I Heard A Rumor This Sucked – Umbrella Academy

In August of 2020 my Facebook targeted ads were chock full of colourful pictures of The Umbrella Academy game. As I’d just finished binging through season 2 of the Netfilx show, I’ll admit, I was interested. Something about the actual Kickstarter page failed to wow me though. As such, I was happy to let this one slide, safe in the conviction that if it turned out to be great, it would undoubtedly end up on the shelf of my local game store.

However, moments before the end of the campaign, my fiancée (a big fan of the comic books) told me she’d backed it. Hurrumble, I had no need to risk it myself, we would have a copy to play together anyway.

Now, as I didn’t back the game, I wasn’t getting the updates. I wasn’t aware that two weeks after the Kickstarter ended – after playtesters politely rinsed the designers on their shoddy cash grab – that the rules were overhauled. For that matter, I wasn’t aware of the update until after we’d played through the game twice and been utterly disappointed by its pedestrian nature.

Hang on, I got ahead of myself.

The Umbrella Academy Game is a co-operative, simple maths card game for 1-6 players, and features art from the comic book series by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá. Players pick their preferred character from the dysfunctional superhero family, grab a life counter card, place a number of villains depending on player count, and draw a hand of cards from the hero attack deck. Once the board is set, flip the first villain over and lay out the number of villain attack cards shown.

Villain attack cards show an attack value (health), an amount of damage it deals if left unchecked, and some lovely artwork. If you’ve got the deluxe version of the game, you’ll have an entirely unnecessary board to put all these things on, with spaces that are labeled, but smaller than the cards that go on them, and not big enough to fit the number of attack cards for most villains you will encounter (which seems a weird design choice).

The hero attack cards in your hand are basically the same, but they replace the damage score with a heal value. The goal is to take turns placing cards from your hand so that your total attack beats the attack value of the villain attack. You have to fight each opponent left to right and if you get to the end of the round and haven’t beaten all of the villain’s attacks, you’ll have one chance to use your character’s unique powers. If that still doesn’t finish them off, you’ll have to divide up any damage amongst the players as you all see fit (rest assured, the first person to lose all their health and be out of the game is the real winner here).

On your turn you can choose to delay the sweet release of death, if you play a card for it’s heal value instead of it’s attack. However, bear in mind that at the end of this round, that attack is going to have to be dealt with so that heal better be worth it.

With the round over and damage divided, the villain retreats and the next one steps up. Time to draw some cards and see who’s next. Once all the villains have shown themselves and had a chance to chip away at your meager health, flip over villain deck and fight them all in one glorious boss rush round. Did I say glorious, I mean tedious and horribly unbalanced. In this final round, enemies will hit harder and need higher numbers to defeat, but gameplay is pretty much the same.

One thing I didn’t mention was dysfunctional family cards. These are flipped at the beginning of each round and attempt to add a little spice to the game. These may stop players from discussing their cards during the round, make a number bigger, or your health smaller. Many have the same effect, but with different art and card names. Either way not terribly exciting except when they end up killing a player who was just clinging on up until then.

The last thing to mention here is story cards. These are in the hero attack deck and also feature an attack value. However, rather than healing they offer bonuses such as boosting another card’s power at the cost of a life bar, restoring someone’s health to full, or letting you use your hero power twice.

Now it didn’t help that the original rule book is poorly written. It definitely didn’t help that some of the play guides you’ll find on YouTube seem to have completely misunderstood the rules, but worse than any of this: they rewrote the rules before the game was even delivered. Rather than doing the decent thing by their supporters and holding the game back while they printed new manuals and got them added to the box, or even just offering to post them out separately, they made them available as a download, which apparently a lot of people didn’t even realise.

The new rules do help balance the difficulty at different player counts and add a block function to combat (match rather than beat an attack to take half damage, but still clear the attack at the end of the round). Also rather than facing all of the villains you encountered during your game, you only face one at random and they use all the villain attack cards which you failed to overcome previously. Unfortunately this doesn’t save the game, it just makes it a little easier to swallow.

It’s incredible to me that the game was so untested that they didn’t seem to know how bland it was until two weeks after the Kickstarter campaign ended, by which time it was apparently too late to fix and had to fit within the already printed card designs. It’s a real shame as Umbrella Academy is a fascinating universe, it just wasn’t treated at all well by the designer. As it stands the greatest enjoyment I get from this game is asking my fiancée about all the different villains (my favourite is Zombie Robot Gustave Eiffel) though I think we’d both have got more enjoyment out of buying our own copies of the comic books instead of investing in this absolute travesty.


  • Nice, clean art style
  • Starts conversations about better Umbrella Academy media.
  • Didn’t start the apocalypse


  • Bland
  • Boring
  • Deluxe edition includes an unnecessary board that isn’t fit for purpose and 8 tokens that aren’t required for any aspect of play

Final Score: 2/10

Pixel Hunting – Streets of Steel

The year is probably 20XX, crime is a thing, for some reason there’s a big push to make some joke about the PTA. This is Final Streets of Rage Fight… I’m sorry, I’m just being informed, this is Streets of Steel – Kickin’ Asphalt and not any combination of beloved, nineties beat-em-ups.

