So appropriate a meld of game and license: styling a card game after a school whose students would likely be playing that game themselves. One could expect the capes-in-training of My Heroes Academia‘s U.H. High to only ever break from their “quirky” studies to fight the League of Villains. Remembering how the day-to-day of a private school actually shakes out, though, makes it easy (and fun) to picture young Izuku Midoriya and his classmates still having plenty of downtime on campus. What more likely way to pass that time than with collectible cards comparing all the big names these would-be’s look up to?
Any otaku who likes shonen anime knows how crucial–nay, essential–stats are to the genre. And many an otaku has also struggled to explain the basics of anime to friends and family. It’s in these two areas that MHA: the Card Game earns highest marks.
Using one stone to drop several birds, I took some of my own downtime and enlisted three of my nieces to help try the game out. Aged 15, 10 and 8, their participation let me test a few labels on the box as if conducting an actual focus group. We got the “Up to Four Players” experience and also tested out whether this truly was suitable for “Ages 8 & Up.”
None of the girls had watched, nor ever heard of, MHA prior to this, but that didn’t prove a hindrance. One read of the rulebook set the premise out clearly in the words of All Might, and the notion of Izuku being the one regular Joe in a whole roster of supers was then clearly conveyed by art and game design. Such clarity may seem a small feat. Again, though, recalling all the times I’ve tried to introduce anime to anybody made me feel such relief that we could get rolling fast, and with everybody on level in this world. Clarity and accessibility should not be under-appreciated.
That said, the 8-year-old’s vexation with the game’s plethora of rules and stipulations went to show that the suggested minimum age may be a touch overambitious. Actually, the teen, other tween and grown-up (being me) all felt a little overwhelmed–less by the number of rules, per se, than by how many of them didn’t actually factor into our session.
The conceit-in-the-cards is that players are Recruiters, assembling a team of Students each round, with varying aptitudes that can come into play during a Mission. Action cards affect draws, allowing players to be real nasty if they want to block competitors’ recruitment picks, for example. After the table is swept of Students, another roster is drawn out and, once that’s swept in turn, whoever accumulated the most Popularity Points wins. Much of the intrigue lies in the particular Effects on each card (often reflective of a student’s signature Quirk), which play with Recruiter’s access to the student body, turn order, point tally, and so on.
A single session didn’t call for enough sweeps to cover everything we read in the instructions, however. Perhaps that’s to keep surprises hanging for replay value. Go until a winner’s found enough times and, eventually, every stipulation will come into play. Gather a quartet around the table once like we did, though, and wonder why so much jargon was detailed and wasn’t brought to bear. By comparison, every aspect of Dragon Ball Z: Perfect Cell applied to my one play-through, so the difference in shonen gaming sticks out more. Chekov asking you to eye a whole rack of guns–and mark respective calibers, ammo capacities and rates of fire–only for half to actually be shot off by the end of the evening’s show.
On a smaller level, there didn’t seem to be an appreciable difference in how Strength, Intelligence and Speed stats applied to battles. Figuring out whether the sum of these stats was enough to win a Mission was all that mattered, so maybe it’d be simpler to just have one style of pointage per student. Then again, that’d take away from the collectible cards theme, and there are plenty of recited stats in shonen which don’t actually affect the plot. So, an extra step of busyness is probably essential to capturing MHA.
If the sum of the stats matters more than the stats themselves, than one question is relevant above all in a review like this, as well. “Did we have fun?” Yes, playing this with the kids was one of the fonder moments of the break. We may have squinted to keep track of all the rules All Might listed, but none of that confusion ever held up gameplay, which always went fast and smoothly, with a clear sense of who was winning, and what needed to be done to win. Shinobi’s done a class act job distilling everything signature to this epic anime into a few packs, and the usage of art from the series is well-crafted.
As I harped on, these cards seem exactly like the kind of profiles Izuku would be accessing over in his journey to All Might’s level. If you’re a fan of My Hero Academia (and despite the accessibility, I doubt you’ll be seeking this out if you aren’t), you’ll find everything that’s charmed you about the series here in this box.
If you were recruiting your own super team from U.H. High’s student body, which heroes would fill out your roster? Embrace your quirks and fly freely in the comments!
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