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Challengers! Beach Cup Game Review

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Justin asks the age-old question: how much Challengers! is too much Challengers!? Join him for his review of the second game in the series, Challengers! Beach Cup!

More really is more. Like, a LOT more.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Challengers! Beach Cup (2023, 1 More Time Games) is not a sequel to 2022’s Challengers!, a game that for many people was the best party game they played two years ago. The game was nominated for a number of awards, and won the As D’or award (the “Initiated” category) in 2023 from the French games convention Festival International des Jeux.

Challengers! Beach Cup is a standaquel, or a sequalone, or an expandalone, depending on your point of view—a standalone sequel to the original game, which requires none of the components from the core game and is played almost identically to the first game.

As such, I’m not covering much about the rules here…for that, please take a look at my previous review of the base game. I’m here to tell you which version of the game you should own, although if you happen to have lots of 16-player game nights, you should just go ahead and pick up both games!!

Here’s What’s New

The first change is a minor one, but I absolutely love it. Between rounds, there are sometimes choices to pick new cards from a lower-powered deck or a deck one level higher…but in Challengers! Beach Cup, you now get two points (still known as Fans) if you take the lower-powered cards.

I love this acknowledgement. The B cards aren’t necessarily worse, but they are not as strong as C cards. To make up for this difference, I will score some points right now. Combined with the fact that some cards in Challengers! Beach Cup are powered by your personal supply of Fans (or definitely more than I remember seeing in the first game), this could be a situational advantage for a player with cards that lean into scored Fans. Again, this seemed minor at first, but a few plays in, and players are really loving the choice.

There are seven decks included in Challengers! Beach Cup (a game I am tempted to just call Challengers! 2, but that would be too easy) and none of the people who joined me for review plays noticed major differences between these new decks and the decks from the base game, save for the new art and slightly different powers.

The one deck I will call out here, though, is a wild deck known as the Rainbow Deck. The icons in the Rainbow Deck “match” all other decks, huge for the decks that require certain cards of the same time to be in the play area, on the Bench, etc. Some of the powers on the A and B Rainbow Deck cards are fantastic.

One thing about both Challengers! games remains: it pays to have multiple copies of the same card in your deck, because when cards are eventually defeated and moved to the Bench, identical cards sit on the same Bench slots. This is almost always the reason a player wins or loses a match. During my plays of the new game, we noticed that players almost never lost a round after the first by going through their entire deck. (That might be an issue with my groups, mainly because they like to hoard those good cards from earlier rounds. Still, the crowd on the Bench always seems to foul things up.)

But we didn’t notice much in the way of deck powers that were especially over- or underpowered. All the cards are situationally great, which means they can be situationally terrible too. In a game that has correctly been labeled “War for Gamers” (based on the card game War, where all you do during a match is deal cards from the top of your personal deck one-by-one), this is all I ask and this leads to the kind of party that works as a long filler with my gamer friends.

The one thing that is new-new with Challengers! Beach Cup is Trainers. Each Trainer gives a player an ongoing power that helps further differentiate opponents.

My main complaint with Trainers surfaces in every round: you’ll need to remind your opponent before, and usually during, each match of your Trainer’s potential power. This slows the game down a tick. And while it’s not a gamebreaker it did have our group wondering if the inclusion of Trainers was really going to be worth it over the long haul.

But the Trainer powers? Some of them are really cool. One power turns all base power 2 cards into base power 3 cards on the attack; another power can be flipped once per battle to select any card from the deck to be placed on top of the deck, to whip out on the next turn. The powers aren’t anything wild, but each one saved the bacon of players in my group a handful of times each game.

When combined with different deck powers, Trainers really amp up play, but I think they are best suited for use with your tabletop hobbyists that need to spice up a game of Challengers!.

Should You Buy It?

Challengers! is a fantastic party game and it still works for both gamers and more casual players in my circles. If I had to pick, I would only own one of these two games, and that would be Beach Cup. The Trainers add some legs to the product, the Rainbow Deck is a solid addition, and I never have 16 people at a time playing games during my game nights. (That might change at a convention.)

Challengers! is a game I still believe is a game of skill, because it feels like some players win it more often than others. But because it is so accessible, even my nine-year-old daughter has been in the running each time we’ve played, and the deck-building aspect of the game is still an enjoyable puzzle even if I feel like I’m getting hosed on the card draw.

One thing is true across both games: I don’t like playing Challengers! with fewer than four players. There’s still solo play in Challengers! Beach Cup, and the two-player variant simply means I’m playing against the same player seven straight times with no end-of-game championship round. The positive here is that I’m building a deck to directly combat your deck, which I guess feels interesting.

But I didn’t even set up a two-player review play for Challengers! Beach Cup because I know I prefer the larger-player tournaments. For my review plays of Challengers! Beach Cup, I did a three-player game and two separate 6-player games. Six might be my new sweet spot, but I love that this accommodates such a wide player count so well.

The Challengers! system is still a winner. I don’t think I would need more decks at this stage …which means there is probably another sequel already inbound!

  • Excellent - Always want to play.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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