There are many thing in a design that make a board game the best experience of your life. Whether it be the theme, the mechanisms, the ambiance generated at the table or just the nice artwork. This is one of those games that hits everything for me and has me so excited. Not only as I have close contact with the company and worked in part with them.
I remember having the same sensation when their first game came out and was disappointing, like so many other backers with the final product. But Monolith have shown me and assured me the corrections they are making with this game also to their previous titles. But lets talk about the game at hand.
What is this game...
Batman: Gotham City Chronicles is the latest game coming from Monolith Editions on February 27th 2018. Again, a Kickstarter only project, to remove the middle men who would otherwise bump up the price in retail. As what happened with Conan.
In the game, players will be playing as a team of Gotham's Heroes against one other player, who will be playing as a major Villain, trying to enact a dastardly plan. These plans come directly from the comic books that the game is based on. So there will be no Bat-nipples or even Bat-shark repellent.
Game play plays out like most games of this ilk, heroes preform their actions, villain preforms theirs. But the dynamics of the game are vastly different. Instead of having the rudimentary two actions, normally a move and attack, there are more choices. This is in part due to the "THS" (tactical homeostatic system) that adds an organic feel to the game. As each Hero has an allocated amount of energy that they can spend to preform actions. Energy management is important. If you have no energy, you can not preform actions. Therefore leaving you with a conundrum of "do I plough my way through" or "measure out my actions" or "rest and recover more energy for the next rounds."
Each action can be allocated as much energy as you wish, up to the level cap. For example, you could spend one energy to punch an adverser, giving you one dice of the coloured dice aliened with you character. The different coloured dice represent the force of that action. If you are good at melee attacks, it will be a red die with lots of success marked on it. But if your die is yellow, it is weaker and therefore you may want to use two or maybe three energy in this one attack. Having items, like claws or a sword will bolster the number of dice you roll. And you don't have to do one attack. If you have the energy and have not passed the maximum capacity of energy for that action, you can attack again...
As long as you have energy and spaces to use it, you can preform multiple actions on your turn.
But spending all your energy will leave you open for attack. Saving a bit could save your skin if a near by enemy takes a swing at you. If you are wearing armor, you get an automatic defense roll. If not, you will need energy to dodge a bullet or a punch.
This doesn't mean that the die rule the game, as you can manipulate you chances with them by re-rolling. Not only is it a special ability of a character or weapon, there is the possibility to re-roll any die on your whim. But this takes a toll as it requires an energy to re-roll any die. Like I said, managing your energy management is important.
With some many things you can do on your turn, you'd think that decisions you make are hard to nail down. But with the team working together, covering each other or going alone will impromptu a response from you character in a natural manner. In fact, the game system feels very organic as players can act in any order they wish:
Batman jumps down. Throws a Batarang. Misses. Red Hood shoot same target. Hits. Clears space. Batman continues moving. Meets Catwoman. Catwoman fights. Takes down target. Batman occupies another while Catwoman defuses bomb.
So we've got an understanding of how the good guy work,
but what about the bad guys...?
Because our one Villain player will be controlling a hoard of characters and troops, they will have the upper-hand at the start of the game, for enacting their plans. Again, with energy, they will activate a unit or one sole character. But in another fashion.
Each unit and character will have a tile that sits in a line, called the river that sits in their "Villain Command Board." The tile to the left always costs one energy to activate it, where as the others cost two or more, depending how far along they are in the river. Once activated, that character or many characters if in a unit, can then preform a move and an action. Shooting and punching or maybe setting up a bomb...what ever the scenario dictates. Then after that tile has finished preforming, it is removed from it's position and placed to the far right on this river. Meaning, if you wanted to use the characters on that tile again to move and do an actions, the cost would be much more than before. Sad, eh? But the benefit is now, every other tile now costs one less energy to activate, as they all slide to the left, filling in any holes.
Although limited by the number of tiles activated each turn, there is the possibility of calling for back up, bringing more of your thugs and goons in to play. Also special powers can be activated or story central events can take place.
And this Villain Command Board will be use in a slightly different way for a special Player Vs Player mode (as pictured above). As each player will have one of these boards and recruit a army, of sorts and go head to head in a specially designed scenario. More on that when I have had chance to play.
So, this back an forth between the Heroes and the Villain will go on until either the Villain has successfully activated their plan or it is thwart but the Heroes. And this will play out differently each time as the battlefield is an open terrain. Every time I have watched a game, it plays out differently like parallel universes. Sometime Bat's is the overall hero, preforming magical feats. Sometimes it's Catwoman or Red Hood or a combination of any two characters. Other times it's the Villain that pulls out some amazing strategies. Or making a comeback after suffering a crushing blow at the beginning of the game. Meaning replay-ability is something that should keep you hooked to the game. As you will also be able to change out some of the Heroes in a scenario, or even their starting gear.
The feel of the game is a combination of real team building and heavy tactical positioning. With a intuitive, organic game-play. And so far, for me, a sensation of being a Hero or Villain in Gotham. Just like the comic books.
Here are some of my thoughts on the game
how to play batman: gotham city chronicles