A Review of Cantaloop: Book 2 (A Hack of a Plan)

Cantaloop: Book 2. The second book in a trilogy of point and click adventure book games

I reviewed Cantaloop: Book 1 (Breaking Into Prison) back here and absolutely loved it!  It made the top spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021


When I heard the newest book was due to come out, I made sure to preorder it as soon as possible!  It arrived a few weeks ago and I finally got a chance to check this out!

Get the Errata!


If you have the First Edition, Conversation B needs a replacement page. Make sure you get that before you play!  I did!  I printed the extra page out and put in in my book.

See more information here: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2839863/english-typo-warning



This is pretty much like the original Cantaloop: 3 pouches with 72 cards total, another larger pouch with the map, combiner sheet, progress checkoff, and the red acetate.



The game also includes a sheet of “progress point” that you need to mark off (E1, F1, G2, etc) to show your progress through the game.  The first thing I did (well, the second after I printed off the errata) was copy the progress sheet so I could play this again without harming the original sheet.

I made a copy of the progress sheet so I didn’t dirty the original!


As you can see, this is one of those games that uses the red acetate to “reveal” text in the sheets.


The book itself is full of “hidden” clues you will have to reveal as you explore.

Overall, the game looks consistent: it has a silly sense of humor and the art and components belie that as well.


Introduction and Gameplay


So, this is a “point-and-click” adventure book game.  What does that mean? See the text above for one view, but essentially, you explore, talk to characters, try to do things and combine objects to get stuff done.  In this game, exploration and talking means turning to a page and following the rules there.

IMG_1052 (1)

The red acetate keeps most secrets hidden, but the game warns you to be careful.  In general, the rules get you playing and understanding the mechanisms right away.




This is Part Two of a Three part story.  If you haven’t played the original, you don’t HAVE to, it just makes the story make more sense.  I have played the original about a year ago (so I forgot a lot of it), but once I started it playing, it all came back.  I also didn’t need to have played the original: it just makes it easier to get into the story.

Much Like The Original


Cantaloop: Book 2 is very much much like Cantaloop: Book 1. Seriously: you can take a look at our original review of Cantaloop here and almost everything we said still applies: it has a sense of humor, the art is consistently silly through-out, there’s a lot of page turning, there’s a lot of looking at text through red acetate, and there’s a lot of puzzles … some easy, some hard.  Generally, it’s great!


One thing I want to give props to! One of my only complaints of the first book was that I thought the paper quality wasn’t great: I was afraid I’d tear the pages as I turned through everything so much.  The newer edition has better paper quality!  This is a great improvement because you turn the pages so much!

But how’s the game play?

A Dirty Secret


I originally compared Cantaloop to the Monkey Island series of video games back in my original review (see here).  This analogy seems even more apt in light of the new Cantaloop: Book 2.  Why’s that you ask?  Because I have a dirty little secret about the Monkey Island series!  As much as I think the first Secret of Monkey Island is perfect, and as much as I adore the first 90% of the sequel LeChuck’s Revenge, I hated the last 10% of the game.  A lot of Ron GIlbert’s games seem to do that do me: I love the first 90% then hate the last 10%.  In Psychonauts, the first 90% of the game is exploring an interesting world populated by some fascinating kids, but the last 10% is just a joystick buster. No fun! In LeCheck’s Revenge, the puzzles in the first 90% are great!  The last 10% is so frustrating as LeChuck randomly just resets you back to a save point over and over and over and over …

Too many programming actions

And I had the a problem with Cantaloop: Book 2. I hated the how the ending played out. The game sets-up these more and more challenging programming puzzles: players uses some cards to move “things” about a virtual world—they program the movement. The first 8 or so puzzles are fun and challenging, but then it just stops working as a mechanic.

This is where I gave up: E2. I stopped caring

The initial idea is interesting: set-up all these programming puzzles to move further along in the book! See above. The first few are fun, the next few are challenging, and then … you just get tired of them. The last 90% of the game was miserable because that’s all the last 90% was: these programming puzzles. And they had stopped being fun. I stopped caring and just “solved the puzzle” using the hint (well, even worse, I just cheated and assumed I moved forward). I want to say it was puzzle E2 that I stopped caring.

Problems With The Programming Puzzles


There were several problems with these programming puzzles in the game.   At its core, these puzzles were just “put cards in order to move pieces to solve a puzzle”—they kept building and building and building on the basic premise to make it harder and harder.  This build-up wasn’t an issue per se, but there were several problems around it.

  1. It’s too hard to look back and see the “last set of rules”.  Because Cantaloop is all about the red acetate, you have to look back and re-read the rules again—and that’s annoying with the red acetate.
  2. The rules are NOT on same pages as you are playing. Every time, the rules are NOT on the same page as your playing, which means if there are questions, you have to page BACKWARDS and disturb your board set-up (you have to put pieces on the pages).  The rules needed to be either (a) on the same viewable pages or (b) on a separate sheet you could refer to
  3. The rules were poorly specified.  I attempted to reverse-engineer and figure out what the rules were FROM the solutions.  The rules for the programming puzzles should have been better specified.  After seeing how many questions I had and directions I couldn’t decipher, I didn’t want to try to solve it! There were too many rules to get wrong! (I  attempt to fix some of that in the rules clarifications below).  There was no FAQ.
  4. The mechanism grew tiresome.  There were 14 of these programming puzzles!  That same type of puzzle over and over grew very tiresome.
  5. The state space is huge.  By the time you get to the later puzzles, the amount of ways the cards could be played together is enormous, and you just have to stumble your way into the right solution.  There might be some intuition, but generally the solution is to “keep trying over and over”
  6. The pieces of the puzzle are fiddly and maintenance-heavy.  In order to keep trying over and over, you have to do a lot of maintenance: get one wrong rule or forget a movement, and invalidate your solution which involved moving so many pieces around.  It was agony in the later ones to have to move so many pieces

All together, I stopped caring about solving the programming puzzles at about checkpoint E2.  

