Home Game Reviews Masters of the Universe: Clash for Eternia Review

Masters of the Universe: Clash for Eternia Review

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Board Game Review by: :
James Wolff
Price:
$120

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4.5
On Jan 16, 2024
Last modified:Jan 16, 2024

Summary:

We review Masters of the Universe: Clash for Eternia. Masters of the Universe is a one vs many skirmish game published by CMON Games and we let you know how it plays.

Masters of the UniverseThe 80’s was a complicated time in a lot of ways. There was some optimism for the future while simultaneous concerns of nuclear war overshadowed the decade. Heavy metal music and Dungeons and Dragons each got caught up in the satanic panic and the “Just Say No” (to drugs) campaign was started to discourage recreational drug use during a time that reeked of excess.

But what was not complicated was children’s cartoons, particularly Masters of the Universe. This weird sci-fi and fantasy world was relatively easy to digest. The dude with the big metal fist was Fisto, the person with a skeletal face was Skeletor, and He-Man was decades ahead of society by including his pronouns in his name.

Masters of the Universe: Clash: for Eternia is a one versus many or cooperative game against an AI opponent by Micheal Shinall and Leo Almeida and published by CMON that encourages you to drop your weapons and chuck boulders at your opponents.

Gameplay Overview:

There’s quite a lot to unpack in the rules so this overview can’t possibly cover all the nuances of this skirmish game.

Each round will have the controller and players alternate taking turns activating the next character on the activation track which have been secretly placed faced down. Characters activating later in the round gain more power which is the resource used to activate skills which will be described more in a bit.

Masters of the Universe Minis
The tan board looks better with colorful tiles and painted minis (game comes unpainted)

A game will have the controller playing three characters and there can be between one and four characters for the players. On each character’s activation, they can take up to two actions, except for a solo hero who gets up to three actions per activation. Those actions are:
• Move up to three spaces with some terrain types costing extra movement to enter or leave.
• Interact with an objective or other game item to trigger something in the scenario. This includes throwing boulders.
• Attack adjacent opponents in melee or up to a range of four with a ranged attack.
• Use Skill to activate one of the character’s unique abilities.
• Bonus Actions sometimes are free actions but free or not, each one can only be activated once per activation.

Each character has a default attack or two that is either ranged or melee with a set number of dice. Successes are the matching symbol and the Castle Greyskull icons, which also give the character an additional power.

Masters of the Universe He-Man
Like anchorman, things escalate quickly. Picking skills is delightful.

Each game has multiple escalation points that moves the power sword token up another track. At the green, yellow, and red spots the players will unlock a two-sided skill card of the same colors that they add to their player dashboard. The controller will also flip one of their dashboard cards and empower one of their characters.

Most skills require the spending of the power you’re accumulating. But for the players, all power spent is handed to the controller player. The controller has four skills on their dashboard that’s activated during their strategy activation, which is also when their minions can move and attack.

Scenarios continue until one of the victory conditions is achieved by either side.

Masters of the Universe Gameplay
Even unpainted, the game is a looker. The 3D plants and boulders are from the Box of Power and replace cardboard tokens.

Gameplay Experience:

CMON gets a lot of flak for making light (often called mindless) dice chuckers that bury you in a stack of boxes taller than some backer’s children. In a way, Masters of the Universe is a lot like Cthulhu Death May Die in that it’s streamlined to trim the fat leaving a lean experience to feast upon that also has expansions that stand taller than some children. But this isn’t a mindless dice chucker as players have to strategically pick their activation order balancing going earlier and gaining power to activate their abilities. And players have to decide if they can risk handing a bunch of power to the controller knowing they can turn around and use it against them.

Masters of the Universe Cards
The game also features a solo mode that operates with two small decks of cards.

While not brainless like a zombie, this isn’t also a super complex brain burning train or heavy Euro game. Much like the world of Eternia, it’s often obvious and often in cheesy ways that would probably get a person pitching this idea today immediately tossed out of the meeting. And it’s freakin’ glorious. The team really nailed the thematics with this game with the character abilities and cartoon violence of the show. Even the rulebook has the characters offering commentary.

Humor and theme aside, the rulebook is one of my complaints with the game with some edge cases common in skirmish games not being super clear and occasionally hard to find things sometimes (there is a table of contents and a glossary which are helpful). The other complaint is that not all characters or scenarios are created equal with some being better than others, some unbalanced, and some others that drag on too long for the experience. Some characters do feel more powerful than others and while this likely balances across a scenario with multiple characters, there’s times when a specific character’s powers can break a scenario (this is more common with expansion and stretch goal characters according to BGG users and something I’ve seen from time to time).

Masters of the Universe Track
The initiative track also has a health track and escalation track. Activating later in the turn grants more power.

But with those minor gripes out of the way, let’s get to what I like, and there’s a lot here, starting with how the game allows you to tell stories as things happen. In one game, the carnivorous plants kept knocking out the villains which led to table imaging Skeletor’s frustration at his incompetent henchmen. Another game, a friend playing as Teela kept summoning guards and naming them Gary. Gary and Gary the third didn’t last very long while Gary Junior was quite the survivor. Even as I’m typing these anecdotes, I’m smiling thinking about this game as it just nails nostalgic fun.

One of the neat strengths of the game is how the controller can be either the heroes or the villains in several of the scenarios. And there’s others that leverage an AI controller (using cards, not real AI) that turns the game into a co-op. And while that works fairly well and I’ve enjoyed my plays that way, I think this a game you get for a head-to-head or one versus many game with co-op being just a perk.

Another part of the game I love is picking players’ skills. As the game escalates and the characters earn powers, each card is double sided and the player gets to choose which one they’ll unlock. And because they can thumb through the cards up front, they can essentially plan their build. This adds to the replay value as players may want to try different combinations. Some characters can even pay power to flip their cards allowing them to go from offense first to defense heavy depending on the situation.

Final Thoughts:

Masters of the Universe is an evolution of the game World of Smog: Rise of Moloch so if you don’t like the Masters of the Universe IP and prefer steampunk zombies, that could be a good alternative for you.

While I watched the original Filmation cartoon in the 80’s I wasn’t super familiar with the land of Eternia outside of the core heroes and villains, but the Kickstarter campaign tickled my nostalgia enough to back it. And I enjoyed my early plays enough to pick up two expansions at retail to add more characters and minions. Enjoyed is underselling it. Masters of the Universe is easily one of my favorite CMON games and might be my second favorite one vs. many game (behind Conan/Batman GCC).

Final Score: 4.5 Stars – Masters of the Universe is 80’s nostalgia wrapped around an awesome skirmish game that will give you stories every time you play it.

4.5 StarsHits:
• One vs. Many and Co-op modes right out of the box
• Many scenarios can have heroes or villains be the controller
• Customizing character builds is fun
• Power system is slick and can make players question when they give power to Controller

Misses:
• Some characters and scenarios aren’t balanced
• The rulebook leaves some edge cases unexplored

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