A statistical analysis of the villains in Batman Fluxx

Well, I spoke too soon. In my review of Batman Fluxx, I was a little bummed that Looney Labs used the revamped artwork from the New Batman Adventures portion of Batman: The Animated Series. But I tried to look on the bright side: I pointed out that at least Scarecrow isn’t in the game, “so you aren’t subjected to the terrifying redesigned Scarecrow.”

Of course… now they’ve gone and released Scarecrow as a promo card.

Scarecrow? Really? If they were going to do another promo card, couldn’t they have picked someone else? Mad Hatter? Ra’s al Ghul?

The new-look Scarecrow just really grinds my gears. Originally, he was actually an interesting character: deranged scientist Jonathan Crane on a mission to get even with the world. We saw him both with and without his mask, showing a range of anger, fear, and gleeful insanity. The second incarnation of Scarecrow is just a skull-faced whisperer with the personality of a robot.

I mean… Scarecrow wasn’t even in that many episodes, was he?

I set out to prove that the choice of Scarecrow was a bad decision. With numbers.

Ranking the significance of villains

To determine which villains actually should appear in Batman Fluxx, it was necessary to determine the significance of each villain in The Animated Series. The obvious metric for this is: “How many episodes does each villain appear in?”

Using the DC Animated Universe Wiki, in conjunction with my own encyclopedic knowledge of Batman: The Animated Series from when I was eight, I wrote a Perl 6 script to document and tally up the number of episodes that each villain appears in throughout the primary Batman: The Animated Series canon. I counted an “appearance” as the character or a likeness of the character (such as a double, impersonator, robot, or photograph) appearing on screen in an episode.

I included all episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, and also any appearance in the related movies Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero, Mystery of the Batwoman, or the Chase Me short film. I excluded the recent Batman and Harley Quinn movie because it was released after Batman Fluxx, and also because it sucks. I didn’t include any related media like video games, or any of the non-contemporary-Batman-centric DC Animated Universe TV shows.

Total Appearances in Batman: The Animated Series

The following table shows how many episodes each villain appears in, along with whether or not they are included in Batman Fluxx. This excludes villains who only appear in one episode, as well as recurring henchmen like Ubu and Rhino. It also excludes The Creeper, because, technically, I guess he’s not a villain.

That gives us a list of 29 characters.

Villain Appearances Batman Fluxx?
Joker 28 Yes
Two-Face 21 Yes
Harley Quinn 18 Yes
Penguin 17 Yes
Poison Ivy 17 Yes
Catwoman 12 Yes
Scarecrow 10 Promo
Rupert Thorne 9
Mad Hatter 8
Killer Croc 7 Promo
Riddler 7 Yes
Clayface 6 Promo
Ventriloquist/Scarface 6
Mr. Freeze 5 Yes
Ra’s al Ghul 5
Roland Daggett 5
Man-Bat 4
Bane 3 Yes
Red Claw 3
She-Bat 3
Talia al Ghul 3
Arnold Stromwell 2
Baby-Doll 2
Clock King 2
Firefly 2
Kyodai Ken 2
Professor Milo 2
Tony Zucco 2

A number of things immediately become clear:

  • Joker appears in the most episodes, by a fairly wide margin.
  • Bane, with only three appearances, has the fewest appearances of any villain who also appears in Batman Fluxx.
  • Obviously I spoke too soon again, because Scarecrow (blech) is the highest ranked villain who would not otherwise appear in Batman Fluxx.

But not all “appearances” are created equal. The table above credits Joker and Penguin each with one appearance when, for example, Joker appears on a poster in the background for a few seconds in an episode that’s all about the Penguin. If we eliminate minor and insignificant appearances (like being on a poster), it will give us a better picture of who the most prominent villains in the show are, right? Surely someone will rise above Scarecrow if we take a closer look!

Total Non-Cameo Appearances in Batman: The Animated Series

Continuing to reference the DCAU Wiki and my DVD box set of Batman: The Animated Series that I’ve watched a million times, I classified all appearances by whether or not they qualify as a cameo. I defined “non-cameo” as “active participation by the character in more than one scene.”

This definition of cameo doesn’t line up exactly with what the DCAU Wiki calls an “uncredited” appearance, because occasionally a character will have a speaking role that is insignificant (e.g., Joker making a quip as Batman walks past his cell in Arkham), or a non-speaking role that is relatively prominent (e.g., Scarecrow pushing Batman around and swinging a scythe in “Trial”). However, this definition lines up very well with what we intuitively think of as a cameo. Going through the episodes, I discovered that, whenever a character appears in more than one scene, they almost always appear many times throughout the entire episode.

Only a couple appearances were truly challenging to classify as cameos or not. In “Second Chance,” Penguin and Rupert Thorne both sort of only appear in once “scene,” depending on exactly how you define what is a contiguous “scene.” However, they’re mentioned repeatedly in the surrounding scenes and act as major red herrings, so I ended up rating those as full appearances. On the other hand, Riddler appears multiple times in “Trial,” but he’s always just sitting in the back of the jury box and never says anything—I rated that as a cameo.

