A Review of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (The Board Game)

So, let’s be clear here: this is a review of the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns The Board Game (from Cryptozoic Games); this is not a review of the seminal work by Frank Miller.  The Dark Knight Returns is arguably some of Frank Miller’s best work (along with Ronin and his runs on Daredevil).  The Dark Knight Returns (originally a 4 issue mini-series, but usually found in full graphic novel) follows an aging Batman as he strives to protect an older Gotham from his main villains.  It’s a very dark and very graphic re-imagining of the Batman universe, and it’s strongly recommended for very mature audiences.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns The Board Game takes the story from Frank Miller’s work and turns it into a game. The game is broken up into 4 issues (see above), paralleling the original release of The Dark Knight Returns. In each issue, you play through the corresponding story from the original issues of the mini-series.


This is a solo adventure game with a 2-Player versus mode included (tacked-on?).



This solo game is enormous! Now, granted, I am showing the deluxe Kickstarter version (see above for scale with a coke can), but wow. Wait until you see the whole thing on the table later.


It almost looks like a bookcase game or a World Atlas! It’s in a giant hard slip case and contains two boxes.


It’s hard to tell from the pictures above, but the main box has some neat detail on it (see below):


This is truly a deluxe package.

Now, what’s in the two different cases?  The first box has the miniatures (if you get the non-deluxe version, you get cardboard standees instead, see later).

These are pretty nice miniatures. They reflect Frank Miller’s style, which is a little messy, so maybe they don’t make the greatest miniatures. But they are very thematic.



As usual, I encourage people to use their phone to take pictures of the layout because once you take out all the minis, it’s a pain to get them back in.


Helpful tip: the game has a lot of components and doesn’t fit back in the box well, so I took advantage of the extra space UNDERNEATH the miniatures and put the plastic bases (for the cardboard) underneath so I can always find them if I need them. I also put a reminder in my box so I know there is stuff underneath the minis.

The second box comes with the rest of the game.


I’m trying desperately to indicate HOW BIG these rulebooks and boxes are with another Coke can for scale! The main rulebook (on top) is enormous! The main rulebook doubles as Issue #1, then Issues #2 , #3, and #4 come out as well as a one-shot scenario/PVP mode book. Overall, there are 5 very large books! See below.

Underneath the books are the game board and the punchouts.

Some of these punchouts will be unnecessary since we have the miniatures (basically the minis are the characters and a few cool items).


3 Pages of punchouts (see above)


One enormous board … it barely fits on my table! Again, Coke can included for scale. See above.


Underneath the board and punchouts are the cards, dice, plastic bases, dice bag and … a dry-erase marker? Yes, the game board itself is for dry-erase! This is a “soft” legacy game where you will be drawing on the board and changing Gotham city (with your marker) as you progress through the 4 issues. It’s “soft” legacy because you can always reset everything by erasing the marker (and resetting the decks).


Underneath the dice bag are (shockingly) a bunch of dice. See above.


Perhaps the coolest component in the game are the solo player’s little “bat-dice”! They are 6-sided dice with little bat-wings (so bat-dice). They function essentially as 4-sided dice, but they look a whole lot cooler with the little wings! The blue dice are the base dice and the other colors are upgrades you can earn/buy as you play through the four issues of the game.


What’s a little weird is the symbols on the dice feel more “Adam West” kitschy Batman with POW! BLOCK! and RAM! symbols. I mean, The Dark Knight Returns is arguably the darkest Batman and these kitschy symbols feel a little out of place in the Dark Knight game? Or am I being too picky?


There are a lot of other dice in the game, but each issue chooses which ones are apropos (see upper left: notice that I am storing most of the dice in the place where the plastic bases were …)


Most of the rest of the components are card decks. The first four are for issues 1, 2, 3, 4 (see the little number in the lower right). The other two decks are shared decks for all games (VS decks for the 2-player versus mode and S cards for shared cards for most games).


Each issue has cards with Frank Miller art apropos to that issues. See above for some cards from Issue 1.


Finally are some large cards and plastic stands. The large cards are summary cards and story cards for each issue.


Overall, the components for this game look really nice and thematic (as long as you like Frank Miller art: his art can be polarizing).



The rulebook is prettty good. But it’s not great.

The first page, the table of contents, belies the complexity of this game: this is a complex game. See all the rules and sections?


The next page shows the Components, but it suffers from the same problem as Deep Space – D6: Armada from last week! It DOES NOT label the components!! In a game full of components, you have to guess what components are what. It’s a little better than Armada in that at least the named components are on the same page as a picture, but they don’t correlate them!!! Which is which? It’s not the end of the world, but it was slightly annoying.


The next page is actually incredibly helpful, as you see what components and what dice correspond to what issue! They aren’t all labelled (grumble) but at least it does help you figure out what issue will need what.


Above describes the steps to take to get going …


AH! Finally! A full two-page spread on what everything looks like! Okay, this helps put everything together.

From here on out, the rulebook is pretty good: lots of examples.  There are still questions I have even after playing through (What do you do if you get press on your Location?  Does something bad happen? Do you have to move away immediately?), but in general most of my questions were answered.


Rulebook was fine but I want to reiterate HOW LARGE IT IS! See above. It’s harder to keep this at the table while you play. See below.

Keeping 2 pages of the rulebook open while trying to play took up almost my entire table: see above.

Rulebook overall was pretty good.



Set-up was a bit of a bear as I tried to have the rulebook open and set-up everything. Note that the above is a FAILED attempt to set things up .. why? Because I have to put cards to the right and left of the board! I need space on both the left and right edges!


