Saturday, July 29, 2017

Board Game Review: The Goonies Adventure Card Game

Recently, the Dork Spouse and I found ourselves at our local board game cafe with time to kill. We looked around at their library to decide what we wanted to play, and eventually decided to try out the Goonies: Adventure Card Game that was funded via Kickstarter last year. So now I will share my thoughts on that game with you. Starting of course with the numbers:

Strategy: 3
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: Derivative
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 45 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Low
  Conflict: Low
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: High

An Overview of The Goonies

This is a co-operative game in which players take on the role of one of the characters from the film in their attempt to find the treasure hidden by the pirate One-Eyed Willie before running out of time or being thwarted by the malevolent Fratelli family. The goal is to locate all five treasures before running out of Encounter Cards, having five Fratelli cards in the Encounter area, or having five Obstacle Cards at any one location. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense yet, so bear with me...

The game consists of several decks of cards and a couple small stacks of tiles. These are arranged at the beginning of the game into:

  • Locations. There are five location tiles, numbered 1 through 5, which are laid out in a row in the centre of the play area. There are three possible tiles to choose from for each of the five locations. Each one offers different challenges to make the game more or less difficult, and one of each is marked as a suggested location to use for your first game. Below each location tile is a column of
  • Obstacles. Each obstacle has one or more Item icons. To get rid of an obstacle, you must play Item Cards with matching icons. Obstacles prevent you from exploring a location, and if there are ever five or more obstacle cards at a Location, the game ends in a loss for the players.
  • Exploration Tiles. Above each Location tile is a stack of three Exploration Tiles. These describe what happens when you explore a location; two of them are Booby Traps, which add Obstacles to the location. The third is a Treasure, which gets stored on a Mapped Path Tile if one is available (if not, it gets moved to the bottom of the Exploration Tile Stack and must be discovered again on a later turn).
  • Paths. Nearby, there are five Paths tiles. The name of these is somewhat misleading, as they don't serve a function that would normally be suggested by the term 'path.' In essence, each of these tiles serves as a storage place for the treasures you discover at the locations. At the beginning of the game, all but one of the Paths starts as 'unmapped,' meaning that it is face down. During the game, you must 'map' a location by spending three Item Icons from the Item Cards in your hand. Each Path requires a different icon; one requires three Map icons, another requires three Key icons, and so on. Once a Path has been mapped, it is turned face up and can then store a Treasure.
In addition to these, you also have the decks of Item Cards. Interestingly, the Item Cards serve dual duty; depending on whether you look at them from the side or from the bottom, they either serve as Item Cards or as Obstacle Cards. Thus:

A card shown in the vertical orientation, with the long edge on the sides and the short edges on top and bottom. The left two thirds of the card has an aged parchment background, and there is a large image of the skull-shaped key from the Goonies film on it. Along the right side of the card, the background is a greyish green, and in the top of this section is a smaller version of the same image of the skull key, turned sideways. In the bottom of this section, also turned sideways, is a skull-and-crossed-swords pirate symbol next to the Roman Numeral Two. This is the same card as the previous image, but now it is turned ninety degrees to the left, so that the large skull key on the parchment background is on the bottom of the card, and the green section with the small skull key, the skull-and-crossed-swords symbol and the Roman numeral two are in the upright position along the top of the card.
In this orientation, it is an Item Card with a Key Icon. We ignore the green section along the right edge. In this orientation, it is an Obstacle Card which requires a single Key icon to clear. This Obstacle Card will be placed on Location II, and triggers an Encounter Card if revealed during the 'Escalate' Phase. We ignore the large key icon in the bottom section.
There is also a deck of Encounter Cards. Some of these are beneficial, but some are 'Fratelli Cards,' representing a setback resulting from the actions of a member of the Fratelli family.

Each player chooses one of the seven characters, each of whom has a special ability as well as a 'once-per-game' ability. They draw two Item Cards each (three each in a two-player game). Play then begins.