Villain Appearances Batman Fluxx?
Joker 20 Yes
Harley Quinn 13 Yes
Penguin 12 Yes
Two-Face 12 Yes
Catwoman 11 Yes
Poison Ivy 11 Yes
Rupert Thorne 9
Killer Croc 7 Promo
Scarecrow 7 Promo
Clayface 5 Promo
Mad Hatter 5
Roland Daggett 5
Mr. Freeze 4 Yes
Ra’s al Ghul 4
Ventriloquist/Scarface 4
Bane 3 Yes
Red Claw 3
Riddler 3 Yes
Talia al Ghul 3
Arnold Stromwell 2
Baby-Doll 2
Clock King 2
Firefly 2
Kyodai Ken 2
Man-Bat 2
Professor Milo 2
She-Bat 2
Tony Zucco 2

We still get the same 29 villains, but now they appear in a slightly different order. Joker is still on top, but Harley Quinn edges out Two-Face for second place. Also, Riddler drops down to a tie with Bane at only three real appearances.

And someone who’s not in Batman Fluxx jumped ahead of Scarecrow! Yes! Rupert Thorne! We may tend to forget just how much of Batman: The Animated Series focuses on Batman’s war against organized crime.

But… can I seriously say that Rupert Thorne should have gotten a promo card over Scarecrow? Gotham’s go-to gangster is not a “supervillain” and also never appears in the redesigned New Batman Adventures portion of the show. How would they even make a card for him if we don’t know what he looks like now? This is a hollow victory for statistics.

However, given that Batman Fluxx specifically uses the revamped look of the The New Batman Adventures and has The New Batman Adventures logo on the box, maybe we make a case for someone else over Scarecrow if we limit ourselves to just that portion of the show?

Total Appearances in The New Batman Adventures

Villain Appearances Batman Fluxx?
Harley Quinn 6 Yes
Joker 6 Yes
Poison Ivy 5 Yes
Penguin 4 Yes
Catwoman 2 Yes
Clayface 2 Promo
Firefly 2
Killer Croc 2 Promo
Mad Hatter 2
Riddler 2 Yes
Scarecrow 2 Promo
Two-Face 2 Yes
Ventriloquist/Scarface 2
Bane 1 Yes
Mr. Freeze 1 Yes

Unfortunately, if we just look at appearances in The New Batman Adventures, Scarecrow is merely tied with the villains who don’t have a Batman Fluxx card: Firefly, Mad Hatter, and the Ventriloquist. And he’s almost certainly the most famous of that bunch—he’s the only one out of that group to appear in a live action film—so it’s understandable why he got a card and they didn’t.

Also, note that this table again excludes villains with only one appearance—unless they also appear in Batman Fluxx. Bane and Mr. Freeze each only appear one time in the revamped show. These two found their way into Batman Fluxx while other villains who appeared more frequently were passed over.

At this point, we might as well take one last look at just non-cameos in The New Batman Adventures. Maybe that will make someone else jump ahead of Scarecrow?

Total Non-Cameo Appearances in The New Batman Adventures

Villain Appearances Batman Fluxx?
Joker 6 Yes
Harley Quinn 5 Yes
Penguin 4 Yes
Poison Ivy 4 Yes
Catwoman 2 Yes
Clayface 2 Promo
Firefly 2
Killer Croc 2 Promo
Scarecrow 2 Promo
Two-Face 2 Yes
Bane 1 Yes
Mr. Freeze 1 Yes
Riddler 0 Yes

Nope. No one is ahead of Scarecrow by this standard either.

Interestingly, Firefly is the only villain with two or more non-cameo appearances in The New Batman Adventures who doesn’t have a card in Batman Fluxx.

Also, note that Riddler is even worse off than Bane and Mr. Freeze—he has zero non-cameo appearances in the latter part of the show.

Final thoughts

After all that, I guess I have to admit that it made sense to put Scarecrow into Batman Fluxx. He’s as much a part of The Animated Series as any other villain. And the game is called Batman Fluxx, not Batman: The Animated Series Fluxx or The New Batman Adventures Fluxx, so it probably should include the most famous villains from Batman’s rogues’ gallery, even if they’re not the most prominent characters in the show.

Plus, ultimately, I’d thought that Looney Labs was done making promo cards for Batman Fluxx. I never expected another one, so I also have to admit that I was actually really happy to see it, even if it was Scarecrow.

So, at this point, given my track record, what else is there to say except I sure hope they don’t release any more promos. Like a Mad Hatter card. Or Ventriloquist. Or Man-Bat. Or Talia al Ghul. Or Firefly. It would sure be a shame if they did something like that and messed up all of my carefully constructed charts in this article. Or, you know, if they came out with more fun action cards like the “Two-Face Flip.” Or added some of the other hero characters like Nightwing. Or Gray Ghost. Or Montoya and Bullock. Surely that’s not going to happen.

