Designer : Frédéric Henry Artist : Georges Clarenko, David Demaret, David Finch, Jim Lee Publisher : Monolith
2-4 players 60-90 minutes ages 14 and up
Written by Barry & Guilou
What can I tell you about Batman: Gotham City Chronicles that you don't already know. I've already told you that it's a Kickstarter from Monolith, who have produced such epic games like Mythic Battles: Pantheon and Conan. As well as the recent Claustrophobia 1643. I've already given you my first impressions after playing a game with the designer Fred Henry. And I've giving you my 10th impressions after playing the game 10 times and demoed it more than 20. So why am I here to talk about it today? Because I have a final production copy on my table with more than one scenario and many more figurines. Some alternative modes. A Rulebook and final art.
So let me run over very quickly what this entails. Batman: Gotham City Chronicles gives you the chance to play out some of the highlighted scenes from the graphic novels. Whether you are battling in the Ace Chemicals Warehouse against the red hood gang. Which was inevitably the demise of their leader, who possibly falls into a vat of acid, transforming into the possible Joker. Or defending Wayne Manor against the armies of The Owls. Preventing them from entering the Batcave and putting an end to Bruce Wayne's carree. With 23 scenarios in the base game alone, there is a lot to play through.
Talking about the base game, unlike many others, it comes in two very large boxes. Each one holds either the villains or the heroes, plus all the boards, bits and books. Which is far better like this than in previous Kickstarters, where all the stretch goals were in one box and the base game with another. Everything was all mixed up and you didn't know how to put two and two together. Here, each box contains a figurines for one of the sides, all nicely decorated on the exterior to show you which character goes where. This benefits the setup process of the game, making it quick to lay everything out and find. Plus it always helps when the characters cards look like the Miniatures. Big bonus points here. Although the tokens and tiles do not have a designated base that hold them, you will quickly improvise with a baggy and place them in the nearest convenient hole.
Setup of a game still does take a little bit of time after, but not as much if the organisation was not this good, once you’ve chosen a scenario. But some of this slowdown comes from the choice that the hero players can now make. Scenarios will give players the options of several Heroes to choose from, all related to the storyline of course. And as well as their choice of heroes there is also the choice of which items they will pack in their utility belts. Well, those from the bat family anyway. Other characters will have pre designated tools and weapons. The hero player board is practical and visually stunning to look at, with its recessed areas for energy cubes and space for the character cards to slide in and out of. And they contained a bio of the character, so if you are unfamiliar with batcow, you can read up on her. While the villain player has a cool plastic command console to install their troops and cubes. Yes, this is a One vs many strategic combat game. But it also has a one on one mode which I will talk about later.
With setup complete, you'll need to then learn how to play the game. Unfortunately this is not as easy as it should be. I did enjoy watching Batman in the 60s and 70s but one thing that I did not enjoy reading this rule book, that seems to have come from the same era as well. The format of the instructions is a very cold and old numeric paragraph system. Lots of flow charts and lots of repetition. Yes, I know it’s trying to be like a Bat-computer readout, but it doesn’t work. I have a Babylon 5 board game on my shelf which I cannot play due to this system of writing. And it is possible that this game will sit on players shelves collecting dust as well, due to the unfriendliness of the layout. But the good news is that all the rules are inside. And once you get to grips with the game, any problems you run into can be resolved quite quickly by referring to this tablature of information.
Now there is a steep learning curve for this game. That's due in part to its ingenious resource management system which you don't really find in a game of this ilk. Once you understand that, there is then the chore of remembering what all the icons do. And there are a lot of them. The only way to find out what they mean is to dig up the rulebook, something you’ll be doing continuously at first. Then searching for the icon, as they are all alphabeticalized instead of associated with an action. Which would have made it quicker defined a power associated to punching for example, if they're all on the same page (this has now been updated by Monolith in a PDF). So expect a rough ride for your first few games as you adapt to the new system and the iconography. But once you get going you're in for a roller coaster ride like no other.
