My friend gave me this game for my birthday last year. It’s a cooperative game for 2 – 4 players (although you can totally play a solo game too), meaning either everyone wins or everyone loses. There are four characters to play: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern (the real GL, Hal Jordan), and Flash (Barry Allen, the best speedster). Each character has 5 enemies (called Arch Villains) that range from weak to powerful. The villains are trying to reach the Justice League satellite and destroy it, your goal is to take all the bad guys off the board before that happens. It seems pretty straightforward, but there’s a surprising amount of strategy.
The playing area is a circle that is divided into 8 numbered sectors, with each slice having 8 sections (64 game spaces total). The JLA satellite is in the middle of the board. The 2 inner rings are red, the middle 3 are yellow, and the outer 3 are green. Villains begin play on the very outside of the board and work there way toward the middle. The villains don’t have a separate turn; instead they move as part of the heroes’ turns.
At the beginning of a hero’s turn he rolls the six-sided movement die and the eight-sided die (numbered 1 – 8). The movement die can come up with one of four results:
- JL (2 sides) – Hero gets to take his turn. He can move up to the number of spaces indicated on the numerical die.
- Villain movement (2 sides) – Look at the numerical die and move any villains in that sector ahead one space, then reroll both dice.
- Villain double movement (1 side) – Same as above but any villains in that sector moves ahead two spaces. Reroll both dice.
- New villain (1 side) – Pick a random new villain and add them to the sector number rolled on the numerical die. Reroll both dice.
As you can see, each time you roll the dice you only have a 1 in 3 chance of getting to start your turn; 2 out of 3 times something bad can potentially happen (but not always; sometimes there won’t be any villains in a particular sector to move, and eventually you run out of new bad guys to place on the board). And each hero has to keep rolling until they get to move, so you can end up rolling 5 or 6 times in a row, totally trashing the board, before you finally get to move. But other times you get to go on your first roll.
Once you get to take your turn, you can do three things:
- Move up to the number of spaces indicated on the numeric die.
- Use power cards.
- Attack any villains your hero is in the same space as.
Combat is very simple: roll 1 die (2 if the villain is your character’s enemy), and beat the number printed on that villain (each hero has a 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 enemy). If any other heroes are on the space they can join in the fight, adding their die rolls to the total. Win and the villain is removed from the board, lose and the hero has to go back to the satellite (not always a bad thing).
The power cards are the most interesting feature of the game and where most of the strategy comes into play. Each one is divided into three parts: red, yellow, and green. Each part of the card allows the hero to use a different ability, such as one of the two powers each hero has, adding additional dice to combat, free movement, etc. But each power can only be used on the appropriate color. For example, a card may let the hero use his first ability while on red, his second ability while on yellow, or add 2 dice to combat while on green. The trick is to arrange your movement and combat so that you can use the right card when you need it, and coordinating your efforts with your teammates to maximize the team’s effectiveness. Players are encouraged to discuss moves and strategy together, and teamwork is critical to defeating the bad guys. Heroes gain a new power card whenever they defeat a villain (whether they were the primary or helping) and having a lot of power cards is one key to victory.
There are a few other wrinkles, such as “hot spots” that trigger Very Bad Things if a villain lands on them, and 4 Ultra Villains that are higher numbered (15, 17, 19, 21) and harder to defeat.
Overall it’s a very engaging game. Trying to coordinate team strategy, make sure everyone has a good selection of useful power cards, and prioritizing which villains to go after make for an interesting time. When my friend first gave it to me neither of us said anything out loud, but we both figured it was going to be a fairly tame, hastily thrown together licensed game trying to take advantage of the super-hero craze. But 10 minutes into the first game I was like “Umm, we’re playing this again!” and my friend heartily agreed. I’ve found the win rate to be almost exactly 50%; sometimes you roll well, things go smoothly, and you win no problem. And sometimes you get totally hosed and get your butt kicked.
And the way the die rolling works means you can swing from one extreme to the other very quickly. Everything will look great and then all of a sudden you can’t move for 6 rolls in a row and you’re in deep trouble. But sometimes it looks hopeless and then you get a few good rolls in a row and swing things back in your favor.
It’s a fun game that works great for 2 – 4 people, and I’ve even had fun playing some solo games when I don’t get my fill on gamedays. For around $15 it’s a pretty good deal. And you can even create your own heroes with unique powers, adding your own favorites.