Snell here, bringing you the first of many viewpoints in a segment called Rivet City Reviews. Each month, I will be reviewing either a board game from my own library, or a game that I have played recently. The goal of this column is, first and foremost, to give accurate information, along with my opinion on the game itself…or maybe I’ll just be an asshole. I’ll go with that; asshole first, accurate information second.
To that end, this article is all about a game I picked up recently called Heroes Wanted. I would have titled it, “A Lesson in Why Auditioning To Be In A Superhero Squad Ends Badly,” but I don’t think ActionPhase Games was able to fit that in their budget. It is a dream of mine to be a tights-clad superhero, standing on rooftops, standing up for the little guy, and getting the shit kicked out of me by the big guys, because I forget I’m not much of a superhero.
The premise of the game is pretty simple: Zeta City, which the game is set in, has a supreme superhero squad called The Champions of Zeta City. Fastodon, the world’s fastest mammoth (I shit you not, that is almost word-for-word from the instruction manual) is retiring from the squad. I’m guessing its either due to having bad knees from all the running, or maybe he decided to join the circus to fulfill a lifelong dream of trampling over a crowd of clowns. Or maybe he just wants to mooch off the system like the rest of us dream of doing. Either way, Fastodon is quickly out the door, and the Champions are now looking for new recruits.
That’s where you and the other players come in; you and up to five others are a rag-tag tossed together superhero team auditioning to earn a spot in the ranks of the Champions. The goal is simple: be the best hero. Not defeat the villain, not complete the objectives, but be the best hero. That’s right; we’re talking about a co-operative counter-operative game set to cause mass pandamoneum and ruining friendships, just like The Game of Life and Monopoly.
And pandamoeum is exactly what will happen, as the randomness of the game makes it incredibly difficult to get a game going with anyone that isn’t already an avid player. Each hero has two different parts to them, one granting a passive ability and the other an activated ability, and are decided on through luck of the draw from two different decks. This level of randomization can be nice for people who have played the game before, but it does make this difficult for first-time players, either of this game or other competitive board games, such as Frag. The villain also has its abilities randomized, as well as additional objectives for each scenario. I didn’t understand the need for an arbitrary villain combination at first, but in thinking about it, in a town comprised of randomly put together heroes, combinations such as Baron Von Beast (one of the villain combinations) who is running around littering and jaywalking in the streets (one of the scenarios) only fit the setting. It leads me to wonder what else is random in Zeta City; does the baker have tentacles for arms? What about the postman, does he run around naked delivering the mail? I’d love to read more about the random nature of Zeta City, but maybe I’m a bit too optimistic.
As mentioned, the randomness of each game makes the first playthrough difficult. Once you have it down, however, the game does become fun and engaging. While your hero is random, actions you can take in the game are not. You have six cards to start with; four are basic abilities everyone has (Charge, Maneuver, Strike, Costume), one is the Superpower card, and the last is specific to your character type (Cosmic, Mutant, Tech, Vigilante). As you complete objectives, your hero has options to additional abilities, including character type-specific cards that are added to your hand. This adds structure to an otherwise chaotic game, and gives players a direction to go in. Additionally, the objectives can serve as guidance for what players should do, since the goal is to gain more points than other players.
It is a fun game to play; fast-paced, great difficulty, and a new way to play each time helps create an exciting atmosphere. That being said, this game is definitely not for beginning players. I’m an avid board game player, and it took me two or three playthroughs to be able to get a good grasp of the basics. If you have had a number of games under your belt, then consider this for your next game night. However, if you have a group of friends who don’t play games very often, I’d suggest avoiding this one for a few nights.
Until next month, keep your dice rolling high, and happy gaming.