Almost Got ‘im Card Game – Games based on Batman: The Animated Series, Part 3

Previously, I’ve taken a look at two other Batman: The Animated Series games. Batman Fluxx is a reworked version of Fluxx. Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game is a reworked version of Zombie Dice.

Now it’s time for a look at the Almost Got ‘im Card Game from Cryptozoic. Unlike the previous titles, this is not a remake of an existing game. It’s a completely new game based on the acclaimed episode “Almost Got ‘im”—where the villains of Gotham City get together and play poker, but one of them is actually Batman in disguise.

Now, I have to say, out of all of the episodes of The Animated Series, “Almost Got ‘im” is not really my favorite. I acknowledge its greatness. It’s extremely well-written and animated, the inclusion of so many villains makes it a classic, and it has the best closing line of any episode. However, personally, I much prefer the mind-bending confusion of “Perchance to Dream,” the cosmic horror of “Avatar,” or the grown-man-cry-inducing pathos of “Beware the Gray Ghost.”

Still, “Almost Got ‘im” is a memorable episode and comes in first or second on nearly every best of episode list. Apparently, that was enough to make this game into a hit. Earlier this year, I was planning on buying this, but then a series of articles came out (such as Nerdist’s Batman: The Animated Series‘ best episode is now a card game” and Gizmodo’s “One of Batman: The Animated Series‘ best episodes comes to life…”), and it sold out everywhere.

Now that it’s back in stock and I’ve finally gotten to play it, what do I think?

Almost Got ‘im Card Game

Really though, a Batman: The Animated Series game inspired by Werewolf should be based on “Moon of the Wolf.” *sick electric guitar riff in the background*

A quick synopsis of the episode (“the villains of Gotham City get together and play poker, but one of them is actually Batman in disguise”) is enough to tell you basically what’s going on. The Almost Got ‘im Card Game is a lot like Werewolf or Mafia, with a poker-ish layer on top. One player is secretly Batman. All of the other players are villains. Batman wins by “subduing” villains. The villains win by figuring out who Batman is.

Each player gets a public persona: one of Gotham City’s villains. Each player also gets a private persona: one player is “Batman in Disguise,” while the other players get attributes like “Crafty” (can give out extra cards) or “Watchful” (can protect players from being subdued).

The gang’s all here. Even villains who weren’t in the episode.

Each player has a hand of five cards from an ordinary deck of cards and takes turns drawing and discarding. Each player’s secret role ability is activated by a specific poker hand. For example, Batman can subdue another player with two pair (subdued players are partially out of the game). After each round of drawing and discarding, there is a blackout phase where the poker hand abilities are activated by secretly showing cards to a moderator.

I played this game with people who are frequent players of games. We all encountered stumbling blocks. As far as I can tell, there are three main problems.


First, this game convoluted. There’s a huge amount to explain just to get off the ground.

Everyone has two roles to keep track of. Plus, both of their roles have special abilities that are activated by cards. Plus, over the course of the game, you’ve got some players who are subdued and can’t do anything—except they can still vote and draw cards.

Plus, you’ve got “The Brains” role that rotates among the players each round. Only The Brains can accuse someone of being Batman and trigger a vote.

Also, one of the secret roles is “Catwoman in Disguise,” who has a totally different winning condition. And, if you’ve got enough players in the game, there might be even more players with unique winning conditions.

Also, there’s that blackout phase that happens after every round. During the blackout phase, everyone closes their eyes and the moderator checks with each player to see if they have the hand to activate their ability. A significant portion of the actions in Almost Got ‘im are taken during the blackout, and everyone is doing something slightly different, which inevitably means questions are going to come up. But, if anyone needs to ask for clarification during the blackout, it can completely ruin an entire game.


You’ll notice I mentioned a moderator. The second, and possibly biggest issue, is the game requires a moderator to keep track of what’s going on. This means one player essentially doesn’t get to play. Other games in this vein have innovated ways to play without a moderator (The Resistance), or have automated the moderator as an app (One Night Ultimate Werewolf), or have incorporated the moderator as a player (Deception: Murder in Hong Kong).

It’s not even just that Almost Got ‘im requires a moderator, though. It’s that the implementation of the moderator is awkward and inelegant.

The moderator’s main role is to verify which players have formed the poker hand they need. So, basically, during the blackout, the moderator has to get up, walk around the table, silently meet with each player, and—if necessary—give them a new hand of cards and keep track of who they’re subduing/protecting/healing/etc. The problem is, during a given blackout phase, most players will not have a hand to activate, but the few who do will take a long time to exchange their cards and point out who else they’re affecting with their ability.

If you were the moderator, and you spent 30 seconds with one player, and then one second with every other player, and then announced​ that Batman has done something, it’s going to be obvious who Batman is.

So, that means you have to spend 29 extra seconds with every player, just standing around, wasting a lot of time, and making a lot of distracting background noises to try to keep other people from guessing what’s going on.

