13 March 2023
Kenny Loggins joins international rescue
If it was a part of your childhood, even to a tiny extent, any mention of Thunderbirds will likely summon a smile of reminiscence. To reminisce through the medium of board games though is a true privilege, one which YAY Games have faithfully realised with Thunderbirds Danger Zone: The Game.
This cooperative card game blasts players into the roles of International Rescue members as they navigate their way through seven episodes, each one taken from the original series of this marionette puppetry classic.
Players will likely begin by tackling the introductory ‘End of the Road’ mission as they guide Alan, Virgil, and Scott through a daring cliff-edge rescue. Doing so requires them to each travel up a column of cards representing the Journey and Danger Zones, fulfilling resource requirements as they go.
Facilitating this is Jeff; International Rescue’s leader and founder, whose role will pass between players each turn. After announcing a specific resource, players must each submit a facedown card to Jeff of which two will be randomly chosen and revealed. If the combined resource values match the requirements exactly a Success Token is placed and a new turn begins. If all resource requirements on each card are met before the Countdown Tracker reaches its final space, International Rescue save the day.
Whilst there is a level of psychic play here akin to The Mind, success is mostly reliant on luck. Things do begin to get slightly more interesting when players don’t immediately succeed though, giving the Jeff player an opportunity to swap out a card with one of their own. Through this process, players may gradually gain an idea of what cards their teammates are likely to have - although not to the extent needed for solid strategising.
Also adding a touch of mitigation and variety are the randomly seeded tokens on Journey Cards, which can either be spent towards a resource total or – if accompanied by the villainous Hood – count against them.
Whilst the introductory game does well in conveying the most basic rules, its heavy luck reliance and repetitiveness doesn’t translate to much fun. Later missions attempt to rectify this by increasing their length and difficulty alongside introducing additional game elements and components – albeit to varying levels of success.
Aside from Pod and Equipment cards – which are essentially extra Journey cards to be tackled by Jeff alone – the most notable gameplay addition is Mission Support. Here, Jeff can choose to enlist the help of any heroes not on a mission by playing a resource card bearing their name. Once recruited, their unique ability can be triggered twice before they’re jetted back to Tracy Island.
Mission Support might add some much needed theme and colour alongside the very welcome special abilities, but in practice it doesn’t see enough use - especially in shorter missions. To make matters worse, these more in-depth rules (and the rulebook in general) are written and formatted in a manner that makes figuring out the numerous omissions, ambiguities, and contradictions needlessly challenging.
There is fun to be had here, particularly when taking advantage of the game’s generous modularity regarding difficulty and length, but it just about misses the mark due to the underuse and under-explaining of some of its best mechanics. Tight-knit game groups with a near supernatural ability to read each other may get something out of this - as should lifelong Thunderbirds fans – just make sure they’re well acquainted with the sometimes wonky rules.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
Made with clear respect for the source material and offering a nice amount of variance and setup flexibility but hampered by some rules clunkiness.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED THE CREW: THE QUEST FOR PLANET NINE
Experienced Planet Niners could get on well with some of the more advanced missions here.
Designer: Andrew Harman
Publisher: YAY Games
Time: 20-40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 110 Cards
- 90 Tokens
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