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Feb 21

Heroes Wanted: Description and Review

  In Heroes Wanted, by Nick Little and Travis Chance, 1-5 players take on the role of crimefighters competing to earn an open roster spot on the local superhero team, The Champions of Zeta City.  Fortunately, there just happens to be a villain running loose in the streets for the heroes to test their mettle!  By battling the villain, his legion of minions, and sometimes each other, the heroes will gain fame, with the most famous hero winning the game!  Do you have what it takes to join The Champions of Zeta City?  There is only one way to find out!

Every game of Heroes Wanted begins with the players selecting which scenario to play.  This dictates the board, initial set-up, the villain’s evil scheme, and what special pieces may be required.

Next, the players select what heroes they will be playing.  This is done by taking three “Hero A” cards or what amounts to the top half of superhero portraits and choosing one.  Players then take three “Hero B” cards or what amounts to the bottom half of a superhero portrait and choose one.  They then combine the two to create a unique hero with the name beginning with the “B” card and ending with the “A” card.  A few of the awesome possibilities are:

After creating their hero, players are then dealt out a random quirk which they will act out during the game.  The quirks are optional, but given the comical flavor of Heroes Wanted, they are really helpful at getting players into the mood!  If the quirks are used, failure to act out your hero’s psychological issues will reduce your final score.  However, who would miss out on the opportunity to act out things like:  narcissistic pose, being obsessed with teamwork, or saying and awkward catchphrase?  Players then receive a standard action deck and additional cards determined by their type of hero.  The four types of heroes are:

Cosmic:  These heroes may use injuries to their advantage.

Mutant:  These heroes have multiple powers.

Tech:  These heroes have technology based powers.

Vigilantes:  These heroes are able to press their luck with dice due to their dedication and high risk philosophy.

Following the creation of the heroes, the villain is determined in similar fashion by choosing one “A” villain card and one “B” villain card and adding the two together.  Some examples of possible villains are:

Once the villain has been determined, players roll a die to pick a first hero and the game begins with turn order progressing in a clockwise order.

Game Play:

The game plays out over a number of turns, with each turn consisting of a hero phase and a villain phase.  During the Hero phase, each player resolves their actions one at a time beginning with the first hero.  A player’s turn consists of playing and resolving one of the actions cards in his hand or choosing to rest and regain all of his action cards.  These actions include things like:  move, strike, block, and damage etc…  When resolving the card the player completes the action as directed and checks to see if his actions have triggered any other effects such as:  a superpower, special ability, another action card, a headline bonus effect, or a change to turn order etc…  Once a player has resolved all effects related to his action his turn is complete and the other players repeat this process in order one at a time.

After the heroes have completed their actions the villain takes his turn which is programmed by the game mechanics and differs from scenario to scenario.  The villain’s marker is advanced down the threat track and any effect that is shown on the space is resolved.  Then, in clockwise order beginning with the first hero, the minions and villain attack each player.  The villain’s damage is determined by his cards, and the damage from the minions is based on the number and level adjacent to the hero.  Once the total is determined, the player must defend by discarding action cards from his hand with a value greater than or equal to the total amount of damage if able, or be knocked out and forced to take a wound.  Once all players have defended, the villain phase ends and a new turn begins with the first hero.

*  Note, it is possible for heroes to attack each other during the action phase or even as a result of a triggered ability.  All instances where a hero would be damaged are defended in the same fashion as the villain’s attack.  Likewise, if the defending hero is unable to prevent enough damage he is knocked out and the attacker gains four fame.

The game continues turn after turn until the villain is defeated or the predetermined number of rounds expire.  In either instance, an endgame scoring phase takes place where players are rewarded with additional fame based upon the instructions on the board in use and the player with the most fame is declared the winner!