The actual game in Almost Got ‘im is supposed to be during the drawing, discarding, and voting phase. That’s where the interesting discussion and deduction take place! However, in practice, it feels like you spend most of the time with your eyes closed and the moderator standing there, shuffling around, trying to keep things mysterious.


To add on to the general complexity and clunkiness, we experienced what you might describe as a “bad game.”

In the first round, Batman got two pair and subdued a villain. After that, because of Batman’s total lack of a poker face, everyone was essentially positive who Batman was. However, at that point, the Batman player was also The Brains, and since only The Brains can make an accusation and Batman wasn’t going to accuse himself, the villains couldn’t act on their knowledge. Plus, to top it all off, Batman got two pair again and subdued a second villain for the win.

Essentially, it was impossible for the villains to win no matter what they did.

This got me to thinking. Was this just a fluke? How easy is it for Batman to form the poker hands he needs?

Poker hand probabilities are a frequently studied problem in mathematics. The probability of being dealt two pair (and/or four of a kind) in five card poker is around 5%. This would put your probability of being dealt one of those hands twice in a row at less than 0.03%. But, that probability jumps dramatically when you go from ordinary five card poker to Almost Got ‘im.

Calculating the exact probabilities of forming a hand in Almost Got ‘im is a little tricky because you have a deck with two jokers and a choice of drawing from any one of three face-up discard piles or a face-down draw pile. I’m kind of lazy, so I did what anyone would do and wrote a Perl 6 script that partially simulates​ 1,000 games of Almost Got ‘Im.

The probability of Batman getting two pair in both of the first two rounds of the game is around 18%.

That means that, in a four or five player game, Batman is practically unstoppable around 18% of the time: the villains will only ever get one chance to guess his identity before he wins.

Now, I know there are some nuances to this. Some of the other players also need two pair, so—if those particular roles are in the game—they have the same odds of getting a hand and using it to do something that could block Batman. Also, the villains can astronomically boost their odds of getting a good hand by openly discussing and cooperating and using the discard piles to give each other cards. Plus, Batman’s got a tough enough job trying to blend in; if it was any more difficult, maybe Batman would never win.

But how fun is the game if a reasonably-poker-faced player is practically guaranteed to win a fifth of the time?

I guess the flip side is, in a five player game, you always have at least a 20% chance of randomly guessing who Batman is. So the odds are kind of even? Then again, there’s always a 20% chance that Batman is going to be The Brains… Plus, if Batman has already subdued one player, a wrong guess is going to give Batman the win…

So, who knows. The game is probably fine. It just really irks me that everyone can still lose even if they figure out who Batman is.

Final thoughts

You do get a fantastic looking deck of cards.

I was so excited for this game to come out. I’m the target audience. I love Batman: The Animated Series. I love any game with secret roles.

This game does capture the feeling of Gotham City villains playing a poker game. It really does.

But I’m not loving this game.

I worry about people who bought this based on the articles that said things like “Hey, remember that great episode of the TV show you loved as a kid? Now it’s a fun card game you can play at home with your friends!”

No, it’s not. It’s really, really not.

If you just want a fun, easygoing card game based on Batman: The Animated Series, you should probably get the excellent Batman Fluxx.

I try to avoid a lot of jargon, but let’s call Almost Got ‘im what it is: it’s a complex social deduction game for people who want to play a complex social deduction game.

You should sit down a have a long think before buying this. If you—yes, you, the person who is reading this—buy this game, are you ever actually going to get to play it? It’s too involved to easily explain to someone else how to be the moderator, so chances are you will have to be the moderator every single time. You may never even actually get to experience it as a player. Is that what you really want, or not? Personally, I enjoy moderating and facilitating games. But I don’t want to be locked into doing that every single time.

I mean, clearly some people are playing Almost Got ‘im and having fun with it. More power to them. I do want to play this again, eventually. But, at this point, I don’t see how this game holds candle to, for example, The Resistance, or Bang, or Bang: The Dice Game, or Spyfall, or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong.

Maybe, if you happen to be part of a group that has played a ton of Werewolf or The Resistance, and you’re looking for something with a Batman spin that you can invest a lot of time into, and you’re interested enough to be on the web looking for articles about Almost Got ‘im, you would enjoy this. Just know what you’re getting into.

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game – Games based on Batman: The Animated Series, Part 2

Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lately I’ve been reading the Raffles short stories by E.W. Horning—Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. Instead of a detective, Raffles is a gentleman burglar, essentially Sherlock Holmes’ opposite. Reading them is the closest I’ve come to feeling like I’ve discovered new, authentic Holmes adventures. If the original Sherlock Holmes stories are the Bible, the Raffles stories are the apocrypha.

Just like the typical Holmes story formula of an impossible to solve case, a Raffles story typically centers around an impossibly difficult theft. And, just as the Holmes stories are written from the point of view of Dr. Watson, the Raffles stories are written from the point of view of Bunny—Raffles’ devoted, practically sycophantic sidekick.

