Games based on comics have been coming in hot lately. Despite all of the controversy surrounding it, CMON’s recent Marvel Zombies Kickstarter posted a massive $9 million, a total even Zombie Galactus would have trouble choking down. And more recently, Mantic just wrapped up their Umbrella Academy board game over on Gamefound. So what other comic-based games are on the horizon?
Thorgal: The Board Game – Gamefound (Coming Soon)
Thorgal is, without any trace of hyperbole, one of the biggest comics by just about every measure. Commercially speaking, over the last 40 years it has sold 14 million books translated into 21 languages. Then there is the literal size of its run: the main series contains 39 books with an additional 24 in the spin-offs.
The high fantasy comic was written by Jean Van Hamme and follows the adventures of the title character, Thorgal. Originally falling from the stars in an alien ship, the very human Thorgal is raised by Vikings in a fantastical version of Scandinavia. Over the course of the series, young Thorgal has many adventures set in Norse mythology, navigates Viking tribal politics, and ultimately grows into the greatest hero of the age. As engrossing as the story is, equally captivating is the artwork provided by illustrator Grzegorz Rosinski. A little bit Corben, a little bit Moebius, Rosinski’s art elevates Van Hamme’s story to legendary status.
Thorgal: The Board Game from Portal Games will be a co-op adventure game for 1 – 4 players who will take on the roles of the series’ main characters: Thorgal, his wife and companion Aaricia, son Jolan, and warrior-woman Kriss. Players can choose from 10 different scenarios, each designed as a stand-alone adventure that provides 1.5 to 2 hours of gameplay.
Over the course of an adventure, players will explore maps as they set out to achieve adventure-specific goals. Scenarios within this hexcrawl are randomized to enhance replayability. However, scenarios are keyed to specific characters and can be affected by your previous choices.
Once the action in a scenario starts, the game uses a mechanic similar to Race for the Galaxy: the active player will choose an action for the group and complete it in its entirety. The rest of the group then performs the same action though in a more limited capacity. So do you go with your gut or do you listen to the group? And since it’s an adventure game, players will of course be able to develop characters. Gather resources to craft better items or gain new abilities through game play. Of course, “development” doesn’t always mean “improve”. Wounded characters will see downgrades to their abilities, so keep those bandages handy.
Cowboy Bebop – Kickstarter (Coming Soon)
The Cowboy Bebop anime aired way back in 1998 and consisted of only 26 episodes, but the show was so powerful that audiences have refused to let it fade. So strong is the love for this animated masterpiece that Netflix recently tried to revive the magic by giving it the live-action treatment. While that series largely failed to capture the spark of the original, it didn’t dampen enthusiasm for all things Bebop. That’s where Mana Project Studio comes in with their new Cowboy Bebop RPG.
For those unfamiliar with the anime series and its subsequent manga run (hence the comic connection), the world of Cowboy Bebop is a space-Western full of rakish bounty hunters and marks with poignantly tragic pasts. Think Firefly with more jazz and martial arts. The series revolved around the crew of the Bebop, bounty hunters Spike Siegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine, teenage computer prodigy Ed, and a strangely intelligent Welsh corgi named Ein. Each episode featured the crew chasing down a new bounty while also trying to outrun unsavory bits of their past.
While Mana Project has a lot of traditional 5e RPGs under their belt (Journey to Ragnarok, Historia), they are definitely taking a different approach with Bebop. Instead of min-maxing, the gameplay leans more heavily into several motifs from the show. Just like Spike and the gang, who always seem to be on the brink of financial ruin, players will have to contend with the cost of maintaining a ship and its crew, so go get those Bounties. However just like in the show, the Bebop RPG g https://boardgamegeek.com/image/6886727/age-comics-golden-years oes out of its way to remind players that a bounty is a person first and a paycheck second. Over the course of job, players will learn about their target’s past (likely tragic) and force them to confront a moral conundrum. Will you take the bounty and keep your ship running, or will you look the other way and worry about money problems another day?
Dealing with the consequence of your actions is a running theme in both the show and the RPG. In addition to exploring seedy bars, characters will also explore their own Memories. How they deal with their past will affect character development, the story, and character advancement.
But sometimes those consequences catch up. As in all RPGs, character death is a real possibility. This RPG not only acknowledges this reality but sees it as an inevitability. However, characters won’t just be dropping willy-nilly. Instead, the game details how and when characters should go out as a way to add drama and pathos to your adventure. And when that happens, you all know what to say. See you, Space Cowboy.
Age of Comics: The Golden Years – Kickstarter (Coming Soon)
Everyone wants to play as their favorite comic book character, but most people forget about all of the invisible heroes that brought you those stories in the first place. But not Lirius Games. With Age of Comics: The Golden Years, they plan to put the unsung heroes of the comics industry front and center.
Age of Comics is a Euro-style worker placement set in a comic publishing house. Each player will try to end the game with the most Victory Points by printing and improving new comics, generating new fans and idea, earning money, and climbing to the top of the comic charts. Each turn, players will have to send their editors (workers) out to complete actions and keep those comics cranking out.
For instance, there’s a lot of actions that go into the creation of a comic. Anyone who knows anything about the business knows this is no easy task. Players will have to assemble writers, artists, ideas, and money to create original comics. Or if you’re in a pinch, you can always rip-off borrow ideas and create less-than-original works. However, the more originality you put into your works, the more money and VP they will earn in the long run.
But creating the greatest comic ever means nothing if no one reads it. That’s where your sales agent comes in. In addition to your editor, your sales agent will be hoofing it from newsstand to newsstand, or cabbing it if you’re in a hurry, getting your comics on the shelves. The more orders you can fill, the more fans and money you will make. Miss an order, though, and disappointed fans will drift away to be snatched up by competitors.
At the end of the game, players tally up their VP. Like any good Euro game, there are multiple paths to victory. Players can score points based on the number of fans they have, their mastery in a genre, publisher ranking, original comics and ideas, and money earned. So fire up the presses and get your bullpen writing, True Believers!
by Zane Messina