(2013 – 3Some Games, Game Salute)
The board game community has seen quite a few super-hero themed releases over the last few years. Sentinels of the Multiverse, Marvel: Legendary, and the DC Deckbuilding Game have all seen success within the community, tapping into a comic book theme that had previously been somewhat ignored. Towards the end of 2012, a new superhero deck-builder emerged via Kickstarter; designer David Boostrom’s Heroes of Metro City, the initial game release from new studio, 3Some Games, Inc.
Heroes of Metro City is a co-operative deck-building card game in which a team of superheroes (the players) will attempt to take down an ultimate Archenemy and his various minions and co-villains before the City is destroyed (running out of particular types of cards). Each player will build their own personal deck of cards throughout the game with the use of “plot points“, gaining additional cards with new powers and sources of energy needed for those powers. These powers are then used to attack minions, villains, and hopefully the Archenemy. If players have not been able to take out these groups of enemies, it will be possible for the enemies to destroy parts of the city itself. When destroying parts of the city, power and energy cards from the central area are discarded from the game. If players cannot defeat the Archenemy before these cards stacks run out, the game is over and they have lost. Once the Archenemy is defeated however, the players have won.
– Enemy Staging Board
– Player Boards
– Storyline cards
– Energy cards
– Power cards
– Randomizer cards
– Minion cards
– Villain cards
– Archenemy cards
– City Defense Dice
– Dry Erase Marker
Each player begins the game with their own personal player board. The player board consists of 4 empty slots for placing Energy cards as well as a space in the top-left corner to write your heroes name. Players can choose any name they wish by using the dry erase marker, though note that some names may give players some additional special abilities according to the cards in the game. For instance, there is a card that will award additional abilities for an hero that has a name that is animal-based.
The remaining board that comes with the game is the Enemy Staging board. This is the area where all of the Minions, Villains, and Archenemy are managed and resolved. All Minion cards are shuffled and placed on the far left section of the board. All Villain cards are shuffled and placed on the middle section of the board. Finally, all Archenemy cards are shuffled and placed on the right section of the board. The top card of each deck is turned over, revealing the Minion, Villain, and Archenemy that will start the game by attacking the city. While Minions and Villains will come and go throughout the game, the Archenemy is considered the ultimate boss for this session and will remain the same for the duration of the game. Once the Archenemy is defeated, the game has ended. The 3 City Defense Dice are also placed near the Enemy board for use during the game.
The City area is made up of 12 decks of cards which players will be able to add to their own personal decks throughout the game. Two of these decks, a deck of Origin Story cards and a deck of Spark of Energy cards are present with every game. The remaining 10 decks consists of 2 random Energy card decks and 8 Power card decks. Overall, Heroes of Metro City contains 20 specialized Power cards and 6 specialized Energy cards that can be added with the Origin Story and Spark of Energy decks to complete the City area.
A deck of Randomizer cards are included in the game (such as found in games like Dominion and Thunderstone), in order to randomly select these decks for each session. Simply draw 8 cards from the Power Randomizer deck and 2 cards from the Energy Randomizer deck. These will represent the 10 decks of cards that need to be added to the City area.
Each player receives 5 Origin Story cards and 5 Spark of Energy cards from the City area. These cards will make up the starting deck for each individual player. Players also have an opportunity to select additional cards from the City, and add them to their deck before beginning the game. Each player will get a number of “plot points” before the game begins. Plot points are used during the game to obtain additional powers and energy. The number in the top right corner of each Power and Energy card represents how many plot points must be used to add that card to your deck. For instance, as seen below, the Supersonic Flight power would cost 5 plot points to obtain, while the Regenerative Healing power would cost 4.
Depending on turn order, players will receive the following plot points to use in selecting 1 or more cards to add to their decks before the game begins:
– The 1st player will have 5 plot points to use
– The 2nd player will have 6 plot points to use
– The 3rd player will have 7 plot points to use
– The 4th player will have 8 plot points to use
Players will then shuffle their newly formed deck of cards and deal themselves 5 cards to make up their starting hand. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
While players are working together to cooperatively beat the game, each player will take a turn that consists of the various phases of a Round before the next player takes their turn. Each turn for a player consists of 6 Phases; the Reinforcement Phase, the Powers Phase, the Attack Phase, the Development Phase, the Enemy Phase, and the Cleanup Phase. Let’s break down the mechanics of each phase and how they work.
1.) The Reinforcement Phase:
During the game, players will be able to destroy various Minion groups and Villains that will assist the Archenemy in his/her destruction of the city. If these Minions and/or Villains are destroyed during a previous turn, the next Minion and/or Villain card is revealed from the corresponding deck at the beginning of the next player’s turn. In this way, there will always be a Minion and/or Villains for a Hero to battle with on their turn.
2.) The Powers Phase:
In order to prepare an attack on the available enemies, players will need to build up their energy and the powers available to them, according to the cards in their hand. Each Energy card contains an energy amount on the bottom right portion of the card, representing the amount of energy that card can emit. Each Power card has an energy requirement, listed in the top left portion of the card. This is the amount of energy that must be emitted for this particular power. A player’s board consists of 4 available energy slots in which players can place their Energy cards during a particular turn. Each Energy and Power card contain information about an ability and which phase that ability will resolve in.
