A Marvel game deducing friend from foe whilst playing and facing classic Marvel characters? I’m on board! I don’t know too much about Hydra, but they did always intrigue me from what I did see with their level of espionage. The Hail Hydra board game looked like a nice focus to put the magnifying glass on in both theme and style of play amongst the Marvel games already out there.

Despite my lack of knowledge on the faction, Red Skull always was one of the creepier villains to me. I recall watching him for the first time in the 90’s Spider-man cartoon in “The Six Forgotten Warriors” storyline. He was menacing as well as intimidating and had a daunting demeaner with his voice and attitude towards being all powerful.

Thanos Rising was certainly a hit, revolving around another villain which also involved teamwork. But now that teamwork is put into question turning your fellow players from allies to enemies. It has a dark mysterious look from the outside, followed by a unique artwork on the layout and characters design, feeling like a new style of comic set at war. The stage is set well with this game that displays potential.

What Do You Get?

  • 1 First Player Token
  • 1 Avengers Tower Mover
  • 1 New York City Card
  • 3 Defence Discs
  • 8 Loyalty Discs
  • 13 Health Discs
  • 14 Hero Cards
  • 18 Villain Cards
  • 80 Attack Cards

How Do You Set It Up?

  1. Shuffle the 80 Attack Cards and shuffle them, face down, in a pile in the middle of the New York City Card, on the space that says “Draw Pile”.
  2. Each game will feature Five Villains, with the Final Villain being the Red Skull. Except for Red Skull, randomly and secretly draw the other four Villains from their respective danger levels found on the back of the card and place them face down in a pile. Place the Villains on top of each other in order of their danger level, with lowest on the top, and Red Skull at the bottom.
  3. Place the Avengers Tower Mover onto the New York City Card at 27 health. Count the number of people that will be playing, then reference the chart provided:
  4. The number of Hydra agents is public knowledge. Hydra players will know who each other are, but S.H.I.E.L.D members will not. To ensure this, a volunteer memorises and says the following out loud:
    1. “Everyone close your eyes.”
    2. “Hydra agents, open your eyes and look at each other.”
    3. “Hydra agents, close your eyes.”
    4. “Everyone opens your eyes.”
  5. The player who last read a Marvel comic takes the First Player Token. The player to the left of the First Player Token draws two Attack Cards. The player to their left draws 4 Attack Cards. Anyone without Attack Cards draws 6. Players may look at their Attack Cards.

How Do You Play?

In order to save New York City from destruction, you must defeat the hardest villain in the game, the Red Skull! Beware: He holds the Cosmic Cube! Due to the Cube’s volatile nature, dealing too much damage to Red Skull will damage the City too, this is called the Cosmic Cube Penalty.

End of the game:

You will defeating Villains as a team of Heroes. If a Villain survives a round, it will inflict damage on New York City. It’s up to your team to defeat them quickly and strategically. But be careful, there may be Hydra gents sabotaging your efforts.

S.H.I.E.L.D Members – Defeat all the Villains before New York City is Destroyed.

Hydra Agents – Sabotage the S.H.I.E.L.D member’s efforts to defeat Villains, allowing the Villains to Destroy the City.

If New York City is destroyed at any point, Hydra wins. If you defeat Red Skull and New York City is intact, S.H.I.E.L.D wins!

Game flow:

  1. Players decide which Hero they will be.
  2. Loyalty Discs are passed out.
  3. Hydra agents identify each other.
  4. A Villain is revealed starting a mission.
  5. A round in the Mission, known as an Offensive, begins.
  6. Every Offensive has 5 steps:
    1. Pass the First Player Token. One Hero discards and draws a full hand, everyone else draws 1.
    2. Heroes play Attack cards face down.
    3. Attack Cards are collected, shuffled and totalled, potentially damaging the Villain.
    4. Villain attacks the City if not Defeated.
    5. The team’s attack is discarded. Start another if Villain is not defeated.
  7. A Mission ends when the Villain is defeated.
  8. Team begins Knock Out Phase, votes to Knock Out Heroes.
  9. Another Mission begins by flipping over the next Villain.

If all Villains are Defeated and New York City is intact, S.H.I.E.L.D wins! If New York City is destroyed at any point, Hydra wins!

Knocking out Heroes:

Each time a Villain is defeated, your team will move into a Knock Out Phase. The Knock Out Phase occurs before any new Missions begin. Do not flip over the next Villain until your team has completed the Knock Out phase. The amount of times your team will vote is dependent on the Villain you are about to face, according to this chart:

Knocking Out Heroes is your best chance of learning who is Hydra or not. Using Knocking Out effectively to find out who is Hydra before reaching Red Skull will incredibly improve your chances of winning. If you are Knocked Out of a Mission, you re-join the team after the mission is over a.k.a. the Villain is defeated.

The Knock Out Phase involves setting a timer for 2 minutes. When the 2 minutes are up, the group immediately votes to Knock Out a Hero. On the count of 3, every player simultaneously points to another Hero. By pointing, you cast a vote to Knock Out that Hero for the upcoming Mission. If you do not wish to Knock Out a Hero, you point straight up in the air.

