Review of The Lost Village: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions


About a week ago (it’s Aug. 29, 2020), I received Part II of the Ruin Of Thandar Campaign: The Lost Village in the mail.  It was originally a Kickstarter, but I ended up ordering it from Miniatures Market and got it as soon as it came to retail.  There are a lot of Kickstarters that have already gotten their copy, so I am late to the party, BUT it also seems to be sold out already at most online stores at the time of this writing.

What Is The Ruin Of Thandar Campaign?

Hero Realms and the needed components and expansions to play the Ruin of Thandar campaign!

The Ruin of Thandar is a cooperative expansion campaign for Hero Realms The Lost Village itself is Part II of that campaign  (with more obviously planned).  For those of you who don’t know, Hero Realms is a competitive, 1 vs.1, deck-building game.   I liked the original Ruin of Thandar cooperative expansion so much it made #4 on my Top 10 Cooperative Deckbuilder Games (and  it probably should have made my Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Fully Cooperatively, since the base game REQUIRES these expansions to be fully cooperative).

The new expansion is smaller: it doesn’t quite has the same amount of cards

Besides the base game of Hero Realms, you also need the Character Packs (see below).  The Character Packs give you a little more specialization (almost but not quite Variable Player Powers), and a little more flavor to the game: Each Character Pack has 18 cards (replacing the base starting cards, and adding two “ability” cards).

Character Packs

Hold on, we’re not there yet.  In addition to (a) Hero Realms and (b) The Character Packs (one pack for each player), you also need (c) The Ruin of Thandar expansion Part I.


Why do you need the Part I Ruin of Thandar expansion?  In the campaign game, you “level up” as you play (getting new cards, new Skills, new Abilities, and new Treasure).  Once you are done playing the Ruin of Thandar, you will have a lot of cards from that expansion explicitly for your character!!  These cards are needed for The Lost Village!

SO: you will have to have played all the way through Part I, saved/remembered what new cards you upgraded to, and THEN you can finally play The Lost Village!

Unboxing and Components


The Lost Village comes with a bunch of new cards and two books.

Nice Linen finished cards: these are Villain cards with a color in the upper left corner! This color activates one of the Big Bad’s abilites!

One book is the “rulebook” (although not quite, see below) and the other is the Adventure Book. The Adventure book outlines the adventure the players will experience.   The Adventure book is broken into “Chapters” and depending on whether you win or lose, you go to a different “Chapter” (kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure games).

The game is cooperative because all the players work together to take down “the Big Bad”.  In the base Hero Realms, you damage to each other.  In the cooperative, you do damage to the “the Big Bad” or the Master.

The first Big Bad!

As the bad news cards come out (this is a cooperative game, so bad news cards HAVE to come out), each card  (see below) will activate one of the special abilities of the Master: the color in the upper left of the bad news cards corresponds to the ability on the Master card(s).

Bad News cards! Note the colored icon in the upper left!

If you get 3 of the Mastery cards (see diamond picture above), you can flip the Big Bad to the other side which is Level 2 and harder!

There are “essentially” 3-4 Scenarios/battles/adventures you will play through, and the bad news cards related to each scenario are labelled on the bottom left (4,5,6 since this is PART II of the adventure which already did 1,2,3).

Bad News cards from Adventure 6



The rulebook for the Lost Village is … okay.  The game doesn’t make it 100% clear up front, but YOU NEED THE RULEBOOK FROM The Ruin Of Thandar TO PLAY THIS GAME!!  Since this is Part II of a campaign, all the Lost Village rulebook does is “augment” the Ruin of Thandarr rulebook.  IT IS NOT A FULL RULEBOOK!

You need both rulebooks to play The Lost Village!

The text is a little small.  I wish it were bigger, but since the boxes are pretty tiny,  I guess they had to make it fit.  It was still much better than the Disney Shadowed Kingdoms rulebook though! Eh, the rulebook was ok.  I got through it.

The original Ruin Of Thandarr rulebook seemed … better.  It felt like it had better editing, better layout, better examples.  I guess since The Lost Village was just an expansion, they didn’t have to do as much?

The Game

A Set-up for Adventure I!

The game is really just the deck-building game of Hero Realms or Star Realms.  You buy cards from the market (upper part of the picture above) and add them to your hand.  The object is to do enough damage (cooperatively) to the “Big Bad” in the middle to win the game.  Cards start simple, giving you either coin (to buy new cards) or swords (to do damage).  As the game progresses, your deck gets better and better as you buy better cards, allowing you to cull, draw more cards, etc.  It’s a deck-builder!