Raffles shares many characteristics of Holmes—intelligence, courage, penchant for disguises—but puts them all to use as a criminal. You wouldn’t say that Raffles is evil, necessarily. He tends to steal from morally dubious characters. Still, Raffles is a bad man. In one story, he plots a murder, partially to protect his criminal identity, but partially just for the thrill of secretly knowing that he’s committed the most heinous crime possible.

The stories were apparently quite famous and scandalous at the time, although as Sherlock Holmes has only grown more popular, Raffles fame hasn’t kept pace.

If a gentleman burglar was legitimately scandalous to Victorian audiences, how much have things changed? Fiction about criminal exploits doesn’t exactly carry a stigma today.

In fact, you’re no longer limited to just reading about burgling as you relax in the parlor in your smoking jacket. If you want to feel like a burglar, plenty of board games let you carry out your own daring heists. Which brings me to another game based on Batman: The Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

I can’t see the Batman: The Animated Series logo without hearing the theme in my head. Dunn dun dun dunn dun dunnnn…

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game is a game for two to four players from Steve Jackson Games where you take on the role of one of four DC Comics villains. Your goal is to steal as much money as possible without getting caught by Batman. Each turn, you pull dice out of a cup, trying to roll as many money bags as you can. You can stop at any time, keeping any money you’ve rolled, or you can keep rolling—but if you roll three Bat-symbols, your turn ends and you get nothing. The winner is the person with the most money at the end of the game.

Each die has six sides, two of which are alarm symbols. Whenever you roll an alarm, you can choose to re-roll it. Blue dice have more money bags, gray dice are equally balanced, and yellow dice have more Bat-symbols, so you can tell by the color of an alarm how risky it is to re-roll.

The game is a slightly redesigned version of Steve Jackon’s Zombie Dice. The main differences are this version has less dice (10 instead 13) but adds villain characters with unique abilities. For example, Catwoman scores double for any blue money bags, and Riddler gets an extra die on his first roll.

Zombie Dice 2.0?

I came into this game with zero knowledge about how to play it or Zombie Dice. Unfortunately, after reading the rules, I still felt as blind as Batman in the episode “Blind as a Bat.” I had to look up how to play Zombie Dice to understand what was going on here. Part of what’s confusing is the rules attempt to explain the special characters before explaining how to play the game. Also, the explanation of what to do on your turn tells you what to do so specifically that you don’t get a general idea of what a turn is like.

I’d always shied away from Zombie Dice because I find the zombie on the game’s artwork disturbing—and not in a good way. However, Zombie Dice is an ingeniously designed game. You’re a zombie. You want to roll brains. You don’t want to roll gunshots because that’s like you got shot. And, if roll footsteps, it’s like your victim ran away: you get to chase them down and re-roll. Green dice have more brains, yellow dice are balanced evenly, and red dice have more gunshots.

This translates directly into the Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game. Money bags are like brains; alarms are like footsteps; and Bat-symbols are like gunshots.

Except… does this actually make as much sense as Zombie Dice?

In Zombie Dice, a footstep icon for re-rolling works perfectly because a footstep icon doesn’t look inherently good or bad.

Here, the symbol for re-roll is an alarm. Technically, that checks out. You’re a super criminal and the dice are like buildings that you’re breaking into. You want to find money bags, you don’t want to find Batman, and if you just set off the alarm, you don’t care.

But… it’s pretty firmly established in the human brain that setting off alarms is a really, really bad thing. If you’re a criminal breaking into a place, you don’t actually want to set off the alarm. When you’re playing, you roll the dice, and your immediate reaction is, “Oh no, I set off the alarm! Oh wait, alarms aren’t the bad thing. Batman is the bad thing? But Batman is good? Oh wait, that’s right, I’m bad. I’m Poison Ivy. I don’t want Batman to show up. I mean, I probably do, because I probably want to kiss him with my poisonous lipstick. But, no, really I don’t.”

There’s an extra cognitive hoop you have to jump through to remember which icons are good and which icons are bad.

One question: where are we breaking into that actually keeps their money in bags like this? Scrooge McDuck’s house?

Related to that, the colors in Zombie Dice make total sense: green dice are good, yellow dice are meh, and red dice are bad. Every automobile driver, if not literally every single human being, understands that green, yellow, and red mean go, caution, and stop.

Here, the dice are blue, gray, and yellow. Those are the colors of Batman’s suit, but they don’t have the same innate simplicity. Blue, gray, and yellow aren’t hard-wired into your subconscious. It always takes a moment to remember which colors are good and which are bad.

On the other hand, that’s all assuming that you’re not color blind. For most forms of color blindness, blue and yellow are actually easier to distinguish than red and green. Plus… maybe it would just be weird to have green, yellow, and red dice in a Batman game?


The game ends once someone gets at least 30 points and everyone has had an equal number of turns. However, the game doesn’t include a way to track those points. You have to either use a piece of paper, or come up with some other way (Batcomputer?). It would be cool if there were tokens. Then again, for a four player game, you’d need potentially over 120 tokens, so it’s pretty obvious why they’re not included. One thing to consider is using poker chips or money pieces from a different game.

