Dale Yu: Review of Challengers! Beach Cup

Challengers! Beach Cup

  • Designers: Johannes Krenner and Markus Slawitscheck
  • Publisher: Pretzel Games
  • Players: 1-8 (well, maybe 1-16!)
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Played with copy provided by publisher

Challengers! Was one of my favorite games of 2022. Challengers! Beach Cup is a followup, standalone expansion to this game which keeps most of the rules and feel of the original while adding a couple of things to spice it up.

We previously reviewed the original game here: https://opinionatedgamers.com/2022/12/15/simon-weinberg-review-of-challengers/

If you are unfamiliar with Challengers!, please read the above review and familiarize yourself with the game and how it works.  

The basic game in Beach Cup works pretty much the same, except that the City deck is replaced with a new Rainbow deck.  You still use 5 out of the 6 other decks included in the game.   The game does get off to a little bit of a quicker start as you now add 3 level A cards in the first round.  The other obvious change is that the Dog card in the starting deck is made a little bit stronger as it now gets the ability to scry; that is to look at the top card of the deck and decide to keep it there or put it on the bottom of the deck.  The rest of the game plays the same with each player following their specific dance card to play different people (or the robot) over 7 rounds.  The highest two scores play each other in the grand finale to determine the final winner.

Let me use the rest of the review to answer some questions about the game:

Do I need the original Challengers?  No! This game is completely standalone, and is a fully contained 1-8 player game.

Can I play with the original Challengers?  Yes!  You could choose make a game that uses either of the two base decks (City or Rainbow) and then any 5 of the 12 other decks in the game. 

Are there a lot of changes?  Not really in the base game – in my initial plays, here’s what I have found:

  • The Dog card in the starter decks are stronger with the Scry ability added.  (You do get replacement cards to put into the starter decks of your Challengers! set)

  • The card drafting rules are slightly different.  You now get 3 A cards in the first round.  There are also two rounds where you get a bonus 2 Fans if you choose the 2 lower cards as opposed to one higher card.
  • There is a new card ability called “No Flag Win” that triggers if a card is played and doesn’t cause you to win the Flag back
  • It feels like more cards refer to the number of fan tokens you have collected (which also works together with the option to draft cards and take fans)
  • The new starting deck has a Rainbow icon.  Interestingly, all of these cards are said to have all the set icons on them; this gives you a much higher chance of finding interesting combos and interactions between your cards.

But, there is a new module?  Yes! And the Trainers expansion can definitely add a twist to the game. There are 16 different trainer cards, each with its own special ability – some are once per round effects and some are ongoing alterations to the rules.  You get dealt 2-3 Trainers and you get to choose one at the start of the game, and your choice stays in effect for the whole game. As each player now has a unique ability, each will have some different strategies to try to implement and take advantage of.

Can I still play this solo?  Sure. It appears to work the same as far as I can tell.

Do I want to have the original Challengers?  Yes!  First, it’s a great game.  Second, if you have two boxes, you can play a mega tournament with up to 16 players!  Essentially play at two tables, each with its own setup, and then after the 7 matches, 1A plays 2B, and 1B plays 2A in the semifinals, and each of the winners then plays in the grand finale.  Also, you may just like having the added variety of being able to choose from 12 different factions in your game.

My thoughts on the game

Well, as I said at the top, Challengers! Was one of my favorite games of 2022, and man, I’m a big fan of the new version.  The changes are small, but they do help make the game a bit more dynamic.  Adding an additional card to the first draw is a small but significant change as it gives each player a larger chance to develop some card affinities and combos right off the bat.  The new action added to the Dog card also gives every player a bit of agency in how the Duel phase goes, even from the first round.

Though I never agreed with the complaint of some that the game “played itself” – as I feel like there is a lot of player input in the shaping of the deck in what cards you choose to add; it was possible to construct a deck where the player never really had any choices once the Duel started.  Now, the Dog in the starting deck gives every player a card with a meaningful choice (though of course, you can always choose to discard it after the first draw and never play with it).

If you choose to play with the Trainers, it also gives players a bit more decision points in the game, especially if you get a power that must be actively triggered each duel.  As there are 16 different Trainers, it will take awhile for you to play with them all, and from my limited experience with them, they definitely force you to play the game a bit differently in order to maximize the effect of your unique Trainer ability. 

The variety included in the new factions is also really great, and they work both within this box as well as with the six factions from the original.  The new base faction (Rainbow) also gives you plenty of interesting options as all of these cards are considered to have every icon in the game, and this makes every card in the game that refers to a set icon that much stronger.

And while I’ve yet to experience it – the Giga tournament that can sit up to 16 players is just an awesome idea.  The fact that this game generally takes the same amount of time regardless of player count is one of my favorite features of the game; and this is now an immediate convention mega-game for me to try to get on the table.

In some ways, it is more of the same, but the little changes ripple into a more dynamic game, and one I prefer over the original. Don’t get me wrong, both are part of my permanent game collection, but if I had to choose one, I’d take Beach Cup for sure.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

I am highly addicted to all-things Challengers and this game is simply fantastic! – Steph Hodge

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale, Steph H 
  • I like it. John P, Ryan P
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2023, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Challengers! Beach Cup

  1. Great write up, Dale! I’m definitely getting a copy when available – love the idea of more variety, the tweak to the first round and like Steph says, more Challengers!

    We ran a 24 person mega tourney at Southern Board Game Fest on Oct using three copies of the base game, and some called it the highlight of their con! I’m going to start adding the new round one rule ASAP!

  2. Challenged says:

    It baffles me that they released the “base” that won the Kennerspiel and just a few weeks later they come up with a, from the review, slightly better version….or a different version to put it simple.
    I don’t see many people buy both so they are basically putting the two games against each other.
    I was really confused when i saw this one.

    • There was a whole year, between publishing Challengers! and Challengers: Beachcup!

      ( The game of the year awards time frames are basically, that they award mostly for the previous year. As they need time to test all of them etc. )

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