The Hero with the most fingers pointed at them is Knocked Out and the voting round ends. But if there is a tie for the majority or the majority is pointing up, no one is Knocked Out and voting ends. If there is more than one round during a Knock Out phase according to the chart, immediately start the next round by setting the timer for 2 more minutes of discussion.

When all voting rounds have been exhausted, the next Mission begins, and the Villain is flipped over regardless of how many Heroes are Knocked Out.

Hail Hydra!:

If you are a Hydra agent, you may reveal yourself by flipping over your Loyalty Disc and yelling “Hail Hydra!” You can do this any time during a Mission, even if you are Knocked Out of the Mission. As soon as you do this, your rules change. Once declared, if you are on a Mission, immediately Damage the City 3. If you are Knocked Out, Damage the City 1.

Once revealed as Hydra, for the rest of the game:

  • If revealed whilst on a Mission, you play first, then whoever has the First Player Token goes after. You must play all Attack Cards face up.
  • If revealed and Knocked Out, play first by choosing either when on the Offensive:
    • Hand 1 or 2 Attack Cards face down to a Hero on the Mission, OR
    • Steal 1 Attack Card face down at random from a chosen Hero on the Mission.
  • If the Villain survives the Offensive, each revealed Hydra agent who is Knocked out of the Mission Damages the City 1.

Pros Of The Game

  • Light, fast and fun social deduction game
  • Brings out teamwork, strategy and skill
  • Good design and layout
  • Immersive theme for Marvel fans
  • Learning new abilities throughout leaving good replay ability

Cons Of The Game

  • Cards and boards flimsy and are prone to easy wear and tear
  • Rules overly thought through
  • Not much too it, quite basic
  • Very hard, not well balanced
  • Not much to work with on the social element

Should You Get Hail Hydra?

Getting into this I could tell a lot of thought was put into the rulebook. This game is all about the social side between players as you deduct who is a traitor amongst the group. I find this to be a cool concept, because it toggles between working as a team and playing against each other within the same game.

Reading the situation and watching your team closely is what you need to have at hand to rule out who is hindering the team’s efforts. Failure to do so before it’s too late means more damage to the city as time goes by and eventually losing.

I have trouble remembering the last social deduction game I’ve played, maybe Golden Balls? I find this has a familiar vibe to Secret Hitler and Doppleganger. It really envelops itself in strategy and cunning. You’ll truly be the brainy one at the table if you can get good at working out friend from foe. Negotiation is a central factor here, looking closely at how each player responds, bringing a psychological side to it.

You need to save New York City from the evil Hydra, but if you know anything about them, or at least watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the faction can get their tentacles anywhere and will have their agents impersonating as heroes. Needless to say, Marvel fans will have a blast here, being your favourite heroes and facing enemies whilst blurting out “Hail Hydra!” certainly gets you in the theme.

I’m not sure I’d call this a party game, unless maybe it was a Marvel themed party or all players liked Marvel. It’s more like a game night kind of game, simple gameplay to pass the time whilst getting the increased challenge as you play to win. The more players you have the more fun you have, since you can have more potential Hydra agents at play.

Gameplay lasts for about 20 minutes and can be fast-paced. It’s not very in-depth, an easy premise but a neat one, a nice light game. I think the card and pieces look great, though the board is a thin piece of matt paper. Perhaps the board and all the cards should be laminated as they seem prone to easy wear and tear.

It will take a few playthroughs to understand the powers for each hero and villain, but this can add to the fun as you see what they can do. If you hold out you’ll see the different variations of abilities, so there’s good replay ability seeing the array of actions during play. If you get into it you’ll have a good experience. Plus the game looks like a fine addition to your Marvel merch collection.

This is aged 14+, a bit older than I first thought but when you look into the rules, despite the idea of the game being easy to grasp, the actual gameplay can get quite complicated, which may switch off kids any younger. Gosh I’ve even heard kids in their later teens not focusing on it. This feels quite troubling considering the game is actually quite light when you know what you’re doing. There might be unnecessary barriers put up to complicate the gameplay more than it needs to.

Hydra is way too powerful, making the game not very well balanced. You’ll be setting yourselves up for disaster if you cannot overcome the social side. You need to use your skills and wittiness to reduce as much difficulty as possible. Heroes each have a special power which give them certain actions, but even with this enemies are vastly strong.

It’s not an easy task to exclude someone from the game. Because of this you need to be sure that they are a Hydra agent, as well as able to convince of others of it. Agents will feel more at ease in winning. They certainly have the luxury of causing damage to the city just by revealing themselves, as well as when heroes fail to defeat an enemy. It really can be easier being the bad guy sometimes.

When I say it’s hard though, it’s HARD! Close to impossible in fact. Hydra agents need to be useless for you to have a chance. A main reason for this is because you don’t have much to go on to tell if someone is an agent. They can lie and there’s no facts to prove otherwise.