Also, the game is a cup full of dice, but you don’t actually use the cup to roll the dice. On your turn, you reach into the cup, pull out dice randomly, and roll them. Getting the exact amount of dice you need out of the cup can be problematic.

Keep in mind, this is not a bag, it’s a cup. It’s rigid. And we’re talking the size of cup you get when you order fresh squeezed juice at a restaurant: it’s not generous. Unless you have weird suction cup fingers, you’ll probably end up trying to tip it over and catch the dice without looking at what color they are (because that would be cheating). Except, of course, you end up dropping a bunch of them because you can’t look at them.


The inherent problem with creating a character-driven, muli-player game about Batman is there’s only one Batman. Sure, maybe the other players could be Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing, but if you want a wildly diverse array of player characters, you have to make the villains into the protagonists of the game.

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game embraces this, casting the players as Joker, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Riddler. Each of the villains has an interesting power that is reasonably tailored to that villain’s personality, and none of them seem conspicuously more powerful than the others.

If you want, it’s easy to pretend that Invisible Man guy from the “See No Evil” episode is another one of the villains here.

A fifth villain, Mr. Freeze, exists as a promo card. It looks like the easiest way to obtain this promo is to order the game directly from Steve Jackson Games’ Warehouse 23 online store. Unfortunately, the Mr. Freeze villain is a card instead of a token like the other villains so you can’t mix them all together and draw one randomly. However, Mr. Freeze’s power is pretty intriguing since it enables you to run out of dice faster, which gets you more points.

Final thoughts

The Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game continues the trend from Batman Fluxx of putting the animated Batman license on a pre-existing popular game. In that case, it was Fluxx. Here, it is Zombie Dice.

Batman Fluxx is a clear improvement over ordinary Fluxx. Here, I’m a bit more conflicted.

You can’t say that the Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game is worse than Zombie Dice, right? Because they’re basically the exact same game. But… it’s kinda worse because it doesn’t have the same intuitive clarity. Then again, it’s definitely better because it’s got Batman and villains with evil superpowers.

Steve Jackson Games recently announced Zombie Dice Horde Edition, which includes a score pad for tracking your score and a dice bag instead of a dice cup. This fixes two of my biggest complaints about the Batman: The Animated Series version. The Horde Edition also includes two expansions.

This is a tough call! If I didn’t have any version of the game, I would find myself pretty tempted by the Horde Edition. And yet, the things I didn’t like about the Batman version were pretty minor, and the nostalgic draw of Batman: The Animated Series is undeniably strong.

When I first heard they were making a dice game based on Batman: The Animated Series, it instantly hit my wish list. Then, the very first time I played, on my very first roll, I got three Bat-symbols: an immediate bust. I’m not holding that against it, though. The Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game is fun, and I think it’s the best version of Zombie Dice if you’re a Batman fan.

Batman Fluxx – Games based on Batman: The Animated Series, Part 1

When I was little, we didn’t go to the movies or rent movies. I only got to see a movie if it happened to be on TV when I happened to be watching, or if read through the TV schedule section in the newspaper and set the VCR to tape record it (seriously, this is the kind of thing we did back then). If a movie wasn’t on TV at all, I never got to see it.

At some point, when I was in college and finally had a computer with a DVD drive, I realized that I could check out any movie I wanted from the college library. I could finally watch all of the movies I kept hearing were great. I started with Citizen Kane and kept going from there.

Later on, I realized that I wasn’t limited to things I’d recently heard were great, I could go back to things I’d wanted to see in the past… things that I’d wanted to see when I was little but never got to. Which, one day, led to me bringing home Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, if you’re not familiar with it, was a theatrically released movie based on Batman: The Animated Series. I watched Batman: The Animated Series all the time as a child and so did all of my friends, and I remember distinctly when Mask of the Phantasm came out, but I’d never gotten to see it. The movie was itself something a phantasm—the closest I got to as a child was cutting an article about it out of a magazine (again, this is the kind of thing we did back then) and unsuccessfully trying to find the Phantasm action figure at every toy store.

It turned out that Mask of the Phantasm was great, too (and also, oddly enough, strongly influenced by Citizen Kane)—slightly darker than the series, filling in some of Batman’s backstory, and delivering some surprising revelations—everything you could possibly want from a movie based on a show. Seeing the missing piece of my favorite childhood TV series did not disappoint, even though it took me years to realize that I could just get the movie and watch it if I really wanted to.

For kids of a certain age, Batman: The Animated Series defined our childhood. When we played, we were always Batman and Robin. We had action figures, and Batmobiles, and Robin’s hang glider. We were experts on Batman’s different grappling hooks, from the regular to the needle-that-sticks-into-anything. I remember one time, on a field trip, a kid tried to attack me using the O-Nemuri Touch from the “Day of the Samurai” episode. I say “tried” because, hey, I’d seen the episode, of course it wasn’t going to work. (Also, it’s from a TV show—it’s not a real martial arts thing.)

