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KA Plays! – Megapulse: Hyperdrive

Welcome, race fans, to the premiere of KA Plays! This series will focus on projects that offer a digital preview via Tabletop Simulator or Tabletopia so that we can dig deep into a project’s actual gameplay and help you pick the game that is right for you.

For this month’s article, I have roped my long-suffering friends Tony and Jeremy into assisting me in playing Megapulse: Hyperdrive, the 1 to 4 player game by first time designers Nicolas Fournier and Samuel E. Desjardins. In this cyberpunk racing game, players choose a unique racer, strap into 1 of 4 hovercars, slam on the gas and never let up. Oh, and your cars are also equipped with guns and bombs so you can destroy your opponents and any notion of friendship said opponents believed you shared.

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

This game does a great job of taking video games like F-Zero or Rock N’ Roll Racing and cleanly translating them for tabletop. All players start by picking both a vehicle and a driver. The vehicles are mostly aesthetic, but the drivers each come with unique abilities to help you during the game. There’s The Champion, adept at hugging the turns; The Expert, a genius at maneuvering; The Trickster and their grappling gun; and The Freak, whose only love is the smell of burning nitro. I also thought it best that we each pick cool F-Zero-style names. And because this is a game about speed, I gave us all just 10 seconds to do so. Say hello to Seargent Eagle the Champion, Ralphio the Trickster, and Susan Stiletto the Freak. I’ll let you decide who is who.

Once you have your racers, players can choose from a plethora of gameplay modes. They come in 2 basic categories, race and derby, and each category has a number of different modes that will keep this game fresh for a long time. We opted for a simple 2-lap race for the finish with 1 checkpoint. That’s important because in addition to the aforementioned guns and bombs that your hovercar starts with, you gain a new upgrade every time you pass a checkpoint or the finish line. There are also many, many track possibilities, but we opted for the example track found in the rulebook. At this point, the racers took their positions and left behind all thoughts of civility or fraternity.


I can already hear my car crunching into the walls. Image: Orion Games
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

Megapulse’s gameplay is pretty straightforward. Each player chooses 2 actions from a hand of 7 action cards and lays them face down. These actions range from increasing your speed, repairing, dropping bombs, firing weapons, or hitting your nitro. Once everyone has chosen their actions, reveal the actions and resolve them in player order. In addition to their cards, players then choose whether they want to use their current speed to drive forward or hit the brakes and repair their busted hovercar. It’s all very clear cut, but this simplicity belies the depth of strategy and thought baked into the design. Some cards have instant effects that are resolved immediately while others can completely change the player turn order, thereby changing the order in which actions resolve. All three of us found ourselves agonizing over our next move at one point or another.

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

Back to the racing, the green light flares and it’s go-time. Ralphio and Susan Stiletto jump forward hard and go skidding around the first turn, Stiletto upping her speed while Ralphio adds some nitro to the tank. The turns themselves are another diabolical addition, causing you to drift closer to the wall or other players and, consequently, hull-damaging collisions. Seargent Eagle makes this abundantly clear when he drifts into the rear of Stiletto’s car with an audible crunch that gets a cheer from the crowd.

Back to the racing, the green light flares and it’s go-time. Ralphio and Susan Stiletto jump forward hard and go skidding around the first turn, Stiletto upping her speed while Ralphio adds some nitro to the tank. The turns themselves are another diabolical addition, causing you to drift closer to the wall or other players and, consequently, hull-damaging collisions. Seargent Eagle makes this abundantly clear when he drifts into the rear of Stiletto’s car with an audible crunch that gets a cheer from the crowd.


Choose your weapon. Image: Orion Games
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

At the start of the next turn, Stiletto decides to lean into the Freak archetype by side-thrusting into both Seargent Eagle and Ralphio causing hull damage aplenty, including to herself as the side-thrust left her dragging and sparking along the wall. Seargent Eagle, proving why he’s The Champion, then uses his readied “Ultrafire” action to utterly destroy Stiletto’s ride. Ralphio tries to give the same treatment to Seargent Eagle by ramming him from behind but only succeeds in pushing him onto a repair pad on the track, healing 3 hull instead.

Now, being destroyed on turn 2 might seem devastating, but it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. Remember that “Repair” action I mentioned before? This lets a destroyed car repair all damage and rejoin the race. An extra life, if you will. So while getting destroyed costs you speed, you’re far from out.

