Designer: Matt Leacock
Players: The Hood expands the player count to 2-5, otherwise 1-4
Play Time: 60 minutes
Release date: June (Tracy Island), August (Above and Beyond), November (The Hood)
Mechanics: Co-operation, AI opponent, die rolls and die modifiers (in the case of The Hood, PvP)
In a sentence: Our game of 2015 gets three (very different) shots in the arm for 2016.
Disclaimer: The following three reviews concern Kickstarter projects not due at general retail for some time. As with any KS reviewee we’ve tried to avoid discussing any exclusive content (not that we’re aware of any) but as always check your copy before you buy.
For the late Sylvia Anderson, a key influence on Thunderbirds and, of course, best loved and remembered as the voice of the original upper-class badass, Lady Penelope.
It’s a good time to be a fan of Thunderbirds.
Though the show’s 50th anniversary is now fading in the rear view mirror, a Kickstarted project bringing three, 33½ RPM audio stories to full, televisual life is likewise in its twilight, with fans (this reviewer included) set to receive shiny Blu-rays of the episodes any day and bring the episode count to 35 five decades after the thirty-second, Give or Take a Million, was put in the can and, along with it, the series in 1966.
Likewise, Thunderbirds Are Go!, the show’s CGI remake, has enjoyed a relatively acclaimed first series, been snapped up by Amazon Prime and had its third series greenlit – and the second isn’t even on TV yet. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we’re big fans.
Then there’s our Game of 2015, Thunderbirds, a collaboration between Matt “Pandemic” Leacock and Chris & Rita Birch of Modiphius. Needless to say, we liked it very much indeed, though even our rampant fandom of Anderson and Leacock did not disguise from us that, though thematically near-perfect, the base game had a few mechanical niggles. John was no fun to play, 4 felt like a low player count and while Thunderbird 5 was a handy orbital swap point for characters there was no Earth-bound equivalent.
A little time for the dust to settle also revealed, as it does to all games, a need for some new missions, some PvP and fresh characters to play. We also twigged that several TV episodes, most notably those heavily involving Brains, Parker and Tin Tin, were still missing or not quite ‘just so’ on the cards, as were the two TV films, Thunderbirds Are Go (note the lack of ‘!’) and Thunderbird 6. On this latter note, our most recent question to Modiphius on acquiring rights to include content based on both these and the three new episodes was still answered in the negative, albeit with room for consideration in the future.
We didn’t hold these factors against the base game during review since this observation can be levelled at pretty much any co-operative board game after long enough.
But that’s where expansions come in – they fix the issues with the old and offer the new to keep things interesting. With the exception of one, solitary FAB card from the base game, each of these three expansions are inter-compatible, and can be played and enjoyed in any combination.
Due in June (try saying that a few times quickly), Tracy Island is the first of the three expansions on offer.
Most notable when you open the box first of all is the eponymous island in brown plastic, replete with no fewer than six peg holes and thus ample space for swapping characters around, immediately addressing one of our concerns with the base game.
Then there’s the brand new Disaster Deck which entirely replaces the base game’s 47 cards and adds 9 brand new ones. The deck replacement serves a variety of purposes, and not just for clarifying text or correcting mistakes. First, the 9 brand new cards bring The Man from MI.5 (sic), Move – And You’re Dead, notorious end-of-series clip show Security Hazard, Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday and Alias Mr. Hackenbacker into the game for the first time alongside four scenarios never seen on TV.
Indeed, we were wondering, given that several of these rescues involve IR personnel in need of rescue, how Modiphius and Matt Leacock would tackle this. The most streamlined solution would have appeared to have been a slight narrative rework, so Move – And You’re Dead, for example, tasks players with rescuing Grandma Tracy, but never mentions Alan. There initially sounds like an interesting potential mechanic in there until you realise it would likely have been infuriating mid-flow as Alan to have this mission come up and be forcibly detained in South America, so the solution here does seem to be the best one.