Even as I grew up, I was never far from whisperings of Batman: The Animated Series. I remember girls in college saying they put the show on in their room and it got guys to come over—like some kind of guynip.

For kids of a certain age, Batman: The Animated Series has followed us all of our lives. Initially, it spawned Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Batman Beyond, and a host of other shows and direct-to-video films. The voice actors reprised their roles for the Arkham Asylum series of video games. Harley Quinn has ascended from sidekick created for the show to iconic part of the Batman mythos and America’s most popular Halloween costume.

Oddly enough, Batman: The Animated Series is having something of a renaissance in the form of board games, too. In 2015, Batman Fluxx was released. In 2016, Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game came out. And, this year, in 2017, Batman: The Animated Series Almost Got ‘im Card Game hit the market.

This is pretty weird, right? It’d be weird for even one game to be based on a 25-year-old children’s cartoon show, let alone three games, right? I can only surmise that the people making these games are like me and grew up watching it and still love it. (Also, maybe those girls from college went on to become savvy marketing executives in charge of licensing old TV series?)

In this series of reviews, I’ll be taking a look at these new games, starting with Batman Fluxx.

Batman Fluxx

Batman Fluxx is a Batman-ified version of the two-to-six-player card game Fluxx from Looney Labs. At the beginning of the game, each player gets a hand of cards and there are two rules: each turn you draw one card and each turn you play one card. The different types of cards you play either go in front of you (“keepers”), perform actions (like discarding or exchanging cards), or manipulate the rules of the game. For example, new rule cards can change the number of cards you draw each turn, change the number of cards you play each turn, or even change the victory condition (“goal”) of the game. The winner is the first person to have the keeper cards on the current goal card.

There are many, many different versions of Fluxx, from the basic, ‘unthemed’ game with keepers like love, war, milk, and cookies to licensed versions for everything from Monty Python to Firefly. They’re all largely the same, but each version has its own unique twists, from special rule cards, to different mixes of card types, to new card types like “creepers” (cards that prevent you from winning) and “surprises” (cards you can play on other people’s turns).

“He’s in a vehicle. It’s a black… tank.”

In Batman Fluxx, the keeper cards are Batman, his allies, and his Bat-gadgets. The creeper cards are villains from the series. There are also little Batman specific touches everywhere, like the Batcomputer gives a boost to your abilities, and you’re not allowed to have the Bruce Wayne card and the Batman card at the same time, and sometimes discarded villains go to Arkham Asylum (and then sometimes they break out again, too).


Essentially, Fluxx is about manipulating the rules of the game to make it easier for you to win and harder for other people to win. For example, you might play new rules that allow you to draw a lot of cards, but not your opponents. Or you might change the goal so it doesn’t include any keepers held by your opponents.

The first time I played Fluxx, I hated it. I thought it was a terrible, poorly-designed, aggravating, un-fun game. However, subsequently, I have totally changed my mind.

When I first played, it was basic Fluxx, version 4.0. The basic Fluxx deck, especially the 4.0 version, is somewhat meaner than other Fluxx derivatives. It has cards like “Hand Limit Zero” that can force other players to discard everything. It also has several creeper cards that, once you get them, are very difficult to get rid of. In fact, Looney Labs actually toned down the meanness of the game for the 5.0 version.

Batman Fluxx doesn’t have the harshest cards from core Fluxx, and while it does have a host of villain creepers, it has lots of cards that make them easy to get rid of or win with. For example, many of the goals require specific villains. Also, having any member of the Bat-family as a keeper allows you to discard one villain per turn, so there’s kind of a game on top of the game where you’re using the good guys to bust the bad guys.

I mean, it doesn’t feel like you’re playing a whole new game where you’re Batman tracking down crooks from the rogue’s gallery and catching them. You still feel like you’re playing Fluxx. But, Batman Fluxx is an exceptionally good version of Fluxx. Maybe not quite good enough to win you over if you’re still in the camp of people who hate Fluxx, but it’s good.


In a manner of speaking, technically, Batman: The Animated Series never really existed. There was never actually a show with the title “Batman: The Animated Series” shown on screen. What we remember today as Batman: The Animated Series is one of two or three distinct but closely related shows. The series initially appeared with no title or words of any kind shown during the opening credits. During the second season, the opening was changed and the title shown as The Adventures of Batman and Robin. Two years later, a follow-on series—with slightly redesigned appearances for the characters—was produced with the title The New Batman Adventures.

Poison Ivy and Bane… I know I’ve seen them together somewhere before…

Batman Fluxx uses these later character designs. Frankly, I don’t think they are quite as good as the originals, but they are the standard look for Batman in the original DC Animated Universe. Also, Scarecrow isn’t one of the villains in the game, so you aren’t subjected to the terrifying redesigned Scarecrow.

The backs of the cards are the familiar “Fluxx” design to allow you to mix this with other types of Fluxx, however the fronts have detailed art deco borders with a tiny Bat-symbol to match the “dark deco” look of the series.

The box is the standard Fluxx box: a nearly perfect two-piece box with finger cutouts for easy opening and no wasteful air space inside. The cards are standard Fluxx quality: i.e., not thick or linen finished.

