Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 60 Minutes
Play Time (Goof): Don’t
Producer: 3Some Games
Designer/s: David Boostrom & James H. Waller
See what I did there with the title? I’m proud of it. Evidently the bench mark for what I will consider acceptable in entertainment is not impossibly high. So when I tell you ‘Heroes of Metro City’ is so boring I’d find it more enjoyable to see if I can beat my personal best thumb twiddling speed record than to play it, hopefully it should give you some indication of the direction this review is going.
The sad part is, I really wanted to enjoy Heroes of Metro City. I desperately wanted to enjoy it. I played half a dozen games over the weekend I purchased it trying to look for the fun. Alas the only fun to be had has so far been writing the pun in the title of this post.
I have a confession to make readers, and hang onto your socks here because I’m about to knock them off. I’m a bit of a geek. In the same way Batman is a bit sad his parents were shot or Donald Trump is a bit of a twat (Trump is a comic book villain right? I’m not convinced the man isn’t a publicity stunt for a new Super Villain). I have invested more time in superheroes than I did in my university degrees, and I know for a calculable fact because I spent most of my time procrastinating my University work to read comics, play games or have discussions about superheroes. I’m such a geek even in my mid-twenties I run around the house in my batman cowl and cape to the loving eye rolls of my beautiful girlfriend.
So when I walked into Ace Comics and Games in Annerley, Brisbane, and saw Heroes of …(I hate even writing the title) out of the corner of my eye, I was excited. Super-excited, you might even say. And I broke a rule I had never broken before – I bought it without doing any research on the game at all. For it promised me that which I had always coveted, it got at my weakness like kryptonite to the Man of Steel or the promise of a chimichanga to the Merc with a Mouth. It promised me I could make my own superhero, and play with my friends to take down a villainous mastermind. Says so, right on the box.
So what went wrong? How did this tale of heroic board game concept end with the robbery of my hard earned cash?
Firstly, I’m gonna mix this up a bit and talk about something I really did like. The city defence. When step 5 of your 6 step turn comes around you roll three colour coordinated dice to see if the police or army can hold off the bad guys for a turn. I hate when I’m playing a game and it feels like I’m single-handedly the only thing standing in the way of defeat while everyone else in the world decided “eh…I’m sure he’s got it. I’m going on holiday.” I like the fact I’m not the only thing standing in the way of chaos, I’m just the best chance of saving the world. Although I say “I” and not “we” for a very important reason.
And this ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the superhero smack down.
Heroes of Blah Blah states on the box you can play with 2-4 players, but when the gameplay doesn’t change between the number players or a solo game you really begin to see it isn’t competitive or cooperative. It’s more you’re playing with yourself while other people are at the table (feel free to take that well out of context. You dirty reader you). No player interaction? And actions which are taken by other players have essentially no effect on you or you on them? Look I get the Punisher likes to work alone, but the issues where he teams up with people is a hell of a lot more interesting.
Now I know in the big fights, where heroes and villains battle it out, the heroes do a fair amount of property destruction themselves- I imagine insurance in places like Metropolis is killer- but the mechanic where you deck build out of the same cards that essentially work as your health points feels like it hasn’t been properly thought out. I’m not even entirely sure it was meant to represent that or if I simply tried to creatively explain what is clearly a glaring flaw in the product. A deck building game which actively discourages you from deck building…wait what? Was this game play tested?
The cards which are randomly selected are way too crucial to whether or not winning is even viable. If you get a bad draw, you might as well knock all the piles over (simulating the destruction of the city), and start over. Problem is you have to play multiple boring games before realising which combinations work, and which spell game over from the beginning.
The idea of each hero drawing their powers from a different energy source is a nice touch, but only having two unique sources worth drawing your power from per game means that you usually have the same power sources as at least one if not more heroes in the game which doesn’t make you feel as special. And I like to feel special.
I always think the most important gameplay element is whether or not the game is fun. And truth be told, when it boils down to it, it’s not. The potential really screams from this game. But it’s boring and overall not very well thought out. The game devolves into this race to beat the archenemy or to accidentally destroy the city. And when I think of a team of heroes facing against a being of supreme evil, I don’t think of NASCAR.
Pros: +’City Defence’ mechanic, +Different energy sources
Cons: – -Not fun, – No player interaction, -Decisions have minimal effect on other players, -Discourages deck building, -Randomised configurations can make it impossible to win, -Superheroes don’t feel diverse
To me, theme can make or break a game. It’s something I’ve firmly believed was true for most of my life. But this game makes me question that long held belief because I genuinely love the theme and the idea of creating my own superhero through a deck builder, and I genuinely don’t love this game. The disconnection of theme from mechanics is, in truth, probably the thing I’m most disappointed about. The game makes you destroy your own city to get enough power to take down the big bad guy, and lacks any kind of player interaction or cooperation.
The ability to craft your hero from cards such as ‘Uncanny Mutation’ and ‘Technological Marvel’ allow enough creative freedom to make your hero your way. However, when naming your hero you need to be really careful about what random cards are in play, because this can have significant effects on the potency of the power cards you use, being stronger if you have, for example, a ‘metal’ or ‘animal’ in your name. Unfortunately, this can really stifle your creativity- although it did lead to the dynamic duo ‘Mr Obsidian’ and ‘Iron-Bee’, which had a friend and I laughing at the absurdity of what our characters were getting up to.
The theme for Blah of Blah Blah is good, and executed with some degree of efficiency in terms of allowing players to create their own hero. But the idea that your character’s name is often determined by factors other than the player’s own creativity, and the overall lack of feeling unique, detracts from my enjoyment of the game. Your character’s name and the cards you build your deck from are the only ways you have to bring your character to life.
Pros: +Craft your own hero, +Broad card descriptions allow creative freedom
Cons: – -Theme doesn’t match the mechanic, – -Stifles creativity
The production quality of this game is very high. The artwork is fantastic, and that’s partially what sucked me in, like Poison Ivy’s feminine wiles enhancing pheromones only to strangle me at the last moment.
The box art is great, the instruction book is well designed and easy to make sense of (no small feat in board games) and the cards are of a good quality.
The player mats and the erasable pen with which to write your superhero’s name are a nifty little idea (I like the word nifty, so I don’t use the word lightly). It gives you the sense you’re carving your hero’s name into the world.
If the game was as good as its art work, this would be a very different kind of review.
Pros: ++Amazing artwork, +High quality box art, +High quality instruction book, +High quality components
Cons: (Nothing, except it was attached to this game)
EDIT: When packing the game away last night from when I took photos of it (it sat on the counter a few days). I noticed two issues that I really felt meant I had to update this post. Firstly, the box comes with this really dumb insert. When you move the box, the cards fall all over the place.
Also, I noticed that although I really REALLY like the artwork for this game. It lacks uniformity. Which I can excuse in games to some degree. But artwork like the cards ‘Life-draining touch’, ‘hurled object’ and ‘devastating uppercut’ don’t even look like they belong in the same game.
If these were small concerns, I wouldn’t have bothered. But I feel like these two issues were such glaring mistakes that I’d be remiss not to write anything.
Taking into consideration the high quality and the nice ideas they had for the poorly integrated theme, I can’t, in good faith, give this game the absurdly low number I would like to. Therefore, I’ve calculated the overall score as an average of the three major criteria.
I give Heroes of Metro City a:
At the core of any kind of entertainment is the idea of fun. And this game is not fun.
In conclusion, “Board game make Grundy mad! You no buy board game!”