Board games used to be relegated to a pretty standard collection of fare: your Risks, your Parcheesis, your Monopolys if you hate your friends and family. But in the past ten years or so, they’ve been part of a renaissance: new board games with more complex ideas and rules are released daily to a fairly mainstream audience. So in this age of recycling and reinventing the wheel, it was only a matter of time before the idea of digital board games took on some popularity of its own.
At first it felt like these were just another chance for the same companies to make a little extra cash in the video game market. However, after some time, digital-specific board games became pretty popular in their own right, taking the ideas and group fun of their cardboard cousins, and simplifying the gameplay itself by allowing the computer to do the dice rolling and other assorted heavy lifting. It’s been a lot of fun to see the creativity that comes out of this peanut butter and chocolate melding of analog and digital games, and some terrific diversions have been the result.
Antihero is just such a digital board game.
Released in July of 2017 by Tim Conkling and Versus Evil, Antihero is a Victorian-era game of Thieves Guilds, and it brings with it all the larcenous fun you’d expect from that premise. Your goal is to collect victory points in the form of assassination contracts, bribes, and blackmail against the church. The first person to hit a certain number of victory points wins.
I think one of the best parts of Antihero is just how many ways there are to win–or lose, for that matter. Having a plan or strategy going in is an important aspect of the game, but it’s also a good idea to be prepared for some flexibility. Using street to urchins to blackmail the church is almost too good of an idea to pass up, but you’ll need to keep them safe with thugs or gangs if you want to keep that victory point from being swept up by a passing truant officer. Upgrade your Master Thief in order to unlock different abilities and keep yourself one step ahead of the enemy.
Just like any well-designed board game, Antihero’s cast of colorful characters are strong against some and weak against others. What stands between you and having the best Thieve’s Guild in jolly old London is understanding these differences, and using them to your advantage. And like many great games, Antihero is simple to learn, but complex to master.
The art design is pretty fantastic as well, with a cartoony and fun feel that belies how frustrated you’re going to get when your final victory point is stolen right from under your nose.
The campaign mode is a terrific place to learn your way through the various strategies and moves available to you. By the time you’re done, you’ll have everything you need to take on friends and randos on the internet. And the fact that the game is 1v1, with game times generally maxing out at half an hour means that Antihero is the sort of fun you can have in snippets here and there. In fact, the developers have been hinting at a port to mobile soon, which is just perfect for this sort of experience. I had a great time playing Antihero on my PC, but something tells me that having this experience on a tablet I can take wherever is going to be the ideal way to play.
Antihero doesn’t contain the depth that many PC games have, but it really wasn’t designed for that. Like other digital board games, this one was made for mind-stimulating strategy and fun one lunch break at a time. I had a blast with Antihero, and I highly recommend it to any board games enthusiasts out there looking for some challenging and unique 1v1 action. And the rest of you too, for that matter. Antihero is fun, original, and a great way to hire up some hungry orphan kids and thugs and wreak havoc on the streets of London without all that bothersome getting arrested and thrown in jail stuff.
Review based on PC code provided by the publisher. Antihero is available on Steam for 14.99.