This is a session report spanning our family's first 2 games of "Axis of Villains".
Session 1: An Onslaught of Villains
Our first game featured Palmer as Superman (his favorite by far), Mom as Green Lantern, and Dad (me) as my favorite hero, The Flash.
The game is very quick and easy to set up. This game is very approachable by all ages. Rather than explaining the rules, I just took the first turn and was able to do a card action and a combat that showed how everything works. After that, no one had any issues understanding the gameplay. (Note: I have plenty of 8-sided dice at my home, so we had no issues having to reroll the one supplied 8-sided die too many times as some others have complained. If you're going to play this game, pick up some 8 sided dice cheap from a FLGS or online retailer if you don't have any at home already.)
Photo by MasterMidori96
I had an auspicious beginning as the Flash. I had an initial power card that let me "Move to Any Space" if I was on a red space, so my initial "Justice League" roll of 1 still let me move out of the satellite to a red square and then play my power card to move to any space. I chose to move to the outermost space of one sector that contained my longtime nemesis Mirror Master. Since he is one of my archenemies and his strength is only 7, I only had to roll higher than a 7 with 2 8-sided dice to capture him by myself. Knowing all of Mirror Master's crafty tricks, I rolled a 10 for an easy victory, getting a power card as a reward.
Unfortunately, things got much tougher for the 3 man Justice League from there. Superman, Green Lantern, and the Fastest Man Alive were totally reactive, not able to get a jump on any of the villains seemingly. Many rolls in the early game brought in new villains and moved active villains to hot spots. Before we knew it, every villain was on the board, including the 4 Ultravillains, who only appear on the board via the Villain cards activated at the "hot spots."
To add insult to injury, the Mirror Master escaped prison via a Villain card as well.
The Justice League waged a desperate battle in the red zone trying to keep their satellite watchtower safe. Captain Cold snuck through the defenses to destroy 1 part of the Watchtower and Gorilla Grodd soon followed. Black Adam was close to the red zone, threatening to destroy the entire satellite soon. Things looked dire for the JLA.
Thankfully, Superman rose to the occasion and saved the day. He flew GL and Flash to square off against Black Adam, taking Shazam's nemesis out and earning a power card each as rewards. These newly gained power cards provided extra battle dice in the crowded yellow zone, which allowed the JLA to take care of business.
The saving grace for the heroes was Darkseid's overly cautious approach. One of the sectors had a veritable murderer's row of villains, with the Reverse Flash, Captain Boomerang, Atrocitus, Bizarro, Amazo, and Darkseid. Despite Darkseid amassing these forces, he was slow to move, hanging back with his villanous allies in the green zone of his sector, apparently waiting for reinforcements of Parademons from Apokolips. He waited too long however, as the heroes, led by Superman and Green Lantern's incredible transport powers, zoomed around the board knocking off the other isolated villains quickly. The JLA was then able to attack Darkseid's mass of troops at its leisure, with plenty of green zone attack dice power cards in reserve.
Despite being surprised, outwitted, and outmanned early on, the sheer power of the JLA was enough to stave off impending defeat and save the day.
Session 2: The Dark Knight Rules
Photo by Andy Lee
Our second game was a totally different experience. We played a 4 player game with Palmer and I reprising our roles as the Man of Steel and Flash respectively, while our family friend He Yan became a Green Lantern and Mom donned the cape and cowl to play as Batman.
With the World's Greatest Detective guiding the JLA this game, the villains didn't stand a chance. The heroes had a jump on the bad guys from Turn 1. Few villains made it to the yellow zone, and none made it into the red zone even. Only two hot spots cropped up, which were not serious in nature. Batman destroyed one of his own archenemies on just about every one of his turns, only using power cards once the whole game! His instincts and superior planning enabled the heroes to take out the "Axis of Villains" before any of the ultravillains could even enter play. The only harrowing moment occurred when Mr. Freeze (among the weakest villains in the game) almost defeated the combined might of the entire JLA. Only Flash's final die roll avoided an ignominious defeat at the hands of Dr. Victor Fries.
First game? The JLA satellite was almost destroyed. Second game? No villain got even close to the Watchtower. The difference in the two games? The Caped Crusader!! Never underestimate the Batman.
This game was a big hit with all who played. It's fast, easy to play, and involves enough choices to make it interesting without becoming prone to "analysis paralysis". There was a lot of discussion of tactics and high fiving around the table as the JLA did its best when working together as a team.
This is a very good game for families and for superhero fans. It shares similarities with "Castle Panic", but it's a lot more fun to defeat Brainiac than to defeat a generic fantasy monster. Any knowledge of the DC Universe lets the players create a fun narrative as they play. We had just as much fun beating up the villains badly in our second game as we did narrowly surviving in the first. Being proactive and reactive created two different narrative and gameplay dynamics.
I actually like the dice-based randomness of this game more than the card-based randomness of games like Forbidden Island, because the dice can lead to a greater range of outcomes, some much easier (which play through very fast) and some much more desperate. Given that my son and I are big comics fans as well, I think this game will see a lot of future play for months to come.
I love this game too...Great stories by the way, I was totally engrossed in the battle!!