I remember a lot of board game adverts from my childhood. There was the one where a skull rolls down steps and knocks everyone over, Operation, Mouse Trap and this intriguing car one with the helicopters. That last one has been resurrected and received a modern lick of paint from the masters of rejuvenation Restoration Games.
Thunder Road Vendetta owes a lot to Mad Max. It is a weapon fuelled race to the finish line, or being the last remaining survivor. Taking cues from the old Micro Machine games as well as the post apocalyptic gas guzzling films it boils down to this – plain old stupid fun by the bucket load.
For example in one of the games I played I could have taken the nice safe route and possibly get within range of the big rig for a pot shot, or I could drive through fire to hit a ramp with a one in four chance of clearing the mountain. Spoiler – a clean up crew was required on aisle mountain… (ramps are in the Carnage at Devil’s Run Expansion).
TR:V is a game that is about these moments, a game that encourages you to make the stupid choice over the fun choice. A game where you won’t be talking about who won the game but the carnage you all wreaked along the way!
In the base game 2-4 players will face off each with a team of three road vehicles and one helicopter. The road vehicles come with a matching dash board in each colour and each colour also has a command board.
Vehicle movement is power by standard 6 sided dice which are rolled at the start of the round. The first player will also roll the ‘road die’. Players then take turns assigning one of their dice to a vehicle and moving it that many spaces. Once per round they may also assign a die to the command module as well as the vehicle they are moving. After movement they may shoot if in range.
Each player has the same three road vehicles – a small but hard to hit, a medium medium to hit and a large easy to hit! Of course the bigger the vehicle the more favourable the outcome in slams…
So far so roll and move. There are, of course, the rules of the road to apply. Firstly you must move the whole amount rolled if possible, of course you can decide to avoid doing this by driving into a hazard or another car! Driving into another car resolves a slam. You pop the moving car on the top of the other car and roll the slam and direction dice. The slam die determines which car moves and the direction die the direction they move in. The owner of the largest vehicle can request a reroll of both dice if they wish.
The slam die usually results in the bottom car moving but the direction is a one in six chance. If the moving car enters a space with another vehicle – resolve another slam. In larger player game particularly, this can result in vehicles bouncing all over the road and potentially to their doom.
Doom can come in many ways in TH:V. The road boards act in a similar way to the micro machines video games. Once a player moves off the third board a new one is drawn and the furthest back is removed – along with any vehicles still on it. Once all a players vehicles are eliminated or inoperable the next player to cross over the end track wins. Alternatively the last surviving player wins.
Thunder Road Vendetta is a fantastic game. The components are excellent throughout, from the stacking vehicles to the chunky cardboard tokens, via the pleasing dice. This extends the the gameplay which is kept interesting and compelling through some well thought out mechanisms. Although there is player elimination this triggers the end of the game so there is no sitting around while everyone else plays – at least not for too long.
The assigning of dice is quick and easy to understand and resolving them fun. This can take a little longer in crowded areas of the board but this tends to involve everybody anyway. Multiple rams are exciting and tense affairs especially with the threat of helicopters.
As well as assigning dice to a vehicle you can also assign one dice per round to the command module. This lets you active nitro, repair, dodge the first slam and send out your helicopter. Helicopters are placed and shoot just like vehicles. However they are also instant elimination for any vehicles that end their movement in the same place – including the player who owns the chopper!
Movement must always been taken to its full value and you will almost certainly want to try and end up with another player’s vehicle in your front arc as this means you can take a shoot action and try and damage them. Damage is handled by drawing a damage token, revealing it and then doing what it says before placing it under the dash for that vehicle. Two damage to a vehicle renders it inoperable meaning it faces the other way on the track and can’t be used until it has been repaired.
Damage effects produce some of my favourite moments in Thunder Road. From blast off – which launches you up to four spaces in a direction determined by the direction dice, to the effect that makes you move up to four spaces rolling the direction dice for each one! You still have to resolve any slams of course!
When your vehicles become inoperable you will have a die that you cannot use, however each vehicle can also coast. This must be done last after all operable vehicles have moved and moves you one space regardless of the die value. You are also not allowed to combine a command die placement with coasting. Although to be honest this is one of the rules I wouldn’t enforce too strictly as it is a bit more fiddly than the rest of the game.
Need For Speed
Although I have played Thunder Road Vendetta at two players it is a game that greatly benefits from more players. I have used the Big Rig and Final Five Expansion to play up to 5 and there is nothing stopping you playing a full 6 although 5 players does feel quite full and chaotic, I can only image 6 being even more so.
While we are talking about expansions I will be reviewing the main three separately but it is worth mentioning the small extra ammo pack. Your mileage with this will vary but it does add extra options to almost every part of the game via decks of cards. This can be unique helicopter powers, rules for each section of the road and more command options. If you can get hold of this it is nice to have but nowhere near essential and the least desirable of all the expansions.
Overall Thunder Road is a great looking great playing time, with gameplay that comes to life and leaves you with fantastic stories. Die hard strategy fans might not enjoy its more casual approach but everyone I’ve played it with has had a brilliant time and walked away smiling – winner or not.