Vault of Death, Brink of Disaster and Cry Wolf are still disappointingly absent, as is Give Or Take a Million. When we approached Modiphius about this, it was clarified that the game is already top-heavy on land missions, and that these missing four would potentially fall into that category as well.
It’s our hope that they do turn up in future, especially as Brink of Disaster features Jeff Tracy himself in the field, which brings us on neatly to raison-d’être number two for the new deck: the game’s three new characters. In a real shake up for those who’ve played the game time and again, many missions are completely rejigged to accommodate the new pegs and narratively streamline some odd choices in the base game. Sun Probe now rewards taking Tin-Tin along rather than having Virgil in Asia, for example, while Towering Ocean goes from being the game’s easiest mission to one of its most difficult, relocated and reworked to instead demand Thunderbird 4 and the Ladybird Jet.
Indeed, that makes Brains’ assistant and Alan’s love interest Tin-Tin a good character to start with. From the off, this expansion wins bonus points in our book for making her more of a standout than in the original series, where she accompanied one rescue (Sun Probe) and promptly fainted. Here, Tin-Tin can draw a FAB card once per turn on Tracy Island without penalty, and as Brains supplements Virgil, so does she supplement Scott, allowing him to keep his Logistics tokens for completing Scheme cards.
It’s at the controls of the aforementioned Ladybird Jet, however, that she becomes really fun, since she gets a +2 bonus to any rescue she attempts when at its controls. This essentially makes her a formidable cross between Scott, Virgil and Gordon for any rescue taking place on Earth, and the Ladybird Jet can both hoof it at Speed 2 and carry a passenger. This all considered, there’s a wonderful, thematic appropriateness to Alan complementing Tin-Tin’s abilities with his Space rescue bonus, and several Space missions are knowingly reworked to make Tin-Tin truly versatile.
Where Tin-Tin breaks new ground, Parker, the second new character in the box, instead augments an undervalued vehicle in the base game, namely FAB 1, the slowest vehicle alongside Thunderbird 4 and doubly annoying to load into Thunderbird 2 and haul around. This is where the second half of Parker’s offering comes into play, since FAB 2, Penelope’s yacht from The Man From MI.5 (sic) is included and behaves quite literally like a seaborne Thunderbird 2, 2-speed and all. Even more brilliantly, Parker can remote control either vehicle from anywhere, hoovering up pod vehicles, FAB 1 and Thunderbird 4 in his (quite literal) wake. It wouldn’t be unusual to see him tucked up and cozy on Tracy Island or in Thunderbird 5 except for one whopping caveat – when in FAB 1 or FAB 2, parker adds 2 to his rescue rolls, being arguably even more powerful than Brains as a replacement for Virgil when at the helm of FAB 2.
Indeed, when we consider Parker, it’s a real shame that this expansion doesn’t afford John the same control of, as a minimum, Thunderbird 3 – that being on the assumption that were Jeff to feature in a future box he’d have control of the Thunderbirds as Parker does FABs 1 and 2. It would have made good thematic sense for John to be able to do this – and would have made him far more useful.
For now, though, it’s onto the last new character, and it’s stammering genius Brains, who enjoys a +2 bonus to any rescue attempted provided a pod vehicle is present and can draw a piece of Technology once per turn if on Tracy Island. The synergies with Virgil are clear, and indeed, Brains’ addition to the player roster takes quite the strain off of Thunderbird 2’s pilot, with that player no longer having to spend an action each turn to reliably generate pod vehicles. In fact, players can quite happily leave Virgil in the box and take Brains instead. He can even go a long way to covering for an absent Scott given that several Air rescues feature pod vehicles as well. The one caveat is that, unlike Tin-Tin or Parker, Brains has no vehicle of his own. One argument is that, spiritually, Thunderbird 2 is ‘his’ vehicle by virtue of design and being almost always a passenger.
More awake fans will of course suddenly notice that Brains is cast in brown plastic, yes to match Tracy Island, but also, just possibly, because of Thunderbird 6. We’ve already said that Modiphius either can’t or won’t secure the rights to the films, but hear us out a moment.
