New South Wales
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
I have a nine year old son, so I sometimes play games that I would otherwise choose not to. This year we had the fortune to find both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin for sale at a book festival, for very cheap prices. As it turns out, it was bad fortune, because not even my son likes this game. And because the games are identical in all but graphics, we now have two games that we both detest.
The game has a number of novel features for a simple children's game. Both players control one character - in Batman Forever, it is Batman, and in Batman & Robin it is both of them (one on each side of the token). You start the game with 3 power tokens (swirly yellow things) and 6 batman tokens (with the batman symbol). On your turn, you roll a dice and move the piece clockwise that number of squares around the track (so you don't even get to choose which way you move). You could land on a villain space, a villain conspiracy space, or a power space. In Batman Forever, the two villains are Riddler and Two-Face, and in Batman & Robin they are Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy.
If you face a villain, you must have a power token to try to escape. Escaping is an extremely simplistic procedure - another player takes two villain cards, and you take two escape cards. You each choose one blindly. You cross-reference the results on the Villain Attack Chart, which tells you whether you escape or not. If you escape, you get to place a batman token on the board - that's like a victory point. If you don't escape, you turn over a power token - that's like losing a life. Now blind bidding sounds like a mechanic which could make an interesting game, but in this case it does not. Each player has two options, and the Villain Attack Chart gives you a 50% chance of winning or not. The problem is that there is no information anywhere else in the game to inspire your choice - your opponent has no chance of guessing what you might do, because he knows your choice is completely random. So he chooses completely randomly as well, and the blind bidding is completely pointless.
Please let me indulge in a short gamer rant about this. If you're not interested, just skip back to the normal text.
Blind bidding works really well in a game like Adel Verpflichtet or Nobody But Us Chickens, because you have information about what the other players want to play. In Adel Verpflichtet, you can guess by the strength of the other player's collection and the number of movement points up for grabs whether he wants to win the exhibition or whether he just brought his thief to steal your stuff. In NBUC, you know he wants to play a wolf so he can get all the points, but you know he knows you can stop him. When there is somewhere for the reasoning to start, blind bidding works well. But in this game, it works like flipping a coin. So why waste everyone's time?
The downside of blind bidding, even when it is done well, is that it is impossible to out-think a group of people, because their combined actions approach randomness. That is why some people dislike Pirate's Cove, or Caribbean, or think that Nobody But Us Chickens is is too random. NBUC with 4 players is a fine game, and Caribbean probably works better with fewer than 4. Pirate's Cove has the black ships which work to maintain the randomness, so in that game you just have to live with it.
If you end up on a villain conspiracy space, you do the same thing up to 3 times. Ho hum. If you land on a power space, you get to turn one of your power tokens back up the right way. Finally, if all of your power tokens are the wrong way up, you don't get the opportunity to escape and so you don't get the chance to win batman tokens. The first player to get all 6 batman tokens on the board wins the game.
So apart from the blind bidding, which I think my opinions of have been made clear, there is not a single decision to be made in this game. It's really really awful. You might think that it would be alright for kids, but what if they keep losing? They didn't do anything wrong, and they're losing. You can't even help them onto the right path, or cheat so they can recover. It's just all completely pointless.
I have rated this game a 2. It's right down there with Snakes and Ladders, and the theme can't even save it. Kids don't play Batman games so they can lose for no good reason, they play Batman games so they can do superheroic batman stuff. These games are a disaster and they have been banished to shelves downstairs, where we keep The Games We Don't Talk About.