To set up the game, each player will select a Hero to play and place their identity card, alter-ego side up in front of them. The identity card will number the hit points they have and these are entered into the hit point dial. Each Hero will have an obligation card and a set of Nemesis cards which are set aside for the moment. The player then shuffles their player deck which will consist of Hero specific cards, basic cards, and aspect cards. Hero decks come pre-constructed but players are free to build their own decks whilst complying with the deckbuilding rules.
Next, a Villain is selected and is placed on the table along with the Villain’s main scheme and the Villain’s main deck. The Villain’s hit points are entered into the Villain’s hit point dial. The main scheme may have some setup instructions which are followed and resolved at this stage. The relevant encounter cards and modular sets and the Heroes obligation cards are added to the Villains the main deck and shuffled to form the encounter deck.
Each player then draws a starting hand of cards as detailed on their identity card and can discard any number of cards, drawing back up to their hand limit. If a Hero has any setup instructions these are resolved and followed now.
The game is played over a number of rounds, alternating between the player’s turns and then the Villains turn. On a player’s turn they can perform a number of actions:
- change form from alter ego to Hero or Hero to alter ego but only once per round,
- play cards from their hand paying the relevant resource costs
- Use their Heroes basic attack or thwart ability (only in Hero form and exhausting their identity)
- Use an ally they control to attack or thwart (exhausting the ally)
- Activate an action card they control (and exhausting the card if applicable)
- Use their alter-egos recovery ability to gain hit points (only in alter ego form and exhausting their identity)
Once a player has performed all of their actions they pass, the next player performs their actions until all players have passed. At this stage players can discard any remaining cards in their hand (if they want) and draw up to their hand limit (This may change depending on the form they are in) Each player then readies all of their cards (identity, allies, action cards).
Next is the Villain phase. At the start of the Villain phase threat is placed on the main scheme as detailed on the main scheme card. The villain and any minions then activate against each player. If the player is in Hero form the Villain attacks. If the player is in alter ego form the Villain schemes and adds a threat to the main scheme. Each time the Villain activates they draw a card from the encounter deck and add the number of boost icons to his base attack or scheme value. The Villain then deals each player an encounter card face down and in turn order, each player reveals and resolves the encounter card.
The first player token then passes to the next player and the player’s start the round again.
The game continues this way until the Villain has been defeated by reducing his hit points to zero for both stages and the player’s win. Players lose if the Villains scheme threshold reaches its maximum or they all have their hit points reduced to zero.