Rules Clarifications


I spent an entire morning going through the proposed solution (from the back of the book) to the E2 puzzle. There were so many questions I had about how things worked that I had to reverse-engineer the solution. Presented below is what I think the under-specified rules are (based on the solution given by the book) what the interpretations for these rules are.

  1. Do Tracers start ON the board or OFF the board? Although this seems like a silly question, take a look at the notation: the tracer could start OFF the board, with it’s first movement being to appear in the space it’s connected to. The Tracer could also start ON the board, so when it moves, it moved away from its first space. This question makes a difference of 1 extra space, and that can be huge.
    The Ruling: Tracers start ON the board. See picture above. I think that was clear from the solution.

2. Do you have to use all of your cards?

The rule, somewhat obscured by the notion of elegance (some of use believe that fewer lines of code are more elegant), is highlighted in the picture above.

The Ruling: You always have to use all of your cards! It’s very clearly stated.


3. Do Tracers obey Bridges and Gates? I am not sure, but based on my running the puzzle solution, I think they respect bridges but ignore gates? At least that’s what running the puzzle solution seemed to imply.

The Ruling: Tracers respect bridges but ignore gates. I think? Not clear?


4. How do Tracers handle ends?

It seemed to not come up once you get the rules right, but I think if a Tracer hits the and and can’t move, then it just turns around. Still needs to be specified I think.

The Ruling: Tracers turn around: they move one space in and one space out.

Too many programming actions

5. The tracers, on every turn, have to MOVE (M), DETERMINE DIRECTION (D), REORIENT THEMSELVES. (R) In what order does this happen? This is a huge deal which I spent an hour trying to make sure I understood. You need to understand this! The real question: when you move tracers, do you MDR or DRM?

If you MDR, then the above is the interpretation of the movement for the Tracer. (M) Move in the direction of your orientation (straight-up), (D) Determine direction to move (straight-up), (R) Reorient arrow in that new direction.

If you DRM, then the above is the interpretation for the Tracer. (D) Determine direction to move (to the right), (R) Reorient (to the right), (M) move to the right.

It makes a BIG DIFFERENCE, right? After running through the solution, the answer is clear: MDR. I am actually pretty sure on this: I ran through this solution over and over.

The ruling: MDR (Move in the direction of the arrow, the Determine where you’ll go next move, then reorient in that direction). Pretty confident in this.


6. How do the Tracers follow the dotted lines?

The ruling: it seems that moving over the lock allows you to move. Veru unclear, but it didn’t seem to affect my play. So I’m still not sure.

There were TOO MANY QUESTIONS for me to even hope I got the rules right. I had to reverse-engineer the solution to this to even have a hope of getting this right. The book really needed many more clarifications, pictures, and examples of how things worked … maybe some cards showing this?

It was after this I sort of gave up. The rules were poorly stated, so I felt like I had no chance of getting the puzzles right anyways, so I stopped caring for the programming puzzles.

Where Does That Leave Us?


Cantaloop: Book 2 (A Hack of a Plan) was great … right up until I hit programming puzzle E2. It was the 8th programming puzzle, and I was just getting tired of the programming puzzles. By the time I got the E2, I was “done” trying to interpret the poorly stated rules. Luckily, those puzzles come near the end of the game: The only thing left in the game was 4 more programming puzzles. So, to finish up, I simply “pretended” to do them and then I moved on, reading text as I went.


And the end game had some interesting story fragments that re-engaged me: I want to see what happens in the next book!!

There is an easy mode in the game, but it’s not clear it would have skipped the last 4 annoying programming puzzles. If this were a video game, I would have looked up the solution on the internet and just finished off the last 4 puzzles just to get to the endgame and the conclusion.

So, I still care about the characters Hook and Fly and Alice and what happens to them. I do want to get the next Cantaloop book. So, here’s my recommendation for you:

  • If you want to solve ALL the puzzles, make sure you look online for a FAQ or clarification before attempting them.  I admit that a lot of my “I stopped caring” was because there were too many things underspecified.  Find out all the rules, then maybe those puzzles will be more fun!
  • If you want a lighter, more fun game, solve everything up to programming puzzle E2, and then just ignore the final 4 programming puzzles: pretend you solved all the programming puzzles as you go so you can see the end game.

Let’s be clear: except for the last 4 or 5 programming puzzles, I had a great time playing this!  There’s a lot of that fun that came with the point-and-click adventure solving!  All the humor and fun of the first Cantaloop was still there!  The programming puzzle pieces will easily be the most controversial pieces of this game: you know right away if that is something you will like or not.



Cantaloop: Book 1 (Breaking Into Prison) made the Top Spot on my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021! I gave it a 9 out of 10! I was very excited to get the next book Cantaloop: Book 2(A Hack of a Plan). I freely admit that I was disappointed by this somewhat: the programming puzzles had many problems and ended up detracting from all the goodness that is in Cantaloop: Book 2! If you want the super hard programming puzzles, make sure you find all the proper FAQs and clarifications before you attempt them. Otherwise, ignore all the programming puzzles after E2 and just concentrate on all the goodness of the rest of the game.

If we take Cantaloop: Book 2 as-is, I’d probably give this a 6/10. But, if we ignore the programming puzzles after E2 and just enjoy the rest of the story and experience for what it is, I’d give this a 7.5/10. There is a lot of humor and puzzles to like here.

I am still looking forward to Cantaloop: Book 3. Book 2 won’t make the top spot of my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2022 (like Book 1 did in 2021), but Book 2 will still make the Top 10 overall. Weirdly, Book 2 could also make my Top 10 Disappointments of 2022 at the same time it makes my Top 10. I hope that makes sense.

