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Continuing on the nostalgia trip that defines the relationship between Funko Games and Prospero Hall, we get a board game take on a classic Magic Kingdom ride. Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster is associated with excitement, suspense, and big frontier energy. The game is no exception, injecting suspense and plenty of frontier color into the board game. Let's take a look at how Funko Games brought one of the three iconic Magical Kingdom mountains to life.
Remember that period in time when we got movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion and we'd thought every ride would be a movie? (Still waiting on the riveting People Mover Movie, by the way.) Well, it made us wonder how could you create a narrative for some of these rides, which we're just meant to be a fun cruise through the jungle (which was actually a good movie) or a trek through the old frontier. Well, Funko Games and Prospero Hall managed to find that narrative while injecting some of the scenery of the ride into the game. Starting with the train and rail cars, which are the player movers! Players are prospectors/mining companies trying to strike it rich in the frontier by mining the rich territory around an old mining town and investing in their equipment or the town, to help them make it big.
The true charm of this game is the game board. Modeled after Big Thunder Mountain itself, we have a nice track surrounding a three-dimensional mountain terrain with mine shafts and a protruding mountain top. Best of all, it functions as a delivery mechanism for the different components of the game. Think Fireball Island, a classic known for it's three-dimensional gameplay and randomized fireballs. Don't worry, these are not going to knock your piece over, however you still can get bumped in this game. Of note, we appreciate the inside of the game box featuring some ride elements in old timey photos, lending a little more character to the game.
Like E.T., the game components are minimalistic, which makes learning easier, doesn't distract you from gameplay, and makes cleanup easier and more secure. Movement here relies on supply cards, and using supply cards to acquire more supply cards. Beyond this there is currency for purchasing the upgrade tokens or the town shares (more on that later). Again here, we loved the addition of the extra bags to help us keep from losing any pieces and making storage the best experience it can be, i.e. no loose pieces.
Now as we mentioned before, there are also the marbles. Players either use this to acquire points or currency. However, there is a red marble that brings danger and the corresponding Fate Cards. These cards mimic some of the elements of the ride. Dynamite blasts, flash floods, prehistoric fossils, and more, give color to the play experience.
Our last game review was about cooperative play, this time it's every prospector for themselves! The objective is to move your train the farthest along the point track. How? Well, just get points by mining gold and ore. But it's not so simple. There are tradeoffs involved, so let's take a look at what that means.
As we mentioned before, movement is conducted through the use of your supply cards. Everyone starts with a deck unique to their mining company, and you can get more by using one of those cards to draw from the communal deck. Now the rules of card use will make you really think about the best use of your movement and actions. The cards let you either move, bail water, pan, pick, draw from the supply lot, or roll another marble. Your turns starts by flowing three marbles out of the central mountain into the mines, a fun and randomized gimmick. You must now use your cards to move to those mines and mine the gold and ore. You can play all or none of you cards, in any order, and you don't even have to use the full value of the movement or the action, you just cannot play another card until you finish one, so no going back to a card with unused action, it all becomes forfeit. So you really have to think how to maximize your turn to mine the most resources. Remember that bit I mentioned about bumping? Well there are no shared spaces here around the mountain, land on another player's token and they get bumped to the next space.
During your time around the mountain you will encounter four classes of marbles: gold, brown, blue, an red. The gold and brown are gold and ore, respectively. These are how you score points to buy new equipment, invest in the town, or move your point marker toward victory. You must use you pick or pan action to acquire gold depending on if there are blue marbles present. The blue marbles restrict how you mine (without upgrades) and provide you with currency should you use a bail action. Lastly, the red marble forces you to play a fate card, which can affect you or all players, causing movement, drawing more marbles, removing marbles from the board, or knocking players from mines.
So what do you do once you filled your cart? Head on into town and cash out. During a town action sequence, you trade your gold and ore for points and currency. Currency can be used to purchase one of two things on a town action, upgrades or town shares. Upgrades enhance your mining operations to improve your yield in futures treks through the mines. You can perform a pick or pan from mines surrounding your location, negating the need to move, convert the value of ore to gold, carry more cards in your hand, make pick and pan actions the same, and more up to three upgrades. This greatly helps improve your score but you have to sacrifice earning points. The other eligible purchase item is town shares, which convert to points at the end of the game. As we mentioned, instead of currency, you can cash out everything in your cart for points. Points are simply indicators of the value of your mining operation, and at the end of the game, whomever is worth the most wins. Once a player gets to 15 points, the end game is triggered. You get a town share bonus and get to finish your turn, then others players get one final turn to score as many points as they can depending on if they can mine and reach town. Ultimately, the game can be quicker depending on how aggressive you are with your points but you can ultimately loose if someone was upgrading and investing in town shares. Some of those can be worth up to three points, allowing you to catch up and even take the lead.
It's really hard to capture a rollercoaster experience in anything other than a rollercoaster. That's not the direction this game took, rather it captured the essence of the ride and provided enough color to draw players to the frontier experience you get while waiting in that ever expanding line queue on your way to experience the big mountain. Simple enough for causal gamers and even children, this experience is both entertaining and frustration free. Whether you are a fan of the ride, looking for a nostalgia trip, or a good option for family game night, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Game does not disappoint.
Be sure to preorder your copy now from Entertainment Earth
for a late June release.