A Round in The Goonies

A round consists of four phases:
  1. Take Team Actions
  2. Discard Used Cards
  3. Draw New Cards
  4. Escalate
In the Take Team Actions phase, you have four action points. You can keep track of how many action points you've used by making a stack of the Item Cards used for each action; thus, the number of stacks tells you how many action points you've used. All players may play cards to contribute to any of these actions; there are no individual turns for each player in this game. Available actions include:
  • Clear Obstacles. By playing cards with icons equal to the ones displayed on an Obstacle Card at your current Location, you can discard that Card (Obstacles don't have to be cleared in order; you can choose to clear any Obstacle at your Location). If you need to, you can play any two matching Icons to serve as a substitute for any other single Icon.
  • Move to a New Location. By playing an Item Card with the number of your target Location, you can move the group to that Location Tile (there is a card with pictures of the Goonies from the movie that can be used to represent the group's location, but I personally don't know why anyone would use that when there is an amazing meeple shaped like Sloth and three kids holding hands that you can use instead!).
  • Explore a Location. If there are no Obstacles at your current Location, you may play any Item Card (regardless of what's on that card) to reveal the top Exploration Tile of that Location.
  • Map a Path. By playing three matching Item Card Icons, you can Map the corresponding Path Tile (so, for example, if you were to play three Lantern Cards, it would allow you to Map the Path Tile with the Lantern Icon.
  • Remove a Fratelli Card. As the game progresses, you will start to accumulate Fratelli Cards in the Encounter Area (more on this in a moment). By playing any three matching Item Card Icons, you may remove one of the Fratelli Cards from the Encounter Area.
In the Discard Used Cards phase, you clear the stacks of Item Cards that you used in the previous phase.

Next is the Draw New Cards phase. Each player draws one new Item Card to add to their hand (two each in a two-player game). If you did not use all four action points in the Take Team Actions phase, each player draws a bonus Item Card.

Finally, we have the Escalate phase. Draw one Item Card and rotate it sideways to become an Obstacle. Place this on the appropriate Location. If the card has a double chevron symbol (A double chevron symbol: two angled brackets, both pointing up, one directly above the other.), you must draw another Obstacle (and if that one has a double chevron, you must draw again, and keep drawing until you draw a card that does not have the symbol). If the card you draw has a skull-and-crossed-swords icon, you must draw an Encounter Card. Follow the directions on that card, and if it is a Fratelli Card (it will be labelled as such), place it in the Encounter Area (a place in the playing area that starts the game empty and is basically just a space set aside to hold the Fratelli Cards that you draw).

Ending the Game and Permutations

The game ends immediately if any of the following conditions are met:
  • The Encounter Deck is exhausted. The players lose in this case.
  • There are five Fratelli Cards in the Encounter Area. The players lose in this case.
  • There are five Obstacle Cards at any one Location. The players lose in this case.
  • All five Path tiles contain a treasure. The players win in this case.
The game can be adjusted in several ways: by choosing different Location tiles, removing two of the Encounter Cards, or using one of the optional Challenge Cards to add an extra level of difficulty.

My Thoughts on The Goonies: Adventure Card Game

I like this game. I thought it was a pleasant challenge, with lots of strategic decisions and potential challenge. It manages to capture the best aspects of co-operative games, and does a good job of emulating the feel of the film on which it is based. Of course, based on gameplay alone, I think that this game would strongly appeal to lovers of quick and relatively easy but fairly deep thinky co-operative games, even if they've never even heard of the Goonies movie before.

There are two drawbacks that I see: first, as good as this game is, it really is a game for people who've had some experience with modern board games. Some of the concepts may be a little harder for people who've never played anything beyond the standard Monopoly/Risk/Scrabble set. This is not a huge disadvantage, as none of the mechanics are difficult to understand, especially once you've played a couple of rounds. However, given that this game seems to have been targeted towards the 80s nostalgia crowd, it might draw in some novice gamers who end up feeling a bit overwhelmed at first.

Even that wouldn't be a big problem if it weren't for the second drawback: the rulebook is poorly organised. The first section you encounter is a detailed description of the different components. Even I, as a veteran gamer, had trouble understanding what they were talking about when they were pointing out the different aspects of an Item/Obstacle Card because I had no context for knowing how the two different aspects worked in the game. Once I got to the actual rules, I had to keep referring back to the card description section to clarify my understanding of what was going on.

Had they given a brief overview of the mechanics first, so that the importance of the various parts of each card type made more sense, I feel the rules would have been much less intimidating. This is the biggest example of the poor organisation of the rulebook, though not the only one. If the rules were better arranged, I feel it would go a long way to overcoming the first drawback.

Anyway, that said, I think this is a good game despite those drawbacks. But as I always say, that's just my opinion. You may feel differently, and that's fine. But hopefully, I've given you a decent description that will allow you to decide for yourself whether you want to try this game.

With that in mind, I bid farewell for another week. I'll see you back here next time, and until then,

Game on!

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