Nothing in board gaming makes me quite as apprehensive as the term ‘licensed product.’ For anyone who doesn’t know, this is when a company makes a game based off of a popular product, whether it is a book, movie, etc instead of an original idea. Whoever is making the game has to pay a fee to the person or persons who own the intellectual property rights to whatever it is they’re basing the game on. In my experience, publishers rely too much on the license itself being the draw for a game when they do this. Often the gameplay itself is mediocre, and they expect someone’s excitement for the property to be the motivating factor for buying it.
Licensing happens a lot in board gaming currently, so I would never say to avoid licensed games in general. Fantasy Flight Games does a lot of work with licensed properties and they’re one of my favorite publishers. And of course there are other publishers using licensed products and really making exceptional games with them. But, for me, the mere mention of a game being based on a licensed product dredges up memories of the hundreds of various themed Monopoly titles that clog the shelves at the local Toys R Us.
So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to take a look at the newest offering from USAoploy: Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War.
USAopoly is a publisher who has really embraced the idea of licensed products. They do quite a few of them, from Fallout themed chess sets to Walking Dead Yahtzee and, of course, the themed Monopoly versions that I previously mentioned. And for the most part, their games are what I’d expect them to be; passable, but not excellent. But some of their games stand above the others; Hogwart’s Battle is actually a pretty good game, even more so if you like Harry Potter. Coincidently, Andrew Wolf worked as a designer on both Hogwart’s Battle and Thanos Rising, so I was more optimistic for the game than I’d usually be.
Thanos Rising is a pretty simple game, which is par for the course for USAopoly. They make accessible games that can be played with almost anyone; take a look at their offerings on BoardGameGeek and you’ll rarely see the weight of one of their games rise above a 2 rating.
HOW TO PLAY:
Each player begins with a base, starting hero, and a marker that represents your faction. Thanos starts in the center of his own board surrounded by three sectors, into which you will deal 3 random cards from the deck. There is also a board for the Infinity Gauntlet, which starts without any of the gems on the gauntlet itself, but rather they are placed on tiles that surround it.
On a players’ turn they first pick one of the three sectors surrounding Thanos and place their marker on that sector. For their round, they can only influence (defeat or purchase) the cards in that sector. Then the player rolls the Thanos die and the Infinity Stone die. The Infinity Stone die is simply the colors of the gems for the Infinity Gauntlet, and when you roll a color you place a marker on that gem’s board; if Thanos ever fills up every spot on a gem’s board he gains that gem, adds it to the Infinity Gauntlet, and then flips the tile that was holding the gem and gains a special power associated to that gem that will activate whenever that color is rolled for the rest of the game.
So if the Soul Gem is ever full of markers (each gem has 5) you would take the gem and place it on the gauntlet. Then flip over the orange tile, and on the backside there is now a power that reads ‘Remove one damage from all Villains.’ For the rest of the game, whenever a player rolls orange on the Infinity Stone die, you will remove one damage marker from each villain currently out on the board.
The Thanos die is for the big man himself, and it can do one of three things. First, it could rotate Thanos, either left once or right once, changing which sector he is facing. Another possible outcome of the Thanos die is that you simply roll the Infinity Stone die a second time. And the last possible outcome is that you activate every villain not currently in Thanos’ sector. After you’ve resolved Thanos’ die, regardless of what you roll, Thanos also attacks everything currently in his sector. Attacking is pretty simple in that it adds one damage marker to each hero card in that sector, or additionally to each hero card in the active player’s lineup if they are also in the sector that Thanos is facing.
After a player has rolled both the Thanos and Infinity Stone dice, the player then gets to roll his or her own dice. Each player begins the game rolling four dice, as denoted by their starting base. Each die color specializes in one of the icons in the game. Red dice specialize in Battle, blue in Technology, green in Mystic and black in Cosmic.
You roll all of your dice, and then have to assign at least one of them. Dice can be assigned to hero cards in an attempt to acquire them and add them to your team, or they can be assigned to villain cards in order to defeat them, or they can be assigned to special abilities of heroes in the active players’ lineup.
Whenever you assign enough dice to a special ability to activate it, you can do so immediately (some abilities require multiple dice to activate). At the end of your turn, if you’ve placed enough dice on a hero card to acquire it, you remove it from the sector, clear any damage from it, and then add it to your lineup. Another card from the deck will be drawn and replace any acquired heroes on the main board.
If you’ve placed enough dice on a villain to damage it, you get to add a damage counter to the card. Each villain can take a certain amount of damage before being defeated, at which time they are removed from the sector and replaced with another card from the deck. Every time you do damage to a villain, however, you also get a bonus token. These tokens can be used at any time, even on another player’s’ turn, and have various functions. Some will simply add another symbol, be it Tech, Mystic, etc to whatever has been assigned. Others will let you roll an additional die on your turn, some remove damage from heroes, etc.
Of course, it’s entirely possible for you not to hire a hero or damage a villain on your turn, in which case you clear any assigned dice, recover your player marker, and the turn rotates to the next player. The game continues in this fashion in turn order until you meet the victory conditions or the defeat conditions. Again, the order is fairly simple, with the active player:
- Assign player marker to sector
- Roll and resolve Thanos and Infinity Stone dice
- Roll player dice, assigning at least one, and then rerolling until all dice are assigned
- Pass player order
There is only one way to win Thanos Rising, and that’s by defeating all of Thanos’ lackeys. There are between 7 and 10 of them added to the deck at the beginning of the game, depending on how hard you want the game to be.
As for losing, well, there’s a couple ways that can happen. First, if Thanos gains all six Infinity Stones, you lose. Second, if Thanos defeats a total of 10 heroes, you lose. And third, if Thanos completely defeats every hero in a players’ lineup, you lose.
So now that we know how to play, what are we to make of Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity Wars?
You really feel like you’re teaming up to take on Thanos. Players absolutely have to work together if they have any hope of winning the game. If players don’t use bonus tokens to help each other or get distracted competing for the same heroes it will be a real detriment. There’s also this great moment of dread when you roll the Infinity Stone die late in the game, hoping it won’t stop on a color that’ll give Thanos another gem. And of course there are all these different characters from the various Marvel movies in the game, with art straight from the screen.
There’s nothing bad about the components, but nothing really stands out either. After only a couple of plays my Infinity Gauntlet board is starting to warp very slightly, and the cardstock could definitely be better, but it’s not terrible. I was a little disappointed that the Infinity Stones themselves weren’t the shape they are on the gauntlet so that they fit into the recessed areas, but that’s probably expecting too much.
And here’s where my ‘licensed game’ rant from earlier comes full circle. There’s nothing wrong with Thanos Rising: Avenger Infinity Wars from a gameplay standpoint. But there’s really nothing exciting or new about it either. It feels like another game that banks on the popularity of the theme and isn’t working too hard otherwise. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the game, but it’s just something I look at and say ‘meh.’
Final Rating 6/10
So, should you get this game? Well, are you interested in a cooperative game? Are you looking for a game that you can play with a wide variety of people? Do you like Marvel? If you answered yes to at least two of those, I still think it’s a good game to pick up. It won’t blow you away, but it’s still good
— Bradly Billingsley