Welcome, one and all, to part one of “Arkham April” here at Geeking Out. We’ll be taking a look, model by model, at the new releases for BMG and DCUMG from Knight Models, but right here, right now, is what you’re all waiting for: the first review of the Arkham Knight Campaign Book. Oh, and as always, like, comment and share to win your very own copy!
As you would expect from KM by now, production values are very high: this is a lovely, beautifully illustrated, chunky hardback. 140 pages including a detailed index (I admit it – i went straight to this!). It’s full of dynamic miniature shots, as you’d expect, as well as plenty of screenshots also.
The book begins with an introduction to the system and acknowledges that, if you want to play the Batmobile scenarios, you will need ‘The Flash & The Arrow’ as well as the core rules. To my mind this is not a particular negative – the Batmobile card and templates are, after all, free to download – though I know some may baulk at the need for multiple rulebooks. Then again, in many games players will have a separate book for every faction, so this is relatively small by comparison.
The book proper presents an overview of 4 distinct campaign variants, a linear “ladder” model, a branching model and most interestingly, a map-based campaign system with printable Gotham map available from the KM site (or indeed can be photocopied from the book itself). Interestingly, optional locational rules are suggested – free Venom doses at ACE chemicals, for example – straight away, which is slightly distracting but does serve to emphasise that this is about creating an enjoyable narrative with a group of friends. And finally, the fully Narrative variant is presented (though primarily 2-player) with full development rules for crews. Designer Mark Latham’s background really shines through here and it’s immediately apparent that creating a sense of progression between the new Injury, Experience and Campaign Trait systems has been key. I particularly like the potential for not only permanent injury but also to become Battle Hardened and Desensitised through combat.
As part of the campaign, 2 new scenarios are introduced, though they act also as variant play modes. The first, Battle Royale, allows for true multiplayer action. Clear, logical modifications to the Objective and Take the Lead rules, with additional VPs for the most objectives and being the Last Man (or at least Boss) standing, should make for a tremendous romp. I can see this getting a lot of casual play, in addition to being a bloody introduction to the game. The hotly anticipated Predator-mode, by contrast, aims to closely recreate the feel of game and comic with a solo hero against the night. Very specific terrain and Street furniture rules are designed to create an optimal, balanced experience. I can see this being the cornerstone of demo games for BMG, but at even a cursory glance looks this will pose a challenge for even veteran gamers.
Next up, revised equipment lists for every faction, to a greater or lesser extent. Some are very campaign specific – Scarecrow’s Secret Lab, for example, though it makes him generally more competitive, and you can’t beat a good bug fix – some reflect new models (such as the AK Penguin, which we’ll review next time), and some are just sly nods (Harley’s new pole dancing rule, granting her Escape Artist). There is a clear attempt to balance factions here (particularly Poison Ivy, with the ability to have a giant plant now), and whilst not everyone will be happy, it’s apparent that this is one place where the community has clearly been involved. It’s testament to both KM and Latham that they’ve responded so positively to the input of their fanbase. I particularly like the Wonderland “outfits” for making Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit and Red Queen. I smell conversions ahead!
Also, with the new vehicles included, a whole host of new options present themselves. As well as variants of the Batmobile – including Joker, Riddler and Robin variants – we get a mix of Rattler Drone tanks for Scarecrow, the long-awaited SWAT van rules and templates for generic vehicles to transport your crew around speedily. These are a welcome addition, though it does beg the question of whether we could have just had the rules, in brief at least, here.
Fully half the book is taken up with the Campaign itself. The section detailing characters and their backstories feels a little redundant, to be honest – much like the opening of Batman Vs Superman, we know a lot of it already. The campaign divides teams along Hero and Villain lines (with Ivy on the Hero side an interesting addition), and specifies the optimal miniatures to include to recreate the video game experience in BMG form, while noting that alternatives are perfectly valid also (the individual campaign scenarios having clear variations detailed within them).
There are some neat touches built into the Story Mode design. One is the ability to upgrade Batman with Waynetech as the campaign progresses – it’s great to see a BMG version of the Batarang Multi-Takedown – but it would be great to see a way to implement these fairly in a standard game, the other new equipment options notwithstanding. Also, I think there was a missed opportunity to explore scenario specific terrain – the airship, the clock tower – in more detail, rather than just leaving it to players to devise their own optional rules. Equally, the branching story narrative has not only detailed progression but side-quests that impact the wider gameplay and give you a chance to play with a wider range of crews in scenarios tailored to them.
Finally, the book is rounded out by the mandatory model showcase, Campaign record sheets and, as mentioned, a clear and accurate index. The editorial and translation errors that have cropped up elsewhere seem to have been overcome and the book feels coherent and well-laid out.
I should also spare a word here for the promo miniature, the alternate Arkham Knight. Brutal in game, with 3 alternate heads to choose from, this is likely to become a must have for Scarecrow players – and many a Batman player too, for that matter. Possibly the most powerful promo character to date, there is an argument to be had that he’s almost too good. Certainly, collectability of this will be high. Luckily, you can win one right here!
Overall, it’s very well conceived, and with 9 main scenarios alone will certainly keep you and your buddies busy a good while. It’s going to be the go-to for pick up and play BMG players for a good while, and whether you’re a novice or a veteran there’s plenty to enjoy here.
A solid 4/5 from me.
Agree? Disagree? Leave us your thoughts!
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And remember to check back shortly for part 2 of “Arkham April”, where we look at this month’s model releases!