What makes it little more interesting is (a) your special powers (see the left part of the picture above) and (b) you are playing a campaign where you can “level-up” and get new skills, abilities, treasure and (c) you are playing cooperatively.  When playing cooperatively, you can help out characters adjacent to you around the table!  Notionally, each player has his own “Monster Area” and there’s also “The Master area” (where the Big Bad lives).  You usually can’t attack the Master (Big Bad) until you clear your area first.

The game flows very quickly once you get set-up:  At its core, Hero Realms is one of the easiest deck-builders I’ve played.


The set-up can be a bit much.  In order to play The Lost Village, you’ve had to play through The Ruin Of Thandarr and remembered what cards you got!   It’s been quite a bit of time since I have played, so I went ahead and played all the way through The Ruin of Thandar again before playing the Lost Village.

So: set-up:  I strongly encourage you to keep cards related to each box next to each other!!!   It’s very easy for cards to get into the wrong box because we are essentially pulling cards from (a) the Hero Realms base game (b) Character Packs (c) Ruin of Thandar box and (d) The Lost Village box.  See my set-up below.

First, get all the cards that you need out of the base box.

Base game, you essentially just want the market

Then you want to get the Character Cards out:



Then the Ruin of Thandarr cards:

Ruin of Thandar cards

And finally the Lost Village cards.


Putting this all together, you can put out your very first play of Adventure 4 (the first Adventure from the Lost Village).

Adventure 4! The first adventure in The Lost Village!

If it seems like I am making a big deal about set-up … I am.  It was by far the worst part of the game.  Keeping cards and decks separate so that they don’t become unwieldy was a lot of work.  It was very fiddly and annoying.  HOWEVER, once I had it set-up, it wasn’t too bad.  Honestly, the best thing to do is to leave it set-up once you start playing … you DO NOT want to set this again and again!

Solo Play

A winning game of Adventure 4!

My first game was to play through all of The Ruin of Thandar (keeping all treasure/abilities/skills cards I got from that expansion).  Then I started into The Lost Village.  Solo play was easy: you basically alternate playing your deck, the Master’s deck, your desk, the Master’s deck… until someone wins.  The game seemed a little easy as a solo game, but there were some unclear rules (someone had to show a green card to stop something BAD from happening, but since I was the only player, I allowed myself to be able to do that).  It’s possible I misinterpreted those and it was too easy because of that.

But you know what, I wanted to keep playing and get all the way through the Adventure!  Usually, I do my first impressions review after just a little play, but I played ALL THE WAY THROUGH!  I was having a blast and I didn’t want to stop !!  Of course, life gets in the way, and I had to play this over 3 nights but I really looked forward to my plays.

It was fun and straightforward to play, it was fun to upgrade my character, it was fun to run the bad guy and see what he doing to me, it was to fun to see what craziness would come out, it was fun to explore and read the story!  Overall, it was  … fun!


A Winning Game of the final battle!

So, for some reason, this game reminds me of an Escape Room!  Not because of the puzzles (because this is a deck-building, damage-inflicting game NOT a puzzle game), but because of the nature of the The Lost Village.  In The Lost Village, there are 3-4 “episodes” in the box, much like 3 “episodes” in the Unlock Game:  Epic Adventures. You are probably just going to play each episode once (as they each tell a story) … once you’ve seen the story, it’s not quite as compelling the second time.  And the price point is about the same as the Unlock Game: Epic Adventures  (assuming you already had all the Hero Realms stuff) at about $20 for The Lost Village.  You get about 3-4 sessions of adventure with a story and are kinda done.

I had a blast playing through solo, but the replayability seems limited. The story was fun, but not particularly strong.  The scenarios themselves were a hoot, and the levelling-up and found treasure made each game something to look forward to.   I  will say the whole game is very fiddly ONLY because it’s so hard to keep the base game, Character Packs, expansion I and expansion II separate.  (If you don’t keep them separate, you may have trouble putting everything back together to play again).

I liked this a lot.  I will be playing through it again with my friends!  I look forward to the next expansion …

Review of Marvel United: Part II. Final Thoughts and Awards!

Wal-Mart version of Marvel United!

