Freedom Five is a mash-up between the comic book superheroes from the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game and the Defenders of the Realm board game. But rather than just be a superhero Defenders skin, it includes an awesome array of thematic elements that really add depth beyond the base mechanics. This depth isn't a surprise when you look at the design team of Richard Launius and the Sadler brothers, who between them have Defenders of the Realm, Arkham Horror, Descent, X-Wing, and Warhammer Quest the Adventure Card Game on their credits.
In this article, we're going to look at a Freedom Five prototype, so the components and rules could vary from the Kickstarter delivered product and the retail released version later on. It also doesn't have all the Kickstarter unlocked features, but the core experience will remain the same.
When first setting up Freedom Five, it feels like there's an insane amount going on, and even during gameplay, it can feel overwhelming in terms of trying to get everything under control, but that's all part of the deal when you're a superhero trying to look after an entire city, whilst maintaining your secret identity, and that's exactly what Freedom Five puts across.
Freedom Five is a cooperative board game for 1 to 5 players, where each player takes on one of the superheroes. More heroes will be available in the released editions, but our prototype included:
- Legacy - The Alpha hero. Legacy is great at getting things done. Along with some great ability cards to modify dice rolls, move anywhere on the map (and take another hero with them), Legacy also rolls a bonus wild dice with every roll to assist with getting any task achieved.
- Bunker - The armored suit hero. Bunker has some great ability cards that are good for clearing out multiple henchmen from city areas, along with being very resistant to damage.
- Tachyon - Speedster. Tachyon is fast, with the highest base movement out of the 5 heroes and with ability cards that let them move anywhere, and take out all henchmen when they get there.
- Absolute Zero - Tech suit freezer. Lots of support abilities like stopping nearby allies from taking damage, freezing the incoming supply of henchmen, and some consistent henchmen removal.
- Wraith - Stealthy ninja. Wraith doesn't take damage from henchmen, is able to attack from range to adjacent locations, and can rescue hostages without needing to take out the henchmen there first.
The core of Freedom Five sees the heroes moving through a comic book of scenarios, with developing rules as certain conditions are met. The scenario we played through, Bad Moon Falling, sees the Mastermind Baron Blade trying to bring the moon out of its orbit with the help of 3 villains. All of the action occurs on a city map, that fills with henchmen who stop you from achieving objectives. The henchmen are colored meeples, that coordinate with the 4 stat characteristics of the heroes. Green for Mind, Red for Body, Blue for Spirit, and Yellow for Tech. There are also color-coordinated dice. To take out henchmen, players need to roll above the number listed on their stat card, so if Legacy was trying to take out red henchmen. they would need to roll 3 or more. When you attack henchmen at a location, you roll a dice for each henchman there, so there is a chance of taking them all out in one go, but generally, it will take a few actions.
Each hero gets 5 actions per turn, and these can be used to move around the city and interact with tokens there, once the henchmen have been dealt with. There are several different types of tokens that players can interact with. Bystanders, who can be rescued when the location is safe, and provide a unique benefit. Anarchy tokens offer a challenge and a reward or penalty for success or failure and Mastermind tokens, which have unique challenges depending on the scenario.
All of these things need to be dealt with over the course of the game, and each turn more henchmen will appear, villains and masterminds will move and your hero's private life will start to intervene. The private lives make themselves felt by making you complete tasks, which if they aren't completed, take up space on your character's board and restrict you from placing and using Special and Justice cards, which can be earned and give benefits. If too many personal tasks build-up, then it has an in-game effect on the evil plan of the mastermind, and their schemes come to fruition quicker. During the turn, players can spend time in their Private Life, getting unique benefits depending on their character's resources and access, and completing personal tasks. If they end the turn in their private life, they won't be attacked by henchmen, but they also aren't able to help other heroes with team-up attacks and abilities.
Games of Freedom Five are all about this balance. Keeping on top of everything, while slowly chipping away at the Mastermind's plan. The scenario, detailed and illustrated in the comic book is an awesome element and really drives home the narrative. The switch between private life and full hero is also incredibly thematic and adds great depth well beyond the mechanics of it. There will be scaling difficulties in the full Freedom Five release, but the version we played, did feel challenging and overwhelming as a single-player game. Every hero has a weakness stat, that makes it difficult to deal with large numbers of henchmen of those types. It's really noticeable playing solo and emphasizes the need for cooperation and teamwork. Each character also has a unique playstyle, which really helps with the immersion.
Freedom Five feels incredibly thematic, and while the elements of Defenders of the Realm are obvious, it really makes it its own, driving home cooperation, and the difficulties of balancing a superhero lifestyle with an alter ego.
The copy of Freedom Five used to produce this preview was provided by Arcane Wonders.