Scenarios will see the hero players teeming together to thout the villain player's plans. While the heroes have the possibility of creating their team with characters and Bat-gadgets, our villain player will be stuck with their lineup and objective. As I've said many times before this game brings a lot of communication between the hero players. They will have to work hard together to defeat the enemy. While the villain player will have to use their brain power and economize there energy spending to slow the heroes down. And although there is quite a lot of dice rolling, which players may find to random for the strategic planning they have prepared, it's this randomness that leads to the excitement. Obviously being a good calculator of chance, will help you defy the odds. As there will be times when every dice roll seems to be against you, but that doesn't mean that you'll be down and out. Either side has a bucket load of opportunity and options to still achieve what they need to do. Changing your strategy slightly to adapt to these minor pitfalls is always suggested for either faction. Although, speaking from experience, not selecting the right tools for the job can impede your success.
Let's talk about the versus mode which is totally new to me. This mode let's 2-players go head-to-head in a scenario based skirmish. Each player will have a control panel, the second one is provided in this Vs expansion. Once again you are given the opportunity to create your teams, with a slight restriction, as you can only have two main characters. One will become the Leader and have a new special power applied to them. While the other is their General. The other spaces of your command post will be taking up by level 1 and level 2 troops. Setup the skirmishes is very rapid once you know the base game rules. Plus there are a few tweaks due to the fact that the hero characters are now on tiles and their special abilities are limited to 3 things. Going back to not selecting the right tools for the right job, this did apply in my playthrough other scenario, which cost me dearly. Giving my daughter an easy Victory. But it was still refreshing to playthrough. Added to the normal command post rules is a new set of energy gems. Everytime you activate a tile from your river, you'll spend the same amount of these new energy gems as the amount of tiles you've already activated on your turn. Plus the amount of normal energy for the position in the river, as in a normal game. Giving you two resources to manage. It balances the control panel perfectly, meaning players won't constantly be activating their cheapest units turn after turn. This mode definitely beats playing a two-player game where one player will be controlling multiple Heroes. It's the same game but in a slightly different light. Maybe a dark light!
So far my experiences of Batman has been pleasant, exciting and totally fun. There is a real sense of being in the Gotham universe, not only when Robin has been pounded to smithereens by a group of Thugs and it's Batman that swings into the rescue. But from the get-go of reading out the scenario, that comes from the mouth of Jim Gordon or Oracle or someone else. I was transported into the pages of some of these crime fighting, multi-millionaire, dynamic duo shoes. My daughter enjoyed Conan, but loves this. With its strong female character list, she enjoys assembling a strange team to beat the snot out of me. Not really a Suicide Squad. More about daddy beating squad.
Technical score 9/10 Although there is some slightly bent based minis this game is visually stunning and perfectly put together. Everything fits nicely back in the box, with the little help from baggies. Unfortunately letdown buy a slightly unfriendly Rulebook.
My BGG score 10/10 (outstanding - will always enjoy playing) I love playing this game. The mechanisms are so different and so much more realistic in my eyes, for how a character can and should act in a game. If only dungeon crawling to take a page out of this game. Plus, this is Batman. My family needs are well met. If only there was some real puzzles inside for the detective in me to solve, this would be an 11/10.
Combined Score 9.5/10 Now it's over to you...
Batman Gotham City Chronicle is the new nugget of Frédéric Henry. Promised, I'll do a short review, Barry having already done a good one. This is often considered a Conan 2.0. When I saw the game and read the rules, actually the two games are very close. But Batman is an improved and refined version.
All the little defects of rule or understanding that could be found in Conan were erased. All points of contention have been improved. The material has been greatly monitored at the level of its production and it shows on the realization. The figures are very effective. The apprehension of the choice of the plastic or the variety of colors has disappeared. The details are present. The different colors according to the camps allow a quick for visibility on the board. The command board is much more optimized and pleasant to use. The art is superb, these boards stuffed with small details.