A favourite game of mine growing up is The Simpsons Cluedo, where like any Cluedo game you had to deduce and workout precisely who performed the murder in which room and with which weapon. You asked questions, watched other people’s actions, trade cards, ruled off possibilities, like a full-blown investigation. I loved it when I won Sherlock style. This was all down to the facts and working out what they were before reaching a conclusion and figuring out the mystery.

This game though does not have that. A part of working Cluedo out was human behaviour, but human behaviour is all we have to go on with Hail Hydra. They can be sabotaging the entire way and there’d be no evidence of it. All you can do is just look at how they act, and that on its own gives us very little. What does suspicious behaviour look like with a certain person. Too quiet? Too loud? Too laid back? Too tense? Unless you know the person incredibly well, it’s not much to go by. This is certainly a social game through and through.

Even after exposing yourself you can still help your team. Whether this is a pro or con I don’t know, it kind of lessens the mystery if gameplay goes on. But I suppose since the rules can change if they’re Hydra, it’s a different ballpark.

Saying this, there’s plenty of flexibility, you can choose when you want to use your ability or reveal yourself as an agent. But the difficulty is still preserved even after revealing an agent, they can still use abilities, damage the city and hurt other players. Not to mention the number of Hydra agents are equal to the number of heroes, and all the agents know each other, and they have the help of the Villains. The heroes have their work cut out for them facing these foes no question.

I know I harped a lot on the level of skill within social deduction games, but there’s good gameplay in this one which you can have fun with, and if you like the challenge with the odds against you, this is definitely worth a go. If not, you won’t find it nearly as enjoyable.

This Hail Hydra board game is a lot of fun for Marvel fans, and a neat experience for those seeking a simpler social aspect in a game. This definitely highlights teamwork, trying to work out what methods will best work together and feel like you’re progressing as one. Interactivity, collaboration and strategy are all here in a Marvel adventure at home that keeps you through your paces.

Just keep your wits about you, because this is no pushover, you will get frustrated as a hero and it will be worth little gameplay to you if you can’t find investment during such times. Otherwise it’s a simple, quick and light game that provides a twist on the franchise’s game scene. It depends on whether the basic yet hard kind of concept is worth it to you. I prefer Thanos Rising personally, but who knows, you might have a little Hydra in you which this game calls out to…

Thanks for reading this review! What do you think of Hail Hydra? Is it a good purchase? Do you like the idea, theme and style of it? Do you find it challenging or did you manage to conquer it? Feel free to leave your comments!

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Scott Board Game Reviews

8 Replies

  1. I’m a big fan of board games and am so glad they are still coming up with new ones. Especially in this technology biased era. My kids use to say to me they are called ‘bored’ games for a reason. You give a really good in depth review of the game, and I like the pros and cons and you explain the theme of the game well. Would you consider this as a family game or a strictly 25 years and under genre.

    1. Board games are regularly coming out so you never know what you might like next! Technology components in games definitely makes things interesting. Haha your kids are not a fan of them then? Thank you, I really appreciate it. I’d say any age can play it as a family though the 14+ age feels about right. You can play a bit younger, but any younger than ten and they might switch off it. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Hey Scott, great detailed post about the Board game. I like the way you describe all the characters their traits and positions within the game. This seems like a very skilful game, this has just reminded me that my partner’s CEO whom I thought was in his 70’s but as it turned out he is in our age range is an avid collector of Marvel board games – he has a whole library full of them from floor to ceiling. He owns every game they have ever released apparently… So for collector’s this is an awesome goldmine. Are you a collector as well?
    It’s funny because the Marvel comics seem metaphorically very much like our own lives as there is a villain and a hero inside each of us. Thanks for a great read.

    1. Thank you very much Kimberleigh! This game has more skillful than luck elements to it. Wow that’s amazing! He must have quite the stack of them, and he’s played all of them? What a great hobby, he should host Marvel game nights. He probably has this game already, I’m not a collector myself, just a fan of board games in general. Comics usually have good symbolism with everyday people, it’s how heroes can inspire like they do. You’re welcome!

  3. Interesting game. I am a marvel fan, and had no idea this game even existed. I enjoy deduction games, hopefully I can find some friends willing to play.

    1. Is Captain America one of your favorite Marvel characters? If not there are plenty more characters to enjoy with here. I admit I didn’t know this game existed for a while either, but games like this which get you thinking and analyzing are regularly fun to have. Hope you and your friends can have a good time with it!

  4. Wow that sounds like a fun game to play with a bit of intrigue. Working as a team but also trying to figure out who among you is not quite a true team member and maybe trying to work against you. It is a shame that the quality construction of the board and cards are flimsy. From the video it looks like a well constructed game. But as long as it is fun, I am sure that matters the most.

    1. The mysterious element on who’s friend or foe certainly feels like the highlight of the game. For longer durability it’s good to handle the components of the game with care, I hope you do have fun with it and that it’s worth the purchase!

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