With Xmas fast approaching, the latest edition of Knight Models’ Batman Game is just around the corner. Before we get to crack open our copy, we thought we’d give you an overview of the contents, along with KM’s own thoughts on how the game and the product have evolved.
With a RRP of £130, it feels like a pretty big gamble. But there is a LOT of stuff in the box: the game box comes with 16 plastic miniatures (yes, plastic), cardstock markers and funfair scenery, a rulebook, a quick start guide, assembly instructions, 130 cards, and 6 dice.
For Brave and the Bold there is Batman (Todd McFarlane style), Gordon, Bullock and Cops. The cops also come with different winter heads and base inserts (e.g. Smiley fish), which are pretty cool.
Joker has Joker, Harley, Thugs and Deadshot as a Free Agent. Joker’s thugs come with two head choices – regular goons and clown masks, which again is a really nice touch.
KM: For this new box, we’ve been working behind the scenes to improve our plastic production. We’ve not only upgraded our manufacturing process, but also the materials we work with. Our new plastic manages to be both more robust and hold higher detail than ever before.
To make the hobby experience as straightforward as possible for hobbyists old and new, every Back to Gotham box comes with a set of assembly instructions.
You can assemble your models with alternative heads, weapons and equipment, or make them more imposing with a larger base, with or without scenic elements – the choice is yours! Everyone’s favourite clown can replace his oversized gun with his trusty hat, or swap the microphone for a poisoned fish.
One of the most contentious things to come out of early sightings is the new base sizes, with boss models coming with both 60mm scenic bases and 40mm “regular” bases. This choice isn’t just aesthetic, but has game implications also:
KM: By mounting the Joker on the 60mm scenic base, you can increase the radius of his Inspire special rule and cover more ground quickly. But by placing him on his 40mm base instead, you can make him more manoeuvrable in the city streets.
The main characters of the crews are mounted on larger bases, reflecting their tremendous potential and imposing abilities. For example, the Boss of each crew has an Inspire rule, which is given a greater radius due to the Boss’s base size. This rule allows your henchmen to place Suspect markers, or remove those of the enemy, and are often key to achieving your Objectives. (More on that in a minute.)
I can see pros and cons here. Certainly, the giant, dioramic bases are very impressive, but in terms of gameplay practicality and even storage, there are going to be questions. Granted, for the painter and collector, who make up a big part of KM’s market, they’re very appealing, but perhaps less so for the regular player. I’m hopeful that, much like the HPAMG Dumbledore, they’re at least easy to magnetise, giving players the choice. The implication that all leaders are now on 40mm bases, however, won’t sit very well with folk who have to rebase their 1st/2nd ed figures, myself included.
NEW MECHANICS: CARD DECKS
The old Pre-Game sequence is gone, with a scenario deck of Deployment and Event cards:
KM: At the beginning of each game, players will now form the scenario by drawing from two decks of cards. One deck details the Deployment areas for the game ahead, while the other describes a thematic Event that will be in play for the game’s duration.
In addition to providing new challenges and endless replayability, you no longer need to flip to the scenario pages in the rulebook – now you will have everything to hand in two practical cards.
Whilst I’m a little sad to see the old pre-game sequence gone, having the information concisely in front of you is certainly helpful. Based on my own experience of using similar cards for playing 40k with my kids, this makes things much easier to get going and keep track of, so I can only really see this as a positive.
SUSPECTS & OBJECTIVES
As mentioned, the game now adds Suspect Markers, along with a completely new Objective system.
KM: The first new concept for crew enhancement is Suspect markers. As your henchmen fill the streets of Gotham with these Suspects, you can use them in various ways to fulfil your strategies and take out enemy Suspects to hinder the opposition.
Suspects are closely related to the crew’s own Objectives, which now take the form of a card deck, which you can tailor to your preferred play style. Objective cards can either be used for scoring points or can be discarded instead to gain temporary bonuses.
So likewise the old objective system is gone and replaced with a deck. This could be fantastic but the random nature of it may be problematic.
KM: Both players form a hand of these cards at the start of the game. These cards have a double function. Firstly, and perhaps most commonly, these cards can be spent as a ‘resource’, to gain a temporary advantage during play. Playing a card in this way doesn’t provide Victory Points, but will provide a significant boost if you find yourself in a tight spot. On the other hand, Objective cards also provide a number of criteria that, when fulfilled, allow you to score Victory Points that count towards the game result. This way of playing the card will give you a goal that must be met by your crew, in addition to any scenario conditions.
Not all crews play the same way, and the Objective deck provides different types of goal and resource, often dictated by a crew’s Affiliation. There are four types of objective represented in the game: Protection, Threat, Violence and Control.
I really like the fact that the game seems to be moving away from being combat-heavy and towards a strategic, scheming scenario game. We’ll see how that works in practice.
Whilst there’s a lot to be said for the leaner, cleaner design and layout, let’s focus on the changes.
KM: Initially, the Leader or the Sidekick will be appointed the Boss (represented by the crown marker). This model determines which characters will be able to join the crew [and] controls the placement of Suspect markers (thanks to the Inspire passive trait). If something bad happens to the Boss (removing it from the game), another model from the crew may be chosen to gain the crown marker and take over as the new Boss. “
So whilst this is similar, now any model can take over as Boss if required. A relatively minor change, but given that losing your Boss meant the gig was up in the previous versions, this is presumably a good thing.
