Fights in Tight Spaces is a brilliant concept, well executed. Using deck-builder mechanics to move and attack in a limited space works really well. Enemies display what moves they’ll make on their turn, making each turn a little puzzle of how best to maneuver yourself and your enemies to avoid getting hurt and maximize the damage they do to each other. A bit of variety in enemies and objectives keeps this fresh, with enemies that move when you do or attack off turn or push you into other spaces or counter attack when struck and so on.
As a representation of a Combat in Confined Capacities, it visually illustrates how each move is going to affect everything else. It allows you to dodge or subvert attacks by careful use of your cards and surroundings. Controlling the combat space is a big part of the game. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a player isn’t to attack, but to simply get out of the way and let the enemies smack into each other, occasionally giving them a little nudge, doing the work for you. The game is randomized, but rarely if ever feels unfair. You get a decent selection of cards in each Deck, and Deck draft allows you to select from 3 each time, so you can still somewhat tailor your deck to what effect you’re going after. A block heavy deck is going to depend a lot on counters. a grappling deck is about controlling positioning. And sometimes you just want brute strength and pummeling power.
The execution is good but not great. The game could have used some more time in early access, it’s got consistently better throughout the EA period but some basic things feels in complete. The balance in the cards is a little wonky and you’ll often encounter cards that are extremely strong or extremely weak, making the usable card pool much smaller than it has to be. You’ll also find some of the best cards in the game in the starting decks and some of the worst only offered as rewards for clearing tough late game levels. The result is that the feeling of progression as you build up your deck isn’t what it could be and there’s a sense of missed opportunities with every card is not quite viable and that could’ve been the basis of an interesting deck with a few tweaks. There are a lot of small quality of life issues or little relics from the EA process like objectives tailored to a deck that’s no longer the games sole deck that were never pruned or expanded. A few months spent balancing and tidying up without adding new features could’ve made this my game of the year.
Still, the reason that the missed opportunities hurt is because the core gameplay loop is just so dang good. There’s a lot to enjoy about this game as it stands and among the viable cards you’ll still find plenty of different ways to play. I’d expect anyone who likes deck-builders or small scale turn based strategy will have a blast with this, I heartily recommend it to anyone into either genre (and suggest it’s a good way to try them if you’re not!). The overall impression is something like a cross between Slay the Spire and Into the Breach, carrying forward some of the best qualities of both games.