Galatune Review: Smash Brother’s Bizarre Adventure

Overview

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Imagine a game where you take the insanity from a swath of anime and pile it into a fast-paced competitive card game. That’s Galatune and the equivalent exchange is the sweet tears of your gaming group. Galatune is deceptively simple, but beneath the surface is a friendship-destroying game of take that, backstabbing, and table politics.

It’s as if Smash Brothers and Mario Party had a board game baby. That baby emerged from the womb holding an oversized sword in one hand, while flipping off the doctor with the other.

A full spread of Galatune's components

Each player in Galatune controls one of 14 characters to battle it out in a free for all. Players that are defeated jump right back into the game with the same or different character. Anyone who inflicted damage on the killing blow wins a victory point. Victory Points are very much like Smash Brothers, where the first player to reach a set number of knockouts wins. That number can be as high, or low as you want it to be.

Components

Four character cards, A lizardfolk named Ontana Sol. A vampiric woman holding a scythe, Merendie Sail Bloom A man with Angel wings named King. A suit of armor named World Judge.

Galatune doesn’t feature a ton of different components but everything that’s there is pretty nice to look at. The compact rulebook has a nice flowchart on the back for how elements and alignments interact. Galatune is easy to learn, so the rule book is small. But I would have liked to have seen rulings for some of the edge cases that can come up.

The 14 characters all look fantastic as if they were pulled right out of popular anime. They are double-sided, one with a full portrait and the other for all the character’s gameplay statistics.

The portrait side is holographic which, I actually find a bit irritating. It serves no gameplay purposes and is somewhat distracting. It’s not like Galatune is a TCG where the cards have individual value. If it were, I wouldn’t be playing or reviewing it. Those days are behind me.

The other 88 cards make up the most of what you will be playing with, and the artwork is equally great. Each card has its own distinct personality that makes them readily identifiable, that’s important due to how Galatune plays.

A hand of Galatune's action cards

You also get a set of health and victory point markers which are nifty little plastic gems that feel nice to mess with. Galatune feels a bit empty for $30, but only just. The cards are unusually sized. They are closer to that of tarot cards than standard game cards. I would have traded that and the holographics for a few more cards and possibly a paper version of their print and play mat.

The playmat is by no means required but has a great table presence and helps you sort out your HP markers. I do recommend the print and play mat if you don’t opt for the gorgeous inversion or pride mats.

Gungraves And Deathnotes

Galatune is not a balanced game, but it doesn’t try to be. Every player gets stuck with hands of wimpy and overpowered cards, and that’s the point. Every round is like an episode of Dragon Ball Z. The people fighting continually pull new absurd powers out of thin air in attempts to one-up each other.

Some cards like the Grand Reaper instantly knock out another player. It’s a card coveted by every player in my group. However, if another player were to drop Peace at the same time, the players dream of being a One Punch Man, becomes a Fairy Tale.

Galatune cards, Deaths Wager, Ultimate Darkness, Theft and Grand Reaper.

The trick is, there are no turns. Each round everyone secretly picks a card to play, and on the count of three they throw the card down on the character they are playing it on. Cards range from attacks, defensive shields, curative healing, and a wide variety of other effects.

There’s nothing stopping you from shielding or healing another player. The player with the most VP wins, so sometimes it can be in your best interest to do so. Informal alliances pop up all game, but only one can win. You never truly know who is going to backstab who and when. It certainly makes sense to go Attack on Titan against a winning player, but only to a certain point.

The Peace card in Galatune

Every turn is filled with laughs, groans and, friendly jabs as the cards interact and subvert the table’s expectations about what was going to happen.

If you have ever played Yugioh, you will understand the satisfaction of those precious moments where an opponent stumbles right into your trap card. That is what Galatune feels like every turn. In fact, trap cards are a thing in Galatune and can be played after everyone has thrown down their card choices.

Galatune trap cards. Bloodfeast, entanglement, EMP and Expose weakness.

If someone plays Ultimate Darkness, well, you can say Goodbye Mr. Despair by trapping it with Purify, but surprise! They play Disarm in response to trap your trap.

If a character is defeated, every player that dealt damage to the character earns a victory point. Some players will get pretty clever by poking a character while another player lands the killing blow. You can crush their Fighting Spirit simply by dropping Jealousy and taking all the victory points for yourself. Then have fun watching them go Berserk. Jealousy steals all the won victory points from the round as long as it wouldn’t cause you to win and end the game.

Galatune is an unpredictable bonkers mess but in a hilariously fun way. It manages to capture the general feel of a party game while giving people a bit more to chew on than a party game would. You may be at the whims of chaos, but there’s plenty of strategy between both the cards in your hand and the mind games you play at the table.

When cards are dealt, they are dealt face up. So, everyone is aware of the tools that the other players have. If you have a good memory, you can use that to your advantage.

The lucky day card in Galatune

More importantly, you don’t actually get new cards once your hand is dealt. You only get more if you get knocked out, or you defeat someone else. In the latter case, you get to poach five of their cards and put them into your hand, even if the cards in question had been used and discarded.

If someone played Lucky Day, netting them a free Victory Point, everyone at the table knows they can claim that card by defeating that player. However, if more than one player lands the killing blow, the one who dealt the most damage gets the first pick of the loot!

The whole system really should fall apart, but it comes together as a spectacularly fun game that certainly rewards strategy and tactics, but should never be taken seriously.

I Choose You Inuyasha!

Every player’s hand is drawn from the same deck called the source. But every player also has a unique character that dictates their health and starting hand size. Each one also has powers that can be equally as powerful as cards. Some are passive, while others can be activated in place of playing a card.

