We were gifted The Batman Who Laughs Rising by The Op for review. In this game, you play as a team of superheroes trying to stop the Batman Who Laughs from taking over the world. For those of you who are not familiar with the Batman Who Laughs, he is an alternate version of Batman who has been poisoned by the Joker to become the new Joker. He assembles the darkest, most twisted versions of Batmen across the universe to take over the multiverse. You can play this game solo, or with the help of friends and help rid the world of the evil Batmen.
To setup the game you take the Batman Who Laughs’ Track and place the three boards with the same color facing up. The three boards are double sided, having a standard difficulty game and a more difficult side so you can try to take on a bigger challenge. The 6 regular Dark Knight cards are shuffled and placed along the marked spaces. Each card will have a track that will be slowly filled as you play and whenever a track is completed above a card, the card will be placed onto the play deck. This creates a sort of story for the game, making the game feel as though you are running through a gauntlet of Dark Knights before facing the final challenge. The final board of the laugh track will feature the Batman Who Laughs as the only card, with extra spaces for the track markers that will spell your doom if they fill. You win the game if you defeat the Batman Who Laughs before the entire track fills. There are also minor villain cards that will make the game more challenging (if you want to torture yourself even more).
Next you take the deployment mat which features 3 separate zones with the capacity for 3 cards each (a nine sided mat). You take your beautifully macabre Batman Who Laughs figure and place it on the board, randomly pointing at any of the 3 zones. The Batman Who Laughs is pointing at the zone he is in. The figure is hefty, features not only a twisted version of the Dark Knight, but also 3 Rabid Robins kept on a leash with chains. The chains aren’t just for show, they are actually chains that flow from the Batman Who Laugh’s hand. We were kindly gifted a second copy of the game as our first copy had a broken finger. It is a very well crafted figurine but the finer is long, bony and thin, making it susceptible to being snapped off. Cards are distributed to the 3 zones and will feature heroes that you will be able to recruit/save or villains that you will face and defeat to make progress. Each hero you recruit will add effects to your team and give you the ability to heal, roll extra dice, or make it more likely to get specific icons. The remaining cards will be set aside to form a draw deck.
Players will then select a team ability cards and their matching leader. Each team and leader is shown with an Icon that matches their character and trait. Power is Wonder Woman, Justice is Hawk Man, Determination is Batman, and Purpose is Green Lantern. It is important to note that the icons in the instruction manual and team ability cards for Justice and Purpose do not match. While this does not affect gameplay, it is a large discrepancy that makes initial setup a little confusing. Your ability card will tell you your dice pool and an ability for your team.
To play the game you will pick a zone to send your team to. This will allow you take actions in this zone and fight villains present or try to recruit heroes. Once your zone has been selected the Batman Who Laughs will make his move by rolling the Dark Knights die and the Batman Who Laughs die. The Dark Knights die represents the progress made on the track, it will feature a number from 0-2 which represents the number of track tokens that will be placed on the Dark Knights track. The Batman Who Laughs die represents where the Batman Who Laughs is going. It features 6 unique sides. The sides are L, R, HAHAHA, (L), (R), (HA). What these icons mean is the direction the Batman Who Laughs will turn, with L and R representing left or right and the HA/HAHAHA staying put. If they are circled any ability’s of the Dark Knights that have been uncovered on the Dark Knights track will trigger, which are penalties that will hinder your progress. Regardless of where the Batman Who Laughs ends up, the zone he is pointing at represents where he is in the world. All heroes in the zone will take 1 damage (which is represented by placing a damage token on their card) and any villains will activate their abilities which vary from card to card. If any heroes fill their damage gauge they will perish by the end of the turn if they are not healed or recruited. If a player is in the same zone as the Batman Who Laughs, each of their heroes will take 1 damage and any additional damage dealt by the triggered villains.
Next you will roll your dice from your pool, taking into account any bonuses you may have. Each team initially starts with 4 dice from their team. Each die has a unique color representing how it is more likely you will roll a specific icon that matches the color. For example, Wonder Woman’s team of Power is red and red dice are more likely to roll Power (Wonder Woman’s symbol). Each time you roll, you may assign a die to a card in your zone with a matching symbol. As an example, say Elastic Man is in your zone and you wish to recruit him. He has a requirement of 3 Power symbols to recruit him. You can assign any or all of the Power symbols you rolled and can reroll any unassigned dice again. You MUST be able to assign at least 1 die in order to reroll.
The last step is you simply resolve any die. If you managed to roll a die in the quantities assigned for a hero card then that card is yours, Any damage assigned to them is cleared when you recruit them and their bonuses will be a part of your team. If you managed to roll and match all the symbols for a villain card that card takes damage and you gain a bonus token. Bonus tokens are drawn randomly from a pool and will allow you to heal, draw an extra dice of a specific color, or have an extra symbol that counts as a rolled symbol.
Should the team/s defeat the Batman Who Laughs before the Dark Knights track is filled, the players win! It should be noted that winning this game is rather difficult (though rewarding). If 10 total heroes are defeated the teams lose all hope and the world is taken over by the Dark Knights. Should all the heroes be defeated on a player’s team the players lose all hope and perish as well.
The game is dark, macabre and really immerses you in gameplay. The game is a team effort so each player will sometimes chime in with advice to help out. The villains are an annoyance to gameplay but the Dark Knights are daunting and do some serious damage when their abilities are triggered. It definitely makes taking them out a priority which helps engross you even further into the theme. This game is definitely worth playing and makes you want to read (or reread) the comics that is based off of.
Language Barrier Playability: A little difficult. The game is predominately reliant on matching symbols and reading the die so for the most part it is not difficult to play. The trouble comes with reading the instructions for all of the heroes and villains. It would be hard to not tell people what to do as you’re reading their bonuses. Reminding them that they can switch a Power symbol to any other symbol of their choosing seems to hint at that being a good idea even if you’re just reminding them.
Replayability: Great! This game is tough, fun and offers the ability to upgrade your abilities. Plus it’s always fun when you can recruit the Joker to help you fight an evil version of Batman.
Artwork: Amazing. The cards and artwork are lifted straight from the pages of DC comics. The figurine is beautiful (though morbid) and the icons and artwork shine through.
Quality: Fair. The only minor thing was that it’s possible for The Batman Who Laughs figurine to have the pointer finger broken. Not necessarily a quality problem but a design flaw. We noticed some of the cards came kind of warped some worse than others but it was minor.
Strategy: Moderate. While the core gameplay is dependent on luck, you ultimately get to decide what zone to go to and what cards to try to battle or recruit. You also get to decide how your bonuses are used so there is time to weigh options and strategize.
Instruction Manual: Good. It does have the discrepancy mentioned earlier (Justice and Purpose are swapped) that in our opinion is a large error. Besides that, the manual is very well written, has examples and tells you what you need to know in an order that makes sense.
Organization: Excellent. Everything fits neatly into the box, figurine and all! Tokens, cards, dice, mat. Everything is snug in the packaging. One small thing is that the box could theoretically be smaller since it all fits well… but then you wouldn’t have the creepy artwork on your shelf to display.