You’re the new hero in town and with your super suit matching your best qualities, you approach town to save the day. But what do you spot over there? It’s another hero, dressed to the nines, trying to capture the exact same villain you are. And what to you spy from your other eye but ANOTHER hero. Henchmen are closing in, and you want the glory for yourself! Will you defeat the most henchmen and eventually the villain, showing yourself to be the supreme superhero in town? Or will another hero’s magnificent feats outshine yours?
In Heroes Wanted, each player takes on the role of a somewhat-eccentric hero by mashing up a body and head to form a heroic name and determine their powers. Then, all of the heroes try to take out the similarly-created villain along with his henchmen and underlings, gaining the most fame by defeating the baddies and completing certain objectives along the way. Once the villain is defeated (or escapes!), the hero with the most fame wins and can join the ranks of The Champions of Zeta City!
To begin the game, you must first choose a scenario to play. The game comes with four different scenarios, from a rash of misdemeanor crimes (“Littering, Loitering, and Jaywalking!”) to a riot of “committed” villains (“Bedlam at Zeta City Asylum!”). Each scenario has its own board, laid out like a newspaper and showing the board itself, a brief story, special rules pertaining to that scenario, and space for the villain cards and headline tokens. Once you’ve selected a scenario, set up the board for that scenario according to its rules, and set up the Fame (score) track next to the board.
The next step is to select heroes for the players to control. You do this by drawing three Hero A (top) and Hero B (bottom) cards, and keeping one of each. These cards combine to show your hero’s name, what he or she looks like, your powers, et cetera. Each hero also gets a Quirk — this is an optional additional trait that your hero has. For instance, the Fanboy quirk means that after another hero completes a headline (an in-game objective), you must stand up and announce their name and feat. At this time, players also receive their hand of action cards: basic actions such as Charge and Strike, a Superpower which is unique to each Hero A card, and special actions associated with the heroes type (Cosmic, Mutant, Tech, or Vigilante). What all of these actions do will be described later, because now we must select a villain for the heroes to face. This is done much in the same way that heroes were generated: Select a Villain A and Villain B card to create the villain along with his or her special abilities. Now you’re ready to start the game!
Heroes Wanted is played over a number of rounds dependent on the scenario. Each round is divided up into a Hero Phase and a Villain Phase. During the Hero Phase, each player in turn will play one action card from his or her hand and do the action on that card. Actions have a variety of abilities, including moving, doing damage to one or more baddies, retrieving discarded cards, an so forth. Once a card has been played, it goes to a player’s discard pile and can’t be played again until retrieved. As you may imagine, eventually players may run out of cards, so instead of taking an action a player may choose to rest, drawing all of the cards from their discard pile back into their hand. After a hero performs their action, they must check to see if they’ve triggered any abilities from the villain or scenario, which are then resolved. In addition, they check to see if they’ve completed any Headlines. These are tokens that are randomly added to the board at the beginning of the game and contain things like KO’ing a certain number of henchmen or underlings, dealing a certain amount of damage to the villain, or achieving a certain fame level. Whenever a player completes a Headline, they place one of their markers on the first available space on that Headline and gain a fame bonus from it — as you may have guessed, completing a Headline first gets more points, so try to complete them as soon as you can!
After all heroes have taken their turn, the villain gets a turn to act. During the Villain Phase, you advance the threat track on the board and resolve its effect, which is something specific to the scenario. Then, each hero is dealt damage by the villain and minions adjacent to them. Damage can be blocked by discarding cards from the player’s hand. Each card has a Stamina value which defines the amount of damage it can block — underlings deal 1 damage, henchmen deal 2, and the villain’s damage is based on its Villain A card. In addition, some action cards may have specific Block abilities that can be used when the card is used to defend against damage. If a player is not able to defend against all the damage he or she would take, they are instead KO’ed. This means they must discard all of their remaining actions and take an injury (or, if they already have 5 injuries, lose 2 fame instead). A KO’ed hero can only rest and recover his or her cards on their next turn. At the end of the Villain Phase, a new round begins, starting again with the Hero Phase. The game continues in this manner until the Villain is KO’ed, or until the threat track has advanced to the Villain Escapes! space. At that time, total up all players’ fame, including the end game scoring for that scenario, and determine who has the most fame and will become a real superhero and champion of justice!
