Masters of the Universe: The Board Game Designer Diary – Episode 3

Quickly, name your favorite Masters of the Universe character.

Even if “He-Man” or “Skeletor” was your answer, the simple fact that you had an answer should speak to the influence that the Masters of the Universe toy line holds over pop culture. Every character was iconic and archetypal, memorable and distinct. 

Michael Shinall here, co-designer of Masters of the Universe: The Board Game, and I’m here today to talk to you about characters and their impact on the game (the correct answer to the question above is “Mer-Man”, by the way). I briefly touched on this in my first diary and wanted to expand on that a bit here.

The heart of the Masters’ universe (see what I did there?) has always been the heroes and villains which populated the incredible setting of Eternia. Whether you relished playing as the heroic forces of He-Man, Man-At-Arms, and Princess Teela, or preferred to play on the more sinister side of Skeletor, Evil Lyn, and Trap Jaw, there was quite the roster to pick your favorite from. With the original toy line expanding to over 60 unique action figures, there were plenty of options available to suit all tastes and fan-varieties.

As the line grew and expanded, the traits and personalities of these characters became even more varied and unique. Yes, the core characters have enjoyed huge popularity throughout the years, but many seemingly unlikely characters have seen surprise surges in recognition that eventually pushed them into full fledged “fan-favorite” categories (Ram-Man, Stratos, and Webstor fans, you know what I’m talking about!). When it came to creating the board game, we knew from the beginning that we wanted the characters to be the focus. After all, it’s the actions of these iconic figures that shapes the stories that people have come to love over the years. So, with that mindset permeating the core of the project, we set about creating a game which sees the players taking on the roles of these iconic characters. But there is so much more to it than simply “playing He-Man or Beast Man”: when a player chooses a character, they need to feel like they are playing that character in the game, and that means that, when translating the characters to the tabletop, we couldn’t simply say “yeah that sounds like X”- no, we had to know the characters: their defining traits, the cool aspects… and even some of the sillier ones as well-we wanted to celebrate the full spectrum of what Masters of the Universe had to offer.

Let’s take a moment to talk about how that translates into the board game: Each game session will see players selecting one (or more, if they so choose) of their favorite characters. As we’ve talked about, one of the most important goals was not only to make each character unique, but accurately represent them. For this, each character has a set of Skills unique to them, representing the various Attacks, Abilities, and Traits of that character. Some examples would be Ram-Man’s iconic Ram Attack, which allows him to plow through enemies, knocking them all aside, or Man-At-Arms’ Enhance Gear Skill, representing his skills at technology and weapon smithing. During the game, players will gain and utilize these skills to aid in their objectives. Of course, we wanted players to have options as well! So while each character does have their own unique roster of skills, they won’t have full access to each of them every game. How you develop your character, which skills you gain as the game progresses, is up to the player, and their choice may be dependent on their preferred play-style or the needs of the scenario!

Let’s show an example, speaking specifically about Man-At-Arms. Through his skills, you could select to open up various attack skills for him – aka the various weapons he utilizes – so the more “gung-ho” players can tap into that aspect. But we also know while Duncan is a capable fighter in his own right, that he prefers to use his brain to find solutions, rather than raw brute force. So in additional to his various offensive options, you could elect to play Man-At-Arms in more of a support role, granting aid and buffs to himself as well as his teammates. And of course, you’re free play your own unique mix of these roles. The choice of playstyle is always with the player. An important aspect of all this is that when you play Man-At-Arms, it’s a wholly unique experience from playing He-Man, Orko, or say, Beast Man. And even more important than that was making sure that Man-At-Arms felt like playing Man-At-Arms!


We know everyone has their favorites, and this is the premier chance to take control of your favorites and re-create all those fights you visualized in your head. It’s our ultimate goal to do those visuals justice, so regardless if your favorite is one of the Heroic Warriors or part of the Evil Horde, they will play exactly as you always dreamt they would in those epic battles of your imagination.

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