It might be time for a new series of articles: my favorite “fill in the blank.” We’ll talk about something in a game or show or movie or comic book that we like and dig into why we like that one thing. Good old Uncle Geekly will get things started with some board game mechanisms, or for the tabletop game newbie, the elements that make up a tabletop game. This week we’ll cover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and Batman: Gotham City Chronicles and their asymmetric one versus many game mechanism.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past
Both of this week’s games can be classified as “one versus many,” meaning that one player plays one side of the characters (usually villains) and two or more players assume the role of the other (usually heroes).
First off, I like how these games make the player who assumes the villains (the one) asymmetric to the gameplay style of the heroes (the many). TMNT: Shadows of the Past has the Turtle players rolling dice and performing actions based on what they roll, while the player who assumes The Foot Clan, Shredder, and the rest uses a deck of cards.
The individual turtles also play like their personalities and that gets to another mechanism I enjoy in Shadows of the Past: sharing dice. The turtles can share what they roll with their teammates. Dice placement makes all the difference. Each turtle player places their dice in front of them in a row and other turtles can only borrow a die that’s the closest to them. The player on your right can only borrow the die that’s the farthest on the right of the row.
Leonardo gets a bonus whenever someone borrows his dice. He’s the leader and that makes sense. Raphael gets extra dice but can’t borrow anything because he’s a loner. This is such a great touch because the players who’re playing Leo and Raph tend to sit as far away from each other as possible and those are the turtles who tend to butt heads the most.
Playing as either side can be fun, but also different, and that adds replay value. It also helps that TMNT: Shadows of the Past has a scenario system that works like playing through classic turtle stories.
Ah. It’s almost like reading the original comics.
Batman: Gotham City Chronicles
Monolith Board Games uses a similar gaming system with Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. Like TMNT: Shadows of the Past, the two sides use asymmetric gameplay, but both sides use gems that serve as their energy pool. The heroes have a set number of actions, depicted on their character cards. They use their gems to activate any of the actions they have at their disposal.
The villain (or Overlord) has a group of enemy tiles on a track that begins with smaller enemies on the left and larger ones on the right.
In a sample Batman game for instance, it’d be henchmen on the far left, Harley Quinn on the spot just left of the Joker, and of course the Joker would be on the far right.
Somewhat like the heroes, the Overlord activates their enemy tiles by using energy gems equal to the spot on the track that the enemy tile they want to activate is on. So, if you want to activate the first set of villains, pay one gem. If you want to activate the second set of villains, pay two, and so forth. As soon as a villain is activated, it goes to the end of the track (far right), and the other tiles slide one spot to the left.
This is so clever because the Overlord could activate the small fry for cheap or they could pay a little extra if the villain to the right has more strategic value. They wouldn’t spend all their gems to activate the Joker, would they? But it is the player’s choice.
But the heroes are also satisfying because they each have unique abilities based in their character’s lore—so Catwoman may be more useful than Red Robin in a game requires theft, but Red Robin is more useful in another that needs more detective work—and each scenario has very different objectives. The heroes win if they meet their objectives. The villains win if the heroes don’t.
Perhaps the best thing is that Batman GCC recreates dozens of classic Batman comic book tales. Not the movies or TV shows, the original comics. And from what I’ve seen, they may be using Capullo’s art as the basis for the miniatures. What!?
Is there anything you like about these games that we didn’t mention? Maybe you like TMNT better than Batman, and I’m too much of a Batman fanboy. You could have them challenge each other to a duel or you can let us know your thoughts in comments.