The set-up above is a successful attempt! I have the rulebook, and minis on the left side of the table, tokens in the middle, and the game board with cards along all edges off the the right. Make no mistake about it: this game will take up all the space you give it!

Solo Play


This is a solo adventure game. (Well, there’s a tacked on VS mode, but I doubt I’ll ever play it). Batman needs to survive all 4 issues to win. Ya, the rulebook is a bit of a downer: the game is not about winning but surviving until the end. There are many ways to lose:


One: If any of your health/grit/sanity reach 0, you lose (see above, I’m not doing so well at the end of the issue 1).


Two: If the doomsday clock ever hits 12, you lose.


Three: If you haven’t found and defeated the main villain (see above) by the end of round 16, you lose. See the round tracker (called GCPD Track) below.


At the end of your game, you KEEP everything the way it was: your health/grit/sanity, the set-up of the board, the paths you have created, and some things on the GCPD track.  


As you play, you can achieve some goals which help you: the goals above allow you to upgrade your “bat-dice” to get better ones. These upgrades follow you as well.


As you explore the city, you move to locations and activate “one” of the three symbols on the location you land on. For example, above, Monolith Square has 3 actions: heal 1 health (red heart), heal 1 sanity (green cowl), or 1 grit (blue figure). Selina’s Apartment has 3 actions, but 1 is blocked by a COP (blue police badge), so you can’t do anything on that space until you fight the COP (using your bat dice). If you do get rid of the COP, you can either use Selina’s Apt. to get rid of 1 press token (green TV, a bad guy) or get rid of 1 mutant (red figure, a bad guy).


You might also notice there are lots of “connecting lines” on the board: when you first start the game, the track around Gotham is VERY linear! As Batman “explores” the city (after every 4th round or special actiobs), he can draw find a new path (represented by the solo player connecting any two city Locations). There are some limiting rules for those connections, but in general, it allows you to make Gotham easier to get around. This is the “soft” legacy part we talked about in the Component Section.


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns The Board Game is an exploration game as you explore the city and looks for things: (new goals, routes, scenario-specific items). It’s also a combat game (with dice for combat). It also feels a little like Pandemic (in some ways) as every turn, some bad guys will appear somewhere on the board and cause mischief.


Where do the “bad guys” come out? This is where Batman: The Dark Knight Returns The Board Game is different: you know HOW MANY and WHERE the bad guys will come out! The round marker (above) shows where the bad guy come out: In round 13 (above), 2 mutants come out in the Upper East (UE) part of the map. You can use this forward data to inform how you play!


There are a lot of complex rules for combat (how gangs come out, how they affect combat, how adjacent bad guys affect you, etc), but at the end of the day, it’s about rolling dice based on the number of enemies on your (and adjacent) locations. BAMs do damage, but BLOCKS will block a BAM and there are some other rules. In the above combat, Two-Face has 5 hit points as Batman has to POW him 5 times to win the issue! But of course, Two-Face gets his own dice which does dastardly things too …

Again, you don’t “win” this game, you survive to the end. You explore the city, find paths, keep the city under control (by limiting Press, Cops, Mutants, and Gangs), and fight bad guys. And sometimes you have the help of some allies. In Issue #1, Commisioner Gordon is VERY useful at keeping the Press under control (see below).




There are a lot of weird and interesting choices in this game.  And I mean that sincerely.  Some of them I really liked and some just seem weird/random to me.


A choice that’s weird happens during set-up and bad news: Whenever you put a bad guy (Cop, Mutant or Press) on the board, you get a lot of “choices” where to put it.  In Pandemic, you know EXACTLY where a disease goes!! But in Batman: Dark Knight Returns The Board Game, you are just told “a region”.  Something like Upper East. Midtown, Lower West.  Not the “Selina’s Apt” Location, not the “Gotham Police Station” Location, but a region? You choose where in a region.  So you get a lot of choice.  And it freaked me out a little at first.


Even weirder is that if there are multiple slots open on a Location (remember, there are three slots per Location), you choose which of the three slots!  So the Cop above went in “one” of the Spots on Coventry, but I got to choose?

I am not sure if this is brilliant or lazy.   

It could be brilliant because it lets players have “so much more choice” when they place bad guys.  Players control where Bad Guys go, so it’s their fault if they lose!  They had the choice!!  That’s cool, right?

But it also seems lazy as it seems very athematic: “I am the solo player choosing where Bad Guys go? Wait, I am fighting these guys!!  Shouldn’t the engine of the game do this?”  The designers don’t have to come up with some complex mechanism or AI to place the Bad Guys: they just point to  region.

I honestly don’t know what I think of this.  It just seems weird to me.


One choice I really like, however, is choosing Bad News/Good New Cards! See above!! The game gives you 12 cards per turn: the top portion of every card is GOOD NEWS (helps the Hero) and the bottom of the card is BAD NEWS (hurts the Hero). Four of these cards must be chosen for the Bad News parts and the other eight are chosen for the the Hero’s Good News part (Detective or Fight). You get 3 cards at a time, keeping 2 as good news, 1 for the bad news. See above.


This mechanism is really cool because it forces the solo to choose which Bad News and Good News you get during the game!! Of course, each issue has its own notion of good news and bad news cards (as well as some standard), so every game will be very different.

This mechanism seems thematic for The Dark Knight: a dark Batman knows that every action has consequences (both good and bad), and choosing the best path forward will require dealing with both sides of the issue. Sometimes Batman will have to embrace a very harsh reality to save the world.

