R&D Blog - Battles in Arkham City

By Matt Hyra

Hi there. I designed the Batman: Arkham City Escape Board Game and would like to talk about it today, during the release week of the game. Look for the giant game box in hobby shops today! Our playtesters were quite addicted to the game, often playing 3-4 games back to back to back. A big part of that is trying different strategies.

In this two-player game, one player takes on the role of Batman, while the other takes on the role of a random assortment of Batman's greatest villains. It's a cat-and-mouse game of hidden dangers, desperate flights, and epic combats. The Villains are trying to escape, while Batman is trying to catch them. Can the Villains overwhelm Batman and escape, or can Batman make the right attacks at the right time and stop them? The following is an overview of the strategies you can employ in the game.

Mutual Strategies

On the board are 10 Riddler Trophy question marks. These represent hotspots on the board, not necessarily actual Riddler Trophies. Each player has a Set-up deck of nine cards that they shuffle and then deal five of them into a pool. Your cards are good for you and your opponent's cards are not good for you. The Set-up cards consist of some Villains, Batman Allies, and various other things you might find in Arkham City. Both sets of Set-up cards have the same card-back, so when you shuffle the ten cards together, you won't be able to tell them apart. These cards are then placed face-down onto the board, one per Riddler Trophy spot. Now there are some mysteries to uncover on the board, and you never know what you're going to get. Well, that's technically true, as they are random, but you can play the percentages…

When Batman or a face-up Villain enters a space containing a Set-up card, it is flipped face up. If the first few cards that get flipped up are good for the other player, the odds are great that the next one that gets flipped will be better for the other player. This is a two-way street. If none of your Set-up cards have been flipped, get out there and reveal some cards, as they are bound to be good. Alternately, if you get lucky and flip 2-3 of your own cards, you might want to shy away from flipping more, as the odds are they will be good for your opponent.

Villain Strategies

The Villains get to go first. The Villains are a bit loony, so they don't get consistent, reliable turns. The Villain player rolls 4 dice at the start of his turn. The six-sided dice have three Arkham symbols and three Bat symbols. The Villains always want to roll Arkham symbols and Batman always wants to roll Bats.

For each Arkham symbol the Villain player rolls, he gets to perform one action. I won't into of the actions here, as it is covered in great detail in the rulebook. The Villain player is going to need to choose a strategy fairly quickly:

-Should I try to sneak past Batman, or should I make a run for it?

-Should I uncover Set-up card and possible take some hotages, or should I maneuver around the Set-up cards?

-Should I hold certain Villains in my hand to wait for better synergies to show up, or should I just get as many Villains onto the baord as possible to overwhelm the Batman?

A sneaky strategy means your Villains will want to stay face down for as long as possible. When you spend an action to move your face-down Villains, all of your face-down Villains get to move 1 space in any direction. That's very efficient, but keep in mind that you may only use this action once per turn. Staying face down also allows you to spring some traps on Batman, if he stumbles onto certain Villains.

Making a run for it involves flipping your Villains face up so that they'll move faster than face-down Villains. When you use an action to move a face-up Villain, that Villain moves up to 2 spaces. However, only one Villain moves, not all of your face-up Villains. In order to stay mobile, you will want to avoid taking Hostages. When a Villain enters the same space (or uncovers) a Batman Ally, that Ally becomes a Hostage. However, if you want to drag that Hostage out of Arkham, your Villain will only move 1 space instead of 2. They just won't come willingly! However, a Villain can abandon a Hostage at any time and continue moving 2 spaces at a time instead. Note that a Villain may only move once per turn, so you can't run all the way across the map in one turn. This strategy is probably best employed when you have several high value Villains on the board. Each Villain has a Victory Point value between 1 and 3. If the Villain escapes, the Villain player scores that many VPs. If Batman captures it, Batman scores that many VPs.

Holding onto Villains in your hand, waiting for the right moment is a more advanced strategy. The Penguin works very well with Henchmen. Hugo Strange works well with Lunatics. Poison Ivy will allow you to flip some of your Villains face down, which is great for Villains who work like traps when Batman uncovers them. This strategy can be very rewarding, but just look out if your opponent has employed the Cryptographic Sequencer!

