Licensed board games used to be something tabletop aficionados avoided like the plague, an arena of rushed cash-ins and lousy mechanics and cheap components assembled only to appeal to fans of certain properties who could be tricked into wasting their money on a subpar product. The past decade has seen that change. Companies like Gale Force Nine have released incredible board games based on TV shows like Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy while Fantasy Flight Games has made strong use of the Star Wars license.
So there was a time when news of an official board game based on The Terminator would have made me roll my eyes. Instead, I can only lean forward and say “Okay, tell me more.”
Like many major board game releases these days, The Terminator: The Official Board Game is getting started on Kickstarter, which has become more a pre-order system than a crowdfunding platform for tabletop designers these days. The game is being published by Lynnvander Studios and Space Goat Productions and is designed by Taylor Smith, whose Evil Dead II board game was a Kickstarter success a little while back. While I’m not familiar with any of their previous board games, the description of their Terminator game is very promising:
The Terminator: The Official Board Game is an asymmetrical strategy game for 2-5 players played across two boards: one in 1984 and one in 2029. One player takes control of all of Skynet’s forces: Hunter Killer machines, Terminator cyborgs, and more. The rest of the players take the role of the human resistance, struggling against the impossible odds of the machine uprising. Each of the two game boards play differently: 2029 focuses on light troop and resource management in a lopsided battle for dominance. 1984 focuses on personal missions with high stakes and intense pacing. Missions arise through the course of gameplay, and have players make decisions in 1984 that will affect the future, erasing and adding components in real time.
Asymmetrical board games are all the rage these days and for good reason: when they’re done well, they’re amazing. Star Wars: Rebellion (which I reviewed last year) saw two opposing players playing the same game from very different approaches, utilizing diverging mechanics to outwit and destroy one another. This sounds like the absolute best approach to the Terminator series, where the humans and the machines are fighting a war that is completely different in scope and purpose from each perspective. Giving each side their own set of rules could be fun and thematically appropriate. Plus, the idea that decisions made on the 1984 board will have ramifications on the 2029 board is the kind of fresh mechanic that may convince me to enter my credit card number.
It helps that Space Goat president Shon Bury is speaking my language:
We’re bringing 1984 back. The only movie we care about is the original. We love retro. We want to explore the beginning. Which is why for this game, we’re focusing on what hardcore Terminator fans love about the original movie.
Yeah, yeah, Terminator 2 is really good, but the original ’84 The Terminator? Sone-cold masterpiece. Anyway, the Terminator board game will come loaded with detailed miniatures, which explains the $60 price tag for the base game. Kickstarter backers can pony up $80 for the “Termination box set,” which will offer additional components and alternate box art.
So here’s the big question: should you pledge your hard-earned money on this game? Since I’m unfamiliar with the designer and the publisher, I cannot offer my full endorsement, even though the basic mechanics on display sound very cool and everyone’s heart seems to be in the right place. The official Kickstarter page promises that gameplay videos and a print and play version will be available tomorrow, which should give us a better idea of how the game plays. So if you’re interested, keep an eye out.
But if you’re just a big Terminator fan and want to own everyone remotely connected to the original movies…this does feel like a no-brainer.
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Related youtube video: (not from post)