I was able to get my hands on a preproduction (I hope) copy of The Umbrella Academy card game.
The Kickstarter is full-swing, 21 days left on the clock at the time of bidding and over $220,000 pledged against $30,000 asked. I backed it on launch. Based on my weekend playing the game, I recommend it, and I’m glad my deluxe edition is booked.
In fact, I played the card game before watching season two on Netflix. Why? My other half was away this weekend, and they didn’t want to miss the show, and so I played the solo version of the card game. Later, awkwardly over Discord, I played in a group.
Why is that significant? Playing solo, to begin with, I discovered that the solo version brutal. I’ve never beaten it. In fact, I hazard that with the rules I was given; it’s almost impossible to beat. However, I think there might be one preproduction edition typo that’s acting against me.
I’m used to working with alphas, betas and prototypes. I don’t typically mention it because it rarely matters. The final version is different.
I’m going to mention it here because of the three hiccups, I think only one is safely a preproduction issue, one might be a typo, and that last one is a rule decision is makes the solo player version of the game fatally hard.
Preproduction issue – I’m confident this issue will go away, but there will be egg on my face if it doesn’t, and I don’t mention it. The back of my cards doesn’t always match the front. My Number Five card has no reverse side, and I’ve a hero card with no front side, for example. I thought I had Pogo as a villain, briefly, because that’s the reverse side he has.
Typo – I’m less confident this is actually a typo. Players get five cards each. In a two-player game; you get seven. Well, playing solo with 5 cards and against 6, 7 or 8 villains is a big ask. I tried with 7 cards, mind you, and didn’t do much better!
Healing – Here’s my rule concern; rather than attack in your turn you can heal. You don’t take any damage until all cards have been played and you can work out which villain attacks are still in play. So, in solo play, in round one, healing is pointless because you’re at full health. Then, there will be two or three villains you didn’t defeat, probably ran out of cards for, their damage comes in at once, and it kills you. It may be the case that, effectively, the game suits 2 to 6 players.
The Umbrella Academy card game rules make it clear how important it is to coordinate with other players. That’s important because there is a game condition which prohibits it.
As long as you can do enough attack damage in response to the incoming villain attacks, then you can neutralise the threat. Even though the number of villains is increased in multiplayer games, the number of attacks per villain isn’t. This means it’s much easier for two or more players thwart the attack and prevent the damage.
However, you must play an attack card unless you’re healing or playing a story card action instead. You don’t have to win the attack, but you do have to play it. This means players might waste powerful attacks too early and allow too much damage from the final villains.
Number Five’s special ability to swap hero attacks is helpful here, but you can only use it after the initial wave of attacks has been processed.
In other words, to survive the players really do have to get tactical in a group, think ahead and control the to and fro of damage.
If you’re dead, you can still take part in the strategy, offering advice and making suggestions.
Easy to to learn
The Umbrella Academy card game is so easy to learn that the gameplay is pretty much explained entirely in the Kickstarter pitch video.
It’s a fun game to play too. I say that despite being thoroughly thrashed in my attempts to solo it.
It’s fun because you never know what’s going to happen on which quirky villains you’re going to encounter. This, I note, is The Umbrella Academy’s charm in general.
Each round you’ll get a new Dysfunctional Family card to deal with. Expect a curveball, potentially a fatal one, but it still manages to be charming.
I did find it useful watching Game Boy Geek’s paid promo on the game for one rule clarification. The rules say “Each player battles one card at a time per turn”. That means as soon as there’s a hero attack card under a villain attack, that the next player must decide how they respond to the next villain attack. You can’t stack attacks.
That was the only second opinion I needed; otherwise, the rule book is elementary to read and wonderfully thin.
Another way to illustrate just how easy the game is to learn how to play (if not how to win) is that I was able to play it over Discord, with me as the only one with the cards, and we still managed.
I used the word “charming” to describe the monkey business the Dysfunctional Family card brings, but charming is a good word to describe the whole game.
Given it’s so easy to learn you very quickly stop worrying about the rules and start strategising with friends.
I think the health metre system works very well, sliding your character card down a health bar card as you approach death. It means this is a card game without the need for dice, tokens, counters or anything else, and that means it’s quick to set up, play and put away. That said; the deluxe edition I’ve ordered comes with tokens and I can’t imagine what they’ll be used for now!
Needless to say, I love art. These are the characters from the comic books, not the Netflix, but I still feel as if I know each hero exceptionally well. Each and every villain that appears immediately has my attention. Honestly, I should read the comics or devote an evening to Googling some of these names! (Ah, but spoilers… what to do?)
The Umbrella Academy Card Game Overall
I was quickly won over, and this despite a wobbly start with the front/back of card alignment issues.
It’s rare to find such a high profile franchise given such a delightfully easy to learn game. I wish it happened more often.
The Umbrella Academy card game Kickstarter offers up non-standard versions of the game is only opened for a limited time.
Disclaimer: Geek Native was not paid to write this review. A preproduction copy, as discussed, was provided to enable it.
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