A lot of strategy games focus on building empires, cities, or corporations, and most take quite a bit of time to get into in terms of learning how to play and getting success. Then you have Antihero, which is the antithesis of all of that, with the sole aim being to create a successful thieves guild that can succeed at completing various objectives in fast paced turn-based matches.
Set in Victorian times, Antihero takes you from the wharf to the royal palace. You begin a game with your Master Thief, of which there is quite a number to choose from, though they are only there for cosmetic purposes. The Master Thief is your guild’s main character and they can scout out areas to uncover points and targets of interest. These points of interest include things like churches, estates, banks, industry, and pubs.
Each of location gives different bonuses. For example, banks will generate coins while the industrial buildings will generate lanterns, with both items acting as currency in the game. However it isn’t the Master Thief that holds the loot generating buildings, but the Urchins. Urchins are just one of six additional units you can control that are used to gain the upper hand in a match.
Other units include Thugs that can block off routes, Gangs that can harm rival units, the Truant Officer that ejects all Urchins from a building, the Saboteur that lays traps on buildings to thwart opponents, and the Assassin that can instantly kill an enemy. Each of these units cost coins and some can only be used once before you have buy them again, like the truant officer and assassin. While you can generate coins from captured buildings, the Master Thief can get additional ones by robbing regular buildings on the map too. Lanterns are used to purchase upgrades which can make characters more deadly, gain extra abilities or yield more coins.
When it comes to matches, there are a number of different objectives to turn your hand to and win. Theft isn’t the only thing the thieves guild dabbles in and assassination contracts will pop up in the form of a character on the board. If you kill that character, then you earn a point towards winning. Along with assassination, there’s bribery, but theft is always the main draw. On top of these regular objectives, some maps have additional objectives that need completing, like stealing cargo from a ship that can depart at any time, or infiltrating a palace to take the crown jewels.
The thing is that an objective won can also be an objective lost. Bribery for example requires three urchins to infiltrate a church. When you do that you get a bribery point, but if the opponent ejects even one of those urchins you lose that point. Games can turn very quickly on one simple move or mistake. The best way to think of Antihero is a bit like chess, where you need to plan future moves in advance, and counter anything your opponent might try. In one of my early games the AI was absolutely dominating, but after seeing an opening I managed to take most of its buildings and win the game.
Antihero will have live open online multiplayer when it launches in July, but in the preview build this is limited to sending invites to people you know. Being a turn-based game, there is also asynchronous multiplayer, where you can make a move and then be notified by email when your opponent has had their turn. From what I’ve played of it, it’s a very well implemented system allowing you to play out a plan of attack without time pressure. That said, there is a three days window in which to respond, after which the game is forfeited.
Antihero is shaping up to be a good and well thought out addition to the turn based strategy genre. It has unit management, upgrade paths, and unpredictable outcomes packaged into matches that could be wrapped up in around 20 to 30 turns. It’s well suited to multiplayer, and could become quite the hit in the strategy genre because of it. If you like strategy games then keep an eye on this one.