So, being that the site is called BRANDED in the 80s, it should be pretty evident that branding and package design is something that’s pretty close to my heart. I mean, easily, 50% of the nostalgia I have for 80s is (if you’ll pardon the pun) literally wrapped up in the food packaging, toy card/box art and VHS cover art. So I try and stay pretty hyper aware of what’s on store shelves these days to see if I can spot the stuff that I know I’ll have wistful feelings for down the road. Sometimes I’ll pick stuff up based purely on the design aesthetic alone, especially if I think the company really did something interesting or novel. So I was pretty excited when I saw the reveal of Funko’s new Batman Vs. Joker Throwdown board game during SDCC this year. I’ve been picking up a number of the company’s nostalgic vinyl Pop figures over the past couple years, so they’ve already won me over with their arty interpretation of pop culture characters. Add to this the idea of mashing up a board game with collectable figures and some really awesome packaging and I was hooked.
So when I had the opportunity to check out Funko’s new game I jumped at the chance. This first game/set centers on DC Comic’s Dark Knight, and is packaged in a giant foot tall hollow Batman. I’m really intrigued by the idea of making the game packaging into a display piece. Not only does it look rad on the shelf, but it ensures that it’ll be sitting out in view instead of ending up being stacked in a dusty closet, sandwiched between old hand-me-down copies of Monopoly and Clue. It’s sort of like bringing the idea of those old Darth Vader action figure carrying cases to the world of board games.
So what about the game itself? Well, I got the chance to sit down and do some play testing with my BFF Jaime Hood during a trip to the beach this past Labor day. We cracked open the packaging (i.e. ripped off Batman’s head) to get at the game pieces inside. The set up is pretty simple and consists of a game board, two vinyl character figures (Batman and the Joker, but I noticed that expansion packs are planned for a later release), 4 battle dice, some combat cards (including 4 character specific cards for both Batman and the Joker and 8 community mystery cards), and a handful of power-up coins. The general idea is taking turns attacking and defending. Each player starts with 10 life, and whoever can dish out 10 points of damage the quickest wins.
Though each character has their own specific hand of cards (that they can play after they’ve collected 3 power up coins), the function of the cards is identical for each player consisting of two attack and two defense cards. The only difference is in the theming. The game is designed to be quick and relatively balanced, so it’s more akin to tic tac toe than chess, but there is an element of strategy in when to utilize the limited character attack and defense cards. The wording of some of the cards and rules could be a little more clear, as there where points concerning when one could and couldn’t defend against damage that were a bit murky, but overall it’s pretty easy to pick up and play.
With all of the pop culture properties that Funko is currently licensing I’m really curious to see if there are more editions of the board game on the horizon. I’d love to see a General Mills Monster Cereal edition packaged in a giant Franken Berry or better yet, a Gremlins edition complete with a little Gizmo and Stripe packaged in a giant Mogwai.
Also, as far as the play-testing went, and for the record, Jaime slaughtered me both times we threw down.