Warning: This article contains some adult language. If that may bother you, please read no further!
Being a superhero is no easy task. Especially if you lack any kind of actual super powers. In Kick Ass: The Board Game, you take on the roles of characters from the hit comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Working cooperatively, you’ll fight to save the city, while maintaining the hot mess that is your personal life. On one turn, you might be tussling with minions at City Hall or in Central Park, and on the next you might be working your crappy day job, or going on a date with your significant other. Balancing both aspects of your life will be necessary to win a victory with your fellow heroes.
Kick Ass is an excellent story in both the comic books and films (which were my introduction to the characters). The storyline has a sense of humour for sure, but doesn’t shy away from adult situations and language, and a healthy dose of ultra-violence. CMON has kept those element in the game, so it is definitely intended for a more mature audience.
One of the aspects of the stories that is so compelling, is that all of the heroes are just ordinary people who have had too much of the violence and crime in their city. Kick Ass, Hit Girl Big Daddy, Night Bitch, Ass Kicker, and all of the others weren’t born on some alien planet, or bitten by some radioactive arachnid. They are people with everyday problems and that shines through in the mechanics.
A game of Kick Ass starts by selecting one of the six available Final Bosses and each player picking a hero to control. The heroes come with player boards marking different starting stats in their happiness, strength, social media followers (cause why fight crime if no one is following you on Twitter), and health, as well slots for equipment and Hardships, should their mental health take a dive. They also start with a hand of five Activation cards, blue ones that deal with your personal life, and red ones that allow you to fight crime!
Like the heroes, the Final Bosses you choose are taken right from the pages of the comics, including Red Mist, Don Genovese, Vic Gigante, and Mother Fucker. Each of these bosses has a master Plot for the game that will be revealed once certain conditions have been met, setting the stage for a final showdown between good and evil.
Kick Ass is played over a series of rounds broken up into phases. The Event phase starts each round, as a new Event is revealed and the older ones advance on the Event track. Events can range from saving a cat, to serving soup to the poor, to the arrival of a mini-boss like Kill Shot or Big Bastard. The Events all have a condition to resolve them and a reward for doing so. However, if the Event is not taken care of before it’s pushed off the track, you’ll receive a punishment for sleeping on your superhero duties.
The Day phase is where most of the action takes place. First, a Minion card is revealed, adding new baddies to the board. The card indicated where they show up, but if that location is already overrun, they migrate to the next location following the arrows on the board. Then you get to select the Activation card you’re going to play. It’s a good idea to discuss the plan with your teammates considering it’s easy to lose the game, especially if you’re pulling in different directions. On certain turns, your happiness might be so low you just have to spend a round taking a walk in the park, or you might be so broke, you need to work to afford some sweet new superhero equipment. However, if you spend too many turns like that, the city will fall. Sometimes you’re going to have to put on the mask and kick some ass. The cycle of adding Minions to the board and then playing Activation cards is repeated three time for the morning, afternoon, and night, giving you three turns on a day.
The map of New York City is broken up into different districts with a location in each. There are spaces to hold the Minions that will show up as well as an rule for each. If you spend time in a location. Being on Wall Street earns you money, the Hospital will allow you to heal etc.
When it does come time to throw down in a fight, you roll a number of red (attack) dice and blue (defense) dice depending on your hero’s strength level and any items you might have. Each Minion has a strength of one and will deal that damage if you don’t block it, but they’re relatively easy to take out, with only one health. Mini-bosses and Final Bosses have their own health indicated by their cards. You can even team up with another superhero, pooling your dice and deciding how to deal out the damage you receive.
During the Sleep phase, there is a lot of upkeep. Some cards have effects that take place at that time and you check to see if enough Events have been resolved to reveal the Final Plot.
During the Refresh phase, you can gain new Activation cards, discarding old ones from your hand, refresh cards, and advance the round tracker.
When the Final Plot is revealed, the regular Event cards are removed and new Boss Event cards take their place. You’ll have to follow the special rules for the Final Plot like tracking down Red Mist amongst a gang of decoys or defeating the gangs of Don Genovese.
The heroes will win if they complete three Event cards and resolve the Final Plot. They’ll lose if they are unable to spawn a Minion into City Hall, or it’s impossible to complete a third Event, or the Final Plot is not resolved by the end of the ninth round…as I said, this superhero stuff isn’t easy.
The tone of this game is pretty much perfect, even if it’s not the family game some people, not as familiar with the source material may have been expecting. It captures the feel of the books right down to the original art from Romita Jr. Even the rulebook is aided through comic panels that drive home the mechanics of the game. The different Final Bosses allow you to select the difficulty level you want to face, although, I warn you, even at its easiest, Kick Ass is a challenge. You certainly don’t have to be a fan of the comics or movies to enjoy this game, but if you are, I think you’ll find that the design team of Hjalmar Hach, Roberto Pestrin, and Maurizio Vergendo did a great job designing a fun game that does justice to the source.
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