Review of Marvel United: Fantastic Four Expansion


As we saw in last week’s blog, I recently got a ton of new Marvel United content! There was way too much to go through, so I thought I’d tackle it in pieces. This week, we’ll look at Marvel United: Fantastic Four: this is an expansion: you must have either the X-Men: Marvel United set (which we reviewed here) or the base Marvel United set (which we reviewed here and here).


(Don’t worry, this blog won’t be taken over by Marvel United, we’ll have some Top 10 lists and other reviews coming soon!)



This box is about the same size as the the original Marvel United box (but a little thinner). There’s no new instructions, but a little pamphlet that talks about what the expansion adds.


This shows the components on one side … (see above)


And some rules/explanations on the other side. Note that this set adds two new very interesting things. First, it adds The Takeover Challenge, which basically allows you to make the game harder if you think it’s too easy … we haven’t played it because we usually barely win! More importantly, it adds the Fantastic Four Card which is a new way to encourage cooperation. We’ll discuss that more below.


There’s 4 new Locations (see above), 2 of which have bad effects even if you defeat the challenge on them …


The Doombot tokens are “Doom’s thugs” and have special rules. The KO! tokens allow for representation when a hero is KOed.


The inside of the box holds the rest.


There’s two new villains: Super-Skrull and Doctor Doom! (although Dr. Doom can also be a hero … what you say? Can’t you imagine Dr. Doom teaming up with the Fantastic Four to fight Galactus?)


The minis and cards look really great: they are kept in place pretty well by the insert.


The minis themselves really pop, especially with all the different colors.




All in all, the game keeps with the Marvel United traditions and looks pretty good.

Solo Play

I played a solo player game using just the characters and locations in the Fantastic Four box. I think the only thing I used from the main box were two other Locations and the tokens. I suspect, for this box, everything is balanced and play-tested pretty well for things in this box. So, for my review, I am really only looking at this box’s gameplay: Trying to combine this with all the other Marvel United content would be an explosion of combinations.



For my first solo game, I played The Human Torch and the Silver Surfer.

And I chose to play against the evil Dr. Doom!


I mean, these minis look pretty awesome on the board.


In the end, my Heroes were victorious, taking advantage of the Silver Surfer’s Cosmic Awareness and Johnny’s Nova Blast. The threats made Doombots just appear everywhere: I almost lost a number of times as the Doombots threatened to overwhelm me.


The game still works great solo: Doctor Doom adds a nice wrinkle to the equation. I still have no desire to play using the “official” solo rules: the solo character running two Heroes seems to work best for me.

Cooperative Play

So, one of the coolest new features of the Fantastic Four Expansion is the cooperative Fantastic Four card: see below.

When members of the Fantastic Four play certain Teamwork cards, they add tokens to the card: later Teamwork cards can then execute all tokens that used to be on the card! Early Teamwork turns are lame, but later Teamwork turns are awesome!


You can see above, after a lot of previous Teamwork cards, the Fantastic Four card allows a member of the Fantastic Four to do so much! This card only works for the Fantastic Four heroes, but it really does promote teamwork for the FF: “I’ll play this okay card on my turn to add a token, but it will make the later turn for my comrade awesome!”


In the final turn, Sue Storm (aka the Invisible Girl) played a Teamwork card! It allowed to her so many actions! She moved, moved, and punched, punched, punched, taking Dr. Doom down!


The cooperative play seemed a little more pronounced in this session of Marvel United, as the Teamwork cards really seemed to promote “do a lesser action on my turn to promote an awesome turn for my comrade”. The only problem is that if you play one member of the Fantastic Four, I think you want everyone else to be a member because this Teamwork power is so awesome and ONLY works with the Fantastic Four.



If you like Marvel United and you like the Fantastic Four, this is a great expansion. The Teamwork cards really inspire cooperation, the minis are Fantastic (no pun intended), and the new Villains and Locations add more to a great game.

X-Men: Marvel United and the Expansion Absorption


So, just yesterday (April 15th, 2022), all of my X-Men: Marvel United Kickstarter Expansions arrived. Holy Cow! What have I done?


The reason I backed this was because I really loved Marvel United! The original Marvel United made the #2 spot on my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2020! I originally DID NOT back the original Kickstarter because I wanted to see if I liked the game before spending way too much money. Well, I got my copy of Marvel United off of e-bay (see Part I and Part II of my review of Marvel United here) and proceeded to love it! Marvel United is a light (20 minutes) but fun cooperative superhero game for 1-4 Players!


Thus, when CMON did a second Kickstarter for X-Men: Marvel United, I went all in! The base game arrived a while ago, and it was just as good (if not better because it had more modes: some villains could be heroes and vice-versa): see our review of X-Men: Marvel United here! I mean, we liked it so much it made the #1 spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2021! It was pretty great!


I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how interesting it is to take a look at all of these expansions these in my blog? My plan over the next year is to take a look at a lot of the expansions in more detail, but there’s just no way I can talk about everything here. So, we’ll take a look at one of the main boxes so you can get a sense of what’s here, discuss Expansion Absorption, the end with showing some other boxes.

Some Unboxing


The first box contains only X-Men: Marvel United expansions.


The second box contains mostly expansions from the first Marvel United Kickstarter, plus the X-Men: Marvel United Blue Team and Gold Team Expansions.

X-Men Expansion


One of the reasons I was so excited for this expansion is the number of characters from the X-Men and overlapping universes! The box above has characters from Excalibur, New Mutants, the Mojoverse, and Alpha Flight! These were some of my favorite comic books growing up.

The outside wraparound of the box shows you just how many characters are in the box!


The box of miniatures is pretty huge.

The cards and boards fit in just like the Marvel United:

There is just so much in this one box. I am going to start by playing a two character game, reminiscent of old New Mutants: Warlock and Magik versus Emma Frost. Emma is one of those new characters that can be either a hero or a villain (we are playing her as a villain like early New Mutants books).

