GTM #289 - Invincible: The Hero-Building Game
by Dire Wolf Digital


 Invincible: The Hero-Building Game by Dire Wolf Digital

Invincible: The Hero-Building Game 

The Best Superhero Comic in the Universe

When Wizard Magazine first started singing the praises of a new indie comic called Invincible, I will confess to being a little skeptical. Did we really need another teen superhero book? 

But then I read it. And in the face of this perfect blend of bombastic action, snappy dialogue, and deliciously soapy drama, my cynicism didn’t stand a chance. And while it turned out to be much more than just “another teen superhero book,” writer Robert Kirkman also seemed to be on a mission to remind us all that actually, teen superheroes are awesome. 

At its core, Invincible is a story about kids growing up and figuring out how to be heroes. 

A story, in other words, about progression. Which happens to be one of the most reliably fun things in all of gaming. All we needed to do was make a game that let players experience the same thing – to fight evil while constantly growing and discovering new things they could do. Easy, right?

Well, if it were, this would be a short article. So let’s talk through the key features of the game and how they came to be.

 Invincible: The Hero-Building Game by Dire Wolf Digital

It’s a cooperative tableau-building game… 

From the start, a cooperative game felt right for the genre and for Invincible specifically; it’s just fun to team up with your friends to fight bad guys. 

The other thing we knew right away is that each player should have a tableau of power cards that expanded over the course of the game, giving that sense of growth and progress. Each hero starts the game with a handful of unique abilities, many of which will generate “confidence.” By spending confidence, the heroes can increase the options available to them, growing stronger each and every round. With more than 100 unique power cards, there are countless builds and combos for players to explore.

 Invincible by Skybound Entertainment

…in which you push your luck… 

But there also needed to be some uncertainty around which of those powers you’d get to pull off each round. 

At first, we assumed that uncertainty would come from dice. We experimented with a lot of ways that players could roll to fuel their ever-expanding selection of powers, but they all had issues – some were too repetitive, others exciting, but too swingy. 

Things finally clicked into place when we traded our dice for a bag of cubes. In the final version of the game, players draw cubes from their bag and use them to fuel their powers cards by covering symbols of the same color on them. Some of the cubes are black cubes that are wild and can go anywhere, but if the player draws too many of these black cubes they’ll crash and take damage. This makes for thrilling late-round moments where the whole table holds its breath to see if the last hero standing will pull off a daring rescue or die trying.

 Invincible: The Hero-Building Game by Dire Wolf Digital 

…in wild, free-form combats that never make you wait your turn!

Ugh, waiting your turn! Sometimes, it can be the worst part of board games, but you gotta do it. You can’t just let players do stuff whenever they want, after all. Or can you?

In a competitive game, timing rules and turns exist because the game needs to arbitrate who can do what and when. But in a cooperative game, player interests are aligned. What if we simply told players to pull their cubes and use their powers in whatever order they wanted?

The answer, it turns out, is a fast, fluid game with reduced downtime. Players are free to find the pace that works for them – whether that means a frantic melee with the chaotic energy of a superhero slugfest, a tense collaborative problem-solving, or most often, a mix of the two.

 Invincible: The Hero-Building Game by Dire Wolf Digital

Seven exciting episodes

At this point you may be wondering what you do with all these superpowers. The answer is: A lot! Players will need to balance their efforts between damaging villains and thwarting their schemes, improving their own skills, and protecting the populace – because it wouldn’t be Invincible if civilians didn’t die when you screw up.

On top of that, in each game players will have to contend with a different Episode Card, each presenting different challenges and objectives that change the strategic puzzle. You can play the episodes in order for a campaign experience, or pick up and play any of them on their own – each is designed to be highly re-playable.

 Invincible: The Hero-Building Game by Dire Wolf Digital

(Hopefully) the Best Superhero Game in the Universe

In a way, I think the reason we love coming-of-age stories is the same reason we love progression in games. No matter who we are, we all want to grow, to be better tomorrow than we are today. In real life that’s a slow, murky process, so it’s exhilarating to tune into Invincible and experience it on an accelerated scale. We hope that you’ll get that same thrill from Invincible: The Hero-Building Game. It’s not quite like any game we’ve made before, and we can’t wait for you all to play it. 

Invincible: The Hero-Building Game is co-published by Dire Wolf and Skybound Entertainment. Kevin Spak is a design director at Dire Wolf Digital, where he has contributed to Clank!, Dune: Imperium, and many other tabletop and digital games. He is the lead designer of Invincible: The Hero-Building Game.