Masters of the Universe: The Board Game Designer Diary – Episode 5

Heroic Warriors! Evil Warriors! Michael Shinall here again, Co-Designer of the Masters of the Universe: Clash for Eternia boardgame, and today we’re going to take about the various ways to play the game!

If you haven’t checked out our previous articles on the game, you can do so in the following links:

Designer Diary 1: I Have the Power!

Designer Diary 2: The Power System

Designer Diary 3: Heroes and Villains

Designer Diary 4: Choosing Your Role

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s dive right in!


This is the standard way to play the game, but even that title is a little misleading, as it actually encompasses a couple variations – but we’ll get into that in a moment.

The term “One-vs-Many” is often used when describing this sort of game. Essentially, it sees one player playing the forces of “the one” (Overlord, Nemesis, or in this case, “Controller”. All synonyms for this sort of role) and all the remaining players working as a team to win the game. This style of game has been around forever but there are some key elements at work in Clash for Eternia that change the usual formula.

We previously spoke on this subject (Article 4, to be precise) but just to recap: A unique aspect of the game is that the roles of the Controller and Player Characters can be interchanged. What this means is that the forces of the Heroic Warriors (He-Man, Man-At-Arms, etc) and the Evil Warriors (Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, etc) aren’t limited to one side. When setting up the game, the Players and Controller can elect which group they will individually control- If the players want to band together as the Heroic Warriors and put a stop to Skeletor’s dastardly schemes, they absolutely can… But if they want to take on the nefarious role of the villains, rampaging across Eternia instead, then that’s also an option. In the later scenario the Controller would then end up playing as the combined forces of the Heroic Warriors (and their Eternian allies).

Functionally, the way this works is that the Players will each select 1 Character to play as each game, and the Controller will, well, control a group of Characters, Minions (Hover Robots! Eternian Soldiers!) and gain access to some unique and special “Controller” powers as well.

Now, this is where the “couple variations” comment I mentioned at the beginning comes into play. This game mode is played between 2-5 players: 1 Controller and up to 4 Players. On the Controller side the number of their forces never changes – they will always control the same set amount of Characters and Minions (every Character has both a Controller version and a Player-Character version). Naturally, on the Player side, you’ll have one Character per player… But then the question becomes, how does the game scale? There is obviously a difference if you’re playing 1-vs-1 or 4-vs-1, so how does it work with variable player-counts?

Well, without getting into too many gameplay specifics, the game functions off of an Activation System, meaning each side will have a number of Activations each game round. Each side will always have a total of 4. On the Controller side, they will always control 3 different Characters, and then have a special activation in which they will utilize their Controller Powers, activate their Minions, etc etc. Meanwhile, the Player Characters also have a total of 4 Activations, regardless of player-count. So if you’re playing the full gambit of 4 Characters, this means everyone gets a single Activation. But let’s say you only want to play 1-vs-1. Well, that’s certainly an option! In that situation you’d have a single Character, but they would get to activate a total of four times per game Round. Playing with two Characters? Two Activations each across the Round. But what about three? That’s an odd number! Well, in that situation everyone gets a single Activation as well, but the team gets a cool bonus option in place of their “fourth” Activation.

Ok, so that was a lot to process, right? Let’s break it down in simpler terms: If you have a full group of players then it’s a full team of 4 Player Characters vs. 1 Controller. If you have less than that, however, not to worry as the game scales with the number of Characters being used. This means that, regardless, if its 4 vs. Controller, 3 vs. Controller, 2 vs. Controller, or even 1 vs. Controller it all works. This can lead to some very cool scenarios and game moments just depending on the player count: Play a scenario with 4 players and can be the team of Heroic Warriors, He-Man, Orko, Teela, Stratos working together to stop the combined forces of the Evil Warriors! Play that same scenario with 1 player vs. the Controller and now the narrative is He-Man launching a heroic one-man-assault against those same forces, taking on all comers!

Alright, so that covers the Player vs. Controller mode of the game, but let’s say that you dislike that sort of conflict, and just want to work together with your friends to overcome the odds? Well, we have you covered there as well.

CO-OP vs. AI

The Power System is at its core One-vs-Many, but we designed the Controller side in such a way that it can be fully automated as well. Of course, there is a robustness in the system that can really only be properly utilized by the skilled brain of a Controller Player, but we know that this isn’t always preferable to some. Given that, we developed a full AI System that pilots the Controller side of the conflict, should you want the full Cooperative Experience.

In this mode, the Controller is replaced by a deck of A.I. cards that dictate their actions. Each Character also features a unique A.I. version as well, which combines with the A.I. Deck to show how they operate during the game.

To get into some more specific details it works like this: As we spoke about above, the game functions off of Activations, with each Character getting a turn, performing the various Attacks and Actions they will do, then gameplay moves onto the next Character. Usually, the Controller would make the choices and decisions in how each of their Characters operates (how they spend their Power, what Skills they use, how they move, etc). In the Cooperative Mode, when a Controller Character Activates, you’ll flip over an AI Card for that Character, which in turn will list what Actions they will attempt that turn. This combines with the unique AI Character Card for each character. So, for example, the most basic AI card says the Character moves up and attempts to attack the nearest Player Character; you’d cross-reference the Attack listed on the Character Card and utilize that. This alone functionally changes how the Character operates because Beast Man has different attacks than, say, Evil-Lyn. This is further modified by certain surprises and tricks that the AI Deck has to represent the various Controller Powers that would usually be available. So, during that whole onslaught the Players might suddenly find an unexpected ambush of Minions, or the Controller boosting one of their Characters with additional HP and Power to better utilize their attacks and abilities!

Just like when playing in the non-Cooperative Mode, the choice in Characters on the Controller side can drastically alter how the Players have to go about achieving their goals. An AI Team consisting of Ram-Man, He-Man, and Stratos is going to have a strong focus on melee capabilities and movement tricks (Ram! Mighty Toss! Bombing Run!), whereas one consisting of Teela, Orko, and Man-At-Arms would be a primarily ranged threat with some devastating support capabilities (Summon Royal Guards! Teleport! Tactical Reposition!)

In the end, we’re very excited about the Power System, its various methods of play, and how Masters of the Universe slots into its overall design. So whether its playing full cooperative- you and your friends (or solo, that’s fine too!) working together to overcome your adversaries, or one of you taking on the role of Controller to outsmart, outwit, and crush the others, we have you covered!


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