Thunderbirds Co-operative Board Game

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In Thunderbirds, you and your friends take on the role of International Rescue – a secret organization formed to render aid when all other means have failed. Meanwhile, your arch nemesis, The Hood, is threatening to trigger terrible disasters around the world in an effort to learn your secrets. If you can foil his scheme while completing your missions, then you and your fellow…
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • If you love Thunderbirds, this is a no-brainer
  • The way the theme fits the game so perfectly
  • The tense pick-up and deliver gameplay
  • The engaging difficult choices you have to make in this logistics puzzle
  • Flying Thunderbird 2 around a world map whilst making engine noises

Might Not Like

  • If you really dislike the original Thunderbirds series, this may not be for you
  • It can be prone to alpha gaming, where one person tells everyone else what to do
  • The use of photos rather than artwork may not be to your taste
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Description

In Thunderbirds, you and your friends take on the role of International Rescue - a secret organization formed to render aid when all other means have failed.
Meanwhile, your arch nemesis, The Hood, is threatening to trigger terrible disasters around the world in an effort to learn your secrets.
If you can foil his scheme while completing your missions, then you and your fellow players win the game! Each person plays different character in the game, for example, you might be Scott Tracy or Lady Penelope.
All the different characters can operate any of the different vehicles.
You might load up the Mole, fly Thunderbird 2 to Tracy Island, then hop into Thunderbird 3 with Alan and dock with Thunderbird 5 in Geo-stationary orbit. You'll use all of the vehicles to complete different missions around the world and in outer space

Created by the legendary designer of Pandemic, Matt Leacock, Thunderbirds Co-operative Board Game is as the title suggests a co-operative board game based on the 1960s TV series Thunderbirds. No surprises there. What may be a surprise is that this is a cracking game that has flown somewhat under the radar.

Just to make you aware before you start reading this review, the photos show my copy of the game in which I’ve painted all of the miniatures. The base game comes with the miniatures in coloured plastic designed to represent the colours of the individual Thunderbirds. Now, on with the review…

What’s It All About

You are a member of International Rescue averting disasters around the world using the titular Thunderbirds and their supporting pod vehicles. On your turn you’ll take three actions and any number of free actions which are called operations. Then you’ll draw a new disaster card and move the disasters you’re already dealing with one space closer to the skull and crossbones space which funnily enough makes you lose if a card ever moves onto it. Throw in some events from the main villain, The Hood, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a great co-op.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love the Thunderbirds telly series. It was a huge part of my childhood. I was consistently entranced by the sequences where they get into the Thunderbirds and set off on a mission. The pool opening up for Thunderbird 1, the palm trees flopping over for Thunderbird 2, the fun never ends. I’m not put off by the marionettes either. Gerry Anderson’s team restricted themselves and worked around these limitations in a stunningly creatively fashion. So, before I go on for another 15,000 hours just bear in mind in the following review that I love, love, love Thunderbirds.

What Do I Do On My Turn

You only have a small selection of actions available. The one you’ll be doing most frequently is to move one of the Thunderbirds. The other main action is to try to perform a rescue by rolling dice. There are two more actions you can use but this will happen less frequently. To ‘plan’, you take an F.A.B. card – a card that gives you a one-off special ability – then you advance The Hood along The Hood track, which is bad. The final action is to move one disaster card back one slot. This is normally when you’re in really big trouble.

Luckily you are able to use an unlimited number of operations, which range from transferring characters from one Thunderbird to another to using bonus tokens to gain certain positive effects.

Despite this lack of options, I never felt that this was a simple game with a measly number of choices. The disasters will be happening all over the world and the rescues are easier to perform if you meet the requirements on the disaster cards. For example, the Trapped In The Sky disaster takes place in Europe and you can get bonuses for your dice roll to perform the rescue if you have Thunderbird 1, Fab 1, or the Elevator Cars in Europe. Each one of those will give you a little bonus. Get all three into Europe and you’re virtually guaranteed to complete the rescue. Obviously, this is pretty tricky to do. Thunderbird 2 is the only vehicle that can transport pod vehicles such as the Elevator Cars. Plus, you can be facing up to seven disasters at any one time. You can see how this gets a tad tricky.