For example, let’s take a look at the Strange Alien Artifact energy card and the Explosive Arsenal power card. The Strange Alien Artifact card provides an Energy level of 3, meaning that any Power card that requires 3 or less Energy can be used with this energy source. It also provides a special ability during the 2nd phase of a Round (the Powers Phase). When the Strange Alien Artifact energy card is used to activate a ranged of wild Power card with an energy requirement of 2 or less, the player is allowed to draw 2 more cards from their personal deck, into their hand.
Each Power card has a particular type, which is listed below the “Power” text at the top of the card. Types include ranged, melee, travel and wild. The Explosive Arsenal power card is a ranged power, which requires an energy source of 1 to be played. Once played, it will resolve its abilities during the 3rd phase of the game (the Attack Phase). Normally, Explosive Arsenal will deal 1 point of Elemental damage to an enemy, though if the energy source powering this card has an Energy level of 4 or higher, a player can choose to remove this card from their deck (and out of the game) and deal a total of 3 Elemental damage to an enemy.
While the Strange Alien Artifact energy card would provide enough energy to use the Explosive Arsenal’s main ability, it would not provide the energy level of 4 for its additional ability. There are actually no Energy cards included in the game which provide more than 3 energy on their own. However, this is where the Spark of Energy cards come into play. Normally, only a Power card can be placed onto an Energy card, Energy cards can not be placed on each other, except for the Spark of Energy card. It has an ability that will resolve during the 2nd phase (Powers Phase), in which allows it to be played as a Power card. This ability then adds +1 energy to the Energy level on which it was placed.
Therefore, if a Spark of Energy card had been placed onto the Strange Alien Artifact card before the Explosive Arsenal power card was played, it would then provide a total of 4 Energy, thus allowing the player to use Explosive Arsenal’s special ability of being able to remove it from the game and gain a total of 3 damage to an enemy.
Players can play as many Energy and Power cards from their hand on their turn as long as there is space on the player board to use them. Remaining storyline cards in a player’s hand can be used in phase 4 (Development Phase).
3.) The Attack Phase:
The Hero will now focus on taking care of the enemies bent on attacking the city. Each Minion, Villain, and Archenemy card has a defeat value listed on the top-right corner of their card. If a Hero can deal enough damage to meet this number, they have defeated that enemy. Damage does not stack from turn to turn however, so either the player can deal enough damage to defeat the enemy, or that enemy takes no damage at all.
Note that some enemies have abilities that will trigger during this 3rd phase. For instance, the Loyal Grunts minion card will add +2 to the present villain’s defeat level, while Loyal Grunts are active. The Major Slagg villain card reduces any elemental or physical damage done to him by 1 point.
If a Hero has done enough damage to destroy an Enemy, that Enemy card is normally placed onto the Rubble space on the Enemy board. However, players can instead choose to add the enemy card into their hand, which will now provide them with more plot points for use in the Development phase. Each enemy card has a section on the bottom part of their card, which when flipped 180 degrees will show how many plot points it is worth to a player if that card is in their hand. Gaining enemy cards for their plot points is a quicker path of adding stronger Power and Energy cards to your deck, though one must be careful not to add too many of these Enemy cards, thus muddling up the overall balance of the deck itself.
Since doing a single successful attack on the Archenemy will the destroy the boss, thus ending the game, the game is designed to make it pretty difficult to pull this off without the right amount of planning. Almost all Power cards are limited to damage less than 3, and with only 4 Energy slots and 5 cards being drawn each turn, it’s not an easy task to perform the 8 to 9 damage needed to destroy an Archenemy. It is extremely important to be able to manipulate your deck in a way that you’re able to get all of your most powerful cards in your hand. I’ll talk more in depth about strategies revolved around this when discussing the Enemy Phase, but for now, note that while gaining Enemy cards can help with getting these more powerful cards into your hand easier, getting rid of those Enemy cards later can be a bit of a burden. Like many part of Heroes of Metro City, it is all about balancing your deck.
For instance, Player A has successfully destroyed the Killing Machines minion card by doing at least 3 points of damage. He could now choose to place the minion card into the Rubble pile, or he could flip the card 180 degrees and add it to his hand as a storyline card. This card would then provide him +2 plot points during the 4th phase of the turn (Development Phase).
4.) The Development Phase:
During the Development Phase, players will be able to use the plot points on the remaining storyline cards in their hand to purchase new Energy and Power cards. Players will total up the overall amount of plot points played from their hand this turn, and will be able to purchase 1 single card from the City area to add to their discard pile. As mentioned before, the cost of each card in the City area is located in the top-right portion of the card.
For instance, Player B has placed 2 Origin Story cards (provide +1 plot point a piece) and a destroyed Alpha Team Leader villain card (+3 plot points) which he gained earlier in the game. During the Development Phase, he would be able to collect any card from the City area that cost 5 plot points or less and add it into his discard pile. He chooses to gain the Weather Control power (great as a defensive ability), with a cost of 4, and adds it to his discard pile.