Recall that we did Part I of this review here.  Now that I have played a lot more (both solo and cooperatively with a group), I feel like I can talk about final thoughts on this review.

A 4-Player Game!  (Andrew ‘s knee pictured)

Marvel United has gone over like gangbusters.  I have liked all my solo plays (I have tried many different combos: Hulk and Iron Man, Captain America and Ant-Man are my favorites), and my friends really enjoyed the co-op experience.

Not much more to say: everyones like it!


A 4-Player winning game!

There’s a surprising amount of strategy because of a simple mechanism: saving your tokens.  If you can’t use one of your actions, you get a token and you can save it for a future round.   Most of the time,  people almost forget about this mechanism, but I think the ability to carefully save tokens for when you need them brings this game up a notch in strategy! Without it, this would still be a good game, but I think that the game gains an extra level of strategy with this mechanism.
EDIT: Oops! I think I have been playing this wrong because I have been playing Solar Storm a lot (see first part review here).  In Solar Storm, if you don’t take one of your actions, you can save it for a future turn (and get a token).  I think you can ONLY get a token if a Hero’s special card gives you one … I don’t think you can get one otherwise.  (The rulebook doesn’t say either way, but it would probably point it out it you could).  So,  I think we played a few turns wrongs.  This might, however become a house rule for us because I hate the idea of “turns where you can’t do anything” because your tokens just don’t make sense.

How To Take The Fun Out of a Game

Mail Order Monsters (Game) - Giant Bomb

Mail Order Monsters was a game (for the Commodore 64) that me and my friends adored back in High School.  (Yes, that was a long time ago. Shut up).  My friend Sloppy in particular loved it: He loved it so much he had a notebook called How To Take the Fun out of the Game! In this notebook, he wrote down all the stats of all the monsters, what their powers were, ways to cheat (you could add the FNE Ray to the players with a simple binary edit), and just in general a catalog of everything in the game.   It took the fun out because it listed all the stats: you didn’t get to discover them.

To that end, I present to you the chart to take all the fun out of Marvel United.  mu_cropped-0How do you read that?  On the left is the name of each hero.  Each hero has 12 cards: 9 “base” cards with no special abilities and 3 specials (endemic to that hero).  So the first 9 columns are are base cards, the next 3 columns are the special cards.  So, the cards are labelled with “Move”, “Wild”, “Punch” or “*” (for star, ie., Heroic).  For example, Ant-Man has 2 cards that have two “Heroic” symbols (**).     Ant-Man also has some combos: a Heroic/Punch (*P) and a Move/Heroic (M*).





4 of the 9 Ant-Man base cards

The special columns might be a little confusing.  Each special card has a “base” symbol that can be used by either the hero or the next hero.  The special ability (in parenthesis) can ONLY be used by the Hero.  For example, Ant-Man has a “Move” special card, which only he can use to move again and punch thrice: M(MPPP)

All 3 Special cards of Ant-Man

The last 5 columns are simply a summary of the stats on the right: How many symbols in the entire deck are “Move”, “Wild”, “Punch”, “Heroic”, or “Special”.  For example, Ant-Man has 4 Wilds total.  He also has 3 Punch but his specials allow him to do 6 Punch total (the value in parentheses).

A Few Thoughts About the Stats

Note that all characters have a Move, a Wild and a double Wild (Wild/Wild).  All characters also have 3 special cards and 12 cards total.  I suspect that in the expansions, these numbers will change more than they do here: these are only the statistics for the base Wal-Mart version of the game.


… but nobody cares about charts!  Everyone wants to know “Who’s the Best character?” Well, based on the stats, here are some awards:

Most Heroic!  Captain America and Ant-Man

Both Cap and Ant-Man have 7 total Heroic symbols!


Most Wild!  Tie!  Ant-Man and Captain Marvel. Honorable Mention: Captain America!

Both Ant-Man and Captain Marvel has 4 Wild symbols total.  Captain America’s base is 3, but with his specials, he can give up to 3 more Wilds to other players—Since his 6 is very specialized, we give Cap an Honorable Mention.



Most Punchy by Themselves!  Captain Marvel

With her special cards, she totals 13 Punch (!) total.  But only she can use 6 of those punches (and they have to be on adjacent locations).


Most Punchy for Everyone! Venom

He has soooo many punches that he and other players can use: 8 total (where as Captain Marvel only has 7 she can share).  With his specials, Venom has 10 Punch total!