For example, my favorite is Lux. His starting hand is a measly 6, but Lux has the power to use cards in his discard. There’s nothing like playing the Grand Reaper twice, and the ability has the added benefit of destroying the card so no one else can steal it!

Abilities are only One Piece of the puzzle that adds additional strategy and chaos to the mix. Most cards and characters have elements and alignments. Characters are immune to damage from their own alignment and elements but take double from one they are weak to.

The elemental chart on the back of Galatune's rulebook

The back of the rule book features a nice digestible flow chart for elements and alignments. It’s simple to understand but has a large effect on the game and your strategy. The real kicker is, when you are defeated you may keep your character and the remaining cards that weren’t stolen, draw a new hand, or swap characters altogether.

Victory Points are linked to the player, not the character. So that leaves you a lot of room to adapt to bad situations. Since you’re aware of what cards the other players have, you could switch to a type that is immune to most of their attack cards.

If someone has a bunch of pesky traps, you could swap to Viz who is immune to them. Merendie Sailbloom directly counters my boy Lux with her dual aspect attack Nocturne, since he is weak to both dark and war. If I choose Lux, I can expect to see her after I knock someone out.

Galatune manages to do a whole lot with very little in the way of rules. The game can be understood in under a minute, but there’s honestly a whole lot beneath the surface to dig into. Every game is full of laughter, alliances, betrayals, and epic counterplays.

Many times it will appear as if there is clearly a Golden Boy winner. Only for the underdog to come out of nowhere, and Bleach those preconceived notions. It’s not a game you can reliably win, thanks to the unpredictable pure chaos of it all. But it’s not all luck either. It’s the only thing about Galatune that strikes a careful balance.

Galatune Cards, Hero Blade, Purify, Sacred Sabre and Sanctuary.

Galatune doesn’t want to be balanced. It wants players to counter Spirit Bombs with Erupting Burning Fingers. It relishes in pitting Sailor Moons against Full Metal Alchemists in a way that’s easy to understand and fun. This is true whether you’re a fan of anime or not.

It’s not without a few hiccups of its own, however. Poaching cards from other players is undeniably core to the game and is a lot of fun. But it can cause the game to grind to a halt if the looting player has any kind of analysis paralysis. The nature of the game also grants a massive advantage to those familiar with the cards against those who don’t. Care must be taken when teaching the game to new players.

I appreciate the random and broken nature of the cards, but the lack of consistency can be weird at times. There isn’t an equal number of attack cards spread throughout the elements. That’s awkward and can deeply affect the viability of some characters. Dark cards seem to be the most potent, but also have the most counters, so most of my games have leaned dark to some degree.

The Light Arrow card is strange as it can’t be played during a full moon. It was hilarious to watch my friend jump up from the table and run outside to see if I was allowed to hit him with it. But it’s the only card with that kind of meta effect.

The balance of its imbalance kind of falls apart at lower player counts as well. It works great at four and I can imagine a fifth player only adds to the chaotic joy. At three players, the balance really begins to tilt the scales from hilariously broken, to frustratingly busted.

I got hamstrung in two different three-player games with Fate Bound linking me to another player so that we couldn’t harm each other unless he died. In both cases, he had such an upper hand on the third player that my support only delayed the inevitable. There was nothing I could do because the third player couldn’t take him down and break the bond.

The light arrow card in Galatune

At 2 players Galatune trades all the joy from the unpredictable negotiations and mind games for a poor dueling game. Some cards are nearly unusable in a two-player game while others are extremely dominant. It’s also possible to stall out where you and your single foe are left with nothing to do but throw your character’s special attack at each other until one of them falls.

Two-player games can also devolve into chasing each other’s tails as each player swaps to the opposing player’s counter after every death. It’s pretty much an automatic choice since there is no other player on the field that can exploit your weakness if you focus on a single target.

Lower player counts just sour the heart of the cards, and everything that Galatune is going for. There can be fun back and forth moments, but frustration is just as common and reminds you that you’re playing a Ghost In The Shell.

Verdict

I wish that some aspects were more consistent, and the game flops at lower player counts. Yet, Galatune remains incredibly fun despite a few design hiccups

Galatune manages to cage the feel of a video game like Super Smash Brothers and meld it into a party game for people that don’t play party games. It has all the strengths of a party game without any of the weaknesses, and that’s honestly kind of brilliant.

The back side of Ontana, Meredie, King and World Judge.

I would heavily criticize the overpowered cards in any other game, but Galatune stick by the saying “If everything is overpowered, nothing is”, and it really works. The back and forth nature of cards countering each other, elemental weaknesses, and traps feel awesome, and add real weight to player negotiations and informal alliances.

Galatune is a fascinating meld of ideas that shouldn’t work at all but somehow do. Now and Then, Here and There, its strings may pluck a sour tune. But it’s still going to be a Kaleido Star at the right table.

My Perspective

The funny thing is, I don’t play party games. If I had thought for a moment that Galatune was one, I would have denied the review copy. I personally feel that party games rely on invoking the people around the table into having a good time from each other. As opposed to the game itself.

Galatune manages to do both which, makes it a particularly unique experience that I enjoyed a lot. My group and I love messing with each other and foiling everyone’s plans. They get a kick out of teaming up on someone or screwing them over because of things that happened the game before, and no one gets mad because Galatune isn’t a serious game. It just has a few mechanics of one.

However, since Galatune plays poorly at two players, its use is limited to me. My group gets together once a week and Galatune has to compete with every other game on my shelf for the table. That’s why I prefer games that play well with my partner, or solo. I really enjoy Galatune, but it has far more value if you can play it at 4 to 5 players regularly and I highly recommend it if you do.

A review copy of Galatune was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for review purposes.