A new deck builder for 1-4 players, G I JOE is the latest IP to have thrown its (bulletproof) hat into the board game ring. Whether you’re here because of the theme or mechanic I hope that you read on and learn about a game that (if you can live with dice rolling) is a very solid deck builder and does more than just paint on a theme.
How It Works
You play as a ‘Commander’ trying to use your best tools to subvert and destroy the pesky COBRA operations. You will take a weak starting deck and slowly improve it with newer and better Joes, Gear, Utilities and Transports. Your newer cards typically have more firepower and more recruit points; these will enable you to defeat stronger foes and recruit even better troops to command.
Firstly, one item you can recruit is Transport vehicles. These are essential as any and all missions you attempt will require Transport of some kind. Each transport offers variations of capacity (amount of GI’s that can go in the vehicle) and types that can provide bonuses for your mission.
Secondly, you are not on your own! When you attempt a story mission, they are designated as ‘Group’ missions designed for all the players to work cooperatively, throwing in some helpful Joe’s and Gear. This provides plenty of discussion and planning between players and ensures that you are engaged each turn.
Thirdly, it implements a very welcome mechanism of recruiting cards directly to the top of your deck (ensuring new cards appear in your next hand). Being allowed to build your hand specifically for the next mission feels just ‘right’ and provides a nice amount of tension as each mission appears.
Altogether these implement thematic flourishes which are mechanically sound and offer what gamers want the most; juicy decisions to make.
Failure Is An Option… Just Not A Very Nice One!
COBRA’s campaign of destruction is built in a three-act structure, with each offering a unique mix of complications and skill types that you will need to overcome (a total of 9 missions).
For example, ‘Sneak onto the COBRA space station’ requires the attacking Joe’s to use their abilities of ‘Stealth’ and ‘Tracker’ to undertake the mission. It offers continued variability with several unseen ‘complication’ cards. These include side missions and several nefarious characters designed to spoil your best-laid plans.
Succeeding at any particular mission requires a delicious mix of Skills, Joes, Gear, Utilities and Transport; It feels great to have assembled the correct components to almost ensure victory. Included is a nice variety of bad guys to fight and schemes to beat; however, whilst there is an overarching storyline, each mission feels like a singular conquest.
Alongside the missions, there is the ever creeping COBRA tracker and COBRA battalions trying their best to make your advances stall and fail. It is appreciated that the game offers the players three ways to lose and only one to win!
Having built, planned, consulted and co-op’d your way to taking on the latest mission it can all be unravelled or unexpectedly succeeded due to your dice rolls. Whether this is a fatal game flaw depends on your opinion of dice rolls. Can you deal with the ebb and flow that their variability brings? Do you enjoy it as a mechanism? This will ultimately decide if this game is for you.
The game is designed with plenty of dice mitigation included but the rolling feels somewhat at odds with all the planning and thought this deck builder asks of you (I feel it only right to point out that most mission failures are not critical to that game’s success). For me, this is not a critical issue, but one buyer should be aware of it.
G I JOE provides a great mix of thought-provoking deck-building, neat mechanisms and good quality production - whether this is enhanced or cratered (into a COBRA moon base) by dice rolling luck is down to personal preference.