Character Powers

To help you in getting rid of these disasters you have your character power. Scott Tracy lets you add two to your rolls for air-based rescues. Also, once per turn, you can spend one of your three actions to draw a logistics token if you’re in Thunderbird 1. All very useful and each character has a different power too.

Bonus Tokens

But wait a minute, you say, what are these logistics tokens you speak of, kind sir. There are five different bonus tokens that can be obtained in various ways. The aforementioned logistics tokens let you draw one F.A.B. card without advancing The Hood. Very nice. An intelligence token lets you re-roll a single die from a roll you’ve just made. Teamwork tokens also mitigate your dice rolls by letting you add two to the result of any dice roll. So, bonus tokens are very useful then.

But there’s a problem. Oh, isn’t there always. You need the bonus tokens to defeat The Hood’s Scheme cards. For example, the Shroud of Fear scheme card requires you to get a character to the North Atlantic and give up two determination tokens. What do you do then? Do you use a bonus token to give you a better chance of completing a rescue or save it to fulfil the requirements of a scheme card that’s soon going to trigger and kill you all because The Hood has nearly reached it on his evil little Hood track? There are a lot of tricky choices in this game. It’s a pick-up and deliver game at heart, a huge logistics problem that is made harder by the luck of the dice rolls. You are constantly trying to give yourself the best chance of completing a rescue but the demands on you are so high that you physically can’t maximise each roll by meeting all of the bonus requirements on the cards. It’s a really good head-scratching puzzle.

What’s The Art Like

Normally, I’m not that keen on photos on cards but here, it works really well. The disasters reference actually episodes of the original series and the requirements on the card match the episode too. That’s some attention to detail! The miniatures are not too bad, especially when painted. The stands for Thunderbirds 1 and 5 are opaque plastic and a touch short. I replaced mine with clear taller stands. This isn’t necessary at all but if you love the game, it might be something you consider. As for the board, the art is nicely done and is very useable which is good for a pick-up and deliver game.

How Hard Is The Game

The game has a range of difficulty settings. It’s possible that you may lose your first game, even on the easiest setting as you get to grips with this logistical challenge. But soon, you’ll be dispatching disasters left, right, and centre. Then you can up the difficulty from Intro all the way up to Legend. There’s a difficulty level to suit everyone here.

Replayability

In terms of longevity, there are some expansions for this game but they’re not essential by any means. The base game should keep you entertained for a good while. There is plenty of variability in the order the events, schemes, and disasters come out. The different characters add to the replayability too. If you are interested in expansions though, I would recommend Tracy Island which adds more vehicles and characters, and Above & Beyond that mainly focuses on levelling up your characters.

Will I Like This Game If I Don’t Like Thunderbirds

What about if you don’t like the original Thunderbirds series? Will you still like this game? If theme is very important to you and the idea of marionettes pottering around brings you out in hives, then I’d advise you to avoid this game. But if you can appreciate a great game despite having a theme you’re not that keen on, then you may well love this game.

Conclusion

It’s a very tense game. There are so many demands on you and what seems like an impossibly few turns to complete all your tasks. It’s similar to Legends of Andor in that respect. It often comes down to a final dice roll too, which is always good for a co-op game.

So, don your blue International Rescue costume, slide down your stairs on a tray straight into a chair at your board gaming table, and prepare yourself for a cracking co-op experience. Thunderbirds are go!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • If you love Thunderbirds, this is a no-brainer
  • The way the theme fits the game so perfectly
  • The tense pick-up and deliver gameplay
  • The engaging difficult choices you have to make in this logistics puzzle
  • Flying Thunderbird 2 around a world map whilst making engine noises

Might not like

  • If you really dislike the original Thunderbirds series, this may not be for you
  • It can be prone to alpha gaming, where one person tells everyone else what to do
  • The use of photos rather than artwork may not be to your taste