I’ve barely scratched the surface Batman: Everyone liesthe latest in the detective series from Portal Games, and I was fascinated by this clever little board game. Players never take on the role of the caped Crusader themselves, but the experience feels exactly like crawling and snooping around the panels of your favorite comic book. Best of all, it rewards you for playing with your friends – a feature that wasn’t necessarily a priority when designing the original game, which was much easier to complete alone.
Everyone lies drops 2-4 players into the roles of classic DC characters nominally allied with Batman – journalists Warren Spacey and Vicki Vale, detective Harvey Bullock and Catwoman. Together they form a special task force recruited by Jim Gordon to dig into concurrent cases where the Gotham City Police Department is at a loss. Three such sleeves are supplied with the base game, for a total playing time of six to nine hours out of the box.
Mechanically, Everyone lies is conveyed through a simple unlocking system that requires players to trade Influence for new Leads. It’s a welcome simplification of the original Detective: A Modern Crime Board Gamewhich – in my opinion at least – was unnecessarily complex. Meanwhile, a similarly simple timer counts down to the end of the game with every player action. The result is a tense but not frantic pace that keeps everyone at the table busy.
Part of this increased engagement is due to the game’s reliance on comic book logic rather than realistic simulations. The original detective openly revealed a egregious misunderstanding of American policing. While the cases and the clues associated with them were clever, the National Intelligence Agency construct made little to no sense in and of itself, let alone in relation to the FBI, CIA, and other allied agencies featured in the game. Similarly, the stress mechanic – a penalty imposed when players worked overtime – just didn’t fit the stereotypical grey-haired cop archetype that the game was aimed at.
In contrast, Everyone lies plays beautifully with genre expectations. Everyone at the table has a sordid backstory to contend with. While there’s room for quarterbacking (where one player can direct everyone’s actions) to rear their ugly head, at least no one is actually playing as Batman. In this way, the game shows remarkable restraint. Players can call upon the Dark Knight himself to advance a case along with his rugged demeanor and array of high-tech investigative tools. Therefore, the necessary narrative hand-waving that detective games must perform to drive the action becomes a feature, not a bug.
However, my biggest disappointment is the game’s required web integration. Notes and other narrative bits in there Everyone lies drawn from multiple decks of cards. These cards often direct you to a special website for additional information. But the site itself — at least the preview version available to the press — is sluggish, with a challenging user interface and a fairly slow response time. I’m about in a case and haven’t found anything yet that couldn’t be rendered as another physical object in the game box. Essentially, the web app adds nothing to the experience and in some cases detracts from it – but I imagine it makes the game a lot cheaper to produce.
Batman: Everyone lies should be available to retail for $50.00 on May 19th. Pre-orders are now possible on the Portal Games website.
Batman: Everyone lies was previewed with a retail copy provided by Portal Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find For more information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy, click here.