For me, there’s not much better than sitting down on a Saturday night, putting some music on, opening a few beers and playing board games with my wife. There’s something about the fact that it doesn’t require any kind of hardware, you can partially make your own fun and – if something isn’t quite going the way you want it to – you can even change the rules to something that’s more appealing, providing everyone agrees to the change and everyone follows it. So my idea of a Saturday night sounds pretty perfect if I do say so myself – however, add on top of that the fact that my latest board game allowed me to play as The Dark Knight himself and you’re left with a Board Game Night that sounds like absolute bliss.
Batman: Arkham City – Escape is the game in question and, as the title would suggest, is centred around attempting to escape the city-sized prison that is Arkham City. The game is designed solely for two players, which is the first downfall as you’ll be forced to heavily modify the game’s rules in order to accommodate any friends you may have around. The standard rules were OK for just my wife and I, but if we had friends around for some beers and board games, then we would have had no choice but to either change the game rules – which could potentially cause balance issues to appear – or simply play a different game. It would have been nice to see some official game rules to allow for more than two players, perhaps having more players as the villains, or even the inclusion of the Dynamic Duo themselves, with two players taking on the roles of Batman and Robin.
Setting up the game for play is simple enough, thanks to all the cards having helpful indicators on the back. All of the starting cards are labelled so you’re not spending half of your time attempting to read the small text on each of the cards in order to figure out if it’s a Starting Ally card – a card which goes on one of the Riddler Trophies at the very start of the game – or one of the normal Ally cards, which go into a stack for Batman to pick from at certain parts of the game. The design has been really well thought-out, from the board itself (which is also reversible to allow for two different game maps) to each of the cards. The artwork on the cards is simply art from the Batman: Arkham City video game, so don’t be expecting something original and unique; you’ll have seen most of the images before if you’ve played Rocksteady’s game.
The object of Batman: Arkham City – Escape is for Batman to stop the Villains from reaching the other end of the board and escaping the confines of Arkham City. Batman does this by chasing down villains on his turn, either by moving across the board one space at a time, or by using the sewers and gargoyles to quickly zip across the map, and landing on the villain. Landing on the villain will cause combat to begin, wherein Batman must “spend” some of his combat cards in order to defeat the villain. Spending the combat cards will decide how many of the dice the Batman player can roll; spend eight combat points (the maximum allowed unless certain criteria are met) and you can roll eight of the dice. For every dice that shows the Batman symbol, Batman will do one point of damage, and each Villain card shows the number of points a Villain can take before Batman defeats them. For example, Batman lands on top of Mr. Freeze, who requires 5 points to take down, the Batman player chooses to spend seven combat card points (just to be sure) and roll seven dice. Five of those seven dice show the Batman symbol and so Mr. Freeze is removed from the game. and the amount of victory points he’s worth are added to Batman’s score. If the Villain was able to get to the other end of the board without Batman catching them, this value would be added to the Villain player’s score instead. The winner of the game is the first person to ten.
VERDICT: The concept of Batman: Arkham City – Escape is a good one; however, traversing the map as Batman feels a little bit too slow, the player doesn’t have enough opportunity to place gargoyles and he will often find himself without enough Combat Cards to take on the slew of enemies that are coming his way. While it’s easy to understand that the life of Batman isn’t a simple one, if players are picking up this game there’s a good chance that they want to win the game at least a couple of times while playing as The World’s Greatest Detective. There are a couple of changes to the gameplay you can implement in order to make things feel a little bit more balanced – such as picking up two Combat Cards at the end of each turn as the Batman instead of just one – but if you’re using the in-box instructions to play the game, you may find that the Villains have a much easier time of things.
At the end of the day though, the game isn’t too difficult to modify and continue to play, and the concept itself is interesting enough; it just could have done with a little bit more balance tweaking before it hit the shelves.