My Review

First off, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me begin by saying that I have known the designer’s to one degree or another for years.  Secondly, let me make it perfectly clear that this is a great game and I would be of this opinion with or without any prior relationship with Nick and Travis.  It has solid game play through the hand management mechanics and board position elements as well as nigh infinite re-playability due to the vast number of hero/villain combinations and the multiple scenarios!  What is there to dislike about that?  Did I mention that it is an absolute blast to play between the crazy hero combinations, quirks, hilarious villains, and the overall tongue in cheek motif of the game?  I am faaaaar from an extrovert, but I was throwing out one narcissistic pose after another and laughing it up when I played, as it was the quirk of my hero, Hobo Titan!  While I would like to get some more plays under my belt, I would currently rate Heroes Wanted an 8.0 which will place it in the Life in Games Top 50!  When I update the rankings in the next day or two it will be right around the 30th position.  Believe me when I tell you that I have a sickness when it comes to rankings, and friends or not, I would never tarnish my list by putting a game on there that I did not feel deserved it!

Part of the appeal of Heroes Wanted, is that it combines some of the best elements of a strategy game:  solid internal mechanics, important decisions, and the opportunity for skillful play, with the social elements of a great party game.  In addition, it does all of this while absolutely dripping with its campy superhero theme!

Lets talk about that theme for a moment, shall we?  Heroes Wanted is in no way affiliated or inspired by the Tick cartoon series, but it is the closest thing to which it can be compared.  If you have even the slightest, bit of tweaked comic book nerd in you there is no way you can resist the chance to play a hero like:  Leather Fist, Barefoot Dude, Mighty Brain or Hobo Fury!  I mean come on, Hobo Fury!!!  Besides the heroes, having the chance to do battle with dastardly villains like:  Boss Cactus, Mama Lightning, or Mistress Mannequin is a joy in of itself!  After all, someone has to put a stop to evil schemes like littering and selling bootleg DVDs!  This game’s sense of humor speaks directly to my nerd soul and fills it with joy!

While the theme is wonderful, there actually is a solid game hiding underneath it all.  In the limited amount of time I got to spend with Heroes Wanted, it was immediately apparent that the skill of one’s play would likely determine the winner.  I know this because I felt like I played rather poorly and I did not win.  However, I will admit that there is no realistic way that all of the combinations could possibly be playtested and therefore I have no doubt that some are better than others.  The designers do refer to it as a tactical game, and I would agree to the extent that opportunistic play is rewarded, but I think that there are strategic elements as well.  The strategic side will become more apparent with additional plays as player’s gain the ability to assess the capabilities of their opponent’s heroes and plan how best to proceed.  If a hero seems superior at smashing minions you can focus on denying minions or directly attacking the other player.  The option to attack other players is a balancing feature in of itself as I have no doubt hardcore lobbying for a dog pile will occur if one character seems overpowered. Still, the very randomness that is so thematically satisfying will also limit the appeal to those only interested in hardcore, skill only gaming.  If direct conflict is not enough of a balancing factor for you then Heroes Wanted may not be your cup of tea.

While I really enjoyed Heroes Wanted, I do have a few minor issues with it.  I was not a huge fan of the way that the Villain moved about the board in his programmed pattern.  I fully admit that I do not have a better solution, but it just felt dry.  I understand the need for a mechanic to drive the villain’s movement, and I even like knowing where he is going, but it was probably my least favorite part of the game.  I also worry about a game of chicken developing as the villain nears death seeing how there is a large reward for landing the final blow.  If players cannot kill the villain there is not a lot of motivation to get him within striking distance for another player.  There is some incentive, as damaging the villain does earn a decent amount of fame, but it could cause a pile up at the end of the game that could detract from the experience.  I suppose the answer is to avoid a game position where you cannot win if you attack the villain and you also cannot win if you don’t, and if I happens just accept that you have been put in checkmate.  All in all, these are minor quibbles that I might or might not retain after more plays, but they are worthy of mentioning for those looking at purchasing Heroes Wanted.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a highly social game, with a great theme, tons of replay value, and enough strategy that skill matters, Heroes Wanted is sure to be a hit for your group!  I have not met a person who has played it, other reviewers that I know included, that did not enjoy themselves immensely.  People who love playing games love playing Heroes Wanted!  What higher praise can you give to a game?  Turbo Brain might know the answer to such a question, but the only way you can ask him is to play the game!

 

Just a few examples of hero and villain combinations that can occur in a game of Heroes Wanted!

At the time of this review, Heroes Wanted is an active Kickstarter project.  If you are interested in backing it or just learning more about this great game, click on the widget below.

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