Streets of Steel is a game for 3-4 players (despite the box saying 1-4. We’ll come back to that) that takes an awesome 16-bit art style and a modular board, designed to scroll along as you move through the level. As you progress, you face off against various enemies, roll dice to fight them and work your way to the end of level boss.

SoS was funded on Kickstarter in June 2018. It was one of those games that got so delayed that the comment section on their KS page was full of angry internet people saying “we’ll never see the game”, or suggesting it was all a scam on the part of Wild Power Games. It certainly didn’t help that the company stopped using their twitter account and took far too long to update backers.

However, the fact I now hold my copy shows that all the negative theories were incorrect. It’s here, woo. Let me put this down though, it’s hard to type while holding this vastly oversized box.

Why is the box so big? Well, they did the Kickstarter thing of designing a really cool game and then immediately going “it must have minis”. We must overcomplicate our design and massively increase the number of risks in producing the game.

Minis!? In a game that seems entirely based around it’s 16-bit art style? Do they at least have some kind of pixel art style, like that 8-bit Mario amiibo? No, they don’t. Honestly, they look totally at odds with the rest of the game. It was a poor choice, but one that does explain why the box is so big (and mostly empty if you went with the purely pixels version). They only designed one box. Naturally. It would have cost more to make different boxes for both versions.

To set up the game, players select their characters (If you’re playing in one or two player mode, you’ll be playing three or two characters respectively. This is why I mentioned earlier that the game isn’t nearly as well scaled as they suggest on the box. Two players is ok, but still, it proves that at least three characters need to be involved) from the four available (I believe that Telekinetikid is a KS exclusive so I won’t go into them here). You’ve got Average Joe, who’s basically Axel from Streets of Rage; Candy Connor, she’s got inline skates; Mayor Van Dammage, basically black Haggar from Final Fight; and Kiki… she kicks (geddit?)

Each player has a set maximum health, two special abilities, a set amount of movement, and specific style of attack. Specials are triggered by using Wild Power tokens, which you gain by taunting or defeating enemies. Normal attacks are performed by rolling the number and type of dice on your character’s board. For example Kiki, uses all four kick dice. These have a chance of doing one or two damage to an enemy. Beat the enemy armour level and you defeat them.

Because of her dice, Kiki is the most likely to score a victory blow on any enemy, and the Mayor is the most likely to fail (because he only rolls the four punch dice have a maximum of one damage and a minimum of zero). Despite their specials, some characters are just better than others.

The board setup is probably the most clever part of this game’s design. You start by taking the boss section and putting it face down, to start your street stack. You then pick out four of the five yellow street sections and pile them face down on top of the boss section. Lastly, put three of the four green tiles and place them face up, on the table to form your starting street layout.

Some sections of the street will feature a number from 1-3 and this will tell you what type of enemy to put on that section. If any of the tiles feature an item icon, add an item token to that spot.

As the game progresses, you imagine that flashing sign saying “GO” with a big arrow and the board scrolls along. Players and enemies in the far left section of board are killed (though players can spend a quarter to get back in the game, with a couple of i-frames). A new tile is added to the right side and appropriately populated with stuff. It’s a wonderful mechanic and perfect for the style they were going for.

Once a character has used all their actions for the turn, a card from the baddie behaviour deck is flipped. This will include instructions for how a type of enemy is to move and/or attack, if there’s none of that type of enemy, it’s likely you’ll just draw another card (though sometimes you’ll get lucky and have less game to play, because it didn’t instruct you to redraw).

Eventually, you’ll all die of boredom, or you’ll get to the final boss. At this stage you swap out the behaviour deck for a different, boss behaviour deck, which follows the same rules, but will include instructions for both the boss and standard enemies.

The boss has a number of hit points, and when you finally roll luckily enough to have picked them all off, the game will be over and you can get on with your life. I’m being cruel, but honestly, every time I finish a playthrough of this it feels anticlimactic and sort of like “yes, we have done that now. Time to clear up this attractively designed pixel art mess and never speak of it again (except in a review, but probably not after that)”.

Oh, I didn’t even mention the rules. They’re badly written and confusing. I had to ask in the KS comments section for a clarification on if a certain type of card meant that an enemy could attack under (pretty common) conditions. Honestly, the answer didn’t ultimately matter, if your play group (don’t punish anyone by making them play this) is willing to just say “I read it this way let’s say it always means that” that’s fine, it only makes the game a tiny bit harder.

And another thing (old woman ranting at board game now, I guess), you can buy multiple base games and combine them (there’s also Streets of Steel – Rush ‘n Scare (geddit, because it’s typical 90’s “red scare” crap, with problematic content in it)). Just pick which boss creature, which level 1, 2, and 3 baddies from your base games you’ll be mixing in and you can make a whole new… oh, wait, it’s basically the same thing but reskinned.

Right, I’m done thinking about this year-late disappointment. Here’s the wrap up.

Streets of Steel was a brilliant idea that just isn’t well executed. Wild Power Games massively over-extended themselves with the minis and probably should have spent more time on the actual game design, because it’s pretty tedious to play more than once.


  • Great art.
  • Rolling street tile boards is a great idea.
  • Card stock feels very nice quality, especially for board tiles.


  • Even with the ability to re-roll dice, combat is far too much a game of limited chance for some characters.
  • Unless you have the optional minis, the box is mostly empty space.
  • Winning is the least fun part of the game.

Final Score: 4/10