Sunday, January 29, 2023

Top of the table – X-Men: Mutant Insurrection

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The X-Men hold a special place in the hearts of many comic book fans, and I am no exception. While my tastes for comics have broadened over the years to include a ton of other great books, my enthusiasm for comics started with the Children of the Atom. I remain a big fan of Xavier’s mutants and the myriad of stories they’ve been involved in over the years. This is why I was especially curious to see Fantasy Flight’s take on the X-Men franchise; teams there often reveal an odd knack for recognizing the unique tone of a licensed property and finding a way to reflect that in the mechanics and flavor of a new board game. I’m happy to say that X-Men: Mutant Insurrection is no exception. Balancing an action-oriented, dice-driven combat system with a clever approach to alliances and character relationships, the new game has all the drama and flair of some of the great super comic book series. hero.

X-Men: Mutant Insurrection is a fully cooperative tabletop game for one to six players. While experienced players can get through a game solo or with a partner in just over an hour, the game really makes sense with three or more players, and I would expect this to be one more game. two hours for the most part. groups. I recommend a larger group size because much of the X-Men mythology revolves around ideas of community, teamwork, and competing personalities, and it’s hard to create that vibe unless you have a similar mix of different people at the table.

In a given session, each player assumes the role of one of the X-Men heroes. I was pleasantly surprised with the mix of playable choices. Of course you have standbys like Storm and Phoenix in the mix, but you also have people like X-23 and Forge, with 16 playable figures in total. Mutant heroes bring their own abilities to combat, largely reflected in the selection of dice they bring to a conflict. Different colored dice are meant to represent separate talents, divided into red dice focused on combat and strength, yellow dice focused on power and teamwork, or blue dice focused on expertise. I love how these rough boundaries help remind specific aspects of each hero, and the wide variety of character choices available is a big boost to replayability.

As a colorfully drawn cardboard stand-up, the chosen X-Men board the Cardboard Blackbird and set out to face a designated scenario / scheme. Different story elements are introduced with each of the different plots (eight in total at the initial launch), but it’s inevitably the machinations of a particular enemy or villainous group that must be faced, usually reminiscent of famous storylines like Dark Phoenix or the early appearance of the Sentinels. As the chosen story unfolds through a series of maps and events, each player sends their hero soaring around the world to deal with any issues that arise, sometimes stopping to return to the mansion for s’ train, heal or use Cerebro to identify new challenges around the world.

The action takes place at the various international locations, as each mutant hero has the opportunity to roll the dice and try to achieve their goals, from trying to take down villains like Pyro or Silver Samurai to taking downs. hostages or the prevention of a robbery. And while Beast, Rogue, or one of the other heroes can tackle these missions on their own, often the best path to success is to team up. Each character brings an Assistance card with them in battle, which can be loaned to other characters in the same mission once per turn to help with a difficult objective. So with Wolverine, you know that you are in good shape to get the results that appear on the red combat dice, but you are not in great shape to get the yellow power result that you need. So just call for help from Iceman. The dynamic that emerges is one in which players must together strategize on where they deploy to deal with the different threats that emerge, capitalizing on the potential synergies between individual heroes.

As you travel the world, like in so many comics, you regularly come across mutants who need to be saved. Complete the event and you can draw a new mutant to join you on your adventures – usually lesser known heroes like Dazzler or Multiple Man. These new allies can turn the tide of combat with unique powers that you unleash at critical times.

Inevitably, if you and your team manage to stay alive long enough, the story turns into a decisive showdown, in which the heroes work together to take down a particularly overwhelming threat. It’s a fun way to give the end of the game an injection of excitement, especially as your mutants charge into battle, already tired and exhausted from the battles at the start of the game.

My favorite feature of the game are the Leap cards, which often appear as a reward for completing the mission or as a punishment for failure. Each bond is two-way and there are pairs of each bond in the game; when you buy one, you give the second copy to another player at the table. If it’s on the positive side, like devotion or love, it provides powerful bonuses when the two heroes work together. But a number of traumatic situations can shatter these bonds, forcing a reversal of the map and turning admiration into envy, or love into regret. Sorry, Logan – that never seems to work for you and Jean.

In any given game, an emerging story begins to unfold. While the specific plot at hand may put you in conflict with the Hellfire Club, Magneto, or one of the many other villainous forces, it’s the more random elements that are the most memorable. Maybe Gambit saves Warlock from some demise, only for Warlock to turn the tide in a crucial fight later. Maybe Beast hooks up with Forge because of their joint research, only to have one sabotage the other’s efforts – the how’s and why’s up to you and your fellow playmates. chat, if you wish.

Mechanically, X-Men: Mutant Insurgency isn’t about rocking anyone’s world. The random element of trying to get the right results on objectives is a fairly familiar structure, and the pace of co-op play echoes a number of other successful co-op board games. And while strategic teams are absolutely essential, as well as smart team management of the various threats on the table at all times, it’s still a game with significant luck involved in the way things are going. Nevertheless, the game finds its greatest success thanks to a clever implementation of its license, a fast turn structure and a nice production. Card art, in particular, deserves a special appeal. While it is clear that Fantasy Flight was aiming for a “timeless” approach to character appearances, the colorful and bright aesthetic is often reminiscent of the visuals of the ’90s, as much taken from the cartoon versions of these characters as from the comics. It’s a perfect fit for the fast-paced action and light feel of the game.

In short, if you’ve ever had an affection for some variation of Marvel’s Happy Mutants, it’s hard for me to imagine that you won’t find much to love in the latest version of Fantasy Flight. Filled with iconic characters, classic storylines, and crisp combat, X-Men: Mutant Insurrection skillfully translates what works in these comic book heroes into tabletop fun.

If the X-Men aren’t your thing, I encourage you to check out our Top of the hub table, where you’ll find a range of great board, card and miniature games, including recent selections for the Best Table Games of 2020. As always, if you are looking for a particular game or style of play, or if you just need some advice for your next board game reunion, drop me a line and I’ll help you out any way I can.


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