And I think that’s why I love the “choose Bad News/Good News” cards and not the the “choose Region for Bad Guys” mechanism. The former seems thematic, the latter does not.

Still, both mechanisms are very interesting and force the solo player to take responsibility for their actions. Like I said, weird choices.



It took a while to get into this. There are a lot of rules. There are a lot of choices. There is a lot of set-up. There is a fair amount of maintenance per turn (but not too much). And the combat is pretty complicated once more and more bad guys come out.

In the end, however, there are were some interesting decisions. I remember in my first game: I choose to wait until the VERY LAST turn to fight Two-Face because I had to make sure I had one last Goal/Upgrade for my “bat dice”. And you know what? I think that made all the difference! I beat Two-Face on the very last turn!


As I played the game, I felt I could generally do something interesting/helpful every turn; so I always felt like I was making progress. And everything I did (both the weird decisions and other decisions) seemed to be important.

It was fun to agonize over decisions, knowing they all would have some effect, but knowing that we needed to move on!


The nice thing is, as a solo game, you can have as much Analysis Paralysis as you want!  If you wish to try to play the perfect game and make the perfect decision, that’s your choice.  But the lesson of the game—the lesson of The Dark Knight Returns—is that sometimes you have to make decisions that you don’t like or even hate … just to move forward.  And that was really the coolest part of the game. That theme really came out.

Legacy and Color Palette


As we’ve alluded to several times, this is a “soft” legacy game.  There are 4 issues to play through, and you save most of your state between issues.  The game recommends keeping everything set-up.


As I’ve tried very hard to tell you, this game is huge and it completely takes over your table!  See above!  I think you can only leave it set-up for further plays if you have a very dedicated space.

The other alternative is to take a picture of the board (that’s what the rules say) and set it up later. See below.


Heres’ the issue with that: it’s kinda hard to see where the bad guys are! Sure, it’s not too bad, but the little triangle bad guys don’t “jump out” on the board.  They seem to blend into the board.

This is actually a minor criticism I had of the game.  The color scheme seems … off.  I don’t like the colors they have chosen and how they all fit together.  The Dark Knight Returns comic has a very clear color palette and I don’t think this game embraces that palette very well.   It kind of looks like a mess on the board.  It’s functional, and I can get stuff done, but I feel like this could have been better. What do you think?  See below.


Having said that, I do like the fact that this is a continuing story, every choice matters, and I really like the “Batman finds paths though the city” (by drawing on the board) as you play.  I think that drawing on the board, with a dry-erase marker, worked well as a legacy mechanic.



Batman: The Dark Knight Returns The Board Game is a massive game: it will take over your table and take over your life! It’s a solo game that will bring you into the agonizing world of Batman: the difficult (and sometime morally grey) choices of Batman in the The Dark Knight Returns comics are reflected here in this solo game.

I don’t love everything about this game (there’s a lot of weird decisions and a lot of rules), but I do love the theme. I don’t always want to visit the dark, depressing world of Batman from The Dark Knight Returns, but when I want that challenge and that world, this game really delivers.

A Review of Deep Space – D6: Armada

Deep Space – D6: Armada is a cooperative dice placement game that was on Kickstarter back in January 2020 and fullfilled to its backers fairly recently (today’s date in March 19, 2022) … I think.  Strictly speaking, I didn’t back this on Kickstarter: I ended up getting it from one of the Kickstarter backers who got it pretty recently.  I have really been enjoying cooperative dice placement games lately (see our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021), and it has a Star Trek theme, so I thought I needed to give it another look.

This is a cooperative game for 1-4 players based somewhat on the mechanics of Deep Space:D6, the solo game. Deep Space – D6: Armada is the fully cooperative game for 1-4 players: it’s a cooperative dice placement game where each player takes control of a ship and crew and explores/fights around the very small galaxy.



Deep Space – D6: Armada is a beautiful game!  The stark white graphic design is very eye-popping.

There are a lot of tokens to punch out: see above.


Each player takes control of a ship with 6 stations you can upgrade: notice how nice the dual-layered boards are (above and below):


There are quite a number of cards for events, ships, and away missions:


Above, you can see the crew cards (crew upgrades for your ship at the far left), enemies (middle) and away missions (far right).  The crew give you extra dice for fighting and away missions: note the away missions are very much a dice placement thing!



Each ship has a nice little wood token.  The red tokens are pairwise tokens for notating what planets have what fleets.


But the cornerstone of this dice placement game: the dice.  The white dice are “basic crew dice” that each ship starts with, and the colored dice are crew upgrades which give more dice!


Overall, the components are pretty amazing: lots of cardboard, cards, and dice!

There are a lot of components for this game, some of them don’t come out until later!



The rulebook for this game … needs work.  


The first page has a table of contents and a list of components.


But take a look at the list of components!  There is NO picture!  There are SO MANY components in this game and I have no idea what’s what!  At some point, the only way I figured out what the components were was by COUNTING THE NUMBER OF TOKENS!  This is a major misstep in a game with so many components.


The next page was okay, talking about the components a little further.  But is doesn’t say WHAT to set initially shields and hull to!  Do you start at 0 or full?  We guessed they were full up?


The next two pages are the set-up!  This is probably the most important two pages! You get to correlate what some of the components are, you can see how everything fits together. If I didn’t have these two pages, I might have thrown this game away.


So, the next few pages give you an overall sense of the game.   They are okay.

It’s just … so many times, we had questions about issues in the game, and we couldn’t find elaborations or clarifications.  I mean, most of the rules seemed to be in the book.