Set-Up For A First Game


See the minis for Magik and Emma Frost and Warlock above! Pretty cool.


The cards for Warlock

The cards for the characters look great: I never thought I’d like the Chibi art, but it has really grown on me. I really like Warlock’s art.

My first set-up was a solo 2-Character game. See above. (Recall from our X-Men: Marvel United reviews, we tend to prefer the 2-Player solo mode).

First Game: An Inauspicious Start


My first game was a dismal failure. I never got to play. This is arguably the worst game of anything I have ever played. Because my heroes started on the location above, Emma got to put 2 crisis tokens down at every BAM, which means she put down the next storycard to the storyline. So the next play is Emma, who activates the BAM who puts down a storycard to the storyline. Continue Forever until you lose. EDIT: I got a rule wrong!!! (See update after conclusion)


All Emma Frost story cards (see below) have a BAM so I would never get to play!

Really? Did anyone playtest this? Seriously: I never got to play a card

Second Game: Not Much Better


So, I moved Warlock and Magik to a different starting Location (I think there you can’t start the game on the Illusional Sebasatian Shaw card or any adjacent Location or you just lose): that made it so only 3 Locations were valid starting Locations.

So first turns sucked: I could almost nothing as the Location reduced my activity by one.

I made it one whole round before I lost.


Emma actually killed both characters.


Really? I got to play 3 cards and the game was over.

A Little Worried


I did not expect to win my first game. But I also didn’t expect to get to do almost nothing. These were the worst two games of Marvel United I have EVERY PLAYED. My Heroes literally didn’t get to do anything on my first game … I am not even sure if that counts as a game!

Now, I know from playing Sentinels of The Multiverse (see our Review of the Definitive Edition here) that sometimes you have to choose the right hero team to take on a particular villain: some hero teams are just ineffective. So, I just chose a very bad team. I hope.


I am a little worried right now … I have all this content and it may suck because it’s poorly playtested. Or it’s too hard?


I am going to take the attitude “I am just going to have to find the right team to defeat Emma Frost” and start looking at the Heroes to see what I can do: what team can I build? What abilities do I need?

I have to have a positive attitude, otherwise I would be worried I may have just invested a whole bunch of money into a game that wasn’t properly playtested …

Update: I Played a Rule Wrong!

I played a rule wrong! When Emma Frost goes upside down, you DO NOT turn her over and resolve her. I think.

So, I have been thinking a lot about my two plays over the last day: I think I played a rule wrong.  Basically, when the number of crisis tokens gets large, you  have to put a new card in the storyline FACE DOWN.  I simply thought that meant “you don’t see it until you turn it up and resolve it”, but I think this is wrong.  I think the intention of the FACE DOWN (see picture above) is to simply clog up the storyline so they heroes get one less play.  The new FACE DOWN card does not resolve.  And I think that makes all the difference.  So, I set-up and played again.


This time, the game was more more what I expected.


I was able to keep Emma’s special ability under control until the very end, and it only delayed the inevitable.  See above.


See a winning game above, where Magik used her movement tokens and Warlock’s movement to get to Emma Frost and do the final blow!

So, I felt relieved.  Whew.  One instance of a the game is not broken.

Starting Hand cards

One rule I used was that the Mystical Armor and Techno-Organic Lifeform abilities stopped crisis tokens from going to the dashboard.  I wasn’t sure if this was right: it feels like the armor and lifeform only stop crisis tokens going to the characters themselves, but then otherwise these abilities felt completely useless!  Thematically, Magik’s armor protects her and Warlock’s weird nature protects him, so thematically it made sense that they protect from crisis tokens.  Yup, I just argued rules via theme.

Expansion Absorption


I have picked up every expansion for Sentinels of The Multiverse (2nd Edition) that has come out over the past 10 years: see above. Each expansion contained a few new heroes, a few new villains, and a few new environments. Here’s the thing: because all these expansions came out over a long period (one expansion every 2 years over 10 years), they felt like they were playtested pretty extensively with previously released content! They felt thought out, and I felt like I could absorb them … slowly.

I am very nervous for my X-Men: Marvel United content right now. Especially after those first games.


I’ve actually gotten to the point were I look at expansions skeptically, even for games I enjoy! Aeon’s End (see above) is a great cooperative deckbuilder (see our Top 10 Cooperative Deckbuilders) that has so many expansions!! But I have Aeon’s End ennui: the expansions came out too fast and I couldn’t absorb them. I was just getting into the base game when War Eternal came out, then the Legacy game, then New Age, then the Outcasts … so many expansions! I have officially given up buying Aeon’s End because they are just spraying new content out there and I can’t follow it! I can no longer absorb Aeon’s End expansions.

At what rate can you absorb expansions? Sentinels of the Multiverse did it well, I think: one expansion every two years seemed to work. It gave the manufacturer sufficient chance to playtest new content with old content, and it gave me a chance to absorb the new material into play. I fear Aeon’s End did it too quickly: I can no longer absorb Aeons’ End content and I have ignored the last few Kickstarters.



What about all the stuff I got for Marvel United? I really like the base game: I have had many good plays of the original base Marvel United and the base X-Men: Marvel United. Can I absorb all the new expansions? Was this new content playtested well? We’ll see over the next few months. Watch here for more info: I really hope I can get it to work without getting too frustrated!

EDIT: Now that I have played Emma Frost right, I feel a little better about things. The problem was that I had no FAQ to go to for Emma Frost because she is so new. I wonder if I am one of the first few people to play her? The lack of FAQ is another indicator of Expansion Absorption problems. Regardless, I do feel better about all this content and I look forward to more.

Appendix: A Quick Look At The Boxes

There’s really a lot of stuff: take a look at the front and back of a lot of the X-Men: Marvel United boxes!  We’ll be delving into more of these in the future!