I need to point out that this is not a cooperative game. Now, from the review above, I assume you super smart readers are fully aware of this. But let me explain to you why I say this. Before we got this game, I was super obsessed with getting it. I had my eye on it for a while, but when we went to GenCon 2015, there was a booth showcasing this game and it looked so fun. But, it was never made clear that this game is for 1-5 players competitively, not cooperatively. So when I finally got this game as part of my Board Game Geek Secret Santa gift, I was ecstatic. Until, that is, we played the game and I realized we’d be competing. Now, this could be partially my fault for not listening well enough, or reading enough about the game, but I choose to place the blame on the beautiful butterfly girl who taught me about the game at GenCon.
Getting over an entire mechanic of the game, the game play itself was ok. The rulebook, however, was a beast. Some friends of ours tried to teach it to themselves from the rulebook and it did not go very well. It’s definitely a game I recommend learning from someone else if that’s at all possible. The cards and pieces were really fun and definitely played up the newspaper superhero theme. Mechanically, the game was fine, but there did seem to be an advantage based on where your hero was placed, which kind of sucked the fun out of this game. Because of the set up time and bad taste left by what I wanted this game to be, we haven’t personally played with multiple people, but watching another group play, the board did seem to get crowded with more players. I think I need to give this game more chances, as I’m sure it could be much better than I’m allowing myself to believe, but overall I was disappointed from what I thought this game was to what it would actually be.
- Thematic and colorful components
- Advantage based on placement
- Confusing rulebook
The premise of Heroes Wanted is that players take on the role of mismatched, misfit superheroes, trying to take on a similarly mashed-up villain. I was really excited about this premise, because I thought this would be the board game version of the movie Mystery Men, which is one of my favorite comedies. Unfortunately, the biggest downer about the game is that it’s really not as co-operative as it would appear to be. Players have the same goal of taking down the villain, but they really aren’t working together at all to do so, and in fact, they can even choose to attack and hinder other players (which we didn’t do, because it felt mean-spirited). So we were both a bit disappointed that the game is purely competitive, although in hindsight it does fit thematically in that only one of the heroes can join the “real” heroes of Zeta City, so they’re acting in their own best interest and not necessarily together for the greater good. Other than that, the main drawback of the game is that the rules are quite complex and fiddly. At our recent NMA* gaming weekend, I noticed a group that appeared to be playing Heroes Wanted, but later they mentioned they weren’t able to finish the game because they took too long trying to decipher the manual. I’m sure there exist good guides or videos out there to learn the game, but unfortunately, it is one that’s tough to pick up and learn. That said, the theme of the game is still quite good and integrates fairly well with the gameplay — the hand management aspect fits thematically in that you can’t keep doing the same moves over and over again, and the heroes and villains certainly fit the comic book theme. The art for all the hero and villain cards is great, and being able to mash them up reminds me of this thing. As well, I really liked the two double-sided boards that provide the backdrop for each scenario. It’s really cool that they actually made entirely different boards rather than having generic or modular boards. On the flip side though (ha!), that does limit the game to the four scenarios that come with the game, which could hinder replayability after a while. There is an expansion that adds two new scenarios, and I’m sure there will be more in the future though, so that could reduce some replay fatigue. We’ve only played the game with two, so I can’t judge the scalability too much, although it seems like the game might drag at higher player counts. As well, the only thing that scales with more players is the villain’s HP, so while the number of henchmen and minions, as well as everything else, stays the same. So a scenario that’s challenging with two players due to the sheer number of baddies might be too easy with five, or may even devolve into a free-for-all battle amongst the players themselves as they make sure they’re the ones knocking out henchmen and dealing damage to the villain. All in all, this is a decent game, and fairly unique in its comic book adventure theme, but I don’t see it cracking my top 10 anytime soon. We’ll definitely be keeping this game around though, if only to get through all of the base game scenarios, and hopefully with repeated plays and a better understanding of the competitive nature of the game, it’ll get better.
- Great theme and artwork.
- Good components, with separate board for each of the four scenarios.
- Overly competitive gameplay where players may be expecting more of a co-op.
- Fiddly and tough to learn.