Pummel Party is available on Steam. Joseph Pugh conducted this review.
Pummel Party was released in 2018, but I recently picked it up, and it surprised me. Pummel Party is a great deal like the classic Mario Party games, except bloodier. Players roll dice on a giant board game accumulating keys to spend on golden goblets.
Whoever has the most golden goblets by the end of the game wins. Additionally, different spaces on the board can have a variety of effects, and players can use items to screw each other over in a true friendship-ending fashion.
At the end of each round, players compete in a random minigame for keys, items and to dictate the next round’s turn order. Pummel Party can be played with up to 8 players and bots, locally and online. It also features a great deal of rule customization options to tweak the game to your liking.
Pummel or be Pummeled
A large portion of the game is focused on how badly you can screw over the competition. Anytime a player takes damage on the board, they drop some keys that can be picked up by the next player to come across them. Each player also has 30 hit points, and when they reach zero, they drop a ton of keys and are moved to a respawn point.
Every board also features hazard spaces that deal damage and blank spaces that can be claimed by players Monopoly-style. This allows them to extract keys or blood from other players who land on that space.
Items play a huge role in the game. Rockets will move you several spaces and impale anyone in front of you. A boxing glove is an instant kill, but you have to be right next to your victim. The powerful rail-gun can kill a player from across the map and the summing staff summons an evil bunny that patrols the map murdering everything in its path.
The turn order of each round is dictated by the positioning of the last minigame. Whoever came in first, go’s first. This can be exceptionally important when you need to use an item on someone, and it raises the stakes of victory beyond winning a few keys.
The item usage themselves is over the top and comical. A wrecking ball will send a player rag dolling through the air, and an exploding eggplant sends people flying. You can expect all sorts of laughter and rage from your friends throughout the game. It’s a ton of fun to Pummel your friends, especially when they are just a few spaces away from a goblet.
The item variety is nice and everything has strategic use. Using the right items at the right times can definitely help you win the game. Pummel Party also features a selection of varied maps, and each one has a different theme and some quirks.
A pirate map can trigger a blood tide when players step on certain spaces, dealing damage to anyone caught in it. The Halloween map features an NPC killer that stalks and murders players.
One map is even randomly generated for replay value. The map variety is great, they don’t possess the same depth as the games that inspired Pummel Party, but they do have their own style.
At the end of the game, some players are awarded additional goblets based on how they did. It could be for the least damage taken, most mini-games won, etc. This and pretty much every other aspect of the game can be tweaked to your liking. You can change the awards, the maximum or minimum dice rolls, and what items appear.
A game like Pummel Party lives and dies on the quality of its mini-games. I’m happy to report the selection is varied and fun. Each minigame is simple enough to pick up and play instantly, but mechanically sound enough to be fun.
Some are platforming challenges where you need to navigate a course and jump from platform to platform. Others are races, either from the third person or a top-down rally. You will dogfight in airplanes, count animals, and even play a rhythm game.
The sheer variety of gameplay styles is impressive and really important for a party game. Different players tend to be good at different types of mini-games, and having so many play differently helps keep one player from snowballing, victory after victory.
A couple feel random, but most are focused on the ability of each player. Just like the board game half of Pummel Party, the mini-games will have you and your friends dying of laughter and ready to murder each other in rage.
The quality of the mini-games can sit beside other titles similar titles on even ground, something I didn’t expect in a $15 indie game. Each round leaves you interested in what mini-game you will be playing. It can be a nail-biter in close games as you will certainly come to favor certain mini-games while your friends may favor other ones.
Most importantly, while you may have your favorites, each of them is fun in its own way.
If you lack enough friends to play, you can supplement the game with bots and set them to one of three difficulties. Anything below hard makes them a complete pushover, but hard is woefully inconsistent. They are terrible at some mini-games, and impossibly good at other ones. Either way, they always make brain-dead decisions on the board game map.
Pummel Party is a game best played with humans, but it still would have been nice if the AI was a little less binary. There are some mini-games I may as well put the controller down against them, and others I could take a nap and still win. There was rarely a middle ground.
The game’s balance also suffers from a bit of overinflation. Each minigame always grants you between 6 and 4 keys depending on your placement. The only thing you have to spend keys on are goblets, which is naturally a rare occurrence.
This means as the turns progress, each player keeps accumulating more and more keys with nothing to burn them on. When one dies, the next player picks them up and they remain in circulation. This can actually hurt the game, as you will often Pummel someone with an item and kill them, but the key loss was inconsequential and they can still afford a goblet.
The late-game basically consists of Tony Stark, Brue Wayne, and Bill Gates throwing keys at each other in a ritual for one-percenter dominance.
Randomness is a core tenet of these games and should be expected. But players are randomly given most items after a mini-game. They can also acquire some by landing on item spaces, which is pretty much random. Super-weapons can be acquired by hunting down a re-spawning space that grants them. Players don’t really have much agency when it comes to items. They can’t buy them, so it basically boils down to luck.
This can make some instances feel unfair, where a player gets a game-changing item at the exact right time. I also feel like the game would be even more strategic if you could influence the items you get more often.
Pummel Party is a solid board game battler with high-quality mini-games and hilarious items to abuse your friends with. Both its boards and games are varied, and it’s hilarious fun if your friendships can endure the treachery.
The AI is inconsistent, the game can feel too random at times, and it has a balance issue with everyone ending up rich as the game progresses. Yet it still retains its charm, and it didn’t bring down my drive to play.
Barring a few balance issues and poor bot AI, Pummel party is a fantastic game to play with friends, locally or online. The high-quality variety of mini-games and quirky boards will keep your party pummeling for a long time to come, and using the hilarious array of items on your pals never gets old. It is a steal at fifteen dollars.
You might also be interested in my reviews of other Party Games.
- Variety of boards with different themes and quirks
- A large variety of high-quality fun mini-games
- Items are hilarious to use on friends
- Highly customizable rule sets
- Local or online multiplayer
- Bots are incredibly inconsistent and a poor substitute for real players
- Players end up rich in the mid to late game regardless of how they played since keys are abundant
- Can feel a bit too random at times