Wonder Woman has always been an fascinating character. Her creator was an interesting figure for the 1940s, being part of a polyamorous relationship that greatly influenced the character's creation. Another major influence for Wonder Woman were early feminists and women's rights activists, which might explain why Wonder Woman is often seen as a symbol of female empowerment. If there's one game that sounds like it fits the character, then it's Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Amazons, a game about powerful women laying wastes to hordes of men. Sort of.
The above simple description is probably a little unfair. While the main gist of Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Amazons is a group of powerful women doing battle, 2 out of 3 of their opponents are female, and one of them is a cheetah-person at that. What Challenge Of The Amazons actually is, is a deeply strategic battle game that tasks players with working together or being overwhelmed by a mountain of enemies who vastly outnumber the powerful defenders in most cases.
In Challenge of the Amazons, you and the other players each take control of one Amazon. Working together to plan an effective strategy, you have to repel enemy forces before achieving their goal. Each enemy force has a different leader you must defeat and a different goal they're trying to achieve. In most cases, the goal is to destroy Themyscira, the Amazons' home. Using your fellow warriors, special relics, and your own personal powers, you must protect your homeland from the foreign invaders that threaten it.
There's a strong emphasis on strategy in Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Amazons, so much so that one of the game's 5 phases is named the 'Strategize' phase. As I said above, you're typically facing a much greater number of foes than the allies you have on your side. Even if you're considerably more powerful than the enemies you face, you can't be in more than one place at once. So the real challenge here is coming up with a good plan with your teammates to try and tackle defending every inch of the board.
The game is split into rounds, each of which has 5 phases; start of round, strategize together, battle begins, take actions, and end of round. First, enemies act according to a specialized deck that dictates their behavior. Then the players formulate their strategy using their own cards before carrying out their actions and cleaning up the board for the next round. Overall, this gameplay structure is simple to understand and easy to teach to new players, making the game flow very well in almost every single phase. The only phase that might be different is 'strategize together,' which tends to hold things up a bit.
Because the emphasis of Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is on teamwork and strategy, the strategize phase is arguably the most important. During this phase, each player is dealt several face-up and face-down cards. Then, every player must discuss what needs to be done without looking at the face-down cards. These cards dictate which actions can be taken, so you're basically playing with minimal knowledge of what you can do when the time comes. This is what makes the game, so fun and interesting to play.
Once you and your team have a plan, you move onto the 'battle begins' phase. During this phase, you're no longer allowed to discuss strategy with other players at all, so if you've pulled a card that you think could give your team an advantage, you have to decide whether to go against the vision of the team and strike out on your own or to follow the synergistic approach and go with what you all discussed. It adds another strategic layer to the gameplay, as you never know what you or the other players might find once they pick up those action cards.
Another interesting element to Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is that you have a limited number of action slots, and the order you do things matters. There are 3 slots for you to take action, and they must be taken in that order. Some cards have bonus effects depending on which slot you place the action in, and some become more powerful if placed in the same slot as another player with the same card. That's why coming up with a team plan is important and why deviating from an established plan can be a risky venture.
The game is also a fair bit of a challenge. Don't expect to be winning on your first attempt unless you're either supremely lucky or some master tactician. It's hard to juggle the need to keep your defense from falling with your need to meet the win conditions, especially as your enemy bounces around the map each turn and, in most cases, produces more and more followers that you need to deal with. If you want to pull off a victory, you have to learn all of the character's strengths and develop some truly stunning tactical plans.
If I had to make a complaint about Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons, it'd that it doesn't always feel balanced. There are options in the game for increasing the difficulty, but none for reducing it. That's fine if you're into a challenge, but if you want a slightly more relaxed Wonder Woman experience, then you might feel a bit left out. It also seems like the game is much harder for 2 players.
The more players you have, the more actions the enemy takes, but even with 3 players, you still have 3 different points on the map to defend from. Trying to juggle defense with only 2 of you is a tough nut to crack. You might still pull off a win, but don't be too shocked if the game's difficulty feels drastically reduced with more players on hand. At 5 players, it almost feels mandatory to increase the enemy's health to give them a fighting chance, especially since then you have 5 different special abilities to help you out in various situations.
The artwork on Challenge of the Amazons is pretty top-notch and brings a definitive style to the game. It's not like the art you'll find in current Wonder Woman comics, but it's also evident who the characters are. There's also a pleasant marbling effecting on the background of the box and back of the board that fits well with the idea of this being a Grecian legend.
There's a lot to like about Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons regarding physical construction. The board and cards are all well printed on decent stock, and the board featuring a giant piece of art of Wonder Woman herself was a steller choice. The figures are also very well detailed and have a bronze statue-esque appearance that means painting them is not only necessary but will probably make them actively worse looking. The only negative point about the game's construction is that one of the figurines arrived with an arm broken off, and I have been unable to reattach it even with modeling glue successfully.
The Bottom Line:
Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is a wonderful, tactical co-operative battle game that blends deep strategy with playing the odds. There are very few negative points that might worsen the game's experience, and those that do exist can easily be played around. With some truly brilliant artistic choices made by the team behind the game, it might be one of the better-looking games on the tabletop that we've seen in a while. If you're even vaguely a fan of the characters or just of strategy-heavy games, then you'll enjoy the hell out of this one. Just don't come crying to me when Ares beats you up and steals your lunch money.
Get this game if:
- You love Wonder Woman characters.
- You want some fancy-looking bronzed miniatures.
- You enjoy games that rely on strategy.
- You enjoy exclusively co-operative games.
- You really enjoy a challenge.
Avoid this game if:
- You prefer action to planning.
- You want a game that's better with only 2 players.
- You prefer a game to go easy on you.
- You're an MRA.
The copy of Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Amazons uesd to produce this review was provided by the publisher.