(This is a spoiler free article, and we will not discuss any of the events of the Avengers Infinity War movie.)
Alright, this game has been getting a lot of publicity lately. First, it surprised a lot of gamers when it was released. I remember seeing pictures of it online for the first time with everyone shocked, having no idea what it even was. Despite having next to no build up or hype of its own, piggy-backing just on the success of the Marvel Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 movie, people were excited for it. After hearing some positive things myself, I finally got a chance to play it.
Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War
Designer: Andrew Wolf
There’s not much to say about the theme of this one. It’s based on what could likely be the most successful theatrical release of all time. I understand that popular IPs are not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be doing pretty well for itself. As of now, their track record with consistency and storytelling, and fan service are off the charts. They just seem to be delivering on all fronts with what people want in movies and entertainment right now. Using that IP for a board game would seem to make it an instant purchase for most people.
But you know better, don’t you board gamer? How many times have you seen a game fall flat on its face and not be fun at all, simply because all of the money was put in to using the IP, and not in to the game mechanics. Too many, right? Using a popular IP can be a very divisive move in board gaming.
For better or worse, this game uses still movie images for the character cards, which I think is a good call here. The game is trying to attract a casual audience with how it looks and is presented. You may like it or not, but I don’t think you can argue that they succeeded in what they were trying to accomplish with the visual presentation of the game.
I think the game mechanics benefit from having the IP. I don’t think I’d personally enjoy a generic game of superheroes against a villain with these mechanics. But using the popular Marvel characters as seen in the Cinematic Universe that so many people are familiar with definitely helps make the game easier to understand and much quicker to learn.
The game itself is fully cooperative for 2-4 players. There’s no hidden information or secret agendas. The mission is to survive Thanos and defeat villains from the Asset Deck. You will do that through managing your die rolls. You can either spend die faces to recruit more Heroes to your side to help you roll more dice or as a means to help get specific die faces you need, or you can spend those die faces to defeat Villains, inching closer to victory.
Each turn, a player will choose a Deployment Zone to go to, and roll the Thanos and Infinity Stone dice. The Thanos die determines what Thanos will do this turn, and the Infinity Stone die will determine which Infinity stone Thanos will get closer to completing. Once Thanos completes any Infinity Stone, that stone’s power will activate whenever that color comes up on the Infinity Stone die. So Thanos gets more powerful as the game goes on. If Thanos completes all Infinity Stones, he immediately wins. If 10 heroes are defeated, Thanos wins as well.
After rolling the Thanos and Infinity Stone dice to determine Thanos’ actions, then the player will roll their dice. The player will begin assigning dice to cards to their chosen Deployment Zone, whether it be a Hero to recruit or a Villain to damage. After all dice have been place, you check to see if any of the requirements have been met. If they have, complete the action. And it is the next player’s turn.
So we have a combination of engine building through recruiting heroes and threat mitigation trying to ward off villains. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you’re happy with the team you’ve assembled and it becomes an all-out blitz to defeat villains before it’s too late.
As of now, I wish there was a little more variety in the starting heroes for each of the factions. I mean, it’s easy enough to switch them out on your own, but by the letter of the law each faction has its own single starting character. Instead of being locked in to starting with Captain America, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, or Gamora, maybe I’d like to see if Rocket Raccoon or Scarlet Witch could lead a team to victory.
There are enough other heroes in that game, that you will likely not see all of them over the course of a playthrough. And that’s great. I love that fact that you might be waiting for Thor to appear, but if he’s at the bottom of the deck, you’ll need to find a way to stop Thanos before you can get him. It makes for choosing the best option from your given choices on the board, opposed to just sitting back, waiting for something that you know will come along eventually.
However, there are only 10 villains in the game. The rules are vague on “official” win conditions, but I believe most players will consider it a victory if all 10 villains are defeated. That means you will see all villains every time you play the game. I kind of wish there were more villains to change that up a bit. I’m not sure who you would include, seeing as how there really aren’t other villains that work for Thanos in the MCU. However, I’d suspend disbelief enough for Abomination, Crossbones, Whiplash, and Vulture to be villains in the game as well.
There are promo cards for Thanos Uprising, and as we’ve seen with the first promo pack, a new faction is available, making Thor a candidate for a starting character now. Hopefully we can get other promo packs, or even a full-fledged expansion, to increase replayability.
(I think this is a good category for stuff like this. As a parent, I look for this stuff in a game review, and being able to look over everything and find this info quickly is helpful in deciding if the game is worth trying or not.) The set up time is pretty quick. There’s a few different kinds of tokens and cubes to manage, and it takes up more table space than I’d expect. That said, if I was looking for a game to set up and play with my wife after the kids go to bed, there’s nothing to make me think “Ugh… I don’t want to have to set all of that up.” It’ll probably take just as long to decide on a starting character as it would to set everything up.
This is another one with plenty of small pieces, so keep it out of reach of little ones. Choking hazards aside, I think the depth and gameplay of this is suitable for younger kids. I would have no problem playing this with my 5 and 7 year olds. Just be prepared to help make some choices based on what die faces they have available to keep the game moving along. Nothing wrong with steering them in the right direction, and have them actually roll the dice to get there until they’re able to make those decisions 100% on their own.
I enjoyed this game, and if I saw it on sale, I’d probably pick it up. I am weary of the replayability at this time. Some more promo packs or expansions could help that, but as of now I have no idea how hard those will be to hunt down. Kids and adults will equally enjoy it. I could see getting it to the table every time a new MCU movie comes out. It’s a fun game, with a popular theme. No matter the gaming group, I think this game honestly has something that just about everyone can find something to enjoy.