In every city, there are bound to be villians. Men who prey on the weak for money and power, sipping fine aged bourbon atop a high-rise penthouse, looking out over their city. Perhaps it’s vengeance that leads them to a life of crime, a great loss that turned their hearts to evil? But when villains rise, the streets strike back. The streets don’t strike with a badge my friends, no sir, the streets strike back with the power of vigilante justice. From up in the sky, from below the cobblestone, heroes will rise and fight to push back the tide of darkness, and from deep within the heart of the cold, dark, windy city, the crushing echoes of “BIFF”, “SOCK”, and “KAPOW” reverberate into the night. In Superhuman Games’ Villains and Vigilantes you can choose to either play as villains set to bring the city to the brink of destruction or vigilantes, hell-bent on taking down evil wherever it rears its head.
The Unboxing, AKA What’s In My Utility Belt?
2 Hero player decks
2 Villain player decks
1 location board
4 Captured tokens
4 Destroyed tokens
1 Fade token
4 Headquarters tokens (1 each of 4 colors)
16 Plot tokens (4 each of 4 colors)
2 Slash tokens
1 Trap token
5 Battery counters
25 Body Damage counters
15 Mind Damage counters
10 Drain counters
25 Mojo counters
10 Recovery counters
12 Characters (Blizzard, Evergreen, Shatterman, Condor, Mocker, FIST, Mercury Mercenary, Crossfire, Shocker, Mace, Hornet, Bull)
20 plastic character bases
Villains and Vigilantes: Mind Over Matter Expansion
1 Villain Player deck
1 Hero Player deck
2 Villain characters (Marionette, Temper)
1 Hero Character (Maxima)
5 Minor Chararcers (Victor Rath, My Pal Jimmy, Hired Muscle, Becky Sparks, Dan McCloud “Meteorologist”, Jessica Anderson “WCTV)
10 plastic character bases
Fighting the Good (or EVIL) Fight
Villains and Vigilantes is for 2-4 players, and your initial setup will change depending on how many people will be playing the game. A two-player game is fairly straightforward: both players choose a deck (one the vigilantes, one the villains) and face off against one another until they have achieved the appropriate number of points to achieve victory (these points are called “Mojo”). A three-player game is a bit different. There are two villain decks in play and one hero deck. The villains must simultaneously prevent the hero from achieving victory and beat their sometime ally to the appropriate number of Mojo points. In a four-player game, there are two players playing as the villains and two players playing as vigilantes, as a team. The number of heroes and villains you are using in your deck also determines your hand size. If you control one super you have a hand size of 7, two Supers gives a hand size of 6, and three will limit your hand size to 5 cards.
Now lets take a look at the decks we will use to play the game. They consist of Power cards, Minor Character Powers, Missions, Plot Cards, and a support deck of up to 11 cards that can be used in your hand every turn if you so desire, but limit your draw capacity. Moving on to your Supers, lets take a look at what they can do!
The Usual Suspects
Each of your Supers and Minor Characters will have a card that represents them, showing their stats, as well as a few icons which represent the type of power cards they can play. There are 8 different types of powers, and each one has 3 power levels that are available to your characters: enhanced, superhuman, or extremely powerful. TheSkill stat represents the number of cards that can be played each turn by your super. Each card has a skill cost which the player must pay to gain the benefits described on the card, and the total cost of all cards played cannot go above your character’s skill rating. The Stamina stat represents the amount of damage of that a super can take before becoming KO’d, which, with appropriate play, can lead to a super being captured. If the correct mission card is then played, it can lead to the accrual of Mojo points. There are two types of damage which can be applied to a character: mental, and physical. Both apply equally to your Stamina. There are cards in your support deck which can be played to heal damage, such as “On the Mend”, which places recovery tokens on KO’d Supers once per turn and heals damage equal to the number of counters on the card until they are no longer KO’d. Any KO’d Supers can only play power cards that indicate they are playable by a KO’d Super. Captured Supers who are not KO’d may play power cards as normal, except for power cards that would change their location.
An example of some superheroes you may enlist.
The game board itself depicts a city where each frame on the board contains a location. Supers move throughout the city using powers from their hand. It is also possible to destroy buildings on the board. This causes damage to all Supers in that location on the next turn and also serves to remove captured counters from Supers who are currently captured at that location. Each Super also has an HQ that is designated at the beginning of play. As you play through the game you can encounter mission cards that direct you to destroy the Super’s HQ in exchange for Mojo. Each location also has attributes which determine what plot cards can be played on it, for instance: “Wonder County Penitentiary” is both a “jail”, and a “laboratory”, so any plot cards which indicated that something happens at a “jail” or “laboratory” location can be played there.