More significant is the change to actions: along with a new Raise the Plan sequence, Action Points are gone completely:
KM: Every model can perform a single action, regardless of their rank. However, each round, you will have four Audacity markers to place on members of your crew, which will allow selected models to perform additional actions. This is one of the key elements introduced in this edition of the game, which keeps the action flowing.
Dice rolls for traits have changed also. Although KM refers to these as an opposed roll, the term is perhaps unhelpful as (to my mind at least) an opposed roll is one where both players roll
KM: Veteran players will recall that some traits, such as Hypnotize, required the target enemy to resist the effects with a skill roll. Now, it is the active model that must take what we call an ‘opposed roll’ – this is a skill roll that must beat the target’s skill. (Skill rolls now are a little different, too – a model rolls a number of dice equal to their Special skill value, and chooses the two best results).
Perhaps rather surprisingly, the game has moved to a True LoS (TLoS) system
KM: in order to attack your enemies with ranged weaponry, you must have a good line of sight to your target. To do this, you need to draw a clear line to physical block of the target (the enemy model’s head, body and legs). We ignore arms, weapons, decorative elements and any scenic items on the model’s base for these purposes.
Given the variable base sizes involved in 3rd edition, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. TLoS has its disadvantages, though the potential for modelling for advantage is limited. However, the simple practicality of accurately drawing LoS across a gaming board is problematic, even with laser pointers. The old Ping! Rule is gone in 3rd, with a simplified cover system (detailed below): effective use of scenic elements will be key.
Mechanically, Combat has changed somewhat:
KM: Batman launches a brutal close combat attack. His Attack value is 5, which means Batman rolls 5 dice. Alongside these dice, he adds an extra die of a different colour – the ‘Strength die’, representing the power of the attack.
To represent the target’s natural resilience, Batman must compare the score of each attack die against the enemy’s Defence (in this case, 3). Each die that rolls equal to or higher than the villain’s Defence is a successful hit. In addition, the Strength die will be compared to Batman’s Strength skill (3+) – if the dice scores 3 or more, it will result in an extra hit that is unstoppable!
This is a change to the old Crit die system, but not radically different and, if anything, more intuitive.
The Villain tries desperately to fend off Batman’s attack. Ordinarily, he would roll a number of dice equal to his Defence skill (3), but now he exerts himself, choosing to take 3 points of non-lethal Stun damage in order to remove three attack dice from Batman roll, for a total of 3! Each defence die that equals or beat’s Batman’s Attacks skill (5) will successfully block one of Batman’s hits.
I like the new Effort rule – the “exerts himself” mentioned above – as it makes logical sense (to me, anyway), although you can see how models could quickly become exhausted.
Now his enemy is going to be harder to hit, Batman also decides to make an Effort. The bat opts to take 2 Stun damage to add 2 more dice to his attack (for a total of four attack dice, plus one Strength die). He rolls the dice and gets: 6, 5, 4, and 4, scoring an impressive four hits! In addition, the strength die rolls a 5 so, so he is guaranteed one successful hit that cannot be blocked.
So, Effort can swing back and forth – potentially time-consuming, though fair.
The villain rolls his three Defence dice and scores: 6, 4 and 2 so he can only block 1 hit. He receives four hits in total, combined with the three Stun damage he took voluntarily for his Effort, and it’s lights out for the villain.
Generally, this seems a lot more streamlined, and KM spent more time on this section of the rules, apparently, than any other.
KM: When you perform a Ranged Attack, you always add a Strength die, the effectiveness of which depends on either the model’s own Strength (for throwing weapons) or the weapon’s own Strength. Added to this are a number of ‘attack dice’ which is equal to the weapons Rate of Fire (RoF). When you make the attack roll, every attack die that equals or beats the target’s Defence skill is a hit, while the Strength die has its own target number.
Typically, anything that makes an attack more difficult will deduct dice from the attack roll. Unlike Melee Attacks, when you make a Ranged Attack the Strength die is always the first die to be discarded (unless you’re using a template weapon).
As it’s always night-time in Gotham City, we use The Night rule to limit what models can see. The Night no longer completely prevents you from shooting at a target, but if the target is not illuminated (by a streetlamp or flashlight, etc.), then an attacker must discard two attack dice from the attack roll. In addition, while some ranged weapons are able to fire clearly across a typical game board, some are limited by their Range – a Medium Range weapon, for example, has an Effective Range of 16”. Models firing beyond their Effective Range lose one more die from the attack roll.
In the dense confines of the city streets, characters often claim cover from intervening scenery. If any part of the target model or its base is obscured by the scenery, the model is in Cover – the attacker deducts -1 attack die from the roll.
Finally, it’s harder to take aim if you’re moving, and so if a model moves before it takes the Attack action, it loses another two attack dice.
Without involving Special Rules, for now, here’s a fairly straightforward example:
Deadshot wants to perform a Ranged Attack with his modified assault rifle. The player decides to attack Gordon instead of the Cop who is out in the open. Gordon is behind Cover: Deadshot will have to subtract one die from his attack roll for the Cover, which has to be the Strength die. So he now rolls three attack dice, with each roll of 3+ scoring a hit (Gordon’s Defence is three).
This seems like it will make for a faster, more brutal game, albeit one with more balance overall. Until we get the full game, and see how it starts to evolve, it’s unclear how dominant gun-heavy crews will be, and whether the game is more accessible to newcomers generally.
So that’s how things seem for now. Check back soon for our hands-on opening and content review, along with testing out the new game box against the world’s toughest reviewers: my kids…