At the gameplay level, the game is fluid, fun, very well thought out. The interaction is ubiquitous. As the “good guys”, you’ll pay attention to what the character is thinking and try to keep the focus on the goal. As a villain, you’ll try to distract the other players while trying to knock them out. The middle ground is hard to get and it's very fast. Every shot is important. The number of scenarios is quite important and seems to be open enough to have good monitoring (in terms of quality and quantity). The balance of scenarios has been revised and for the majority of scenarios, it becomes very tense and imposing. The pleasure is tenfold. Playing the role of the “bad guys” or the “good guys” are two extremely pleasant things. Once the game is over, you’ll just want to go back for more. Another positive point, each scenario offers the possibility for the “good guys” to choose their heroes from a selection. It changes the given powers freely (or almost) allowing you to use the figures that you desired. It also offers a very welcome replayability and variety in the stories.
It must be admitted that the Batman license plays a lot into the immersion. Batman: Gotham City Chronicle is a game with hybrid mechanisms. You will find the epic moments and the dice rolls to be Ameritrash and the optimization and meticulousness side closer to the German games. This crazy mix works perfectly here. Where, sometimes, Conan was more mechanical than thematic, in Batman immersion takes precedence. You will live the adventure. The license certainly plays an important role but the effect is there.
Another very positive point is the addition of the new game mode: Versus mode. As much to tell you that this way of playing justifies itself in the purchase of the game, if you play often as two. It's a real treat to select your team, prepare it and play with your characters. The system works perfectly.Bravo Fred! By taking the same mechanisms, this mode almost makes it possible to play another game. Another way to do, to see, to feel pleasure, to vibrate to the sound of Kapow!!! and Bam!!!, to laugh or growl following successes and failures. These parts are very tense. It is often difficult to predict a winner before the end, except big mistake during the game. The Versus is really the icing on the cake.
But is Batman: GCC a perfect game? Unfortunately no. It has a lot of positive points, it is certainly part of the inevitable, but …
The rule of the game are very indigestible for the those who does not know. There is not really a lack of or fuzzy moments in the book, it’s just badly presented and quite heavy (especially for the video generation). Two booklets presented in the manner of the majority of FFG games could have been a good idea. The YouTube video-rules are good, but it's not worth a good written explanation, neither easily or quickly navigate in case of doubt (and everyone does not like having to go on a screen to learn a game ).
The whole game is based on iconographies. This notion is interesting ... from the moment players have something to navigate. This is not the case. The tiles of the villains are sometimes a little confusing especially during the first games. The back and forth in the rule eventually damage the pages. Even if after several plays, we got our bearings, the fact that there was not originally a game aid or memo on separate sheets, this is a big oversight (although Monolith has reacted very quickly by offering to download a game aid on their site).
The scenarios are very generic. If one can understand the will behind this choice, it can still take the player out of the immersion. The absence of a campaign mode is also a bit unfortunate. There was so much to do (possibly a rights issue, they maybe could not).
It's a shame that Monolith did not think of a specific storage for all the figurines, you’ll have to walk with all the boxes each time (even if the illustrations are beautiful). Another unforgivable point, you can not play as the BatCow in Versus mode! What? Nobody cares? Pfff!!! ok I'm the only one ...
Batman Gotham City is a very pleasant surprise. Since I received it, it rarely leaves my table. The versus mode is an excellent innovation and a big plus to a game that already had serious advantages. Even if it is not free of defects, it would be a pity to miss this game. The Dark Knight's world is very well presented and at the same time, it offers enough freedom for a players who are having more trouble with other licenses, to enjoy playing. The game manages to mix the mechanisms while offering an immersive experience. Having played a lot, it is clearly the best Batman board game that exists. If you like the license, go with your eyes closed. If you like fun, you can go here too. If you do not like Batman, you have no taste it's a fact, but you can still enjoy this game. In the genre, Batman: Gotham City Chronicle has serious arguments to prevail as a playful reference.
Technical Score 9.5 / 10 Everything is almost perfect. I feel that there has been a time and work invested behind the illustrations, figurines, trays, command boards, character cards ... Too bad a few details spoil a near perfection.
My BGG Score 10/10 (Outstanding - will always enjoy playing) It is possible that the license plays a very important role but the game is really very good. The versus mode brings a touch of extra pleasure. Batman Gotham City Chronicle is a perfect mix of genres. Simple, fluid, captivating, tense. I have only one desire, to replay a game.
Combined Score 9.75 / 10 Now, it's your turn to play ...