There’s even a nice back page:


There is however, a FAQ here that helps: https://www.tauleadergames.com/armada-faq

And another errata on BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2740145/official-faq-game

Look, I got through the rulebook.  I was grumpy when I couldn’t find a clarification, but I was able to get through some solo and cooperative games.  I think this rulebook needs another pass.

Solo Rules

Congratulations on following Saunders’ Law and having a solo mode!

Warning! The Solo Rules card do not correspond to the rulebook!


You are supposed to have 2 Threat Detected Cards Per Turn, not 1!  The rulebook says 2 (and it’s correct according to the FAQ) even though the “solo rules” card says Just 1 Threat Detected.


When all set-up, it looks pretty cool on the table.    I spent about 3 to 3.5 hours playing the AG-01 ship. It seemed a bit long and bit random (foreshadowing), but I had fun.  The first few turns weren’t as fun, because I couldn’t do as much as much (because I was weak, fewer thing were out).  Once the game got going, it was fun!


Once I got the 4 microchips collected (above: these are prizes from success on Away Missions), I triggered the endgame … In order to win, you collect 4 of them and depending on what you collect, you trigger a different endgame!


In this endgame, I had to fight the Ouroboros Mark III.  Above: before combat, Below: after combat!


In the end, I was able to take it out!

Part of the fun in this game is getting crew (which gives new dice) and upgrades (better abilities for your ship that can be triggered by your dice).   That was fun.  There was an unfortunate amount of maintenance for the solo mode as I had to handle both the “Thread Detected” and “Events” after every turn.  That’s probably why it took 3-3.5 hours.  

I dunno, I still liked it, but I was very worried about the randomness and the game length …

Cooperative Play


As we headed into a cooperative game, we discussed my concerns for the randomness of the crew and upgrade draws.  After some discussion, we came upon a solution we really liked (see House Rule: Randomness Mitigation below).  This house rule made all the difference in gameplay.

But it still took 4 hours to play a 4-Player game! We were exhausted and tired of the game.  We really felt like it should take 2 hours ….

House Rule: Randomness Mitigation


One of the biggest complaints from both me (as a solo game) and my group (as a cooperative game) is the amount of randomness. When drawing crew or ship upgrades, you are supposed to simply draw 3 at random and buy as many (0-3) things as you like. Every buy is completely random! You have NO IDEA what you might get or if you can even afford it! I get very lucky in my solo game and was able to get the AI Core update (which allows you to reroll upto 3 times), and this upgrade is perhaps the best possible thing you can get in a dice placement game: the ability to reroll makes the game that much more interesting. BUT I only got it because I “randomly” drew it at the time when I had enough money!

I knew the randomness would be an issue: you don’t know what you can get, you don’t know how to build combos, you don’t know if you’ll have enough money, you can’t plan!


We came up with a house rule that absolutely made all the difference!  Essentially, every Way Station has 3 crew next to it FACE UP and every Ship Yard has 3 upgrades next to it FACE UP:  See the the above picture at Zenith One (which has both a Ship Yard and a Way Station).  When you visit a Location to hire crew and/or buy upgrades, you can make informed decisions!  You can choose to go to Zenith One because you REALLY want Jaszz-Rit (the purple guy above) or decide to go to another place that has a crew member you want.  You can also choose to clear-out all before you buy: you’ll get 3 random picks, but only after you’ve looked at the three already there.


Basically, the house rule is:

  • Put 3 crew at every Way Station
  • Put 3 upgrades at every Ship Yard
  • When you go to buy, you can choose to clear the currently slate and get another 3 completely at random or keep the current slate
  • Finally, you can buy what you want


The idea of this house rule is that you can do some planning on what Crew and Upgrades you go after! Rather then being at the mercy of the random deck draws, you can do some planning and have fun figuring out what you want. See above as we start putting CRew out at the different planets.

I need to be clear: this house rule seemed critical to making the game playable. Without it, I suspect my gaming group would have rage quit much sooner. We made it through a full game because we felt like we had strategy and choices along the way.

AND this house rule makes the game more thematic!

“Remember that weird creature on Titan VI? Let’s go recruit him!”

“Ugh, we need an engine upgrade: I guess we have to go to Terra: I think I saw an engine upgrade there!”

One other minor house rule: When you roll for Hull, you can only upgrade if you roll the “gears”. It’s very frustrating and NOT FUN to waste a turn rolling if you roll no gears: A Hull Upgrade should always give at least 1 upgrade!

House Rule: Length Mitigation


At the end of the night, it tooks us 4 Hours to play a 4-Player game. The ONLY reason it didn’t take longer is because we went ahead and triggered the endgame. We could have easily spent another hour trying to get more upgrades to make us more powerful. As it was, we were just tired of playing after 4 hours so we tried to get the game over. See Andrew on his phone.


My solo game probably took about 3 – 3.5 hours to play. See above. Again, it was all about getting tired of upgrading and just wanting to trigger the end-game.

At the end of the day, Deep Space – D6: Armada is just too long. Although I like the idea of playing as long as you want in order to upgrade your ship as much as you want before endgame, this game is really in need of some length mitigation.

Although we know for a fact that our HouseRule: Randomness Mitigation works really well (as we played with that rule), we’re not sure how to mitigate the Length. We think that if we limited the game to a certain number of rounds, you can keep the game under 2 hours: 2 hours seems about the right amount of time for this game. Maybe 15 rounds? If you don’t get all 4 microchips to trigger endgame, you just lose. That’ll force players to keep one eye on the clock and one eye on upgrades as they head for the endgame.

