Funko Games has taken their collectibles expertise into the gaming world with Funkoverse, but their newest foray into combining these two worlds might just be their best. That would be Marvel Battleworld: Mystery of the Thanostones, a cooperative game that features adorable miniaturized versions of Marvel characters in an immensely expandable system that blends collectibility with easy-to-learn gameplay. One of the biggest selling points of the game is how easy it is to start playing, though if you want to enrich the experience you can buy more characters and accessories, and all for an affordable price. It's a compelling mix, and while it is the perfect introductory tabletop vehicle for new fans, longtime fans will also enjoy the experience.
Fans can actually start playing by buying one Battle Ball, which includes a random character (from a selection of 30 at the moment), their character card, a Thanostone with a hidden character, and all the battle cards, dice, and counters needed to play the game. Both sides of the ball even serve as stands for your characters, though these are quite bulky.
If you want to jump in all the way, it's best to get the Starter Set, which includes six heroes in total (two are in Thanostones), all the cards needed for a full multiplayer game, and small character stands, which are way better than the bulkier Battle Ball ones. I've played from both the Battle Ball and the Starter Set, and while I would recommend the Starter, I enjoyed the experience out of the single Battle Ball as well, and it's a great way to dip your toes in without fully committing.
How gameplay works is pretty simple, and we'll use a two-player game for example. For two players, you will have a stack of seven Battle Cards and two Thanostone Cards, and, once shuffled, you'll pull two new cards after every round to continue filling out the board. Each card represents an enemy or a Thanostone that needs unlocking, and if your combined number from your character ability and die roll meets or exceeds the enemy's threshold, you score a hit. You'll then place your character on the Hit Track, and once you've landed all the hits, you win that battle. If it's a Thanostone, you will break the physical Thanostone you got to reveal a new character, and you can then immediately use them in your game.
It's a system that is easy to grasp but a few elements add welcome complexity. First, after every turn, you flip a Danger Coin, which has two symbols on it. If a Battle Card has the matching symbol, you add a Danger Token to the Card. Danger Tokens also get added to Cards if you miss an attack during your turn, so these can build up quickly. If you get three of them, the battle is lost, and if you lose three battles, you lose the game.
Your characters all have different stats and special abilities, which can affect things like hits, misses, and Danger Tokens. Captain Americat, for instance, has an ability that gives heroes on his space a +2 boost, while others allow rerolls on certain stats, either for themselves or allies, so there's some welcome strategy from turn to turn. Mixing and matching the various characters and their abilities keeps things fresh and the character roster is also delightfully varied, featuring standards like Iron Man and Captain Marvel but also inspired picks like Croctor Strange, Throg, Red King, and the aforementioned Captain Americat, making for fun additions to your collection even outside of their gameplay value.
This is also where I recommend adding the Thanos Ship Showdown pack to the mix. It looks incredibly slick, but it also adds another unique element to the mix. Thanos sits in his ship that doubles as a dice roller, and after you place the Battle Cards in the first turn, you will place him adjacent to one of them. He's got four areas that can be flipped to show battle damage and will take five hits total to destroy. When you flip the Danger Coin, you also roll his die (by pressing down on Thanos, it goes to the tray below), and that number is how many spaces he moves around the board. The longer he stays around, the more of a threat he is. For example, if the red-colored side of his die is rolled, you have to advance the threat track on those battles he is now adjacent to.
This adds some welcome extra danger to the game, and if you defeat him, you are one step closer to victory, as it counts as one of your battles, though it isn't necessary to enjoy the game. Now, it won't turn Battleworld into Dead of Winter by any stretch, but then again, this game only takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play and isn't looking to fill that space anyway.
The collectible aspects of the game's figures offer a great hook for younger players and those (like me) who just love cool superhero designs, and the gameplay offers up an easy-to-grasp battle system that is still fun for experienced tabletop players, though that increases as more elements are introduced into the gameplay. Having the hidden element of the Thanostones also adds extra incentive to target those spaces, though it won't take long for some to move through those 30 initial heroes, so, hopefully, a second wave is already in the works to keep things fresh and the momentum moving.
Marvel Battleworld succeeds in creating an engaging and easy-to-learn gameplay system that can be easily expanded upon moving forward, and should appeal to those new to tabletop and those just looking to have a good time. The collectibility of the figures themselves plays into Funko's strengths and the variety of the roster helps it stand out from the other Marvel games out on the market. If you've been looking for a game that is easy to play, easy to learn, and easy to collect, Marvel Battleworld is the game for you. Marvel Battleworld is available here on Amazon now.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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