Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Legend of Korra is a hugely popular animated series that follows up the even more popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Both series are set in a world were certain people born to one of the 4 nations: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water, can Bend, or control, their element. In the time of Avatar Korra, Pro-Bending has become a popular sport. Teams are formed from a Water Bender, Earth Bender, and Fire Bender and must control a platform raised over water. Common paths towards victory are knocking the other team back and off the platform, or advancing into the other team’s side of the platform.
Last year IDW Games Kickstarted The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena in an awesome campaign that not only raised over $250,000 but kept fans and backers engaged with new content released almost daily. In the end, we got the base game containing the Future Industries Fire Ferrets and the White Falls Wolfbats, an expansion that adds a new game mode and the villain, Amon, from Season 1 of the show, and tons of extra miniatures of extra teams and other signature characters from the show.
The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena Review starts with each player setting up their base deck of Technique Cards, 3 decks of Advanced Technique Cards (1 for each Bender), their Team Card, and setting their Chi token to either 2 or 3 depending on whether they’re going 1st or 2nd. The base deck of Technique Cards is placed next to the Team Card and 1 card from each deck of Advanced Technique Cards is flipped up for later purchase. If playing with Trick Cards these are placed in the sections set aside at the bottom of the Team Card. Each player then draws 3 Technique Card from their draw deck and play can begin.
Each turn is broken down into 4 phases:
- Keep Focused! – Advance your Chi marker one space.
- Play Hard! – Play each Technique Card in your hand, in any order, as an action or for 1 Chi.
- Check Hits! – If any of your Benders occupy a space with any of the opponent’s Elemental Tokens that Bender is knocked back. All opponent’s Elemental Tokens are then removed from the board. If the foremost row of your side of the board is empty your opponent may advance their team to that row and you may take another turn.
- Stay Sharp! – Purchase face-up Advanced Technique Cards with Chi, placing them on top of the draw deck. Flip over a new Advanced Technique Card from each pile. Draw a new hand of 3 cards.
The bulk of the game is played out in the Play Hard! phase. Here Technique Cards are played to move your Benders and use their Bending skill. Actions are taken in order from top-to-bottom, and every action listed on a Technique Card must be played. Movement allows you to move a Bender left or right in their current row, while Bending allows a Bender to place a set number Elemental Tokens on the board up to the listed number of spaces away. Bending may also list a special effect such as Hold or Daze which will either reduce an opponent Bender’s movement or cause them to lose the first action off their next Technique Card played.
Actions Cards may also have a Yellow Flag on them which indicates actions that are not quite legal in official play. The Referee Die must be rolled in this case and whichever Bender took the action will get a penalty if a Yellow Flag is rolled. 2 penalties and a player is ejected from the game. If playing with Trick Cards they may be activated when a like-Element Technique Card is played. These cards allow for additional actions, but are usually 1-use-only, or run the risk of penalties in the same way that Technique Cards with Yellow Flags as described above.
The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena wouldn’t be Pro-Bending if there weren’t clashes of elemental power. When Bending player can either place Elemental Tokens on the board or cancel out tokens that are already on the board. Canceling out tokens is a great way to make sure your own Benders stay protected by either pro-actively surrounded them with your own tokens or removing the opponent’s tokens from their space.
Play continues until all the players of a team have been either knocked off the board or removed from penalties or if the game is called by the ref. This may happen when all the piles of Advanced Technique Cards have been flipped. Once this happens the Referee Die is rolled and the game ends if it lands on a yellow flag. At this point, whichever player has the most Benders on the board, or if a team has advanced into the other team’s territory, wins.
Overall the production quality of The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena is top notch. All the paper/cardboard components are durable and easy to handle. The single die is quality and etched instead of screened or painted. The miniatures look amazing, with only a few seams here and there on a few where additions were added on to a base mold. This by no means detracts from their look or function and can easily be filled in by a painter with some moderate skill.
My main complaint is with the Technique Cards. The basic techniques have a slight grey border inside the card’s black border to indicate they’re part of the basic deck and not one of the Advanced Technique stacks. Cards with very few actions also have a lot of empty space, though I can’t see any way around that as some cards need to utilize the full card height to accommodate the number of actions they hold.
I always worry about licensed games that are based on a property I really enjoy. Throughout the Kickstarter campaign, and after my interview the game’s designers, my hopes kept rising that The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena would be a good game. I have to say I was not disappointed. Even though the base game only comes with 2 teams there’s enough variety in the way you can construct your deck to give each match a bit more customizability. The actual gameplay is fast-paced with each player having to balance their offense and defense in a grand tug-of-war style match.
Every turn is filled with choices about whether to press your attack, protect your Benders, avoiding penalties, and saving/using your Chi to purchase the best Advanced Techniques available to you throughout the game. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Pro-Bending sequences in The Legend of Korra show, but the game captures to feel of the sport so well and much more of a blast to play than watch. I’m eager to get my hands on more teams for even greater flexibility and custom team formations.
A copy of The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena was provided free for review by IDW Games.
“I really enjoyed this game😁. I thought it represented the Pro-Bending from the TV show perfectly! I like how the miniatures get their own colored stands so that you can easily tell which Bender is which. I also love to look at the fantastic sculpts of the miniatures and the precise facial details of all of them. I also enjoyed how it had a little bit of deck-building (I love deck-building games.) The Legend of Korra Pro-Bending Arena is so easy to enjoy, you can enjoy it even if you lose every time (I know, this happened to me.) I would give this game a 10/10. This is one of the best games I have seen in a long time.”
– “A” is a 12-year-old gamer who enjoyes most types of games, especially deck-builders, and puts up with his dad’s constant urging to learn new games.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.