Licensed games based on popular franchises don’t always turn out the best. The IP itself is a selling point, and there were plenty of cases I noticed at the show of games that were clearly tossed together with the IP thrown on top with little actual creativity thrown in the mix.
I had hopes for Batman: Gotham Under Siege, though. Middling hopes, but hopes nonetheless. The game features Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Gordon, and Catwoman as playable characters fending off an intense villainous plot by one of Gotham’s primetime villains. Each plot has 4 stages that must be survived – well, hopefully better than survived.
The “board” is a collection of 3D buildings in a 3×3 grid, and challenges to worry about include armies of low-level goons pressing in on Gotham on all sides, a series of challenge cards, and the main plot card.
Each role has a number of abilities and 4 dice. Each turn everyone rolls their available dice. One player is the Leader (in our case, Batman, but since the token is separate I’m assuming it can change around) and goes first, followed by the remaining players in any order they choose.
On your turn you pick one of your dice and resolve it. You can place your dice on one of the challenge cards, or on your player board to resolve that action for your character, but most spaces have some kind of restriction – either a certain value or range of values. Some actions have more power based on the value of the die you assign to it.
These actions have your characters jumping from rooftop to city streets, smashing hoards of thugs, teaming up with the other players to unleash bat-fury, and foiling the plots of villainous henchmen.
After each player has assigned one of their dice, all players re-roll their remaining dice and begin a new turn. This continues until all dice are used up. Then, any uncompleted challenges have consequences – wounding players, adding more baddies, or even blowing up buildings. Also, any criminals remaining on the city streets have a chance to blow up more buildings.
The game is lost if a single character dies, or if the explosion tracker reaches zero.
I have to say, my taste of this game was sweet, and I’m eager to play it more. It’s hard to say without playing the full game, but it felt like there was a real challenge without relying on cheap “gotcha” tricks. You know all the possible consequences each round, and while your dice rolls can restrict what exactly you do, there are plenty of ways to use your dice (every character has at least one ability that doesn’t require a specific value), and plenty of ways to modify your dice rolls.
We only played on stage of the plot, so we were able to freely burn our special resources to succeed, but it was clear that if we had to think of the full game we’d have to take more risks and play more conservatively.
Again, I haven’t played the full game, but my demo suggested a game with a nice balance of theme, luck, strategy, and difficulty, with lots of cool actions to resolve and gameplay that never dragged. There were plenty of challenges to think about and the choice of action on a player’s turn was never so painfully obvious as to not feel like a choice. I’m hungry to play this more, and I hope that one day Captain America gets a game this neat.