Every GenCon there are one or two releases that take the entire con by storm. Games that send everyone abuzz with their novelty, their production value, or their sheer “cool factor.” Sometimes they’re big releases from established manufacturers, like Villainous in 2018 or Wingspan this year. Others, like Sentinels of the Multiverse or Gloomhaven are brand new titles from relatively young companies, exploding onto the market in a very big way. Funkoverse, the debut product of the new partnership between Funko (they of the big headed vinyl figures) and Forrest-Pruzan Creative (they of Villainous and Bob Ross: The Art of Chill), fell into both categories as it debuted as one of the biggest games at GenCon 2019.
The “FunkoVerse Project,” so to speak, began with the union of two companies. Funko was already working with Forrest-Pruzan (a.k.a Prospero Hall) in a collaborative capacity before Funko decided to just up and buy the small but well-regarded game design company. They’ve since spent a couple years developing the game that would develop into FunkoVerse, working with Funko and their many properties while still retaining a good bit of creative freedom in developing the new game. What emerged was a brand new take on the strategy genre, one that combines the infinitely collectable nature of Funko Pop! with the flexibility, replayability, and fun that marks “Prospero Hall” other works.
Funko was not playing when it came to GenCon, bringing not only a fancy booth for the exhibitors hall but also a lavishly decorated demo room just off the main thoroughfare of the convention center. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s probably the most extra presentation for a board game I’ve ever seen. Both the demo room and the booth weren’t made from folding tables and cloth, no, they were made of honest to god wooden planks. Even the storage in the demo room were wooden shelves and cabinets that were probably nicer than the ones I have in my apartment.
It was all dramatically lit as well, with a giant light up Funko crown in the entrance, blocking the secrets from prying eyes yet also beckoning, like a carnival barker, for the curious to come and see the wonders of Funko. They even rolled out a giant-sized box for people to take pictures in, which was fun.
They wanted to debut the game at GenCon rather than the seemingly more logical choice of SDCC, largely due to the fact that they wanted gamers to know that this game was for them. This wasn’t just a pop cultural cash in, this was a innovative gaming experience that anybody can enjoy. But did they succeed?
I had the choice between the DC FunkoVerse and the Harry Potter FunkoVerse setups, and I chose the latter, playing as Harry and Hermione against Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. Those four characters, and their associated tokens and items, come with the double-sided board on which the game is played. This makes up the “core” FunkoVerse game, and the DC version is not much different aside from the different characters (Batman and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) vs. The Joker and Harley Quinn) and the according change in gameplay. The figures are very nice, sort of “mini-Funko Pops” that look identical to one of the bigger ones but scaled down for ease of packaging. Of course there’s nothing necessarily stopping you from using your biggie sized ones in the game as a flex, but it doesn’t add anything. Though there are apparently plans to implement bigger figures down the line.
The game was setup for Capture the Flag, which plays just like it always does. Each player controls one or two of the characters in play, each of which has their own powers and abilities. Each turn, a character has a set of actions they can choose from like Move, Recover, or Challenge (the game’s version of Attack). They also all have a special set of abilities unique to each character that have powerful effects on the battlefield, each on their own cooldown. Harry, for instance, can disarm another character, challenge and knock back enemies, or protect an ally. Hermione is much more supportive, being able to reduce cooldowns, call her friends to her, and impede her enemies.
Each character also has their own passive ability as well, one that usually reacts to various conditions on the field. Hermione, for instance, is a “Loyal Friend” and as such her allies can’t be knocked out if they’re close to her. Harry, as the “Boy Who Lived,” gets an extra defense against attacks and is therefore much harder to kill. These abilities, active and passive, reflect the different styles of each character. The DC characters, for instance, are much more physical in their abilities than the Harry Potter characters, who are obviously more ranged.
Combat works by simple dice rolls, with attackers getting a number of attack dice equal to their Challenge (Voldemort having the highest Challenge attack, 6, with Fiendfyre), and the defender rolling dice equal to their defence. If they get hit, they’re knocked down. Literally. The fun of using little vinyl statues is you get to just knock them over. If they get to their next turn, they can use it to stand back up. If they’re damaged again, however, they’re knocked onto the cooldown tracker until they recover.
You can also play 3v3, as seen above, with either added in characters or more limited neutral characters that come with the four packs like the Auror and Death Eater. There’s also items that can be used, only one per team, that include Harley’s hammer or Bellatrix’s knife.
It Takes Two
In addition to the two four-packs that make up the “base” game, there are also four two-packs being released at launch. The first two tie into the four packs: Draco and Ron join in on the fun from Harry Potter, while Catwoman and Robin swing in to join their fellow DC Supers on the tabletop. They’re able to be swapped in for one of the other characters or added onto for 3v3 match. All of the two-packs also are fully stand-alone, allowing you to have duels with just one set of two instead of having to invest in a bunch. But there are also two packs that are a little more…out there.
The first is everyone’s neglectful mad scientist space rebel Rick Sanchez, and his horny nervous wreck of a nephew Morty. Two of the most popular Funkos in the main line, these figures were extremely popular at GenCon. Funko even had a Rick cosplayer helping to demo the game (a lovely guy who kept me company while I waited on my meeting).
The biggest surprise, and the one I was most excited for, was the Golden Girls two-pack that lets you enter the fray as Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan). Harness the sheer power of Betty White as you take down villains like the Joker and Voldemort, or get payback for all those Szechuan Sauce memes by beating down rick with Blanche. You can even have the two women fight it out on their own board, battling for supremacy over the single men of Miami. So many beautiful moments we had never thought possible are now MADE possible thanks to FunkoVerse.
FunkoVerse is available for pre-order at Target, Amazon, and GameStop. You can also keep an eye out at you Friendly Local Game Store! The four-packs are retailing for $39.99, while each of the two-packs can be had for $24.99. And be sure to keep an eye on the Fandomentals for reviews of the game as we get closer, as well as more news on upcoming releases and expansions to the FunkoVerse line of games!
All images via Funko