Batman Strategies

The first step in the Batman player choosing a strategy is deciding on which Utility Belt gadgets to use.

Batman's Utility Belt is one of the most fun aspects of the game. There are four slots on the belt and eight gadgets to choose from. Choosing a strategy and finding the gadgets that support that strategy the best will provide for massive replayability for the game. Batman's gadgets start out face down, so the Villain player won't know what to expect until it's too late.

Batman's game piece starts out on the Batsignal space. There is a lot of space between Batman and the Villains to start. Batman can be aggressive or wait for the Villains to come to him. Your strategy will be influenced by the Villain strategy, but it will depend largely on the gadgets you chose:

Line Launcher and Glide Kick: These give Batman lots of extra movement, so you will often want to be aggressive and take the fight to the Villains. On a side note… I know that Glide Kick isn't a Utility Belt item in the video game, but we really wanted to make it a part of the game, as it's so cool. If it were just a basic ability that Batman could perform whenever he wanted, it would be way too powerful.

Batclaw and Remote Electrical Charge: These items allow Batman to be very selective about who he fights, and where and when he fights them. The Batclaw pulls Villains into Batman's space. The R.E.C. allows Batman to zap a Villain and keep it away from him for a while.

Batarang and Explosive Gel: I like to call these “The Problem Solvers.” One benefit of the Batarang is that it can destroy Penguins, which are Villain Set-up cards that give the Villain player extra Action dice. Certainly something you don't want to let live. Batarang is the only gadget that Batman may use during the Villain turn. Using it stuns a Villain, so that Villain can't retaliate against Batman in combat, should Batman fail to capture the Villain. This allows Batman to save his Combat Cards for more important targets. Speaking of which…if Batman is being overwhelmed by low-level Villains, Explosive Gel can make a big dent in the Villain onslaught.

Detective Mode and Cryptographic Sequencer: These are cards for players who want to be a little more methodical and tricky. Detective Mode lets Batman flip all adjacent face-down cards face up. This can prevent him from stepping into a trap and lets him uncover Allies and other good stuff as well. If you are a paranoid person, this is the gadget for you. The Cryptographic Sequencer allows you knock cards out of the Villain player's hand. The main effect of this is that the Villains won't be able to enter the board as quickly, which will give Batman time to draw more Combat Cards.

The other really fun thing about the Utility Belt gadgets Batman chooses is that all of them (except for Detective Mode and Cryptographic Sequencer) have Combat Cards that combo with them. For example, if you have a Line Launcher gadget, the Combat Card “High-Speed Impact” will work soooooo much better than it would otherwise. Your overall strategy is one thing. But the Combat Cards in your hand will allow you to make tactical decisions on the fly. Do you have enough Combo Points to take out a high-value Villain or should you buy some time and move away?

Because Batman has to use his Combat Cards wisely, playing him takes a bit more skill and cunning than the Villain side. Sometimes you just have to buy time by letting a Villain or two escape. If you throw your Combat Cards away on a bad attack, it could take a while to recover. For example, if a Villain has a Capture Rating of 3, Batman has to roll 3 Batsymbols on the dice. Spending two cards that might give you 3 dice would require 100% success, where you are odds to get 1.5 successes. Now that might be fine if you have a few re-rolls coming to you, but otherwise that is more likely to be a waste of 2 cards. As you can guess, the learning curve on playing Batman correctly is a bit more steep than the Villain side. Don't be surprised if you lose as Batman on your first couple of tries as you are learning the game. Once you get the hang of it, Batman becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Fortunately, there is an optional rule for Batman that can help get you through the rough patches. At the start of your turn, if you have no cards in hand, you can skip your entire turn to draw three Combat Cards. There is a Villain optional rule as well. Instead of choosing how to move, you automatically move each Villain, face up or face down, one space straight towards the exit (off map). These optional rules are on the bottom of page 12 of the rulebook.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the forums.


PS: If you haven't read the rulebook yet, go do that now!

Matt_Hyra's picture Matt Hyra

Matt Hyra has been designing games for 20 years, and has been Cryptozoic Entertainment's lead board game designer since its beginning in 2010. Some of Matt's recent games include Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game, Epic Spell Wars: Panic at the Pleasure Palace, and DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth.