Board games are magical. All those bits and bobs to move around and tinker with, the pleasure of interacting with other people, all focusing on a specific set of rules … this is pretty special and hard to translate into another medium. Thankfully, games like Antihero prove that it’s not impossible.
There are quite a few board games adaptations out there, but pretty often, something gets lost when they make the jump to the big or small screen. Most digital ports of actual board games just don’t feel right without physical components, without little plastic dudes you can move around the board.
Conversely, there are digital board games that wouldn’t ever work in physical form because of their complexity and the amount of micromanagement required to keep things moving forward. The best of both worlds, a board game that would work flawlessly both on- and off-screen, that’s pretty rare. Thankfully, there’s Antihero.
Under cover of night, you control the Fate of a Victorian-era master thief, gaining coveted victory points by means of lies, deception, and other trickery. Our protagonist has several actions available each round. Explore the city streets, which are hidden beneath a thick fog, rob some houses or attack your opponents pawns. Through well-considered spending of various resources you can unlock further talents, such as more actions per round, more loot, or higher attack damage.
Of course you can also use your gold to recruit other units. Glowering ruffians can block the streets and prevent my opponent from plundering my territory. Or maybe you invest your money in some street urchins who squat in resource-generating buildings. One urchin loitering in front of the bank will panhandle some extra gold each turn. Another has taken up position in front of the orphanage, where he lowers the cost of recruiting more of those naughty little louts. And a church filled with those brats gets you the best resource of all, lanterns. You can buy the best improvements with those – or even bribe your way towards victory.
All of this is incredibly charming and clearly evokes some sort of Dickens-ish scenario. Antihero also has clear, concise rules which are reminscent of „real” board games. Once you have learned those, you can focus on the game and work out some strategies. Of course, there are always situations where your opponent thwarts your carefully-hatched long term planning and short-term threats need to be eliminated.
In other words: playing Antihero feels like a proper board game session with friends, featuring incredulous laughter and loud cursing. And there it is, the magic, this fleeting, special thing that many board game conversions lack. Antihero has it in spades.
The game features an extensive single player mode and, of course, offers hot seat or online play against real opponents. Unsurprisingly, developer Tim Conkling has played around with the thought of turning this into a physical board game – however, there are no concrete plans or anything like that yet, so we have to make do with the PC and mobile versions.
You can purchase Antihero on GOG and Steam for $14.99. Android and iOS versions are also available. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer Tim Conkling on Twitter.