Antihero – by Versus Evil – Pax East 2017

Versus Evil has been incredibly busy these past few years; at PAX East alone, the publishing studio had five games to demo at their booth! One title, however, stood out from the rest: a fun little strategy game called Antihero. Taking place in an Industrial Era city, you must build your Thieves Guild across the map while preventing your opponent from doing the same. This turn-based digitalized board game will have you bribing city officials, blackmailing clergy, and assassinating targets—all for the sport of plunder and profit.

The most important “piece” in the player’s control is the Master Thief; he is the head of your guild, and the only piece available at the start of a match. Use him to explore the board (it starts off dark and undiscovered) and rob houses across the city. With the coins you collect as loot, you can upgrade your guild house to recruit other types of pieces, such as Urchins, Thugs, and Mobs. Each type has its own roles and weaknesses, so plan ahead before tossing out a coin to summon one to the board.

The goal is to earn a certain number of “victory points” before your opponent can. There are three ways to earn a victory point: bribery, assassination, or blackmail. You’ll find your Urchins are the second-most important pieces after the Master Thief since they can infiltrate trade posts (to produce the lanterns needed for bribery) and churches (which are needed for blackmail). To protect the buildings you claim and the Urchins inside them, you will need Thugs to guard pathways, and Mobs to cut down enemies. Mobs can also take out assassination targets.

There’s a number of upgrades available for each type of piece, which may be your best chance to get ahead of your opponent. Farming banks for coin and trading posts for lanterns will keep you in good shape to boost your guild quickly, just be sure to invest in enough Thugs and Mobs to protect your turf. If you have some spare coin at the end of your turn, try donating it to charity for a few extra lanterns. You’ll start back at 0 coins on the next turn, but the lanterns are a tougher resource to farm.

Depending on the map, you’ll also encounter pieces from third party groups. These make for easy coin, and killing an assassination target from a third party group will earn you a victory point. However, you might want to hold off on attacking them if they’re positioned correctly; not even the Master Thief can move past some CPU pieces, so they can sometimes act as a free barrier against your opponent.

As far as art goes, the game has an amusing cartoonish look to it. The character pieces seem to have a bobblehead’s anatomy, and all the actions (even assassinations) have the comically cheap look of a puppet show. The music matches the art and color spectrum, sounding like the kind of quiet mischief that accompanies cartoon characters tiptoeing around a house. Needless to say, Antihero is not Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and it doesn’t pretend to be.

Versus Evil has already released an Early Access version of Antihero on Steam, but the full game will be available later this spring.

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