5.) The Enemy Phase:
It is now time for the remaining active Enemies to strike. While Heroes may have not been able to defeat a particular Minion, Villain, of Archenemy this turn, all is not necessarily lost for the City. The City’s civil and military force will attempt to keep each enemy at bay, hoping to hold out long enough for the Heroes to perform their own attacks again. The player will roll the City Defense Dice, one for each type of enemy (matched by color).
If the number on the 12-sided die is equal to or higher than the target number for each enemy type, the City’s civil and military forces have succeeded in delaying an attack from that particular type of enemy this turn. These target numbers vary depending on the number of players in the game:
– In a 2-player game, the target numbers are 9 for Minions, 10 for Villains, and 11 for the Archenemy.
– In a 3-player game, the target numbers are 7 for Minions, 8 for Villains, and 9 for the Archenemy.
– In a 4-player game, the target numbers are 5 for Minions, 6 for Villains, and 7 for the Archenemy.
If the City Defense does not succeed in keeping an enemy at bay, the enemy will resolve its attack according to the abilities on the card, which will normally result in destroying part of the City itself (removing cards from the City area). If at any point an enemy card can not complete its ability because a card cannot be removed from the City (that card type is already depleted), the game has been lost and the Archenemy victorious.
Players can choose to sacrifice themselves when a part of the City would normally be destroyed. If the player has a card type in their hand or play area that matches the card type being destroyed, the player can choose to destroy that card instead of one from the City. This is a great way to get rid of a lot of those Enemy Storyline cards, Origin Story cards, as well as some lesser Power and Energy cards once your deck is built up. Remember, manipulating a deck to provide a possible strong, powerful 9+ damage attack is a strategy to defeating the Archenemy. Sacrificing cards is an important way in which players can pull this off.
Taking a look at the following Enemy cards, we can see that the Black Locust villain card will force players to choose and destroy either 1 Travel power card or 1 Melee Power card when he attacks. The Doctor Psychosis Archenemy is a bit more powerful, however. When he attacks the City, the player must name a card and discard the top card of his draw deck. If the card matches, Doctor Psychosis will not attack this turn. However, if it does not match, the player must destroy 3 cards of the same type from the City.
6.) The Cleanup Phase:
During the final phase of a turn, the player discards the cards that he had during this turn and adds them to his discard pile. The lone exception to this is that he will be allowed to keep a single Energy card in each of the 4 slots for a future Round if he wishes. After those cards have been discarded, he will draw 5 new cards to make up his next hand. As with any deck-building game, if his draw pile runs out when creating a new hand of 5 cards, the discard pile is reshuffled and makes up the new draw pile.
While players are cooperatively working together to defeat the Archenemy and save the City, the ultimate victor in Heroes of Metro City is the player which connects the fatal blow. Since damage does not roll over from player to player, the player that can successfully take out the Archenemy is ultimately the player that did the best job of managing his deck properly, setting up for this final attack. Remember though, that all players will lose if the City has been destroyed so badly that an Enemy can no longer resolve its attack. So players still need to work together to make sure that this does not happen.
While the deck-building mechanic with a super hero theme is not necessarily a unique combination in 2014, Heroes of Metro City does provide some interesting and creative elements that may appeal to fans of the genre. The enemy attacks on the City is not only thematic, but it provides a particularly clever way of removing needed Energy and Power cards from the game. There is a sense of substantial loss when a stack of useful Power cards have been wiped out from the City, never to be at your disposal again. While many deck-building games use some type of trash element to getting rid of some of the more basic cards as the game proceeds, Heroes of Metro City focuses on this element a great deal. Manipulating the deck in this game is almost a necessity, rather than an optional tool. Players will sacrifice a great deal of cards as the game progress, so for those that have enjoyed this type customization technique found in other games, it may suit you here.
While a poor combination of random decks in the City could provide a bit of unbalance, the game accounts for this by requiring the City to provide at least 3 melee and/or ranged power card decks. Also since, in most cases, players are able to choose which decks to remove cards from when enemies destroy parts of the City, it still gives importance to a particular deck of cards that you would otherwise deem not useful to purchase from during that session. Ridding cards from this deck will then protect needed cards from other, alluring decks during the game.
The combination of 20 Power card decks and 6 Energy card decks is pretty decent for a base deck-building card set. However, the game lends itself well to expansions, especially with the unique ways that the various card types can combine and play off of each other. On the Enemy side of things, there are 6 different Minions, 10 different Villains, and 10 different Archenemies. I found it a bid odd that there was not more variety amongst the Minion cards, if only because it’s the group of enemies that players will deal with destroying the most. But with 26 different overall Enemies, the combinations from game to game are almost endless.
With Sentinels of the Multiverse, Marvel Legendary, and DC Deck-building Game already establishing themselves as successful super-hero themed games, it’s important for Heroes of Metro City to finds its own niche. The unique elements such as destroying decks from the central play area, strong focus on deck manipulation, and combination of phase abilities should help Heroes of Metro City stand out enough to attract fans of the deck-building genre. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see ongoing support and future expansions that will only help to add even more depth and variation to the already 400+ cards found here.