Most Move! Tie? Iron Man and Venom

The chart makes it look like Hulk or Venom might be the best movers (at 5 and 5(6) respectively), BUT on one of Iron Man’s special cards, he can distribute another 2 Move to him OR his compatriots, effectively allowing 6 total for anyone!  So, it’s hard to call: we’ll call it a tie! (But Venom also has a special card to allow him to move anymore: it’s a not a Move symbol per se, so maybe he has 7 total?)



Most Doubles Total!  Captain America

If you count the specials, he has 10.  If you don’t count the specials, he has 7 total doubles.  Either way, Cap has the most doubles!


Most Damaging! Hulk!

If Hulk uses his special on a Location with the main Villain, A henchmen, and 5 Thugs, he can do 1 damage to each of them, effectively doing 7 damage!




A Four Player board with Cap, Cap, Ant-Man, And Black Widow!

After living with the game for a while, everything I said in Part I of this still holds:

  1. It’s a great intro game: I like it significantly better than Horrified as an intro cooperative game
  2. It’s a great gateway game into more complex Superhero games like Sentinels of the Multiverse, The Reckoners, and Sidekick Saga
  3. It’s a great value ($30 at Walmart)

Now that I’ve played more, do I regret not backing the CMON Kickstarter? Again, I am ambivalent: more content is good, but I am still happy with the base game.  It’s good to know there are expansions if I want them, but I still happy exploring the base game.  In fact, I’ve found that if I get an expansion I DON’T TYPICALLY PLAY IT!! I have sooo many games that when I pull out a new box, I usually have to remember the base game first!!  So, I am okay with not getting the CMON Kickstarter version (for hundreds of dollars).

One more thing: the co-op experience works great, and so does the solo mode (although, I’ve avoided the solo mode of the game and just played two characters: it works fine). This game has gone up in my estimation, probably to a 7.5 or 8 out of 10 and will probably break the top 5 of my Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Board and Card games (if it ever gets updated).



A Review of Shadowed Kingdom. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impression.

A Two Player (only) Cooperative Game only at Target

I was very excited when I saw this cooperative game mentioned in the Dice Tower news!  It’s a two-player (only) cooperative game, just becoming available at Target!  Currently, I think it’s a Target exclusive and you can ONLY get it online.   My wife ordered it for me online immediately and it just arrived the other day!  I have been pleased with most if not all of the Target (Wonder Woman, Jaws of the Lion) and Walmart (Marvel United) exclusive cooperative board games that have been coming out, so I was hopeful for this!


A small box

This was a surprisingly small box.  It was basically a little bigger than a dual-deck box.  There aren’t too many components:

Components: tiny rulebook
Locations (and other cards, about 24) for the Kingdom on the left and 6 Hero cards on the right.

The cards look nice, and the art is nice but they are definitely cheaper cards.  Mine had a little tear almost instantly.  But I do like the art: it’s very evocative.

Art and graphic design is very evocative


Hero Cards

The hero cards are decent.  I like that I can read all the text on the cards fairly easily.  But that’ll change once we get to the rulebook.

The Rulebook

Introduction .. I have no idea what it says because it’s so tiny!

This is one of the worst rulebooks I have read in a while.  There are a lot of mistakes, and the text is so tiny, I couldn’t read it!  I ended up taking a picture of the rulebook with my camera just so I could zoom in on it and read it!!  I think this this is the tiniest text I have ever seen.


The Components page was ok, but there aren’t a lot of pictures in the game.  I couldn’t “really” tell the cards apart BECAUSE THE ART WAS SO TINY. They are just all “purple”!


I couldn’t read this it was so small.  This is where I took a picture with my phone. See below the picture I took!


So, by zooming in on the above picture, I could read the rules.  One of the very first set-up had some confusion. Where’s the Zero on the Shadow/Magic Track?

Where’s the Zero? In the middle? The minus (-) seems to be the left, and the + the right …

There is NO ZERO indicated on the track, even though the rulebook says there is.  After reading through more rules, I figured out that the markers go all to the way to the left (you win if you get the Magic track to the right and you lose if you get the Shadow track all the way to the right).

I could forgive that, but this is just indicative of how bad the rulebook is.

More small text

This is the smallest text I have ever read and it put me in a really foul mood to play the game.  This was not a very good rulebook: possibly the worst one I have read this year.

Set-Up and Solo Rules

Set-Up for a Solo play using the Changing Perspectives idea

This is a game for ONLY two players.  (No Saunders’ Law here).  Each player sits across from each other in this game and alternates turns.  We can apply the idea of Changing Perspectives and play Shadowed Kingdom solo by playing both players (and swapping chairs a lot).   Recall, the Changing Perspectives idea is where you “ignore” the secret information of your compatriot(s) and make decisions solely on the information of your current role.  In this game, the roles are simply player one and player two.  When you switch to the other player, you can only make decisions based on the information available to that player. (Don’t forget to switch sides on the table too!)

Record the information I know for trying to play solo

Above, you can see I have a pad of paper with each player’s knowledge.  As the game proceeded, I updated the knowledge of each player independently.   There are times when there is no information (the two cards I pushed got taken out, and I have no idea what’s in there), so I usually just “pushed” in hopes of getting something good.

After a few plays, recording what information I know so I can switch perspectives

Theoretically, this idea should work for this game.  After all, there’s not much information to record for each side, and you can make decisions based SOLELY on the state of the board and your secret information (much like solo rules for Shipwreck Arcana).    It should work.  But, it doesn’t.  The game is simply too random.  There’s never really that much information available to make any useful decisions.


The only two things you can do in the game


The game is both way too simple and way too complex at the same time.  You can really only do two things on your turn: “Discover” a card (push a card) or “Dispel” a card (slide left or right).   The Kingdom area is a 2×2 grid: when you push card, you push a column towards the other player, and the other player has to read and so what the card does.  If you dispel, you have to use your oldest card (yes, your OLDEST card … of two cards) to push a card off one row (that card is discarded and your new one takes it’s place).  So, every turn you are either pushing to a column or sliding a card out of a row.  The Kingdom remains 2×2 for the whole game.

A losing game!

The complexity comes because there are a lot weird little idiosyncrasies: The card you dispel with HAS to be the oldest.  You can only have 1 or 2 cards, depending on whose turn it is.  If you get pushed to you take the card, do the action, put it in your hand.  If you dispel the card, you discard that card and randomly draw from the top of your deck.  The idea, I think, is that the current player (about to play) always has two cards and the other player has one card.

It’s just that, there are a LOT of little rules for such a small game.

The way you score is simple: your compatriot “pushes” magic to your side. You need to make it to 6 Magic to win the game.


If you unfortunately push Shadow, then the Shadow Track increases.  If it makes it to 6, you lose.

Shadow card: Don’t discover these!

The Magic/Shadow Track:



First Impressions

A losing game … I just wanted to get my game over with

The base strategy seems pretty simple: if there’s Magic, try to put it out so it can get pushed.  If there’s Shadow, don’t put it out unless you have to, and if so, immediately dispel it.

The problem: this game is just luck.  Every so often, you get a glimmer of information, but then something takes it away ALL THE TIME.  Magic and Shadow both make you reshuffle your decks and start a new deck.  You ONLY have two cards at any time you play, so you don’t have much choice.  You have even LESS choice when you dispel, as you HAVE TO use your oldest card.   When you dispel, you still have to RANDOMLY draw the top card of your deck and play it.  (You don’t really have any control over what’s the top card of your deck).  Many of the cards just randomize the Kingdom.

Just do what the card says: no decisions.

The problem: you have too few decisions and too much luck.

Oh, and I have heroes with special powers: I never used the special powers once in the game!  So, what’s the purpose?



I didn’t enjoy this game at all.  I thought it might be like the Mind with Special Powers (you aren’t supposed to talk or strategize).  It wasn’t: there’s no notion of “reading each other” … you just play cards.    I was hoping it might be like a simpler Shipwreck Arcana.  It wasn’t: there’s so much randomness.   There were no real decisions in the game, and there was WAAY too much luck.

For a while, I thought this might be a good game for kids, but I don’t think this after playing it.  There are far too many weird and confusing rules that “straight-jacket” kids into doing things a special way (discard your oldest card, push a card and make your friend read it and keep it, do the special text even though it’s not clear who they are referring to).  And there are rules that are unclear that infuriated me and would confuse kids.

This is a complete miss for me.  I may do a second part of this review if I can get my game group to play this, but I hated this game:  The tiny terrible rulebook, the lack of decisions, and the abundance of luck.  Stay away.