Unfortunately, it feels like the number of rounds will really vary on the number of players. And we currently don’t have enough data to make a recommendation for those number. However, a simple house rule might be “At the 2-Hour mark: you must have triggered the end game or you lose!”


Another way to mitigate game length is to have players start with a few upgrades and some more money: As we found, in the first few rounds of the game, the players can’t do much anyways (which isn’t fun)! So maybe avoid the first few boring rounds by giving the players something.

As a suggestion: Have each player take 1 upgrade (2 for a 1-2 player game) and 2 more credits. This will thin the front of the game (which is less fun anyways) and bring the game length down.

EDIT: Turns out, there is some work of reducing the game length on BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2740145/official-faq-game

The Stroop Effect


In psychology, the Stroop effect is the delay in reaction time between congruent and incongruent stimuli. See wiki article here.  Why is this relevant here?

A basic task that demonstrates this effect occurs when there is a mismatch between the name of a color (e.g., “blue”, “green”, or “red”) and the color it is printed on (i.e., the word “red” printed in blue ink instead of red ink). When asked to name the color of the word it takes longer and is more prone to errors when the color of the ink does not match the name of the color.

This is relevant because the colors of the dice can be distracting.  In most of the game, the “reroll” symbol is a purple symbol, the “fight” symbol is a red symbol, and so on.  See the basic crew dice below.


This convention permeates the game: the upgrades and away missions use these symbols and colors everywhere:

We encountered the Stroop Effect because the UPGRADED CREW DICE are all different colors, but the symbols are ONLY WHITE on these dice: see below.


As you can see, the symbols are WHITE above. You might think, “Oh you are being silly, that’s not an issue”. But it was! As we played (especially in the 4 hour game), we would occasionally misread the dice because EVERYWHERE ELSE in the game, the color and symbol mattered, but on the crew dice, the symbols are always white. We miscounted symbols a few times.


In general, I think these dice in Deep Space – D6: Armada are really great. I like them. And I understand why they made all the upgrade crew dice have white symbols: they have to be legible on the colored dice. But, the Stroop Effect seemed to happen with us and it affected our gameplay. Maybe it would have been worth having ALL the symbols be the right color, even on the colored dice, at the cost of some color clashing?


Deep Space – D6: Armada is a beautiful game with really great components. The stark white graphic design is very eye-catching, and everything is easy to read. The dice and cards and dual-layered boards were all just fantastic.

Unfortunately, this game needs some more work. The rulebook needs another a major pass as a lot of stuff was unclear and/or underspecified. The gameplay is too long and the randomness can be too much.


Having said that, a few house rules can make this game playable:

  • Add crew/upgrades at appropriate Locations so players can choose what to buy at Locations.  This allows strategy and mitigates the random buys issue.  And it’s more thematic!
  • Make it so Hull Upgrades always fix at least one Hull (if you roll NO gears, you should still get something)
  • Set a timer to force the game under 2 or 2.5 hours: this really should be a shorter game!  You get tired of the mechanisms after 3 to 4 hours, but it’s still fun for the first few hours!
  • To further reduce the game length, give each player more upgrades/crew (as the first few turns aren’t much fun anyways as you can do so little)

With these changes, this game can become a lot of fun.  It does nail the Star Trek theme and it is fun to roll dice and upgrade your ship/crew as you play!


Here’s our ratings:

  1. I probably give this a 5/10 out of the box, a 6.5 with the House Rules for buys, and probably a 6.9 if we can keep the gameplay length down.  I can’t quite give it a 7 because the rulebook needs some more work.  
  2. Sara hated this game and never wants to play again.  She couldn’t roll well and that ruined it for her.  She probably gives it a 4.5, but would give it a 3 if we didn’t have our house rules for buys.
  3. Teresa.  Thought it was okay.  Would play again, but only with house rules.  Maybe 6.5 total
  4. Andrew.  Eh.  Without house rules, 4 or 5.  With house rules, maybe a 6. Would only play with our house rules.

If you like the Star Trek theme and cooperative worker placement, there is a good game here.  It might just take a little coaxing to see it.  But I do think Updated/House Rules are critical (either the ones we present here, or the the new ones on BGG here) to making this more playable and more fun!

I dunno.  I liked it. But my friends kinda didn’t.

A Review of Sentinels of Earth-Prime (A Stand-Alone Expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse)

Sentinels of Earth-Prime was on Kickstarter waaay back in May 2017. It just delivered to me a few days ago: about March 1st, 2022. Look closely at those numbers: it took almost 5 years (from the close of the original Kickstarter to now) to deliver. This may have been the longest I have ever waited for a Kickstarter! (Although, Legends of Sleepy Hollow, from a few weeks ago, was pretty close).

Sentinels of Earth Prime is a stand-alone expansion to Sentinels of the Multiverse.  The box says it plays 2-5 players.  Honestly, this is just another version of Sentinels of the Multiverse with heroes from the Mutants and Masterminds universe: A Super Hero Role Playing Game (see below).


This was originally a joint project from Greater Than Games (the original publisher of Sentinels of the Multiverse) and Green Ronin (publisher of Mutants and Masterminds) to collaborate and build some content for Sentinels from the Mutants and Masterminds mythos.   



Sentinels of Earth-Prime comes in a box similarly sized to the original 2nd Edition. There were 4 expansions offered in the Kickstarter (2 new heroes, 1 new Villain, and 1 new environment, which you should probably just pick up all at once when you get this) and I will be talking about those as part of this review.

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The game is mostly cards!!! See above for all the cards when you open the box!


