Available On: PC (Steam)
Fort Triumph combines two of my favorite flavors of games: the strategic map exploration of Heroes of Might and Magic, and the tactical combat of XCOM. It’s an ambitious cross-pollination of genres for a tiny indie game that succeeds more than it stumbles, but lack of content and variety hold it back from greatness.
Available On: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4 (Coming soon: Switch)
“Biped” is an awkward name for a cute co-op platformer, but it does accurately describe our small robot protagonists. Armed with nothing but their own suction-feet, they’re tasked with solving a series of challenging puzzles. Each level features a rich variety of puzzle designs, but the awkward dual-stick leg controls often lead more to frustration than fun.
Available On: Switch
After designing our characters we’re flown to a tropical island, armed with little more than a tent and some basic tools. We’re already in dept to benevolent landlord Tom Nook, but thankfully everything we do, from catching bugs and fishing to chopping wood and crafting furniture, earns Nook Miles that can be redeemed to upgrade our tent into a house and unlock bigger storage, better tools, and more juicy upgrades to transform our island into a personal paradise.
For our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review, I decided to try something a bit different. The sim life game is particularly kid-friendly, and my daughter happens to be at the perfect age to fall in love with it. After a week, she’s played more than I have. I sat down with her and we talked about what she liked, and didn’t like, about the game.
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
A little over a decade ago, Pandemic popularized the cooperative board game genre with doctors and researchers matching cards to find cures to multiple diseases before the disease-cubes took over the world. While I appreciated the then-new concept, I found the theme a bit dry and card-matching too simple.
In 2020, Wonder Woman is here to save the day. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is a smart evolution of co-op cube-defense, with the much more exciting theme of defending Themyscira from comic book villains.
No Man’s Land
The Amazon island of Themyscira is gorgeously presented in a large game board with over a dozen different locations, such as the training grounds, the library, and the Temple of Aphrodite. Each player chooses one of five Amazons, including Diana, better known as Wonder Woman from DC Comics. Each Amazon has a unique ability and a bronze miniature figure that contrasts beautifully on the colorful map.
Challenge of the Amazons pits your team of Amazon warriros against one of three different villains: Ares the warlord, Circe the spellcaster, and Cheetah the lycanthrope. Each villain has their own agenda and tactics reflected in their personal card decks, as well as scaling difficulty for the number of players.
Each turn the chosen villain runs around the map deploying cubes and hazards, which could represent blocked roads, wounded amazons, or enemy minions. The players need to balance removing these cubes with chasing down the villain. Both the villain and the island itself have health bars, and if Themyscrica’s defense drops to zero, the Amazons lose.
Goddess of War
The Amazons’ turns are divided into two distinct phases. It’s here where Challenge of the Amazon’s clever game design helps solve one of the biggest problems with co-op games: players ordering each other around.
In the Strategize phase, players can openly discuss their plans for the turn, but only with about half their cards visible, face up in front of them. Enemy obstacles are cleared by playing cards, each of which features multiple numerical emblem symbols. Symbols include Vigor (sword) to defeat minions and Leadership (star) to summon additional warriors. Players can use this public information to plan out where to go and which obstacles to tackle, or combine their might into a big hit on the enemy villain.
Once they’ve finished strategizing, the Battle Plans phase begins. Players pick up the rest of their cards and plan their three actions in secret, without speaking. The flexibility on each card results in a satisfying balance between trying to coordinate with your teammates, while also improvising based on the cards. Sometimes your best laid plans go awry, as in battle, but it still feels thematic and fun.
While the Amazon minis, enemy character sheets, and game board are exceptional components, the same cannot be said of the cards. The hero cards represent abstract adjectives like Experienced, Resourceful, and Bold, and depict images of clouds, trees, and spiderwebs – not exactly a thrilling declaration when battling the forces of Ares. I would’ve much preferred scenes of our Amazon heroines fighting and training, especially as the cover art by comic artist Jenny Frison is so darn good.
Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons has a recommended minimum age of 10+. While DC Comics and Wonder Woman have become increasingly kid-friendly, the board game requires advanced tactical planning and coordination, which can be challenging for younger kids.
As a co-op game, Challenge of the Amazons would make an excellent pick for family game night with older kids, teens, and parents.
With the exception of big-box RPG Gloomhaven, co-op games aren’t usually very popular in my house, but I’m more than happy to make room on the game shelf for the princess of Themyscira. With colorful components and a nice balance of teamwork and solo planning, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons makes co-op fun again.
I never paid much attention to the odd, square-headed figurines known as Funko, despite their incredible popularity and breadth of licenses. They couldn’t be scanned into their own video game series like Skylanders, nor unlock various Nintendo features as with Amiibo. Plop them into a series of tactical strategy board games, however, and you have my attention.
With intuitive rules, multiple game modes, and asymmetrical figures, the Funkoverse Strategy Games are a refreshing blend of family-friendly content with satisfying tactical gameplay.
The Funkoverse games originally released last fall in four-figure base sets ($39.99, up to four players) as well as smaller two-figure “expandalone” sets ($24.99, two players) using smaller figures with popular, kid-friendly licenses like Batman and Harry Potter.
The second wave of Funkoverse games are releasing in March, including four-figure and two-figure sets from Jurassic Park, two expandalone sets from the Golden Girls, and the first character-only expansion in Aggretsuko, the rage-prone anime cat from the Netflix series. Future sets releasing this summer include Back to the Future and Wonder Woman.
Each box includes a complete game, containing dice, tokens, and a double-sided game board to wage miniature tactical warfare. However, Funko Games and developer Prospero Hall (Disney Villainous) smartly recognized the mix-and-match quality of the Funko universe, and designed the Funkoverse games to be fully compatible with one another. It’s easy to field a dream team of whichever Funkoverse heroes and villains you like. Hermione, Bat Girl, and Rose from Golden Girls can team up against Harley Quinn, Dr. Ian Malcolm, and Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty.
Two players (or two teams) begin by choosing one of the sides on the grid-based game board, and field a team of either two or three figures each. Each base game and expandalone set feature additional basic figures such as “Police Officer” (represented by small discs) to help pad out teams before you invariably buy more sets and figures.
Each set comes with four game modes, including capture the flag and territory control, and each figure comes with its own set of special abilities that operate on cooldowns. Players (or teams) take turns activating figures and performing actions such as moving, challenging opponents with dueling dice rolls, assisting allies, or performing special abilities.
Special abilities are thematically tied to each character. Batman has a grappling hook to quickly close the distance to the closest enemy, while the Jurassic Park Raptor can place ambush tokens to pop up in different places around the board. Clever girl.
Special abilities are limited by using tokens (two per character) with a cooldown tracker, with stronger abilities taking more time to recharge. Each Funkoverse figure also has a special ongoing trait. Defeating Joker lets him place a mystery box in his space, which he can later explode using his Bang! ability, while Harley can perform a free challenge attack when standing back up – securing an epic win for my opponent in a close game.
The scenarios play quickly while still leaving plenty of room for interesting tactical decisions. Do I spread my figures out to nab those precious point markers, or stay clumped together to form a defensive phalanx? Do I spend both my actions moving to a critical spot, but leaving myself vulnerable? Should I use Batman’s stronger special attack now, knowing it leaves me unable to use Relentless next turn if he fails and gets knocked down? Strategic depth comes from learning when to use which characters and how best to manage the limited ability tokens.
I’m delighted by how impressive the Funkoverse strategy games look and play. The figures are smaller than standard Funko in order to properly fit in the tactical grid, but look fantastic. The Funkoverse figures can also carry tiny weapons and tools that add their own special abilities, like Harley’s signature Mallet.
With a recommended age of 10+, younger kids will need some assistance with advanced tactics – or you could play without special abilities and ease them into the world of tactical strategy. The Funkoverse games are part of a rare breed of tabletop games that are fun with both kids and adults, making it a huge win for family game night.
Find Funkoverse Strategy games at Target, Amazon, and hobby game stores.