A Review of Marvel United: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules and First Impressions

Wal-Mart version of Marvel United!

In March 2020, the CMON version of the Marvel United Kickstarter ended.  I had originally backed it full in (and even reported on it here), but got very annoyed as CMON kept adding more and more things for me to buy as the campaign went on.  At one point, I was in for $200+ for a game I didn’t know anything about.  I bailed: it was just too much  … even though this was a cooperative Superhero game, my favorite kind of game!


Fast Forward to Summer 2020: In July, Walmart “accidentally” released the retail version of Marvel United.  It was an “accident” because the Kickstarter backers had not gotten their version yet, and there was quite an uproar.   They (CMON and the Kickstarter) quickly close the loophole, and only a few people got the retail version (see the Kickstarter notes).

I tried to get one! I tried to order online (it was closed already), I went to the store (“We don’t have that”).  In early August, the Walmart site reported the GAMES WAS IN STORES (again, before the Kickstarter backers were getting theirs), so I drove across town to get one.  (“Oh, the website is wrong”).  Finally, my wife said “This is ridiculous” and ordered me a copy on eBay (for $34: $5 over the $29.99 cost at Walmart).  It arrived the first week of August.


Because I got it off eBay, I have no idea if the game had an insert.

eBay version: everything punched out and bagged! But no insert!

Everything was already punched out and in bags.  Basically, I paid an extra $5 for pre-punched and labelled version.


The game looks good, especially considering the price!

The Rulebook

Components Page

The Rulebook was good.  It had a nice components page (see above) and a nice set-up page.


In general, the rulebook was pretty good overall.  This is a simple game.  I got through the rulebook pretty quickly and it taught me the game.

Heroes and Villains


The miniatures that comes with the game are quite good.  You have to understand that I am not a miniatures person: if a game comes with miniatures, I tend to not lot like it. Let me be clear, I like the miniatures here—they are really nice .

Nice Miniatures!

You get seven heroes (Hulk, Captain America, Ant-man, Iron Man, Venom (?), Black Widow, and Captain Marvel (female version)) and three villains (Ultron, Red Skull, and Taskmaster).  Apparently, Venom DOESN’T come with the CMON base game: the Kickstarter backers get someone else.


The Heroes!

Each hero has their own deck of 12 cards.  Each Hero will start the game with 3 cards (drawing 1 more on every turn) and play a card every turn.  The cards represent your hit points: if you are every reduced to 0 cards on your turn, you have to lose a turn to recover and then you heal back up to 3 cards.  This is friendly game: Heroes can’t die.


The Villains!

Each villain has it’s own card, with its own victory conditions, and its own “BAM” special attack.  You choose one villain to fight at the start of the game.

Each game goes the same way: you have to overcome two challenges before you can even damage the main villain



The game has 8 Locations (you choose 6 and put them in a circle when you play).  Each Location has its own special ability you can use IF the ability is not covered by a Villain Threat card.

Set-Up and Solo Play

Set-Up for a Two Hero Game

The game set-ups pretty quickly.  Each player chooses a hero to play and takes the mini and deck for that hero; Set set-up above.  For a solo game, you are SUPPOSED to play 3 Heroes and there are some “special rules” for Solo play—I didn’t want to deal with that! I played solo by playing two Heroes.  (I’ve done this a lot lately: I prefer playing two positions rather than playing the “official” solo rules: I did that for Solar Storm as well as Star Trek: Frontiers.   Why?  I think it’s because there are “exceptions”  that you have to remember when playing the solo rules; rather than learn the exceptions, I want to just play.  Remember, I had to write down the solo rules for Forgotten Waters on a piece of paper … I didn’t want to deal with that!  I just want to play.)  And you know?  This Two Hero Solo mode worked great.  THE GAME IS SIMPLE ENOUGH IT’S VERY EASY TO PLAY TWO POSITIONS FOR SOLO PLAY.

City Circle

Interestingly, the city set-up reminds me of the  Rebirth DC-Deckbuilding Game, where you can move around the city in a circle.  Note that when you start the game, each City Location has a “threat” covering the special power of the City Location, and you can only get the special power if you clear the threat on the Location (see below).