The vast city.
Kickin’, Punchin’, and General Destruction!
Gameplay is broken down into three phases per turn, the Ready Phase, The Action/Reshuffling Phase, and the Swipe Phase.
The Ready Phase:
Characters begin play with a hand size that is determined by subtracting the number of heroes they control (to a maximum of three) from 8. Each player has a support deck that is made up of lower power and movement cards. During the Ready Phase a player may pull any number of cards from their support deck then discard from their hand to their appropriate hand size.
During this phase a player may play power cards, mission cards (one per turn), or plot cards (once per turn). Each time a player plays a card they must draw a card to return their hand size to its default. A Player may also skip their action phase entirely to reshuffle their swipe pile (cards they have already played) back into their action deck.
In the Swipe phase any minor characters that were played are placed onto the board, and characters move played cards to either the swipe pile or back to their support deck. During this phase, each super that is not KO’d also heals 1 damage.
Just How Super Are You?
The aesthetics of this game are, in a word, well…..super. They’re pulled straight out of a comic book illustrators daydreams. The game board itself is composed of pictures of each location and tag lines that could have come from any of your favorite comics. Even the rulebook retains its artistic integrity. Honestly, this was the first thing that grabbed my attention with this game and really made me want to try it. The characters each have an individual feel, with special powers that are designed specifically for them, and each lends itself well to different types of play.
The game itself is really pretty simple, but the rulebook is laid out in such a way that getting started can be a bit daunting, as there are an enormous number of counters that each have a different function, and you really have to root through the rules to figure out just when each one should be applied. As an example, drain is referred to as two separate things in the rulebook, once, to explain the use of stamina, the rulebook says, “each power has a ‘drain rating’. The drain rating of all powers played cannot exceed the players Stamina rating.” In a separate paragraph, later on in the rules, they explain a completely separate concept known as “Drain”, which lowers a players stamina, and can be healed instead of physical or mental damage. Little things like this make a game difficult to play, and that’s not the only example of this happening.
Other types of cards used in the game.
They also included “Trivial” support cards, cards which you can play without them being in your hand at all. This raises the question, “Why clutter the game board with unnecessary cards when you could just add a paragraph to the rules explaining any character can take these actions for a predetermined cost?”
The first time I played this game my opponent and I happened to pull two decks from the four that frankly just didn’t play to well together. Most of my mission cards involved minor characters and my opponent didn’t have any cards in his deck that brought them into play. The pre-constructed decks are fine, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I don’t feel like they really capture the potential of the game, and if you want to get into the really “fun” stuff, you have to fiddle with those first four decks a bit. At least, that was my experience.
Now, onto the deckbuilding mechanics. They might be what saves this game from the dustbin for me, since it allows for a bit of experimentation. Trying new minor powers with your heroes can really affect the way the game plays, and make for a different experience. This is definitely one of those games that’s going to have a lot of “house” rules, which is fine if you’re not the type of gamer who is bothered tremendously by consistency, but it drives me crazy. All that being said, once you have a good grasp of the flow of the game (it took me three playthroughs), it plays fast, and it really does capture the unhinged and rapidly twisting fates of conflict between people with super powers, and the plot cards can add some really interesting twists while forcing drastic changes of strategy. At the end of the day this is a fun game if you’re looking for something quick and easy that a couple people can get into quickly, but I think I can sum up my thoughts on this game in one phrase: wasted potential. There are tons of small concepts that are poorly explored, like building destruction, equipment, individual locations, and even the powers for some of the characters are a little disappointing.
I also had the opportunity to play the Mind Over Matter expansion pack. Honestly, it doesnt add an awful lot to the game: three new Supers and a lot of new minor characters. Each Super, of course, plays a bit differently. My favorite, hands down, is Marionette, who can take control of enemy Supers. Even her counter on the game board is tiny, which is a nice touch. This expansion adds two decks which are playable right out of the box, but this is both a good thing. and a bad thing. I say bad thing because by making both immediately playable you get a large amount of the content in your expansion being cards you already have.
I was really hoping for more interaction with individual locations, maybe some more equipment cards that added armor or weapons, or maybe just general interaction from the city itself, since it seems like the heroes are often on the losing side. It does add content, but nothing that really changes the way the game plays, or breathes new life into it, so if you already like the game, this is a great expansion that gives you more of what you loved in the original. If you’re not a big fan, this expansion wont change your mind.