An occasional column in which Lou Harry gets his game on with film-related tabletop titles.
In September 2019, when the world was different and entertainment options were greater, I extolled the pleasures of board gaming — particularly those of board games tied to movies.
In the cocooned world we live in now, I’m doubling down on that recommendation and I’ve got a quintet of additional titles to tell you about. Most are available online. But if you’re considering purchase, please consider your local game stores as well. They might even deliver.
Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons
There are plenty of games set in the comic book universes of DC, Marvel and others. Some are directly tied into the movies — Thanos Rising being one of the better ones — and some little more than cash grabs. (Marvel Hedbanz? Seriously?) Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is one of the former.
The premise: One of a trio of villains — Ares, the Cheetah or Circe — is attempting to take over the island of Themyscira. Cooperatively, you and up to four other players take on the roles of Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazons trying to keep that from happening. Reduce the villain’s health to zero before Amazonian defenses run out and you win.
It’s a co-op game, so you are working together in this. To avoid alpha gaming — one player in a co-op dominating the experience — the game has a smart but easily understandable mix of discussion and secret choices. With a limited hand of card actions, players can plan strategies. To combat the villain, and his or her deployed servants of war, decisions have to be made whether to team up for stronger battle forces or spread out to deal with multiple problems at once. But once in battle, more action options are added to each one’s mix, and each must secretly choose their own actions. (Similar to an actual brawl, group decisions aren’t really possible once fists are flying.)
Funkoverse Harry Potter
Speaking of potential cash grabs, who would have thought that Funko, maker of the rapidly expanding set of collection-focused pop culture miniature figures, would produce a game that’s actually fun and, when combining sets, playfully weird?
I’ll admit, though, that my first play of Funkoverse Harry Potter was less than thrilling. That’s because I was following the first-game setup. That proved a helpful step in learning the game mechanics but didn’t provide much excitement.
The game got much more interesting once we stepped into what’s labeled as “the full experience.” Here, rather than simply trying to knock out a rival character, there are goals to reach that are helped by temporarily taking out your opponent’s characters.
One player takes Harry and Hermione, plus a generic Auror, while the other works Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort and a generic Death Eater. You can opt to play one of four scenarios, in each of which you accumulate points in different ways. Some are played on a Diagon Alley map and others on the flipside, featuring the Room of Requirements.
While throwing a spell at an opponent’s piece may seem the optimal — and fun — thing to do, using one requires a token that, once used, is placed on a cool-down track that renders it unusable again for a few more turns. Ditto for a knocked-out character. Dice rolls also play into it, meaning your well-timed flipendo spell may prove a dud.
Where the game takes a major leap into craziness is in the ability to combine sets. Add another and you can pit the Potter villains against Batman and Robin, Rick and Morty or the Golden Girls.
Yes, you read that right — the Golden Girls.
Legend has it that at one point, Walt Disney World was considering an expansion park devoted entirely to the Disney villains. A fun idea, right?
Well, if we can’t have that, at least we have a game — or, rather, a series of games devoted to the darker side of Disney.
Impeccably designed from the box to the miniatures, the original Disney Villainous game offers six villains, including Captain Hook, Ursula and Jafar. Subsequent editions, which can be played on their own or combined with others, offer three more, mixing high-profile ones with those less popular. The latest edition features Cruella De Vil, Mother Gothel and Pete. (I’ll save you a trip to Google: Pete was Mickey Mouse’s nemesis in early cartoons.)
The upside of the game is that each villain’s goal and actions are uniquely suited to the character. Snow White’s Evil Queen, for instance, has to track down four ingredients, brew a poison and get Snow White to take a bite. Meanwhile, Hades has to get the Titans into play and get them to Mount Olympus. Some characters are easier and more fun to play than others, and it’s best not to try the more complicated ones on your first game or two.
The downside is that there is little interaction between the villains. I was hoping to see what might happen when Ratigan did battle with the Queen of Hearts, for instance. But that’s not the nature of this game.
Of course, if it were, the discrepancy in skills would certainly make King John a perpetual loser.
Jurassic Park: Danger!
You know the drill. Folks are trapped on an island with rampaging dinosaurs. Folks need to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!
In this tabletop version, one player takes the side of the dinosaurs while one or more others play the humans. In addition to making the rounds to the right buildings and hightailing it to the awaiting helicopter, each human also has a minor goal. In the case of the hapless Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight in the film), there’s also an additional challenge: If sharing a space with another character, Ned is always chosen as the target.
On each turn, all characters, including the dinosaur boss, select a card from their hand and play it face down. Flip the cards over and make the moves indicated. Clever but simple deception mechanics allow for some of those moves to be in sneak mode, which means the choice of direction isn’t public knowledge until after the next round. Additional actions for the beasts and free actions for the humans also take effect, adding a mix of chance and plotting.
Nice touch: If your human character either escapes or is eliminated, that doesn’t mean you are out until the end. Instead, you simply select another character and get back in.
Three eliminated humans ends the game. Humans need a number of escaped survivors, which is determined by the number of players.
I haven’t played enough to say whether the game is balanced or favors one side or the other. However, in terms of choices, there are more to be made by the humans, so I’d advise letting the more strategic-minded take on those roles.
I’ll watch for more movie tie-in games. In the meantime, stay well and play to win.