A Review of Tokyo Sidekick


Tokyo Sidekick was on Kickstarter back in September 2020, promised delivery in March 2021 and delivered to me just about a week ago (mid March, 2022). It’s a year late. Let’s hope it was worth the wait. We were definitely looking forward to this: Tokyo Sidekick made the #2 position on our Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2022!


I went full-in on the Kickstarter, getting the deluxe edition of the game with slipcover, Kickstarter extras, decorative little pin, and the acrylic standee kit (40 characters from the game). It’s actually a lot of stuff.


What is Tokyo Sidekick?  Take a look at the back of the box (above): Tokyo Sidekick is a cooperative game for 1-4 players, where each player plays a team consisting of a Superhero and Sidekick.  It’s a boss-battling game with deck-building, character upgrades, and some elements of Pandemic.  To my knowledge, this is a not an established Intellectual Property: I believe this is just a home-grown bunch of heroes created just for this game.  As you can see from the box, it embraces an anime vibe.

Acrylic Standees

I mean, come on, the first thing I did was assemble the standees.  You know you would too. So, that’s where I’ll start.


I was really on the fence on whether or not I should get the Acrylic Standees for for Tokyo Sidekick: the game was already a little more expensive than I expected (Japanime Games had to re-launch their Kickstarter a second time because I believe the original game prices chased a lot of people away). In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the Acrylic Standees. SPOILER ALERT: I absolutely loved them!


This kit essentially replaces all the cardboard standees from the original game with clear Acrylic Standees.



The packaging is a little weird: there are three trays on top of each other, haphazardly floating around. When I first got this, a few of the bases actually fell out of the box before I even opened it! If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have lost some of the bases! Be careful!

I’m not going to mince words: getting these Acrylic Standees out of the plastic packaging was a HUGE pain. Some of them popped right out, some of them had to be coaxed, and a bunch of them I felt like I would break as I tried bend the plastic.

I might encourage you to take pictures of the trays after you take them out, because you will NEVER fit them back in.


… but luckily, you won’t need to put them in the plastic trays. The game box (mine, which was I believe the deluxe version) has a storage solution for all those. There’s some pre-cut foam with space for the standees. See below.

Space for the acrylic standees in the box.

You can put two standees per slot:


In general, putting the standees together went okay, but one of the bases actually broke! See below! I broke a blue base!


I was a little surprised by this! I have sent an email to Japanime games (go to their website: www.japanimegames.com and go to the contact area if you have this problem). What I ended up doing, in the meantime, was taping it.

It seems good enough for now, but I am curious if anyone else will have this problem. I mean it only happened once out of forty standees, so that’s not too bad? (Note: It only took a bout a week to get a new blue stand (after I sent them a picture): Thanks Japanime Games!)

Overall, these standees are pretty fantastic.

In general, the bases of the standees correspond to the outer rims of the cards: White for Villains, Black for SuperVillains and Gold for Menaces (but the Menace bases for those are black, I am guessing so you don’t confuse them with heroes?). See below.

Some of the characters will end up being Villains AND Heroes (Cool Guy ends up being a SuperHero OR SuperVillain, and Jinx Cat is either a Sidekick or a Villain), so they end up with the Villain bases (black and white, respectively).  I wasted at least 15 minutes of my life trying to figure out why I didn’t have enough SuperHero and Sidekick bases … it’s because two of the characters can also be Bad Guys!  Caveat Emptor!  See below.

In the end, this is probably my favorite expansion I have ever gotten for a game! I loved the silliness and looks of the Foil Cards for Sentinels of The Multiverse: Definitive Edition, but the Acrylic Standees looks really make the game stand out on the table: see below.



In the end, I am so glad I got the Acrylic Standees! They are totally worth it! They pop on the table and work even better than miniatures (at least in this context, where the “color and shine” of Superheroes needs to stand out).


Recommendation: Absolutely get the Acrylic Standees! Just be aware that they can difficult to pull out of the packaging, and they may break (during assembly) if you aren’t really careful!


The components are pretty first rate for this.  As you open the box, you get a comic book AND a rulebook.  We’ll discuss those further below.


The game box is bigger than it looks: see the Coke can (below) for scale. This is a big box. (Not as big as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns from last week, but still pretty big).


The board itself s pretty huge: there are two sides!  One for a 1-Player/2-Player game and the opposite side for a 3-Player/4-Player game.

Underneath the main boards are some player boards:

Player boards: each player gets one.

Below the boards and rulebooks are everything else: a lot of cards and punchouts.


Note: the punchouts that have already been punched out for you!

The cardboard standees: already punched out for you!

The rest of the content of the game is cards. 

The art is quite good and the cards looks quite good.

In general, I was very happy with the quality and look of the game.

Comic Book

The game comes with an actual comic book that gives a sense of the universe you are playing in:

The art is great and it’s just so neat that this is in here! It really gives the game more thematic gravitas since the superhero universe is home-grown.



This is a really, really good rulebook. It does just about everything right.

The first page starts with a quick intro:


The next page has great pictures with annotated count and list of components (Deep Space D6: Armada could have really used a page like this to help correlate components). I really appreciate these pictures because of the kinesthetic experience of seeing and touching the components while associating them with their names.


Immediately after this annotated pictures of components is the set-up across two pages: it’s so important that (1) it has a picture of set-up and (2) the instructions for the set-up and still visible while the picture is visible! This is great.


Following the set-up is an immediate description of the Sidekicks and Superheroes and which ones fit together (see below). I think this is important because it avoids “bad combos” (each player chooses one Sidekick and Superhero to play) right up front, while still having a quick thematic discussion.

The next pages talk immediately how to win and how to lose and a discussion of the rules.

These (above) are VERY GOOD discussion of rules! Any fact that is “tangential but still important” appears in red, to let you know this is an “exceptional” piece of information, but doesn’t require quite as much processing from the read just yet (it”ll be more important when you are looking up exceptions).