The “threat” at Central Park is Bob, Agent of Hydra



The gamplay flows pretty quickly: each player takes a card, plays a card (choosing from among his 3 or so cards) and activates the actions on that card PLUS THE PREVIOUS PLAYER’S card!   Every 3 turns, a Bad Guy plays a card causing Bad News (see Red Skull cards above).  This is a nice self-balancing mechanism for any number of players: Bad Guys ALWAYS play after 3 Hero cards, no matter now many heroes!  (Later in the game, the Bad Guy plays after only 2 Hero cards).

This is a real simple mechanic and moves quickly.  It forms a “comic book storyboard”: See above.

Your little symbols allow you to do one of 3 (4) things:

  • Move: move via adjacent Locations
  • Punch: do damage to a Villain, Thugs, or Henchmen (you can’t do damage to the Villain until you’ve taken out enough threats)
  • Heroic Action: either save a civilian or help remove a threat
  • Wild: one of the above three

The cooperation in the game comes from working with your compatriots to figure out what symbols to put out on your turn BECAUSE THE NEXT HERO GETS TO USE YOUR SYMBOLS ON HIS TURN!

There are other mechanics (depending on the Villain), but usually your game involves saving some civilians (which kind of has a Pandemic disease cubes vibe), punching thugs, and removing threads and doing enough so you can punch the big bad and WIN!


My eBay version … is there supposed to be an insert?

So, you’ll notice I went out of my way to get this game.  But you’ll also notice I choose not to back the Kickstarter.  I feel very ambivalent about this game!  I love Superheroes!  BUT I don’t like the FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) that Kickstarters foster where I have to get everything.

Here’s the thing, I kind of wanted to dislike this game, so I could justify that I didn’t back it !

“See?  it’s a bad game!  It’s a good thing I didn’t back it!”

But, it was a good gameI had a good time. I’ve played through two of the villains now and I will probably play through Ultron this weekend.  I like this game.  I had fun.

Do I regret not backing the Kickstarter?  Maybe a little bit.  I think more content would be nice, but the base game is good.   Here’s my only real complaint with the game:  I don’t really feel like I am playing a unique super hero. Each hero has some special powers sprinkled through out the deck, but there’s not very many: I don’t get to use my unique special power very often.   On the other side of the coin:  the little miniature, the back of the deck, the occasional special text definitely contribute to making me feel like Ant-Man! But at the end of the day, I feel like I am just playing the symbols.  Which is fine: it is a good game.  It’s a simple game.  I can teach this to just about anyone.

I almost feel like this is a good gateway game for  heavier Superhero games like Sentinels of the Multiverse, The Reckoners, or Sidekick Saga (see my Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Board and Card Games).



This is a good cooperative game for 1-4 players.  You can teach it quickly, and you  can play a game in about 20 minutes.   I know a lot of people really like Horrified as a good mass market intro cooperative game, but I think this is a significantly better gateway game than that!  This game is fun!  The minis are great!  For $29.99, this is a great deal!    It will probably make my next Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Board and Cards games next time I update that list, but it probably won’t break into the top 3.



How Do I Review Cooperative Escape Room Games? A Review of Unlock! Epic Adventures


Recently, (last week: July 2020) I received the newest Unlock box of Escape Room Games: Unlock! Epic Adventures. I played through them all solo (sigh, it’s still hard to get a group together these days) and decided to put up a review.  Sooooo … how do you put up a review without giving away too much?  And still give the reader something to think about?


English Edition (Back of Box)

So, I’ll give a quick overview (with my thoughts) and discuss some related issues.

There are three adventures in this box:

  1. The Seventh Screening: An easy (their rating and mine as well) adventure set in a older movie.  It’s a light hearted Horror Movie.  It’s fun, thematic, easy, and has one of my favorite puzzles I’ve seen in a while in an Escape room game.   After I finished it, I immediately called my friend (who loves cheesy horror movies) and said “You have to play this one!”.  This is probably in my top 5 Escape Room games.
  2. The Dragon’s Seven Tests: A medium (their rating: I think it’s harder) adventure with a Zen-like theme as you solve puzzles to become a disciple of the Master.  After I played this one, I said to myself “I hated that”.  I thought the puzzles were unrelated to the theme, I thought they were obscure, and I hated the real-time puzzle.    There were 1 or 2 puzzles that made be smile, but in general, this is one of my least favorite Unlock! games of all time.  It’s possible the theme didn’t resonate with me, so maybe you’d like it.  I also played it solo: maybe it plays better with a group where different minds can offer different solutions.  I didn’t like it.
  3.   Mission #07:  A hard (their rating: I think it’s easier) game. Can you find the spy that infiltrated your organization?  This is probably in my top 3 Escape Room games of all time!  The game moves quickly, it’s immersive, the theme shines through, the puzzles are (mostly) interesting.  The very last puzzle was absolutely fantastic.  I had a blast playing this, to the point that I look forward to playing it again (in a few years after I have forgotten the puzzles).