Promo cards

If you’re going to get Batman Fluxx, you should get the promo cards. The promo cards are the icing on top of the game. (Also, thank you to Looney Labs for selling their promo cards on their webstore so that they’re actually obtainable for people who aren’t able to get them at conventions or stores or wherever else promos come from.)

Flipping the coin makes you feel like an agent of chaos.

The first promo released was the “Two Face Flip” action card. Whenever you get this card, you can flip the included Batman coin to double your hand or lose all of your cards. This is maybe the single most fun card in the entire game. I always flip for it.

Clayface: a serious warning about the dangers of putting experimental pharmaceuticals in your makeup.

The second promo was Clayface. This is maybe the single most powerful card in the entire game because it can be used in place of any other villain. For example, if the goal requires two specific villains, you only need to get one of them and Clayface. This helps to keep the game from going too long (which is occasionally an issue with Fluxx) and brings a lot of extra intrigue because this card is so powerful that everyone tries to steal it.

“I threw a rock at him!”

On the other hand, the third promo is Killer Croc. He’s just a basic villain with no exciting powers. Which, you know, kind of describes Killer Croc for real, so it’s well-designed. But, since it doesn’t add any new rules to the game, it’s not as essential as the other two promos.

Final thoughts

I guess I’m finally old enough to be marketed to based on nostalgia. I remember when I was little, seeing advertisements on TV for things like Time Life boxed sets of 1960s music or commercials with people like Mickey Rooney, who I literally only knew from commercials. When you’re not the target audience, marketing based on nostalgia looks pretty transparent and pretty unappealing. However, now that I find myself on the receiving end of it, it looks a lot different.

Should I buy a card game based on a TV show I loved when I was in elementary school?

Back then, I couldn’t afford to buy every toy that was coming out based on Batman: The Animated Series. There were tons of them and I didn’t have an allowance that big (and sometimes I got into trouble and didn’t have any allowance).

Now, I set my own allowance.

Obviously nostalgia is a big selling point for Batman Fluxx. But there’s more to Batman Fluxx than just nostalgia; there’s an interesting game, too. Fluxx was originally released in 1997—it’s practically almost as old Batman: The Animated Series. Over the years, the game has been tweaked, polished, refined, and expounded upon. One end result of that is Batman Fluxx. If you like Batman and you’re looking for a fun, fast card game, this is well worth it.

Board Game Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re anything like me, you have a really hard time figuring out what other people are thinking. Also, you probably tend to project your own thoughts and feelings onto other people, when in reality their minds are filled with totally different ideas. Your subjective personhood makes it really difficult to shop for other people for the holidays because you can never actually know if you’re getting them something they want or not!

Don’t worry! I’ve come to your recuse and made a gift guide for 2016. You can use this to find the perfect gift for anyone in your life this year.

Note: Some of my own biases may have influenced the selections.

For the dice game fan

Batman: The Animated Series Dice GameNothing makes a better gift for a dice game fan this Christmas than the new Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the husband

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

I’m a husband, and if there’s anything I think would make a great gift, it’s Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the wife

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

If your wife is anything like my wife, she is willing to watch Batman: The Animated Series with you. You can take that aspect of your relationship to the next level by getting her Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the kids

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

Kids love Batman. That’s why there have been so many animated series about Batman. But only one has achieved the critical acclaim of Batman: The Animated Series. You can bring the joy of Batman: The Animated Series to your kids (or anyone else’s kids) this holiday season with Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the Batman fan

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

Nothing would make a Batman fan happier than getting a great Batman game as a gift. I would suggest Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the Marvel Comics fan

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

This person is clearly misguided. You can help them see the light by getting them Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the cat lover

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

If there’s anyone who loves cats, it’s Catwoman—a crazy cat lady from DC Comics’ Batman. This year, you can get the perfect gift for the catwoman (or catman) in your life by getting them Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the dog lover

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

You know who doesn’t have a dog? Batman from Batman: The Animated Series. He is too busy fighting crime to take Ace the Bat-Hound for a walk! You can keep the dog lover in your life busy this holiday season with Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the millennial

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

If there’s anything that millennials remember fondly, it’s sitting in front of the TV watching the episode of Batman: The Animated Series where young Bruce Wayne sits in front of the TV watching The Grey Ghost! Appeal to their sense of nostalgia and help them stave off the specter of middle age by getting them Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the grandparent

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

Grandparents are old enough to remember what life was like before Batman: The Animated Series. They’ll appreciate your assistance in getting past the memory of those awful times if you get them Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

For the whole family

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

Nothing brings the family together like the story of a millionaire who thinks he’s above the law as he drives around in a fancy car and punches a bunch of misguided social outcasts! Celebrate that around your kitchen table this Christmas season with Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game from Steve Jackson Games!

Those are my recommendations for this year. Hopefully this gift guide will help you as you’re making your holiday purchasing decisions! Be sure to share it with anyone in your life who’s struggling with gift ideas!