The next few pages then discuss combat with some VERY GOOD examples:

Then finally, after playing actions, it discusses the end phase:


The rest of the rulebook has a FAQ for all characters … since this is a variable player power game, where each player has very different powers, it is really nice to have someplace to look up the special rules for each character!

And that’s it for the rules! The rest of the rulebook is thematic dicussion: each of the characters has a lot of “flavor text” and flavor stuff:

You’ll notice we spent a lot of time on this rulebook!  We did because it was so good!  This is one of the better rulebooks I have read in a while.  And like all good rulebooks, it ends on the back cover with a quick reference guide.




The game, with that great rulebook, was really easy to set-up!  See above.

The one thing that’s important for set-up is that you might actually need all your standees (whether they are cardboard or Acrylic) because you will be randomly drawing a Bad Guy and you could need any of the standees.  So, you’ll notice Tokyo Sidekick takes up my entire table: The left side has the box and standees “ready to go” and the right side has the game board and components.

Solo Game


Congratulations to Tokyo Sidekick for following Saunders’ Law!  Tokyo Sidekick has a viable solo mode.  It’s essentially “play like there are two players playing, where the solo player operates two teams of Sidekick/Superheroes”!  There’s not a lot of changes: in fact, the only real change is that you have to use the 2-Player side of the main board (as notated in the lower left corner, see below).

When we reviewed Disney Sidekicks, we lamented the lack of a solo mode, but we were able to make a go at it with a “play as if 2 players” solo mode: that means operating two teams in the game.  That seemed harder in that game for some reason than here!  Even though Tokyo Sidekicks is arguably more difficult than the mass-market Disney Sidekicks, it seemed easier to play two teams!  I would argue that part of this was simply the rulebook: The Disney Sidekicks rulebook was not good, but the Tokyo Sidekicks was great.  Knowing what the rules are and how to find them makes all the difference.

In my first solo game, I played the teams on ONI/Jinx Cat and Sumauriman/Kevin Park.  See overall picture above and separate pictures below.

Team of ONI and Jinx Cat!


The game does take up a lot of space on the board, but it was managable.

My very first solo game of Tokyo Sidekick was absolutely fantastic! I initially raced around the board cleaning up little Incidents.. this part reminds me of Pandemic: most turns, some bad news (Incidents) comes out that pollutes a Location and players need to (eventually) deal with them. Dealing with these like the Medic in Pandemic was necessary for three reasons! One, if you don’t keep the Incidents under control, you can lose. Two, I wasn’t strong enough to take on the villain yet so I had to do something, and Three, I needed the EXP (experience points) from the Incidents to advance!


Above, you can see one of the Incidents you have to clean up! If you go to Meguro and discard two S (speed) energy, you make that go away AND get 2 EXP!!


The upgrade board (above) allows you to continually upgrade your character through the game.  You can get better cards, better multipliers, better team bonuses, activate specials, and all sorts of things!  

As the game progresses, you deal with 2 Villains, then 2+ SuperVillains, then finally the big boss at the end, the Menace!  In my game, the final menace was Godzilla!

I just barely won on the very last action of my last turn!  I was able to take advantage of ONI’s teleport power to get enough heroes and sidekick there.  Then, we did a final massive assault to take down Godzilla on the last turn!


What made this so great was that the game rewards heroes teaming up in combat with Sidekick bonuses, and the Family Bonus!  The only way to stop the final menace was to throw everything at it as a team!  And there were enough rewards to working AS A TEAM to pull off the final defeat (barely)!

Cooperative Play

Cooperative play worked really well: we had to talk about when to take care of incidents, when to fight, when to team-up, when to cull, how to upgrade.  There was a lot of talk at the table: in a good way!  “How are we going to get this?  You have to take this incident or we lose!”


I think one of the best parts of the game is the advancement or upgrade as you play.  Most things you do gives you EXP (experience points):

  1. taking care of an Incident (2 EXP)
  2. shattering defense of an enemy (3 EXP)
  3. killing enemy (3 EXP)

This EXP can be spent in some many ways to make your character better!  As you play the game, YOU get to decide how to make your character better!


The upgrade board shows the cost of all the different upgrades on th right hand side:  Better energy cards!  Upgraded special abiltities!  Upgraded multipliers on energy cards!  Upgraded Sidekick bonus!  Upgraded Sidekick!

In general, as you are playing, you are always spending your EXP to make upgrade choices!  This is fun (and necessary) making your character(s) strongly for the final confrontation!  I just had a blast choosing how to upgrade as I played.



We alluded to this earlier in this review, but the game also has some deck-building to it.  Your player starts with mostly “single” energy cards, but can upgrade to the double or even triple energy cards during upgrades!  


There’s also Damage cards (see above) that will go into your deck (like Wounds in Legendary or other deck-builders): all they do is clog your deck up so that you may have fewer energy cards on your turn.


One of the fundamental actions you can do is Brush-Up (or cull) your energy deck: see above.  Basically, there is a somewhat of a notion of deck-building in this game.  What kind of deck-builder are you? A culler?  Get best cards as fast as you can?  Do you want a light/fast energy deck?  It’s just another way you can make choices in the game: How do you build your energy deck.

Little Touches


There are just so many little touches that make this game good. Take a look at the incident card above.  One of the problems I had initially in the game was that I couldn’t find cities easily on the map (there are a lot of cities on the map and I don’t know Japan very well). But if you look closely at the Incident card, it shows a little map on the card with a red dot showing where the city is on the map!   That’s a little touch that makes the game that much easier to play! A nice touch.


This is something I alluded to in the Rulebook section, but the rulebook with it’s “red notes” was very well done.  The Brush-Up rule is described fairly well. (See Above)  The red section describes edge conditions and clarifications:  you probably won’t need it on your first read, but when you come back through the rulebook looking for exceptions/clarifications, the red text will make a lot more sense!  As a reader of the rulebook, I realized quickly the red sections aren’t super important on the first read, but later reads/lookups were critical!  It was a way to tell the reader “hey, this is a clarification/you can skip it until you need it”.   A nice touch.


