Fantasy Flight Games has established itself as an elite board game company. With that bring said, I have only played two of their games, Arkham Horror and Marvel Champions. Much like Jean Grey, I know what you're thinking, "Wow, Joe, you have so little experience with Fantasy Flight!". But let me tell you, I have played days, months, maybe even a year at this point, of Arkham and Champions. I adore both games, so when they released an X-Men game? No brainer. Richard Launius and Brandon Perdue bring you a cooperative game that honestly really does justice to the X-Men. You board the adorable Blackwing, and then depart with up to six people on an exciting X-Men adventure. I played with four people, myself and three males in their early 30s. And because we are males in our early 30s, we were Cyclops, Colossus, Iceman, and Beast.
A huge strength of this game is the sheer amount of options you have for characters. Much like Arkham Horror, you can pick from a variety of characters, each with unique abilities and strengths. Here are the 16 you get from the game.
It gets most of the X-Men, while leaving a few key ones out (RIP Nightcrawler) out for future expansions. There are a few mutants who don't really get quality time in the comics and movies, like Forge, Magik (there is no New Mutant movie there is no New Mutants movie) and Shadowcat. And for some reason Armor is there too. Sure why not. A big selling point of this game is it has the feel of an actual X-Men experience. You load up the Blackbird, fly out to a mission, smash some Sentinels, then go back to either Professor X, Cerebro, or the Danger Room to train. Any Marvel or board game fan will like this game, X-Men fans will propose to it on the first date.
This is how the game looks when set up. The school is in the middle, the missions show up in the Continent Decks, and the Crisis counter on the top keeps track of how close you are to losing the game (much like Marvel Champions). So like many FF games, it's a race against the clock, as you and your fellow X-Men try to stop crises from happening while also trying to beat the Main villain. There are eight scenarios of varying difficulty to try, so we did the easiest one because we are cowards, and the seriously helpful rulebook guide told us to start with it. It was honestly a little too easy at first, but right near the end we started making riskier choices to get the objective done quicker, so that Crisis counter was getting up in the red. There are a lot of cool mechanics that FF has taken from their other games and some other popular ones, like 5 Minute Dungeon, but I'm told this game is very similar to Elder Sign, another FF title. As someone who needs a bigger table, this game didn't take up too much space, the player area is pretty small, just your player card and assist card really. So while the round we played felt easy, it was supposed to, and I'm sure the other seven scenarios are more complex and challenging.
You can also have one sidekick Mutant, and man oh man it's some of the worst mutants in existence. Except Multiple Man. Much, much, much love. Once again the hardcore X fan will love this game and how much detail the creators put into it.
The game also lets you form bonds with your allies, focused on different bonds, which is super cute. Want Cyclops to have a love bond with Colossus? Go for it. I had a research bond with Colossus this game, and a friendship bond with Beast. It's a nice little addition that really makes you think about where you are going to deploy and who you are going with, since these bonuses usually only activate when you are on the same mission with your bonded ally.
This (above) is what the game looks like while you are playing. You deploy to different places, then resolve activities in each location. Then the villain schemes UH I mean increases the Crisis counter, a new threat emerges, then rinse and repeat. The last stage of the game is interesting, once you satisfy enough requirements, a showdown begins. These showdowns pit you against the boss of the scenario, in which if you die, it's game over (if you die during the main game you just pick a different character). The rules are essentially the same, except it usually comes down to a slugfest health wise (at least for our basic Brotherhood of Mutants fight). Then once you finish the showdown, you win! Or you all get KO'd and all that work was for nothing. Here (below) is what the showdown looks like, for Brotherhood at least.
I'd say the complexity was a 4/10, but probably a 6/10 once you get other scenarios involved. It took us about a half hour to understand most of the mechanics, and we only had to google a rule once (which is really how you judge a game's rulebook, this one was excellent). The replay value is high, with eight different scenarios, and sixteen different X-Men to try it with. Not many cooperative games allow six players, so that's a plus too. The game itself took three hours, with a good Chinese food and cheeseburger break about two hours in (mandatory). My biggest complaint would be the lack of variety in the continent decks and the villain deck, as over eight scenarios those are still going to be all the same, albeit used in different ways I am sure. I look forward to any expansions they put out, and knowing FF, there will be expansions.
Input from the other players
Variability of characters and assist mechanics
While assist cards are fun, too much of the game relies on singular attacking or dice rolling rather than cooperative which undermines the cooperative nature of the X-Men
Assist cards are a cool mechanic, it encouraged cooperation and a small amount of table talk before each round
Characters didn't really feel unique from each other, and character abilities were underwhelming. It didn't feel like character choice and strategy was that important to success
TLDR: Game is fun, not that complex, and simplifies a lot of Fantasy Flight's mechanics, and was clearly made by two BIG fans of the X-Men. Big co-op game (6 players max), and takes a couple of hours to play.