Review: Thunderbirds – fifty years of saving mankind
Heroes are everywhere you look. They are on television, in movies and maybe even among us in our ordinary lives. Maybe now all the heroic stuff seems to be old-fashioned, but without them, we would probably not survive long. But the real heroes are and always will be only one – international rescue team of Thunderbirds!
Certainly also designer Matt Leacock thinks so and he created the board game Thunderbirds for fiftieth anniversary of this popular series. Its release was brought to life by company Modiphius Entertainment and illustrations were processed by Graham Bleathman and Shigeru Komatsuzaki, while map is work of Andrew Law. Game itself was released in 2015 as a result of support of a staggering 3,167 fans, who collectively chose 235,000 pounds on Kickstarter!
Game is located in a traditional square box, whose lid shows all those vehicles, that heroes of this series own, like rockets, cars and ships. And inside the box, there is first world map divided into continents. Its covered with tunnels for heroes. At the top are positions for events, while disasters will have their base at the bottom as well as bonus tokens.
There is also a regular deck of cards. Of these, 47 represent disasters, but other also belong to ships, events, Hood’s intriguing plans and one card for each hero. Even among pieces, there are also heroes, each in different color. Characters each have one leg, that acts like a cork (or peg, if you like). Players use it, when filling seats on ships or vehicles. Those six transports each have several openings for the passengers in their upper part. In the game, there are also tokens (bonus or disasters), dice and one Hood miniature.
At the beginning of the game, players will prepare a series of event cards, whose line is interrupted by three evil plans. Identinty of these cards (roman numbers on their back side) determines difficulty of the whole game. Players then put ship miniatures on their designated places and shuffle disasters cards into a package together with Hood cards, allowing him progress onward to fulfill his evil plans. Players can each select one hero and seat his miniature in a ship of matching color.
Players alternate in the fight with a common enemy and can always use three action points, that can be arbitrarily divided among four activities. There is a main one: flying around the world using various means. Each machine has its own speed, with which can it move between continents. Player can also draw an equipment card for one point, which will help him later on.
Players can also by paying an action perform rescues, that may stand in their way in the form of disasters. Using dice and any bonuses, players try to roll over sum of card difficulty and if successful, to get reward in the form of bonus tokens. Now hazards pose a creeping danger, which the players will have to deal with. Because of that, from time to time it is also good to take advantage of possibility to move one disaster card a step back for one action.
In addition, players can each turn do several other activities for free – jump from vehicle to vehicle (in the same location), load or unload cargo (auxiliary fighting machines), use bonus tokens for their effect, but also to try to defeat evil plans of The Hood. To do this, they need to pay a certain amount of tokens, but fortunately dice are no longer needed for this.
At the end of each turn, player reveals a new disaster card, that moves all existing disaster lying under the board one position to the right. Instead, there may also appear The Hood card, which was shuffled into the deck during setup. Both of these actions can lead to losing of entire team of heroes, whenever The Hood arrives to his scheme card before players are able to deal with it. And even disasters may outgrow player heads, when there is too much of them unsolved under the board. All players can then celebrate victory only, if heroes averts all three rogue plans of The Hood in time.
Thunderbirds is a brand new cooperative drama, whose entire story takes place on the world map. Whole Earth is under constant danger from plans created by the ultimate villain named The Hood. Players will have step by step thwart his attempts and hope, that it will be enough.
Game itself is at first glance reminiscent of Pandemic, maybe subconsciously also because of the same designer. This also applies to setup, where cards of The Hood are shuffled into package of disaster cards. But besides cooperation of players, everything is completely different. This is because an essential element are ships, their movement and transporting heroes. Players can move always only those Thunderbird vessels, their hero is currently in. This is a moment, when importance of positional play can be clearly seen, as well as emphasis on cooperation.
The game is not overly long, its dynamic and there is always something going on somewhere. Numbers of players are variable and all function reliably. There will always be a chance for Earth to survive and players to still have fun, when saving it. Moreover, it is even possible to stand agains The Hood alone in the solitary variant! Overall, certainly all will appreciate simple rules, but also enough space for tactics.
It focuses rather on a combination of luck and positional play. Luck has its essential place herein, not only in the correct arrival of The Hood cards, advancing his miniature forward. This time, players will really use dice and try to fight and save lives with their help. This brings additional tension into the gameplay. Additionally, players compete simultaneously against two timescales and must divide their attention well.
That’s, when the game being so different from Pandemic will not surprise you. But it still retains all the tension and challenges, to which we have become accustomed in the CDC drama. Cards appear in the least appropriate time and start disaster, where you did not want it to be. Then each requires a different approach to be eradicated. Does that seem all too simple? No problem, just increase the difficulty by changing cards of diabolical plans.
The only drawback is, when more players are involved and waiting for turns drags a bit. Players, who are inside slower vessels may feel (rightly), that they do not help their team enough and cant get anywhere in time. Cards appearance is random, so if you get a bad combination at the beginning, is it hard to dig out of this challenge and game can end before it even has properly started.
Game is also dominated by excellent processing. Is not about tokens and cards, but Thunderbird boats in the lead role. They are really big and will hold pawns. Each character has its own model, is not only distinguished by color, so they really look like heroes of the original classic series.
Thunderbirds are a great achievement, which probably will not be able to match the success of Pandemic, but it does not change the fact, that it is a great opponent (or maybe companion). And even if you are not fans of the classic serial, then you should try it. And if you like Pandemic, the more reason there is to it. But all it takes is for you just to have a tendency for saving the Earth or simply to work in a group. In all these cases, Thunderbirds will become one of your favorite games.
Review: Thunderbirds – fifty years of saving mankind
Thunderbirds is for us probably the best single family cooperation game for 2016, not including large and challenging games, like Fireteam Zero. This game is in fact easily accessible for everyone and that's why it will certainly find a lot of affection in candidates. There are no cubes and disease. Instead, there are disasters and threats emerging on continents and players will have to deal with them. And even with dice. But it is not enough to get there, but you need the right set of machines for each task to be able to set things right. Thunderbirds is a great cooperative fun and it's not even necessary to know the original series.