A lot of things were labelled on the board: the “Bad News” section (in red and yellow) notates how the Bad News works with just a few icons.  A nice touch.

The tokens and cardboard standees were already punched out for us.  A nice touch.

Min-Max Rule vs. Fun Breezy Rule

IMG_0823 (1)

I was ready to declare Tokyo Sidekicks my game of the year after my first solo play: I had so much fun!  The game is is so well put together!  The components!  The choices! The advancement.  Then, I brought it to my friends and I realized I had been playing one rule wrong AT THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE!


When I played my first game, I thought that the 2x multiplier for an energy type applied to ALL ENERGY TRANSACTIONS WITH THAT.  For example, ONI (above) starts with a 2X in Concentration (and can upgrade his Power to 2x, Speed to 2x, or even Concentration to 3x).  Well, it’s easier to see on the card zoomed in, but THE MULTIPLIER ONLY APPLIES TO COMBAT!  To be fair, the rules do say that too.

If you look at a player board above, they have a list of all the operations you can perform: most of them require energy.  I thought the 2x or 3x multipliers applied to any of those.  Nope, just the Combat.


So, me and my friends ended up playing with the proper rule and got our butts handed to us: the Super Villain that came out brought 3 Red Incidents, and we already had 2 and we just lost about halfway through the game.  See above: the red Incidents were out of control!!!  With this one little rule change, our decks got clogged, we had trouble moving around the board,  we had turns where we didn’t do much, and we had very little agency to keep the incidents under control:  IT WASN’T FUN.   The ability to use the 2x/3x multipliers on movement and incidents made the game FUN, because you always felt like you were a powerful superhero who could do something.


SO, we resolved to play cooperatively again with the simple house rule: the multipliers can be applied to any (of the appropriate) energy cards.  See us setting up above:


.. and see us BARELY winning (above) on the very last turn.  Seriously, if we didn’t defeat Godzilla on the last turn, we were going to lose about 3 different ways: Godzilla advances too far, Damage Deck runs out, Incidents Track reached end.  This was so thematic: we saved the world at the last possible moment!!! That was fun! Heroic! So cool!  High Fives All Around!

We discussed this House Rule for quite a while after playing both ways: why does this make such a big deal? If we Min-Maxed, and watched every turn, counted every movement, preplanned for the upcoming incidents, preplanned for every combat, we might have been able to win.  My friends said straight up: “I don’t want to play this game if it’s a Min-Max game, but I liked it with our House Rule: That was much more fun!”


I propose the following:

  • Min-Max Puzzle Game: If you want the hard-core, difficult game of Tokyo Sidekick where every single action matters: play with the rules as written.  I haven’t won yet, but could be an interesting and very thinky puzzle.
  • Fun and More Breezy Game: If you want a game where you feel like you are breezing around the board like a Superhero with a lot of agency and fun, HOUSE RULE so that the multipliers DO NOT just apply to Combat, but to all actions (of the appropriate energy type).

This one rule seemed to make all the difference to me and my group: the game seemed  too much without this one rule.


Tokyo Sidekick was my almost my favorite game so far this year … until I realized I had been playing it wrong.   I think the House Rule we proposed made the game more light and breezy and frankly more fun and is frankly necessary for me to recommend it.

In general, everything worked so well.  The rulebook was well-written and allowed the game to flow!  The components (especially the Acrylic Standees) just made the game pop on the table!  The gameplay was simple, but had lots of subtleties to learn over time!  The upgrade system made the game fun to play as you always felt like you were advancing your character as you played!  The teamwork bonuses were encouraging!  The battles at the end-game were Epic!  The final battle was always a  “stand-up and cheer” when you win!


The thing is, I don’t even really like anime (I don’t dislike it, I am just not into it).  If you think I am recommending this game only because of the anime part, you are mistaken!  The game is just well-crafted (the rules, the little touches) and works so well.  If you like anime, I suspect you may even like even more.

I love this game and would give Tokyo Sidekick an 8.5 out of 10 … but only with our House Rule.  With that one rule straight up as written, this would probably be a 6.5: it was too hard and not fun.  I look forward to getting it to the table again with our House Rules.  I feel like this will be an evergreen solo game for me:  I just want to play it all the time.  There’s just so much good gameplay and variety.

Appendix 1: Putting Everything Away


The box I had was great, because the little foam insert on the left (see above) allows the Acrylic Standees to go back into the box.  As you can, the game BARELY fits into the box: there’s only 32 spaces for the 40 Acrylic Standees, so they big ones had to be placed elsewhere in the box.

Luckily, the Kickstarter bonus stuff ALSO fits in the box.

What you have leftover is a tiny box and Arcylic Standee holder you don’t need anymore.


Appendix 2: You Can’t Unsee This

Don’t read past this point unless you really want to …


The slip cover of the game seems to suggest an older cartoon. The orange girl … looks like Velma. Then the purple girl looks like Daphne. The dog becomes Scooby Doo. The cute bear becomes Scrappy Doo, the serious guy with the gun becomes Fred, the mop-top guy is Shaggy, the apparition becomes the”ghost” (monster of the week), and the white-haired guy becomes the park keeper who “would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for the meddling kids”. (The fist fellow must be the guest star of the week).

Seriously: The slip cover strongly suggests Scooby-Doo. I told you not to read further, now you can’t unsee that!

Top 10 Cooperative Party Games

What’s a party game? A party game is usually a casual game you can pull out with a fairly large group of friends and jump right into! We’ve only recently (say in the past few years) been able to play cooperative party games! That’s right! Players work together in a big group! There’s now enough cooperative party games out there that we can put together a top 10 list!