The base game comes with 4 Villains in 4 decks (the purple cards above, 5 with expansion): To win the game, the heroes must defeat the Villain before they defeat all Villains!


There are 10 Heroes for the players to choose from: see above. Each Hero has his/her own deck! The Heroes are “blue” cards. (2 more heroes come in the expansions).

There are 4 Environment Decks: these are the “places” the Heroes fight the Villains: the enviroments are greenish-grey. See above.


There are also 4 expansions: 2 Heroes, 1 Environment, and 1 Villain. Note the color-coding allows you to tell the difference : blue (hero), purple (villain), green-grey (environment).


Each of the villains also has an “oversized” card which describes set-up and Game Play (which can be very different for each character). See above.

The game also comes with a number of tokens to notate Hit Points and conditions in the game. See above.


The dividers are surprisingly colorful and nice! See above.


The game essentially fits into the box (but see later discussion below).


Overall, the game just looks so comic-booky on the table! I think it looks great! The cards aren’t linen-finished, but I expect most people will sleeve their cards.



I didn’t spend too much time in the rulebook because I know the game. But it was very nice. I almost think it is a better rulebook than the base Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition! The font choices, the graphics, the layout, the way everything is presented just flows so well.

The last page of the rulebook even summarizes the rules!


Overall, seems like a good rulebook.

Solo Play


Interestingly, even after all this time, Sentinels of Earth-Prime does NOT an official solo mode. (No Saunders’ Law!) We’ve discussed the solo modes quite a bit in previous posts (in our review of Sentinels of The Multiverse: Definitive Edition and our discussion of Saunders’ Law), so we’ll just jump in and play solo by controlling 3 Heroes.


In our first solo game, we played Rocket in the first position (kind of a Quick Silver or Flash-like character: a speedster):


We played Captain Thunder in the second position (kind of like a Superman character with lightning)


And we played Bowman in the third position: (kind of like Green Arrow or Hawkeye):


They all played very differently! Rocket puts out Momentum cards, which can power later effects. Captain Thunder has some healing and damage cards. Bowman is all about the trick arrows (bunches of one-shots). There’s some obvious analogues for these characters from the base Sentinels: Rocket is similar to Tachyon, but where Tachyon gets to play draw and play cards, Rocket uses momentum to power his effects … they do feel like different speedsters. Captain Thunder did feel a lot like Legacy with healing/helping/little damage. My favorite was Bowman: he felt a little different with all of his trick arrows … total Hawkeye vibe.


In the end, this group of 3 Heroes defeated Argo pretty handily. See above for a winning game.


This solo mode of 3 Heroes works fine, but I didn’t know any of the decks, so the game did take a while (as I had to read a lot of the cards to see what everything was doing).


The environment (Farside City: See above) was different from any I have played before, as it brought out Gorillas with Lady Lunar? (See below) I kind of liked this environment …


Operating 3 Heroes may be too much for the introductory player, but the only alternative is to play 2 characters twice (as a 4-Hero Game). Unfortunately, the app doesn’t (at least at this time) have Sentinels of Earth Prime content, so you can’t learn the decks that way via the app.

Overall, solo works, but be aware that the 3-Hero solo game can be daunting.

Cooperative Play


There’s not really much else to say for cooperative play that we didn’t already say in the Review of Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition:

  1. The game works better cooperatively once all players know their Hero decks.
  2. The only way to get to know a deck is to play it a bunch! So, you have to enjoy reading and playing a deck from scratch

You have to enjoy the process of getting to know your Hero deck to really enjoy this game, then you can enjoy the higher-level cooperation.


Gameplay and Thoughts


This is Sentinels of the Multiverse, just with different characters.  This is an expansion to the game and it adds more Heroes, Villains, and Environments … just like you’d expect an expansion to do. But, it’s also stand-alone.  If you like Sentinels, you will like this.  Like everything in Sentinels, all the new rules are on the cards, so you have to look at the cards to see what they do.  There’s nothing crazy in here (like say Oblivaeon or Villains of the Multiverse), just a “good old expansion”.


Here’s the thing: Because this game looks SO DIFFERENT from the other Sentinels products, I am not sure how often I will combine this with other Sentinels products!  I am 99% sure I will just pull this out and play it with only itself.  I mean, I really do like the art and the new characters, but the graphic design and art is so different!  It’s very cool to look at, but it just doesn’t mix well with older products. Compare the Legacy decks below from 1st, 2nd, and Definitive Edition …


to the Captain Thunderbolt deck:


They really look different.

The Elephant In The Room


So, Sentinels of Earth-Prime was designed to work with the 2nd Edition of Sentinels of The Multiverse … 5 years ago.  By the time Sentinels of Earth-Prime finally delivered, Greater Than Games had put out the new Definitive Edition.  It was an ongoing joke: which will deliver first?  In the end, Sentinels of Earth-Prime showed up about a month after the new Definitive Edition!  Will it work with both?


Update 22 from the Kickstarter (see link here) discusses this in great detail, but the most relevant lines are here:

In the end, we opted to go forward with the game we have and keep it compatible with the original version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Both because many of you backed our game specifically to enhance and add on to your existing massive collections, and because we want our game to stand on its own.

So, what about this new “Definitive Edition” though?

