[Editor’s Note: This review is based on a prototype copy and does not reflect the gameplay experience of the finished game that players will receive.]
Fans of The Umbrella Academy, written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá and later adapted for Netflix, have the chance to bring this incredible world into their own home with the new Umbrella Academy tabletop card game from Studio 71 Games and Dark Horse Comics. Currently in the Kickstarter phase (through midnight on Saturday, September 5), The Umbrella Academy game is an expansive, intricate, thrilling card game that will quickly reel you in with its well-crafted gameplay. But, players beware: This is not a game for players who are new to or unfamiliar with The Umbrella Academy story, or have a limited amount of experience with strategy or cooperative card gameplay.
Studio 71 Games was generous in sending over a prototype copy of the Umbrella Academy game for me to dig into and review after covering the initial announcement for the game back in July. As a fan of the comics and the Netflix series, it was a no-brainer to want to check out the game and see what it was all about after watching the trailer breaking down all aspects of the game. When the game did arrive, there wasn’t much packaging to go off of; the cards and prototype rule sheet had been rubber-banded together and stuffed into a mailing envelope. However! Nothing could dampen my mood because I only had to wait a few weeks to get my hands on this game.
One of the best qualities of the Umbrella Academy game is one you notice as you unbox (or unpack, in my case). The game contains 199 cards for the variety of gameplay functions, including the Player Deck, Villain Deck, Hero Attack Deck, and the Dysfunctional Family Deck. The cards all have a nice weight and substance to them. There is nothing flimsy about this set and, considering the Standard Game starts at $25 (Deluxe Edition is $45 and Collector’s Edition is $75), you would hope you’re getting a game which looks and feels like the value of what you paid. This is absolutely the case here.
Similarly, the artwork for all of the cards is stunning. A majority of the cards incorporate Bá’s artwork, making this a fun bonus for fans of the comics. You may want to spend some time actually looking at the cards before you play the game because it’s that much fun to go through and see the details of each card. Details from the comics have been turned into story cards and dysfunctional family cards, which only speaks to the level of care and consideration gone into crafting a fun, all-consuming gameplay experience. I’ve included close-ups of a variety of cards below so you can see what I mean. Seriously, this is a good-looking game.
When it comes to actual gameplay, things get a little more uncertain. The Umbrella Academy game trailer notes gameplay takes around 20 minutes per session, but this is most likely the estimate for someone opting to do solo play — something the game is well-equipped for and especially useful if you want to get a feel for the game’s rhythms. This is a card game based on strategy after all, so I would recommend you spend a few rounds playing solo so you can become more nimble with the variety of offensive and defensive moves in every round. I chose to do this before playing with a few friends and it was a boon to my subsequent gameplay experience and my appreciation for the game.
Things went awry when I played with two friends, who had varying levels of experience with tabletop card games. Learning and understanding the rules is not for the faint of heart on this one. One session for three players took us around 50 minutes, with a notable chunk of that time spent re-consulting the rules to make sure we were making the right moves and working together in the most advantageous way. Because the Umbrella Academy game is based on players working together — much like the Umbrella Academy characters we love learning to come together in order to defeat a common enemy — there was a learning curve in figuring out how to best weave together the skills of each character with each attack card, dysfunction card, or story card we pulled.
Ultimately, The Umbrella Academy card game is one for fans with a knowledge of the canon of this world who have some experience with strategy games of this nature or have a strong willingness and patience to learn how to master this game. For me, a fan who has always wondered what it would be like to play as The Séance or The White Violin or The Kraken, doling out attack hits and immersing myself in the Umbrella Academy story, this game was a real delight to sink into. It’s clear Studio 71 Games has put in the time and effort necessary to construct a fulfilling game and gameplay experience for players — and that is definitely evident in the product I was sent to play through. If you’re thinking about donating to this Kickstarter and digging into this game, I would say it’s well worth it.
Fundraising for The Umbrella Academy card game ends on September 5th. Check out the campaign trailer as well as shots of the game prototype below. You can learn more about The Umbrella Academy card game on the official Kickstarter.
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.