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

Up ahead are a series of wicked turns, but Seargent Eagle, who is neck-and-neck with Ralphio, uses his racer ability to engage his mag-wheels. They grip the road and he navigates the turns like a champ, leaving the other two in the dust and picking up a “Dynahub” upgrade in the process.

Desperate to regain the lead, Ralphio uses the “Cyber Grid” action card to take the 1st player spot, and uses his Trickster ability to fire a grappling hook into the side of Eagle’s car as he speeds past. Eagle burns ahead of Ralphio again, but Ralphio’s grappling cable goes taut and pulls him along to minimize Eagle’s lead. But what’s this?!? It looks like Seargent Eagle has a trick of his own! As Ralphio is pulled around the turn he drifts into the wall, causing 2 damage and destroying him in the process. Meanwhile a fully repaired Susan Stiletto decides to freak out and dump all of her nitro, careening ahead and picking up an upgrade as well. Eschewing the more sensible “Nexus Repair”, she instead plays to her strengths and opts for the “Protospikes” in the hopes of ramming them into the other racers.


Let’s see. How can I make my high-velocity death machine even more deadly? Image: Orion Game Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

The action continues as both Ralphio and Stiletto trim down the lead between them and Seargent Eagle. Ralphio’s bag of tricks is far from empty, and he unleashes his “CryptoStorm” upgrade to force Eagle to play 2 randomly chosen actions. He then pushes the engine for everything it’s got and jumps into the lead. Meanwhile, Stiletto continues to laugh maniacally, dumping nitro the whole time and catching up to the pack. But Eagle recovers like a champ, muscling Ralphio out of the way without even flinching at the 2 hull damage he sustains in the process. Adding insult to injury, Eagle drops a super bomb in 2 of the lanes directly in front of the finish line. It’s the final lap now. Will this decision ensure his victory or snatch it from his grasp?

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

In the next turn, Ealge again uses his mag-wheels to hug the turns, and a combination of boost and repair pads put him in the lead with all of his hull intact. Ralphio does his best to keep up but hasn’t managed to push his hovercar to full speed and so begins to lag behind. Stiletto opts for a different tactic, eschewing an increase in speed for a guns-blazing approach. She damages both opponents but will need to do more than that if she wants to win.

At this point, it’s honestly Seargent Eagle’s game to lose. The final straightaway is just up ahead, but that super bomb in front of the finish line is looming large and Ralphio and Stiletto are locked-and-loaded. But you don’t become The Champion for nothing, and Eagle has this all sewn up. He uses “Cyber Grid” to maintain his 1st player position and easily dodges the bomb with”Sidethrust”. Ralphio and Stiletto both fire anyway, more as a symbol of defiance than anything else. Ralphio takes 2 hull damage from Susan Stiletto, both from a direct shot and a bomb detonated by her guns, but still manages to limp across the finish line to secure 2nd place. Stiletto has to settle for 3rd and immediately begins plotting more uses for nitro in the rematch.


Bright colors give a boost to an already pulse-pounding game. Image: Orion Games Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

And there you have it. The game was a blast and all involved were excited to play again. But even more than the gameplay, at the end we couldn’t help but go on and on about the look of the game. Quite frankly, it’s gorgeous. Taking big cues from the Wachowski sister’s Speed Racer and Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road, this game is bright, colorful, and crisp. While we were all a little intimidated by the number of symbols on the cards, it wasn’t long before I was looking to those instead of the card explanations in the text. And there are so many carefully thought-out and interconnected component design elements that elevate the product as a whole, especially the dashboards. For starters, the hovercar and racer dashboards fit together beautifully. But my absolute favorite element is the damage tracker. As your hovercar takes damage, you remove the hull tokens from a picture of your vehicle to reveal the damage underneath. It’s such a small thing but was clearly purposeful and provided more fun, imaginative elements to the experience.


An actual shot from Tabletop Simulator of the Equinox sustaining a double hit. Image: Orion Games Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners

And this race was just the tip of the iceberg with Megapulse. I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy, and the Oct. 26 Kickstarter launch seems like a very long way away. But if you can’t wait sacrifice your personal relationships on the altar of speed, Megapulse is currently available for free on Tabletop Simulator and you can follow the game’s development either at Orion Games or the Megapulse Facebook page. Until next time!

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