In general, really liked the first, hated the second, and LOVED the third game.  In general, I’d recommend this Unlock! box of 3 puzzles, even if I didn’t like the second Escape Room!  (Okay, so review over?)

Unlock Games: 1 Game vs. 3 Games

Unlock! The Adventures of Oz, Space Cowboys, 2018 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

In the last few years, the Unlock games were available separately: A favorite was the Unlock: The Adventures of Oz.  And you could buy it separately … and you still can for about $14.99 (MSRP).

Unlock! Secret Adventures, Space Cowboys, 2017 — front cover

BUT, newer Unlock releases make you buy all 3 from a set (to be fair, they have been doing this in Europe for while).  These are typically $29.99 (MSRP) for all three.  To my knowledge, you cannot buy the newest games individually anymore.  In other words, I can’t tell you: “Just get the Seventh Screening and Mission #07 game, ignore the Dragon game”. You have to get all 3.  (To be fair, the two good ones make it worthwhile).

Bang For The Buck

So, let’s do a cost-benefit analysis from the three major types of Escape Room Games: Unlock, Exit, and Deckscape.

Unlock! The Adventures of Oz, Space Cowboys, 2018 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

  1. Unlock games require an app to play them: the games could become unplayable in the future if the company doesn’t keep the app in maintenance.  With that proviso , the games are completely replayable.  The MSRP for a single game (for those you can get single, not all of them are) is $14.99.  Miniatures Market and CoolStuffInc usually have them for $12.99.  If you have to buy 3 in a set (like the Epic Adventures of this review), the cost is $29.99 (MSRP) or $23.99 at MM/CSI.  Games typically last an hour to 90 minutes.  Let’s call that 75 minutes on average.

       Cost  per hour:  ($23.99/1.25 hours)/ 3 Games ~= $6.40 per hour.  (for package)
    Cost  per hour:  ($12.99/1.25 hours)/ 1 Games ~= $10.39 per hour  (for singles)

    Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab, KOSMOS, 2017 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

  2. Exit games can only be physically played once (as you rip/tear cards/boxes), and then they are done.  You don’t need an app: everything comes in the box.  There is one game per box (with one exception).  They are dozens of Exit games, usually about $14.95 (MSRP) or $10.99 (MM/CSI) each.  Games typically last 60-120 minutes.  Let’s call that 90 minutes on average.

        Cost  per hour:  ($10.99/1.5 hours)/ 1 Games ~= $7.33 per hour

    English first edition cover

  3. Deckscape is just a deck of cards.  You don’t need an app.  You also don’t destroy the games: they are completely replayable.  There are about 6 out right now. The MSRP is $14.90, $10.99 at MM/CSI.  Games typically last 30-90 minutes: let’s call it an hour.

      Cost per hour: ($10.99/1.00 hours)/ 1 Games ~= $10.99 per hour

The best bang for the buck are the Unlock games (with three games per box):  it only costs about $6.40 per hour to play.  And you can pass the games onto your friends, as they are completely replayable.  BUT, Unlock games may be obsolete in the future if the app isn’t maintained.

The Deckscape games look the worst bang for the buck (at $10.99 per hour), but they will never be obsolete and you can easily share the game (and the cost) among several groups of friends to bring the cost down to just $3 or $4 per hour.

The Exit games, although they aren’t replayable, have an excitement to them, as you bend, tear, destroy cards as you play!  The Exit games tend to be very immersive, but once you are done, you are done. $7.33 per hour is sunk cost: you can never get it back.


First image from app

In general, it seems like the major Escape Room games cost (on the order of) $10 per hour to play.  You can usually only play them once. Is that a good deal?  Only you can decide that.  Was Unlock! Epic Adventures good?  For me, Epic Adventures has two of my favorite Unlock adventures of all time … and one I really didn’t like (possibly my least favorite).  So, do the math: is that worth it for you?   For me, the two hours of sheer joy and immersion from my two favorites here was totally worth it.