Update: Townsfolk Tussle has launched on Kickstarter and the campaign will run for 29 days. You may pledge for a copy of the game or choose the extra option of seeing your name on a Eureka Springs tombstone.
In lieu of a preview, you can check my impressions of the TTS demo (published on October 7).
I had been so far reluctant to sit down and learn how to operate a digital board gaming platform, but the announcement of the Townsfolk Tussle demo on Tabletop Simulator prompted me to finally give it a try. By no means am I a wizard of the keyboard, rather the opposite. After some huffing and puffing I managed to play the game but had to take regular breaks, as TTS put my patience to the test. Everything required double time to handle, so e.g. a 15 minute fight took me half an hour. But anyway, let's discuss the game itself.
You will likely find Townsfolk Tussle very charming if you enjoy the looks of 1930s cartoons. I quite like Silly Symphony, and that's exactly the kind of atmosphere the creators of the game convey through the characters, items and terrain.
Everything is a little goofy and humorous, but also true to the theme: for example, if Henlo the hen gets knocked out for the first time, she activates the 'headless chicken' ability which restores her back to one health point. Or if you use the Old Belt as a weapon, you'd better hit the enemy with it, otherwise the belt will go around and hit you instead. Terrain pieces that you place on the board also have 'personality': you may get stuck inside the dense Cornfield and miss your turn. Or shoot the Foul Outhouse and damage everyone close to it with the nastiness that suddenly breaks free.
Learning the rules is a matter of minutes, as Townsfolk Tussle is very simple. It has the basic structure that one finds in many dungeon crawl/adventure games: you first equip your heroes, and draw an event card that gives you either a bonus or disadvantage. With the money you have, you buy things from the market and decide how to prepare for the upcoming fight. Characters may also try to complete 'feats' during the fight to gain extra money at the end of the round.
When you're ready, you set up the board according to the enemy you are going to face. Each enemy comes with a different terrain setup, and their fierceness depends on the current difficulty level. Once everyone takes up their position on the board, the fight begins. You roll a D-10 and deal damage according to the effectiveness of your weapon. Accuracy is the modifier here, so if it is low, it may prevent you from causing harm. When the enemy attacks, you draw a card from their deck and follow its instructions. Usually, the enemy moves towards a character and deducts health points or destroys terrain. When the enemy health deteriorates, they become enraged and take extra turns. You win the fight if you succeed in killing them. Then you receive loot, and proceed to the next market phase and new enemy.
Since die rolling and events are obviously random, your main focus will be how to best use terrain and move around the board. Still, luck may not let you execute your plans, as each terrain piece requires you to roll the die to interact with it. I didn't last long. The first villain (Samuel Strawman) was easy enough to defeat but the second (Qing & Kween) forced my heroes to discard their gear one by one until there was nothing left to hit the evil pair with. I didn't play very smartly, truth be told, but I blame it all on TTS fiddliness.
So, the question is, is this game worth backing? I'm in two minds. On the one hand, it is a feel-good game that you can easily set to the table and spend a pleasant evening with. No complexity, except for finding optimal positioning on the board. On the other hand, there is the cost. From what I have seen online, it will come in a big box (which is a negative for me), and I assume the price with minis will be around $100. Gameplay is nothing mind-blowing, so it all comes down to theme, aesthetics and overall fun factor. For me, it will be a choice only if I don't buy/back anything else this month. But I'm eager to see the Kickstarter campaign on the 20th of October.