Batman The Animated Series Rogues Gallery Review
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
It's been said, "Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman." What could possibly be better than being the caped crusader himself? Being the man who takes down the Bat, of course! That's the spirit behind Rogues Gallery from IDW Games. They were kind enough to send me a copy of this fast paced, competitive game of dice allocation. Being a huge fan of the classic animated series from the early 90s, I was incredibly excited to see how IDW brought this property to life.
In this game, 3-5 players will take on the role of one of Batman's most formidable foes by choosing from the likes of the Penguin, Harley Quinn, Two-Face and of course, the clown prince of crime himself the Joker. You'll gallivant across Gotham on a crime spree with the nefarious goal of drawing the world's greatest detective into your trap. To win, you must compete against your felonious fellows, pushing your luck to be the first player to defeat the Batman.
Each turn you start with a pool of dice.
Chuck the dice and start pushing your luck against the first hero who comes your way.
Choose dice from your pool in order to defeat them. You will be able to use accomplices and items to cause mayhem with the bat signal, steal from fellow players and affect dice outcome.
But beware that every time you discard those accomplices to accomplish your dastardly deeds, you make your fellow baddies aware of their talent and have to hand them over so the player on your right gets to use them next round.
You can choose to continue pushing your luck by drawing another hero or you can choose to end your crime spree. If you are defeated by a hero, (meaning you don't have the correct dice available to fill the slots on the hero card), you are arrested, all those schemes you earned by overpowering heroes slip through your fingers and your turn ends.
After each hero you take down, the shrill screams from the street of Gothman send out a cry of help causing the Bat-Signal to shine brighter and higher against the polluted dark clouds above the city. So build up your henchmen and fancy devices, grow your power by adding dice to your pool so that once you come face to face with the Batman, he won't stand a chance.
Once you choose to end your spree, schemes are awarded for the heroes you defeated. Schemes are the currency used to recruit accomplices and upgrade abilities so you'll have to weigh the risk of gaining more and the possibility of arrest. If you don't get nabbed, you can buy upgrades and accomplices from the bank on the table.
However, if the heroes do manage to bring your crime spree to an end, you'll get locked up in Arkham Asylum with nothing but a couple of schemes, a lucky coin (allows you to re-roll or get another scheme) and a random accomplice to keep you company. But as we all know, incarceration never lasts in Gotham and after inevitable escape, you'll be back on the streets in time for your next turn.
The Bottom Line
Let me just come right out and say this: if you love Batman the Animated Series, you will love the artwork in the game. Faithful recreations of the art style from the series abound on all the cards and design in this game. The powers and abilities given to the villains, accomplices, heros and upgrades mostly tie back to the theme which keeps the game firmly rooted in the universe it's based on. If the theme appeals to you and you like games of chance and push-your-luck dice allocation, you will likely have a great deal of fun with this.
After you have some upgrades to your character and accomplices in your hand, there will be lots of interesting and exciting ways to play the odds, eliminate heroes, steal schemes from other players and manipulate the dice. This presents exciting even if simple challenges to overcome every round. Even if you get busted, being arrested is not a major set back encouraging you to push yourself to the edge on your next turn.
At it's core this is a delightful, quick playing game that has great thematic ties to it's source material. My biggest complaint though would be the rulebook. While the rules are concise and well written, they left out several clarifications on what happens between phases and how to implement the abilities on certain cards. I found my first play to be rather frustrating as I would come across cards and not know how to apply their effects. But the biggest question I had was "does the Bat-Signal reset to zero after each players turn." The answer is "yes," but I had to root around for this BGG thread to find that out.
That being said, the game play can have an unbalanced feel depending on which villains are in play. Joker's ability to use any other players upgrade as if it were his own can feel like a crazy strong ability. The more players there are, the more upgrades are available, basically making the Joker able to use any ability all the other players have. The Riddler could feel similarly over powered depending on who you ask. He can name a hero and defeat that hero the first time they appear on his turn. So if the Riddler says "Robin" and he fights the Batman card that has Robin on it, he will automatically win the game. Defeating Batman with a single word is undoubtedly thematic but some might not like how anticlimactic that game would feel. They did try to compensate for there abilities by only allowing villains to keep a certain number of accomplices and upgrades each round but I didn't find this to make a big enough difference.
One of the things that makes this light-weight game of dice chucking so enjoyable is how fast you can consolidate your power as a villain gaining dice, re-rolls and flexibility to adapt to the heroes you have to fight. So if you feel weak and behind the other villains in the beginning, it won't last long. This game plays quickly and will typically be over in 5-6 rounds, keeping it's play time under 45 minutes regardless of the player count. So if you happen to be rolling poorly, the game is mercifully fast. Even if you are continually getting arrested, you are still getting accomplices, schemes and lucky coins to help you out. This along with the fact that you will receive new accomplices from the person sitting next to you each turn, always keeps you within striking distance of being the villain who will land the final blow on Batman.
Play is quick and easy to teach
Highly tied to theme of Batman, (Powers and abilities and the look of the game)
Artwork is gorgeous
Easy to read the iconography
Components (like the player boards and cardboard tokens) are well made
Rules should be more clear or include a frequently asked questions page
Villain abilities could be more balanced
Typos on a few of the cards