App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Digital board games are relatively commonplace on the App Store, but most of these are usually ports of exising tabletop games. Antihero is not like these other games though. Instead, it’s a multiplayer board game about thieving and skullduggery that was built from the ground up on mobile. This makes for a game that can take really deep systems and make them seem extremely accessible, but it also results in a game that isn’t quite as sleek as it looks.
Bandit board game
Antihero pits you against another player on the streets of a Victorian-era underworld where you play as rival master thieves fighting for supremacy of an area. This involves recruiting Street Urchins to infiltrate local establishments, having gangs cause havoc in the streets, and even some good old fashioned burgling.
The object in any given game of Antihero is—in typical board game fashion—to earn a set number of victory points before your opponent does. The way you can do this varies. You can complete assassination contracts by killing designated targets that appear on the streets, infiltrate churches to earn blackmail victory points, deliver bribes, and more. At any given point in Antihero, you may be pursuing many different objectives at once, but so might your opponent, which makes this a game about trying to achieve your own goals while also working to subvert the efforts of your opposition.
Although there is a ton of cool-sounding thief stuff to do in Antihero, a lot of it plays out like a relatively standard board game. Each player takes control of a master thief and takes turns in the attempt to get ever closer to a win state. To do so, they need to choose what their master thief will do in a given turn given a limited amount of actions. Most of these actions involve exploring more of the map (which starts shrouded in fog), or burglarizing houses to earn currency for additional units and upgrades.
As a match of Antihero advances, so do the capabilities of your master thief. As you accumulate currencies through burgling, you can buy units to help you perform more actions per turn or even unlock new abilities through an in-game upgrade tree. Earning these upgrades and buying these units allows you to create your own little thieves’ guild, which you’ll then want to use to complete objectives or disrupt your opponent.
Stealing your time
Perhaps the coolest thing about Antihero is watching your power, capabilities, and influence grow over the course of a game, but it’s also part of the reason the game can be kind of frustrating. Because of the game’s progression systems, matches of Antihero can get really long-winded rather quickly. Thankfully, games of Antihero don’t have to be completed all at once, as there is an asynchronous multiplayer mode available.
Long-ish match times aren’t a huge issue, but it’s an issue that’s made worse by the fact that games of Antihero can be decided rather early and quickly. A few smart moves in the early stages of a game can set a player up for victory, but getting there can still take a really long time. On the flip side, players fighting a losing fight can also expect to suffer through a long and painful defeat.
The bottom line
If you have the patience for Antihero, it can be a really rewarding experience. It’s a digital board game that provides a bunch of depth, and it also happens to look and feel pretty polished. The only real problem though is that game times can get really long, even when the results feel all but decided. This can make the game feel ill-suited for mobile, even though it is otherwise looks and feels immaculately made for it.