A lot of folks are likely going to invest in the new game and might like to use our Mutants & Masterminds Heroes alongside the updated decks. We are considering creating something along the lines of an “update document” for how to play certain keywords and status effects, to make our decks work better with the new version of the Multiverse Core set. That option is still on the table, but for the time being, we are moving forward with making sure we get the game printed and shipped to backers as our only priority. We would like to have a “best of both worlds” option if possible, and make sure that the widest number of people can enjoy our game. Once Sentinels of Earth-Prime is fulfilled and on it’s way to you, we’ll turn our attention to the possibility of releasing a conversion guide that will let you keep playing our Heroes if you decide you want to invest in the new edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Summary: Sentinels of Earth-Prime works with Sentinels of the Multiverse 2nd Edition, and Green Ronin will (hopefully) be coming out with a document later to help the conversion to the Definitive Edition.


Game Doesn’t Fit?


One of my biggest complaints is in packing it up. There seems to be a pedestal you can place the tokens under, but it doesn’t really open! See that black space above? That doesn’t open! I ended up trying to fit all the punchouts in the little bit of card space left over…


… but in order to make that work, I had to UNPUNCH all of the markers.  The only markers you REALLY need are the hit points, the other markers are “nice to haves” to remind you of certain effects in the game.  


It’s crazy to me that these tokens don’t fit back in the box. I played with that black area hoping it would “pop open” so I could put the tokens inside. Maybe it does? But when I tried, It felt like I was breaking it, so I just backed off. My friends suggested using a cutting knife to open up the black box? I think that really jarred me too much …



Sentinels of Earth Prime was a pleasant surprise! I expected to like the game (because it’s more content for one of my favorite games), but I liked it more than I expected! Once I got over how late the Kickstarter was (it took almost 5 years), I could judge the game as it was! In some ways, I like Sentinels of Earth-Prime better than the newest Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition from a few weeks ago (and I gave that game a 10/10)!


I love the game play of Sentinels (any version), but the art of Sentinels of Earth-Prime blew me away! I love the art on this new expansion! As someone who has collected comic books for 40 years, THIS was the art I had always wanted on the original Sentinels of the Multiverse game! The art is dynamic! The colors are vibrant! The scenes are action-packed! The graphic design screams vibrant modern super hero and super villain! See above!


Of course, the elephant in the room: can you play Sentinels of Earth-Prime with either Sentinels of the Multiverse 2nd Edition or Definitive Edition? Nope! It was original developed for 2nd Edition, but Green Ronin will hopefully come out with a conversion document for the Definitive Edition.


How does this fit into all the things that are Sentinels of the Multiverse? If you are trying to get someone who really loves comics into Sentinels, Sentinels of Earth-Prime is a fantastic place to start. A true comic book connoisseur will see the art and fall in love with the game based solely on art! I personally think this has the best art and that this is the best looking of all the Sentinels of the Multiverse content. If I were trying to get “me from the past” into Sentinels, I would introduce “me from the past” to this version first! It has the best chance of sucking me in.


Once someone decides they love the game and wants more content, then it’s time to embrace the base game of Sentinels Of The Multiverse! (Which one? See our review from a few weeks ago for more discussion on that).

I think that Sentinels of Earth-Prime is the best jumping-on point for new players for Sentinels of the Multiverse. As a seasoned player, I also appreciate the new takes and ideas and love the new content. The only real problem with Sentinels of Earth-Prime is that the graphic design and art is SO DIFFERENT from all the other Sentinels product, it can be visually distracting to mix this expansion in with other Sentinels content. I expect that when I play with Sentinels of Earth-Prime content, I probably won’t mix it with other products.


Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Game Expansions of 2021!

What’s better than playing a game you like? Adding an expansion to make it better! This is a list of our Top 10 Cooperative Expansions for 2021. So, is a list of expansions you buy for a game you already have. Interestingly, this year these expansions seem to come in three varieties:

  1. Stand-Alone Expansion: Some games you thought might be on the Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Games of 2021 might have just ended up on this list because they are stand-alone games that can be played without a base game, but at the end of the day they also expand a base game!
  2. Makes The Game Cooperative: Some expansions take a competitive base game and make the game cooperative with the expansion! We saw a number of these type of expansions on the Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Fully Cooperatively!
  3. More Content: Some expansions just add more content (more cards, etc.) to the base cooperative game!

As we go through our list of games, we’ll notate each entry with the expansion type!

Honorable Mention. The Shadow Creatures: Lost Ruins of Arnak Cooperative Expansion

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Expansion Type? Makes The Game Cooperative

We discussed Lost Ruins of Arnak here, discussing how the Disparity of Experience problem ruined this game (no pun intended) for some of my friends.  We posited that cooperative mode could alleviate that problem.  Putting our money where our mouth was, we presented a free print-and-play cooperative mode for Lost Ruins of Arnak here (as well as uploading it to Board Game Geek here).

10. Detective: City of Angels.  Cloak and Dagger


Expansion Type? More Content

Detective: City of Angels was our favorite cooperative detective game (see our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games) and our favorite cooperative game of 2019 (see our Top 10 Cooperative Boards and Cards Games of 2019).  The only real problem with Detective: City of Angels is that cases are one-and-done, so you constantly need new content to keep the game alive!  The Cloak and Daggered expansion simply adds another case for the detectives!  

9. Agropolis/Combopolis


Expansion Type? Stand-Alone Expansion

We reviewed Agropolis here, realizing it adds just a touch more to the original Sprawlopolis game.  It’s essentially Sprawlopolis with cows and chickens.  Agropolis is essentially the same game, and it could be swapped out easily for Sprawlopolis from our Top 10 Small Cooperative Games.  But, Agropolis also came with Combopolis expansion, which allows the player to combine both Sprawlopolis and Agropolis into one game!!  I think I had more fun playing Combopolis than the original two!

