Batman: Gotham City Chronicles is a scenario-based miniatures board game where 2 to 4 players control the Dark Knight and his allies in their never-ending battle against crime through an asymmetrical and open game system. Each game involves an action-packed fight where two sides face off.
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- Batman: Gotham City Chronicles
Batman: Gotham City Chronicles
The core systems on each side of the table from Conan remain great. That’s about as far as the praise goes.
You know going in that this game represents the worst Kickstarter excess. I had time to get accustomed to that before sitting down to play. Unfortunately, it also feels like the worst examples of game design from 15 years ago and it’s a poor use of the IP.
The designers really showed no restraint here. There are literally icons with other icons built into them, which Conan had to a small extent but not like this. Player aids for the dozens of characters are a necessity. One player aid with all the icons would still be a mess, and then you still need to look up icons on your gear. The map is inexcusable. I took what reviewers said about it with a grain of salt as I felt they wanted to complain going in, but they’re not wrong. The maps are a mess. They confusing to look at and you need to consult the rulebook for an explanation on what’s on the board. That’s kind of unparalleled. They knew it was a mess, admitted to it by including a section in the rulebook on what the hell is going on on them and they never thought that maybe they should fix it.
And yet I still had fun playing it, but that’s only because Conan was fun. The extra layers and details to it do not benefit the game and only work to make it exceedingly tedious. It also has no Batman feel to it. He just rushes into the baddie convention going on in the subway, starts punching dudes and disarming bombs.
It did make we want to reacquire Conan, which is unquestionably the vastly superior game.
Conan's characters have about the perfect weight in this system in terms of icons. Each character has just a couple that you can lookup on the easy to use player aids, and each character functions uniquely enough to fill a role. The maps are also much simpler, containing no elevations and ignoring all of that fuss.
For Batman, they should have taken a page out of Andrew Parks' book and mimicked the Marvel Strike Teams system. That's basically Conan but special powers/abilities are represented on their own unique cards instead of icon. So if you want to use Captain America's shield throw or Iron Man's jet boots, you place a couple of gems on the specific card which grants you the ability/attack. No need for separate material to reference. This is much cleaner and works very well.
The Conan icon system simply doesn't support vastly different special abilities, they're better suited for more subtle differences.
I haven’t tried that Marvel game, I’ve been meaning to check it out.
Context; we've only played the "first two" scenarios (numerical page count). Bats vs. Bane x 2, and Bats vs. the Scarecrow x1. I was the 'Overlord' in all three cases. My buddies switched up the hero roles when we played scenario the second time.
The challenges mentioned above are real. Small icons, and twice as many as Conan are a steep learning curve. But none of us felt it was a game killer. Far from it. We just wanted to play more. If the game's crunchiness did anything to us across the board - it adjusted our expectations. Our sessions were very tactical. It felt like we were playing Battletech. A slow motion skirmish. While I've only reviewed a few more of the scenarios (not the campaign), it seems like they all fit that mold. Which to my recollection is exactly how the game was advertised.
Do you want something else from your Batman game? You have plenty to choose from. Miss your Greatest Detetive aspect? Then play an RPG, unless time is a crunch - then do the Love Letter variant. Scratch your Arkham video game itch with the Talisman variant. Want a full co-op, play the Gotham City Under Siege. Want to spend even more money? Play Batman the Miniatures Game.*. But don't shit on this title because the learning curve is higher than the time you and your colleagues are willing to invest.
*Interestingly, Batman TMG could be played with Monolith's game components. But I think most of the hobbyists on this site are too busy with Games Workshop affairs.
I may very cool down on this new game system after more plays. But right now, the lot of us are just excited to schedule our next play date. It may be telling, but I did find the second Kickstarter to be more of a deep dive than even I was willing to go. I limited myself to only purchasing the 5th player dashboard.
But hey, to each his own.
An aspect missed - the miniatures. For the hobbyists out there, Batman: GCC is a very nice collection. Mold lines are minimal and very manageable. Most sculpts have a fun bit of contrast between big sweeping areas of (example) cape fabric and intricate armour/scale/ detail. They're taking primer and paint well. I think the quality is not as high as Mythic Battles: Pantheon. More akin to Claustrophobia.
Other components? I like the cubes and dashboards far more here than Conan. The map illustrations are just as nice (albeit "grim dark") as Conan, and IMO - the LOS issues Conan has are less an issue with Batman. A lot of the graphic design work for the iconography is very clever. But again, the sheer volume of the icons is a chore. Adding to that frustration, they're wickedly small. Monolith has a produced a player guide online, and having a print out is mandatory IMO. [It's too damn bad they didn't have the relevant icons described on the back of each character card.]
I may agree with Josh insofar as Conan may be my preferred title. But that's largely because I like the Conan IP more than Batman. At least, this morning I do. Our three sessions of Batman have also been consistently longer than any session of Conan. But that observation is a little premature. The first game was a grind to get everyone on board with the mechanics. The second and third were much faster. With more familiarity, it would stand to reason we could get down to Conan length of play.
Like Conan before it, Batman's rulebook is peculiar. Whereas Conan was awkward with room for interpretation, Batman swings in the opposite direction. It's written with very dense operating procedures that get a little redundant. And yet, some things are still not logically placed (for me at least). Some gamers may dig it, I though it was too much.
Nutshell opinion from a nut: Batman is less Conan 2.0 as it is "Advanced Conan." Sometimes, less is more. But sometimes, the extra stuff is a pretty fun.
My morning counter points are at an end, along with my coffee. I'm jazzed after this discussion! I'm going to go paint some Batman!
One main concern I have with the increased complexity, do you think you'll be able to come back to Batman a year after playing and easily get it to the table? I imagine you're going to go through the same growing pains all over again every single time.
Conan does not have that problem. I pulled Conan out cold with 8 months between plays and spent only 2 minutes looking at the turn structure (I think I had to lookup the rules for dredging the river late in the game too).
I probably stand in the middle of this debate. All of the criticisms leveled at Batman are mostly justified, and perhaps the added complexity makes it worse then Conan. But from my perspective, I've had a good time every time I've played it. Now, I learned quickly the game needs "adjustments" to make it fun for more casual play, either by increasing the energy recovery or adding an extra turn or two to the game timer. I do think they missed the mark on not allowing space for exploration and mistakes over creating a super tight, competitive game. But I think a few tweaks can make all the difference here. I know I shouldn't be defending a game that needs the community to fix it, but I think that's where B:GCC is going.
In any case, the excuse to run around saying "...because I'm Batman!" pushes it over the edge for me. Plus, my son, who rarely wants to play competitive games, had a great time playing it.
But seriously, Batcow is stupid overpowered...
Shellhead wrote: Good game or not, this is probably one that will only gain in re-sale value over time. The licensing deal was probably very limited in scope and duration, so there will probably just be this one print run. Maybe one more print run after this. Batman is a very popular and famous character, so there will always be fans who will be willing to pay a premium for this game.
They've already done a second Kickstarter. I'm not sure this one will be worth a great deal later as the print runs combined are enormous. I don't see demand far outstripping supply.
"One main concern I have with the increased complexity, do you think you'll be able to come back to Batman a year after playing and easily get it to the table? I imagine you're going to go through the same growing pains all over again every single time."
Easily? No. I can totally see how Conan is faster to remember, but both seem to have their own levels of unnecessary set up.
Listen, I'm not trying to bust chops with J or C. I think we're getting different things out of this game. Or rather, this game "system."
Monolith has some pros and cons going for them, but so far - they've earned my good will.
I've enjoyed Mythic Battles: Pantheon, but I don't see myself rolling deep. I like Greek mythology. My friends? Not so much. Which is too bad, because I had a hell of a fun time painting the core box.
Claustrophobia is beautiful, but it may be too big for its own good. Nice minis that I look forward to painting. But with other things on my plate, and considering the weight/complexity - I think the first edition may be the ultimate keeper. IDK.
Conan. I dig it. A lot. I may love it. Can a grown man love a sword and sorcery board game? And I haven't even scratched the surface. I have some campaign book that hasn't even been cracked and the expansions are awaiting coats of paint. I'm a little pissed the Frost Giants are the same sculpt.
Batman. So far, I dig it too. I may cool to it, but I've dug Batman as long as I have Conan. About thirty nine years. I don't expect that to change.
In each instance of my Monolith satisfaction, there's the hobby component. I expanded my gamer hobby into a craft hobby. I like painting toys. After several hundred bits of lead/plastic/resin, I can say that Monolith are making some damn fine product and they're doing it with subject matter that "brings me joy." That there are structured reasons to push them around on a map and roll dice is great. The structures are not perfect, but I genuinely can't think of any miniatures game that is "perfect." I guess that's another topic.
Anyway, I like this Batman game. If any F:ATtie wants to visit the boiling hot swamp of Washington DC, you can set at my gaming table and you can play Batman against my Penguin's goons. Afterwards, you can smash through a straw hut and grab a naked girl from my Picts.