Each party game below will show the Player Count, Ages, and Time, but Time is relative, as many party games you are “play until you get sick of them”! Most cooperative party games on here are of type Cooperative Guessing, but there are a few oddballs out (which we will note)!

10. Unlock: Escape Adventures


Player Count: 1-6 (1-4 for some)
Ages: 10+
Time: About 1 hour for most
Type: Escape Room

Unlock: Escape Adventures are little mini-escape rooms that take about an hour to play.  They are pretty straight-forward and easy to jump into, as an App on your phone or tablet runs the adventure for the group.  They can be be great fun as players work together to solve all kinds of mysteries!  There are (at the time of this writing) 27 adventures over many sets (see above).  Unlock made the #1 spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Games With Apps here!

The only reason this is #10 on our list is that sometimes these escape rooms don’t work as well in larger groups: the clue cards are hard to share among many people, or some players may tend to take over and solve everything.  If your group dynamics allow, these Unlock games can be great party games!

9. Mystery Detective


Player Count: 2-20
Ages: 14+
Time: ??? until you get tired of it
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Mystery Detective is the formalized version of a game I have played on many car trips: someone describes a situation, and you have to figure what it is.  For example: “Santa Claus is dead: what happened?”   Players ask open-ended questions trying to figure out why Santa died. In this case, there a little pictures on cards, and players asked questions about the pictures (see below).


This is a silly, open-ended game that is really fun on long car-trips (because you just describe the scene) and everyone can ask questions.  It’s a little lower on the list because not everyone loves this open-ended questions game.

8. Fiesta De Los Muertos


Player Count: 4-8
Ages: 12+
Time: 15 minutes (or until you get tired of it)
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Fiesta De Los Muertos is like a lot of cooperative games on this list: you write words on cards, trying to get everyone to guess the original word (which is always a person: the theme has to do with dead people in the Day of the Dead).  As you play, you erase the previous word and write a new word that makes you “think” of the word you just erased.  At the very end, the original words are presented, and players have to guess the original word that started everything!  


In some ways, this is like cooperative Telestrations or “The Telephone game” you played as a kid.  It would be a little higher on the list, but it’s harder to get a hold of.

7. 5-Minute Marvel


Player Count: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Time: 5 minutes per game (30 minutes for all 6 bosses)
Type: Real-time Pattern Match/Asymmetric Powers

5-Minute Marvel is an oddball on our party list because most cooperative party games have some word-guessing.  In this card game, players have special powers and try to play cards to take down the current villain: By matching the symbols on your cards to symbols on the bad guy (see below for example), players work together to try to take down said bad guy!


It’s silly fun and easy to play up to 5 people!  And, you can keep playing, fighting bad guy after bad guy until you get to Thanos!

6. Muse


Player Count: 4-12 (competitive) 2-3 (cooperative)
Ages: 10+
Time: 30 minutes
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Muse is a little different than most games on this list: it’s only cooperative at 2-3 players, but it’s still a great party game at 4-12 players!  We originally reviewed it here!  In this game, players try to guess the appropriate piece of art chosen by a chooser, but obscured by other pieces of art in the mix.


There’s also some silly rules which govern what you can guess: “Strike a pose”, “Name a non-fictional sport or sport-team”, and other silly things.  The art on this game is fantastic and really helps bring you in.   This is a fun cooperative party game for the end of the night when you have a smaller group, still want a cooperative game, but want the casualness of as party game.

5. Master Word

Box Front

Player Count: 3-6
Ages: 12+
Time: 15 minutes
Type: Cooperative Guessing

We originally reviewed Master Word here and it also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2020!  This is essentially MasterMind meets a word game!  One player has to try to get the other players (working together) to guess the word he chose!


The components are really nice, with the cards allowing them to written on with dry-erase markers.  We have also had some success playing this online over discord!  Only one player needs to have a copy!

4. Letter Jam


Player Count: 2-6 
Ages: 10+
Time: 45 Minutes
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Like so many other games on this list, this is a cooperative guessing game with words!  In this game, a player chooses a word, only now letters of the word are missing!  


The poker chips that come with the game are surprisingly hefty and kind of make the game just a little better!

3. So Clover


Player Count: 3-6
Ages: 10+
Time: 30 minutes (or until you get tired of it)
Type: Cooperative Guessing

So Clover is another word guessing game.  Each player puts cards on a clover, and has to write one-word clues to try to connect two words together.    


The cards are then shuffled, leaving only the “one-word clues” and players have to guess how the cards fit together on the clover!  Everyone gets a chance to be the clue giver, and everyone else has to try to guess!  This is silly fun that has become very popular in my game groups!

2. Cross Clues


Player Count: 2-6
Ages: 7+
Time: 10 minutes
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Cross Clues is another cooperative word guessing game where one player gives a clue trying to tie together two words in a grid (on the edges), and the rest try to figure out where in the grid it is!


This is a timed guessing game, but we almost never never play with the timer.  This has been a lot of fun and an interesting twist on cooperative word guessing games, as the words are in the edges of the grid!

1. Just One


Player Count: 3-7 (officially), 2 – 10 (unofficially)
Ages: 8+
Time: 20 minutes (or until you get tired of it)
Type: Cooperative Guessing

Just One is a party game that has worked for me in just about every party situation!  It’s worked with gamers, non-gamers, family, and even over Discord and Zoom!  It’s by far my most favorite party game: It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games You Can Play Online!

This is another word-guessing game: Players work together to try to get the “guesser” to guess the word!  One player (the guesser) chooses a word (without seeing it) and all other players come up with words to try to get the guesser to guess the word!  The twist is that any clues that are the same cancel out, so you end up having to think “different” to come up with clues.


We just played Just One last night with a group of 10 people: a couple of people paired up and all seven guessing boards were used every round (the guesser simply passes his guessing board to someone who doesn’t have one).  Doing this, you can expand the player count out just a little bit more!