01 March 2016
Is Modiphius’ take on the iconic television series FAB or drab?
Modiphius | Co-op | £44.99 | 1-4 players | 45-60 minutes | www.modiphius.com
“Oh no there are giant alligators attacking in South America, quick Scott you need to fly over there and sort it out,” screams Virgil.
“But if I do that, then I can’t get over to Europe to crack the musical code of the Cass Carnaby Five and prevent RTL2 being shot down,” replies Scott.
“Guys, forget that, we need to concentrate on getting me and Thunderbird 4 to Asia so we can help divert the Nile away from the new hydrofusion plant!” chips in Lady Penelope.
“I’m in space does anyone care?” sobs John. “So alone, all in space on my own on Thunderbird 5. So very lonely…”
Welcome to one of the many furious disaster-averting conversations you’re likely to be having while playing Thunderbirds, the new joint venture British company Modiphius and designing genius Matt Leacock. If the latter’s name sounds familiar it’s because Matt Leacock is the brains behind Pandemic, easily one of the most enjoyable and tense co-operative games around. Now Matt has turned his attentions to the Thunderbirds license and to over simplify things, this is Pandemic with an F.A.B. makeover. Just like Pandemic, you and your friends will be jet-setting around the globe but instead of stopping killer diseases, you’ll be attempting to avert disasters like those mentioned previously.
The board itself is split into regions: Europe, Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the North Pacific, Australia, the South Pacific, North America, South America, the North Atlantic and the South Atlantic. Disasters will take place in these regions so, for example, the End of Road disaster requires one player to travel to Asia and then attempt to solve the problem. Averting a crisis is done by rolling two six-sided dice and then attempting to equal or beat the target number on the top of the disaster card,
e.g. the End of Road requires a nine.
However, there is the opportunity to increase your chances of beating that score by placing other Thunderbirds vehicles in particular areas of the board or sending a particular member of International Rescue to solve it. Again, going back to the End of the Road, if Alan Tracy is attempting the rescue he gets +2 added to his roll and if he’s travelling in Thunderbird 1 he’ll get another +2, meaning he only needs a score of five rather than nine. The problem is deciding if these characters/ vehicles are more effective as bonuses or whether they should be somewhere else on the board ready to stop a different disaster in another turn.
You see at the end of each turn all the disaster cards creep forward one space on something called the Disaster Track. This track is divided into eight spots and if any disaster reaches that eighth square then it’s game over. As a result there’s that ever growing threat of problems building up because, although you’re invariably trying to avoid the most pressing incident, by not paying attention to the issues building up behind you could get stuck. Say, for example, you send Alan to the sun on Thunderbird 3 for the Sun Probe mission and successfully sort that out, your celebrations might be cut short when you realise Thunderbird 3 is required back in the Asteroid Belt in two turns for the Signal from Sigma mission, plus you’ve got to potentially pick John up on the way for an extra bonus, which will be impossible because Alan’s already had his turn and won’t be back in action for three turns. Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
On your turn you’ll typically have three actions and you can choose from moving, rescuing (i.e. rolling to avert a disaster), taking one F.A.B. card (more on those in a moment) or, if you’re on Thunderbird 5, you can scan to move one disaster card backwards on the disaster track – very helpful when things are getting too much. The F.A.B. cards can be essential as they’ll potentially provide bonuses to your disaster rolls or even allow you to move vehicles around the board without spending an action.
The issue is that taking an F.A.B. card also moves the Hood marker one space along the Hood Track. That’s right, as well as sorting out all those pesky bloody disasters at the bottom of the board, The Hood (the bad guy from the original television series) is also trying to mess up your plans with events and schemes. As the Hood marker reaches certain points on the track, you’re required to flip over an Event card and these negatively affect International Rescue by reducing a vehicle’s speed or injuring a character, for example. Alongside these Events, you’ve then got the Hood’s evil Schemes to contend with, which are a little like Disasters but you’ve got longer to solve them… normally because they require more conditions to be met. You can also increase or decrease the overall difficulty level of the game by using different levels of Schemes. An introductory game only goes up to level three but the tough ones go all the way up to five. Blimey, being a member of International Rescue is tough… where’s the disaster when they run out of teabags or something?
Thunderbirds is a tense but incredibly fun co-operative experience that
captures the essence of the television series perfectly. Being a member of International Rescue is a tough job and as you’re speeding round the globe
averting disaster there’s always the pressure of yet another crisis just
around the corner. Just like Pandemic, even on the easiest level, Thunderbirds is no walk in the park, but with some careful planning and great teamwork you should be able to overcome even the biggest disasters.
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