Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $34.99

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.

The Rating

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.

The Takeaway

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.

Find Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons at Amazon, Target, and other retailers.

Defend Themyscira in Co-op Board Game Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons

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Ravensburger and Prospero Hall, designers of Disney Villainous and the Funkoverse Strategy games, have announced a new co-op board game starring DC Comics’ Amazonian superhero, Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is coming March 1, with a suggested price of $34.99.

Here’s the official game description:

The Amazons, a powerful tribe of warriors, have lived in peace for centuries on the tranquil island of Themyscria. That peace is shattered when their enemies invade. Now it’s up to you to defend your home! In this cooperative game, you’ll strategize together, face your foes on the battlefield, and rise to meet the challenge of the Amazons!

The tabletop game is designed for 2-5 players, with five unique hero miniatures (unpainted), including Diana. Players face off against one of three villains: Ares, Circe, or Cheetah, each offering unique gameplay and different levels of difficulty.

Ares was featured in the 2017 feature film Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins, starring Gal Godot), while Cheetah will appear in the upcoming sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, in theaters June 5.

The suggested age range for Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is 10+, with an average play time between 45 and 60 minutes. The stellar box art is by comic artist Jenny Frison.

Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons will be available via Amazon, Target, and hobby game stores on March 1.

8 Bit Attack Review

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Publisher: Petersen Games
Age: 10+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 60-90 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Cooperative dungeon crawling is one of my favorite digital past-times, and the same is true for tabletop gaming. In Petersen Games’ 8 Bit Attack, the pixelated dungeon has been distilled into a series of boss battles against aliens and demons, culminating in a gigantic showdown with Cthulhu himself.

The character and monster variety create lots of different situations, though the dice-chucking gameplay wears out its welcome long before it’s over.

Select Your Fighter

Before delving into the pixelated battles, players choose their character from an impressively diverse roster of cyborgs, elves, fish-ladies, suit-wearing ghostbusters, and drunken demonologists. A total of 20 heroes are available, each with their own character sheet, abilities, and future upgrades.

This is not a game where you can randomly deal out characters and waltz into a battle, however. The champions and minions you face will punish any team that hasn’t been carefully planned and balanced, including defensive tanks and supportive healers and buffers.

There are four waves of battles before taking on final boss Cthulhu, whose massive armor, damage, and stunning capabilities require the team to level up substantially before even having a chance at facing old squidface.

Players have to collectively decide what Assault level they want to face on each wave, from 1 to 7. A level 1 Assault will result in only three enemies, a champion and two minions, but there’s a big difference between splitting those three enemies up between three or four players than with two. Defeating level 1 only results in a single precious medal for the entire team, which can be used to upgrade heroes with life-saving armor, or gain new abilities.

Heroes are pressured to tackle the hardest possible assault level they can muster to maximize their medal gains, leading to long, drawn-out battles against half a dozen enemies, each of which can activate buffs and debuffs. I would have preferred level waves that gradually progress in difficulty (you know, like an 8-bit video game), and that each wave properly scaled for the number of players.

Boss Rush

The gameplay boils down to rolling a pair of dice to attack with either Slow or Fast hits, and using your limited energy to activate character-specific abilities. Even the lowliest minion often has a greater damage output than most un-leveled heroes – and enemies don’t have to roll dice. Due to the awful armor system, it’s not uncommon for a player to roll dice and not be able to do much of anything on their turn once they run out of energy, while enemies continue to mete out the pain.

Depending on the number of players and Assault levels, it can easily take two hours just to get to Cthulhu. Most champions have around 30 hit points with minions hovering around 10 hp each. By comparison, Cthulhu has 25 hit points PER PERSON, meaning 100 HP in a four player game! Even if you have a solid strategy that’s gotten your team this far, you’re still left at the whims of the dice, while Cthulhu gleefully stuns a player every single turn for the ridiculous amount of time you have to battle him. Elder god indeed.

Stellar components could have elevated the frustrating experience, but 8 Bit Attack suffers from the opposite problem. The cheap components remain a hassle throughout, from constantly shuffling heart damage tokens around to the annoying buff and debuff cards and timer tokens, turning the battlefield into a chaotic mess within the first few minutes.

The Rating

The recommended age range for 8 Bit Attack is 10+. It’s easy to teach, with tactics and synergy between heroes unfolding through experience.

The Takeaway

I can appreciate a challenging co-op game, and I love the rule-of-cool approach to throwing in demons, aliens, and cosmic horror. But 8 Bit Attack quickly became a slog in every game I played. Battles took way too long for too little strategy, and the difficulty ramps up to a ridiculous degree. Old video games were often frustrating, and I didn’t need to experience that all over again in 8 Bit Attack.

Find 8 Bit Attack at Petersen Games Website.