Earlier in August I did an announcement about the Umbrella Academy card game hitting Kickstarter. The game will run on Kickstarter until the evening of September 4th, but I was lucky enough to have a chance to preview the game and play it a few times. Here is my Umbrella Academy game review.
Umbrella Academy Game Review: Design Me a Winner
The game I received consisted of only the cards and instruction pages. I did not get any of the extras or actual box. The cards are also prototypes, so final look and construction may change from now to the final product. Other changes may occur as well by the time of release.
For fans of the comic series this game is perfectly designed. All of the cards look like the artwork straight from the comic series. For those unfamiliar with the comics, the artwork might be a bit chaotic. As much as I like the design, one small problem is too many of the cards look alike unless you pay attention. The hero and villain attack cards look extremely similar. The main difference is the hero cards are white in the upper left where the stats are and the ATTACK! is white. The villain cards are black in both these areas.
The card stock is both good and bad. The cards I have are on a very thick card stock. This is great because the cards can take a beating, but it is a drawback when it comes to shuffling. As thick as the hero attack deck comes, they are very hard to shuffle. The instructions also came on six pieces of thick card stock. This may change for the final print, but in the end it will not matter. The game works simply enough that nothing more is needed.
Umbrella Academy Game Review: Unique Gameplay
I have never played a game designed like this, so the new play style is refreshing. The game is very simple to pick up, but the strategy needs to be sound or you will get rolled! The game requires teamwork. Without it you will not stand a chance.
Above is an example of a game layout. You choose one of the seven siblings as your hero. Each sibling possess a special power to be used during gameplay, and they will be needed. If you invest in the Kickstarter, the unlock goals will provide a couple more options.
You lay out a villain card. This card tells you how many villain attack cards to lay out. This number can range from 6-10ish. The idea is to take turns with your siblings playing attack cards against the enemy attack cards. You must BEAT the attack number on the villain card to beat it. Otherwise it will come back to bite you later.
You then flip over a Dysfunctional family card. This card alters play conditions for good or for ill (and we can talk bubonic plague level ill). Perhaps the worst card (and most fun) is the Family secrets card. It reads: Any player who talks this turn loses a life bar. Not being able to talk kills strategy sessions, but it can make for some hilarious and animate gesturing!
Umbrella Academy Game Review: Managing Your Hand
Your cards are attack cards but they also have other abilities. They can heal or give special bonuses. If a card is used for anything other than an attack, that person’s turn will leave an open attack card to be dealt with later. Manage your cards closely. You MUST play a card every turn, so do not depend on your hero powers and bank powerful cards for later.
Each player plays a card against an enemy card in the hopes of beating all of the enemy attacks, but that will rarely happen. The effect is you will be responsible for certain cards in the chain. In a four player game, you will be responsible for every fourth card. When everyone played a card down the row it will look something like pic 1 below. Tokens are highly recommended but not needed. They help mark open cards.
You then clear out all of the villain cards that were defeated. The cards remaining will damage you if you do not take them out (pic 2). Your last line of defense comes from your hero powers at this point. Using their powers you can play extra cards, kill attack cards or other options, but of course they come at a price. Every time a hero uses their power in a game, they lose 1 lifebar.
Once players decide which powers to use or not use, any attack cards left on the table deal damage to the heroes. The damage can be divided as teh group chooses, so people with extended lifebars can absorb more damage than characters with only a couple left. These lifebars were one of the few detractors to the design of the game. When extensions are added through gameplay, the lifebars can become clumsy and easily disturbed if accidentally knocked. The design gets merit for being more unique, but there could be better ways to track life (dice, markers, etc)
Umbrella Academy Game Review: One last Round
So you beat the villain cards and all their attacks. You won the game right? Nope. All of those villain cards you beat have attack cards on the back with one slight difference. Their attack and damage numbers are at least doubled from what you have been facing. I hope you managed your cards and life well. You will take a beating this last round if you didn’t. Prayers help too. The wrong dysfunctional family card at the wrong time and your game will end!
Umbrella Academy Game Review: Final Thoughts
This game plays very well. It takes minutes to learn, but your planning must be near flawless or the game will win! The instruction book does become a bit vague for first time players. I sent in questions to the creators and they were very helpful in their responses. Most answers went as thought, but the biggest thing they left out was what to do with your hand at the end of a round. You simply draw back to your initial starting hand size. Hopefully they either fix the instructions or add a FAQ to their final rule sheets.
When it comes to the attack cards, the villain deck seems a bit thin while the hero deck seems a bit thinker than needed. In the end they do not make too much of a difference and it guarantees variety for the heroes.
The only factor I question are the hero cards themselves. I love their effects and how they interact with the game, but some seem extremely overpowered. Having the right combos can guarantee you a win no matter what you face, but my mind may change as I get a few more games in. Without them, winning is impossible, but at the same time certain ones feel a bit overpowered and the win feels cheap.
I highly enjoyed playing this game and recommend it to anyone, Umbrella Academy fan or no. I may even register for the kickstarter for the extra perks. Kickstarter ends Sept 4th.