Antihero is a turn-based digital board game developed by just one man, Tim Conkling. Set in a gas-lit Victorian underworld, you’re tasked with becoming a master thief, whilst also fending off the enemy. It’s a game of cat and mouse, and one which keeps you on your toes, even if your opponent doesn’t play their turn for three days straight.
With nothing but a few coins left in my pouch, I needed to decide what’s most important, protecting the orphanage I’ve infiltrated, or ensuring I earn enough gold to last me through the next round. You see, the child snatcher is on the prowl but I don’t know where he’s going to strike next. To make matters worse, my enemy’s gangs are closing in getting ready to evict my urchins and infiltrate the local bank.
With only a few moves left I feel I have little chances of surviving the next turn. Fortunately I remember that charity starts at home and I’m able to fill my pouch a little more allowing me to not only protect my property, but also add an additional thug to my gang.
This is Antihero and this is probably one of the more entertaining digital board games I’ve played in a long time.
In this game, players control a master thief with one goal, control the criminal underworld and meet a set of victory conditions to come out on top. Meeting this conditions can be done a number of ways and its up to the player to decide how they’re going to do it. However it’s easier said than done as your opponent is also doing the same thing, thus begins a fight for territory and victory in the most ruthless way possible.
One thing I will say is that Antihero has been a long time coming, but it’s definitely worth the wait. This game is also pretty brutal at times, both in its single player campaign and its online multiplayer. The game doesn’t hold your hand giving you an incredibly challenging experience at times, and even when you think you’re coming out on top, things can quickly take a turn for the worst.
The general premise of the game is to meet several different victory conditions, the first being simply purchasing or acquiring a bribe and others involve assassinating certain characters on the map, among other things. To do this, you infiltrate buildings on the map and recruit urchins to populate certain key buildings, like churches, banks, and alehouses. These buildings then give you a return at the end of each round, whether it’s coins to purchase other recruits, or lanterns, which are used to purchase upgrades an bribes.
Other buildings will give you discounts on certain recruits, for example filling up an Orphanage with Urchins will not only make the price of hiring Urchins cheaper, but filling it to capacity will then allow Urchins to evict.
While all of this is taking place, however, your opponent is doing and thinking about the same things, and while maps might be big enough to begin with, soon enough you’ll be coming face to face with your opponent who’ll stop at nothing to get what you’ve got. This is where your recruits come in.
Once you’ve purchased the corresponding upgrade within your hideout, you’ll be able to hire Thugs, Gangs, Child Snatchers, and Assassins, among other folk. These characters are integral to your mission, however you’ll often find that the coin available to hire them is sparse, at best. This is where Antihero can be really challenging. Not only do you have to juggle burgling houses and infiltrating buildings to get coins, you also have to try and predict what your opponent might do and put in the measures to counter that when your turn ends.
This could involve laying traps in certain buildings or simply placing a thug at an intersection so that your opponent can’t pass, or has to waste a move attacking this thug in order to get by. You’ll often find that just the deterrent alone is enough to turn your opponent away, or to head down another route, but sometimes things can go horribly wrong.
Fortunately, there’s a pretty robust Story mode which players can dive into that allow them to get a feel for the game before diving into the much more complex multiplayer matches. I’ll admit, at times the campaign did get a little too frustrating, but that’s because I’m generally pretty crap at these types of games, thankfully there is the option to set missions as “Easy”, but even then it possessed quite the challenge.
The main meat of the game does however come from the multiplayer mode, which unfortunately at the time of the review wasn’t that populated. Though it didn’t really matter considering the nature of the multiplayer modes. The main mode is more of a asynchronous mode that allows you to take your turn, submit, and wait for your opponent to take their turn. You can start several games this way building up a collection of games on the go.
There’s also no pressure this way to take your move and you can really take your time. Sometimes the other player will be online waiting for you to take your move, but you’re not penalised for leaving it for a few hours.
That being said, there is a live mode which I’m yet to really dive into. This mode has one difference from the above, and that’s the addition of a time limit for turns. This piles on the pressure making for a much more exhilarating experience.
Gameplay aside, Antihero offers some really nice cartoon visuals and animations which really add to the gameplay. The maps themselves are similarly animated however they’re more isometric allowing you to get a feel for a big portion of the map without zooming out too far.
Control-wise everything is mostly controlled with your mouse, which makes the game a pretty chill experience, especially when playing on a laptop. There really isn’t a lot of thinking when it comes to the controls which great considering you’ll mostly be figuring out what your next move may be.
Overall Antihero really gets the strategic cogs whirring, and while there are various aspects to the game which need your attention, it’s not too complex for new players to venture into the game’s world. While the PC version is definitely enjoyable, the developer is currently working on a tablet build of the game too which I can almost guarantee will be an even more fun experience.