw wrestling dice surfaces.
The theme is strong but requires no prior knowledge or love for the sport to deliver an entertaining gaming experience. The custom dice are absolutely brilliant too. There is a strategic element in choice of dice to play and the advanced rule additions, but such strategy is generally puddle deep. However, in a game that runs on pure fun, and frantic rolls, less is probably more.
All in all, Luchador’s biggest move comes not in the delivery of a spinning whirligig cobra kick (or something), but in the delivery of excitement, tension, and pure undiluted fun. Now, where are my cape and leggings?
Designer – Mark Rivera
Players – 2 to 6
Playtime – 20 minutes