I’m a sucker for Marvel. I grew up on a steady diet of comic books from all studios back in the day, but I always Made Mine Marvel first. Iron Man is my hands down favorite super hero along with Batman. I appreciate they have no super powers other than their keen minds (and phat bank accounts) and have very human flaws. But I digress. The MCU has been the kid in me’s dream come true, can’t get enough of it and love it all even with some of the films being not so hot. But the genius of Marvel is telling a story that took a decade to pay off and pay off in spades with Infinity War. Great movie for anyone, but for those of us tied into the decade arc (Decarc…can that be a thing? Better than The Decimation…) it was glorious. Cue the Thanos Rising boardgame…
Thanos Rising is a great co-operative dice roller. In it, players take the roles of themed super teams fighting to prevent Thanos…well..rising. It’s fun for many ages. My 12 year old daughter loves it, as do I. I think she’s more crushing on Thor and Loki than anything else, but always has a blast. Before I had it in hand I questioned the mechanics from what I could see online. The huge superfluous Thanos statue, the oddball Infinity Gauntlet board, funky dice. All suggested the game was like so many other boardgames based on IPs…derivative cash grabs. I don’t feel this is one at all. It’s a solid, fun game, and I think would be successful even without the Marvel trappings.
Each round players try to defeat Thanos’ minions and recruit heroes to their teams before he can Rise. Players win by defeating 10 minions, ranging from his grunt hordes to the big bads like Proxima Midnight and Corvus Maw (hate those two). Thanos wins by either: 1) defeating 10 heroes, 2) activating all 6 Infinity Stones, 3) defeating any one player’s full team of heroes. Yep, one way to win for the heroes, three for Thanos. Yeah, it’s that rough.
On their turn players first decide which of the three zones they’ll interact with, either to fight his minions and/or recruit heroes. Then they roll the Infinity and Thanos dice and resolve what he does on his turn.
The Infinity die adds a counter to one of the six Infinity Stones, when that stone has five counters, it flips and from that point on rolling that color activates the stone’s ability. Abilities such as adding a counter to all stones with the fewest, healing active minions, and so on. Gotta love that. Also, you get to move the swanky stone from the tracker onto his gauntlet – props are fun.
You also check the Thanos die to see what he does. He may turn to a different sector, stay where he is and activate ALL sectors, or require you to roll the Infinity die a second time, adding another counter to a tracker. When Thanos activates, he deals one damage to all heroes in the sector he stops on, including the hero team members and then triggers the effects of all minions in that sector. This can stack damage on heroes quickly, add Infinity counters, or even heal minions (thanks, Q-Ship).
After this the player pools their dice based on their hero team and rolls, assigning one or more dice to one or more of the cards in the sector and then rerolling the remainder until all are assigned. If the dice faces match the requirements on a hero card, the hero joins the player’s team and removes all damage on it. If the dice faces match the requirements on a minion card it suffers one damage and the player draws a boost token that can have varying effects. The hero cards also have different special abilities that activate once a player has them on their team – not to mention a themed team ability for the four different teams.
The player dice have four themes. Red dice are fighty, black dice are space, blue dice are tech, and green dice are mysticism. All themes are represented on each die, but the colored dice that represent the theme have three faces matching that theme, one of which counts as two symbols.
The game plays fast and furious as long as players keep it going. There’s a temptation to overthink the odds of rolling X or Y on a turn and slowing things down. I recommend players do their best to push forward and not stall things out with probability models on their phones. It’s at its best when the action is fast and the tension is high. Did you choose the correct sector and avoid Thanos’ attention this turn? What is the best tactic to ensure he doesn’t remove ANOTHER hero this turn? Oh, come on, that roll just wiped out 3 heroes on the board! It has enough randomness and strategy that I have yet to get bored with it.
That said, many players may find it frustrating they don’t win against Thanos more often. I enjoy games where defeat is often snatched from the jaws of victory as long as we felt there was a chance along the way. Thanos Rising does this in spades. You may be progressing well only to have a batch of rolls not go your way and then Thanos takes the momentum, and then back to the players, and then Thanos. Some games will feel very lopsided due to the draws in the deck. I enjoy the level of randomness in the game. It’s a dice game where the dice interact with random draws from a deck…um…random game will be random.
I think we’ve played the game about 15 times with groups of 2-4 and lost the last 14 times. Some were slim losses, others blowouts. Last week we finally WON. The minions trickled out slow enough we were able to get our teams supported a bit before having to deal with them. I was also fortunate enough to get what was just about my ‘dream team’ for heroes in the game with some of my favorites from the comics. Double victory for me. We were still on the edge of a loss, however. Thanos had activated three Stones and had eliminated 8 heroes by the time we defeated the tenth minion. I might have shouted at the statue.
If you enjoy dice rolling games, or Marvel, or co-op games that are a challenge to win, give Thanos Rising a try. Also, USAopoly has several promos out there for the game. You can find them on ebay, but I wrote to them and they mailed me the current set they had for free. No idea if they’re still doing this, but worth an email. Although we really do hate that Q-Ship.
HAHAHA! SUCK IT, THANOS!!
Here’s a little something to watch for in the game…notice the Collector in the picture there? No Benicio face on the image, just his silhouette. There’s at least one other card I believe like this in the deck. Not sure what licensing issue there was with his likeness (my search-fu is weak I guess), but there you go.