8. Gascony’s Legacy: Man in the Iron Mask, Count of Monte Cristo, Terrain Pack

Expansion Type?  More Content (and stuff!)

We absolutely adored Gascony’s LegacySee our review here!  This swashbuckling game made the top spot in our Top 10 Cooperative Swashbuckling Games and our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021! This is a bit of a cheat in many ways!  First of all, the 3D Terrain expansion is not game content per se, it is more just cosmetic stuff for the game, but it does look really cool!  Also, we are grouping both The Man In The Iron Mask expansion and The Count of Monte Cristo expansion in here as well!  This game has really flown under the radar, but I think it’s a fun cooperative romp in the swashbuckling universe! These expansions just give you more content!

7. Chronicles of Crime: 2400


Expansion Type? Stand-Alone Expansion

The Chronicles of Crime system is an app-based framework for delivering all sorts of different type of detective games: players use their phone to scan cards in the game: the cards have people, locations, objects, and “specials”.  This scanning is how you move a story forward.  We loved the original Chronicles of Crime when it first came out, and it made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2018, and it has since made our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games and our Top 10 Cooperative Board Games With Apps2400 presents a new take, where you are an investigator in the year 2400 in a dystopian future with a Raven as a sidekick.  One of the more interesting new features of this incarnation is that you can explore cyberspace!  Locations in the game represent you logging in and “hunting the web” for info.  This stand-alone expansion was a fascinating new take on the Chronicles of Crime series!

6. Endangered: New Species


Expansion Type?  More Content

We reviewed Endangered here and liked it, but had a little trouble with the randomness.  Having said that, the game still seems to come out on our table a lot!  It’s a beautiful game with lots of really interesting ideas as a cooperative dice placement game.   This is the truest kind of expansion: giving more content and taking a game you like and extending it.  The games is gorgeous, and adds some very new animals for the players to save: 7 new animals and 6 new scenarios, including saving the Sea Turtle, Polar Bear, and California Condors to name a few!  

5. Wildlands: The Ancients


Expansion Type? Makes The Game Cooperative

This expansion take a very competitive game and adds quite a lot: two solo modes, a fifth-player mode, a team vs. team mode, a new map, and most importantly, a cooperative expansion!  The cooperative mode (called The Awoken) pits one or two players cooperatively against the Ancients.  The minis for the Ancients are really nice, and the cooperative mode is very different.  It basically adds an AI of sorts to the Ancient (and his minions): they attack the players as you are looking for 5 crystal shards.  It’s weirdly only a 1 or 2-player cooperative mode, and it can have some randomness, but we had fun taking this competitive “beat each other up” game and turning it into “beating up the bad guy” game!


4. Marvel Champions: The Mad Titan’s Shadow


Expansion Type?  More Content

The Mad Titan’s Shadow is very similar to the The Rise of Red Skull expansion for Marvel Champions in many ways (which we reviewed here and that expansion did make our Top 10 Cooperative Expansions for 2020).  This expansion adds 5 new Villains to fight, 2 new Heroes, and “nominally” a little set of adventures.  If you were missing an epic campaign from Marvel Champions, this won’t change your mind.  But, like The Rise of Red Skull, it does give you a framework to try out out all the content (with some minor upgrades/changes after each episode).  My favorite part was playing the new Hero Warlock (who was MUCH more important in the Infinity Gauntlet comic book)!

3. Valeria Card Kingdoms: Darksworn

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Expansion Type? Makes The Game Cooperative

We spent a lot of time getting through all the solo and competitive modes of  Valeria: Card Kingdoms to get to the cooperative expansion Darksworn: see our full review of Valeria: Card Kingdoms and Darksworn here.  In the end, even though it was a bit fiddly for solo play, we had a nice time in cooperative mode with this little adventure!  The fact that the cooperative mode was just an extension of the solo play from Valeria: Card Kingdoms made it easy to jump into.


2. Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin


Expansion Type? Stand-Alone Expansion

We absolutely adored Set A Watch when the original game came out: check out our review here!  It was so good it made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2019 and our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games!  It was a game that seemed work in both gamer and non-gamer groups pretty well.  


This stand-alone expansion can be played without the base game, but it also adds ways to play the two games together.  Honestly, one of the best things this expansion adds is the sheer number of different characters you can play!  The expansion allows you so many choices for new characters ! And new monsters!

Overall, the new characters, the new monsters, and the new coin/”buy stuff” makes this a definite must-buy if you liked the original.  Honestly, if you can only buy one, I might recommend the original Set A Watch for newer gamers and the expansion Set A Watch: Swords of The Coin for more gamery gamers.  

1. Marvel United: X-Men


Expansion Type? Stand-Alone Expansion

X-Men: Marvel United is an expansion to the Marvel United base game that came out this year. We reviewed Marvel United in Part I and Part II and X-Men: Marvel United here and adored these games! This expansion adds 10 X-Men Heroes and Villains (some both!) to the Marvel United universe and allows the two games to intermix.


One of the cooler new features is that some Villains can also be played as Heroes! Blue figures are heroes, and red figures are villains … so characters that are both are purple! See above! Do you love Magneto when he’s a hero running the X-Men? Play Magneto as a hero! Do you love Magneto when challenges Charles Xavier? Play Magneto as a Villain! The game also expands the game to a one-vs-many option where one player can play the Villain!


X-Men: Marvel United would have easily made the Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Games of 2021 list, but since it’s strictly an expansion (albeit completely standalone), it tops this expansion list! We really loved being able to play the X-Men and Avengers characters in one game!