For the uninitiated, the late-60s movie carried on the Thunderbirds story beyond the cancelled TV show. It was the second to do so after Thunderbirds Are Go. While both were relative flops and not the best Thunderbirds stories, 6 is notable for a whole strand of the plot centring on a sort of air cruise liner created by Brains and as well as Jeff tasking him with creating a sixth Thunderbird (and routinely throwing out Brain’s suggestions as light relief from more serious scenes).
Of course, the liner hits trouble, being hijacked and then marooned atop a radar tower. Brains turns up in his very own IR uniform with (wait for it) a brown sash at a pivotal moment in the rescue, but most notably of all does so in an old Tiger Moth, the only vehicle light enough to touch down on the stricken liner. To much laughter, Brains unveils Thunderbird 6 at the film’s close, “built, tested and approved” to Jeff’s bewilderment. The Tiger Moth, of course, then trundles out of the hangar with a big 6 painted on its tail.
Yet this would make a very fine addition to the game for Brains and make him as flexible as Tin-Tin – there is no reason Thunderbird 6 couldn’t behave in much the same way as the Ladybird, with the only caveat being that there would be less to distinguish between the two characters. For now, of course, we have to do without, but something about Brains not having his own vehicle when the other characters all do stands out, and makes whatever it is preventing Modiphius from including movie content in the game rankle all the harder.
But let’s move onwards and upwards, because these are the pickings of a fan (I was seconds from saying that myself – Ed) and are focussing on what the box might have offered rather than what it does. To complement the new characters, vehicles and Disaster Deck, four brand new pod vehicles debut. The Jet Air Transporter and Neutraliser Tractor seen in Move – And You’re Dead get a workout in that mission, while the Monobrake seen in Perils of Penelope also features, as does the… um… Fire Truck (nope, us neither). While these new vehicles are all well and good, it’s the Monobrake at the moment that feels like the only one getting any real mileage, and we hope to see future missions that make more thorough use of the three other examples.
That’s not all for pod vehicles though, since the now fourteen-strong roster gets a brand new overlay to place over the original Brains’ Notebook board space alongside another featuring the two new character vehicles. The new Brains’ Notebook overlay assigns each pod vehicle a letter of the alphabet – and that’s where possibly our favourite part of Tracy Island rears its head – each of the fourteen pod vehicles has its own, dedicated miniature. Ferrying around cardboard tokens in the base game seemed fine, but once these incredible little pieces hit your board for the first time, you’ll never go back. Conveniently, each has the matching letter embossed on the bottom for easier identification by the non-die hards sat at the table.
A few incidental round out this first box in the form of four new FAB cards and, for balance, four new Event cards, though there are no new Hood schemes this time out.
+ Three new characters of varying degrees of excellence – Parker is an especial standout with Tin-Tin a close second and Brains deservedly included;
+ 14 gorgeous little pod vehicle miniatures leave the cardboard tokens in the shade whilst realising four brand new entries;
+ Brand new disaster deck gives some missions needed tune ups and alterations whilst bringing further TV episodes into the fold and adding yet more imaginary tales;
+ Tracy Island layover addresses issues in transferring pegs between vehicles on land.
Watch out for:
– Brains is the weakest offering of the three new pegs, and we can only feel the absence of Thunderbird 6 content more painfully;
– Several TV stories still missing – though this hints hopefully at a fourth expansion in future;
– Of the four new pod vehicles, three feel underused at present;
– John sees no improvement from this box, yet Parker’s ability in part or full seems tantalisingly appropriate for him.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Where Tracy Island adds more, more and yet more to the Thunderbirds experience, Above and Beyond instead takes the game in a new direction and encourages a far more thoughtful game whilst upping the challenge at the start and making it more bearable at the close.
This is achieved by the expansion’s arguable centrepiece – eighteen brand new tarot-sized character cards, the first nine of which feature the game’s (so far) nine characters (the six from the base game plus the three in the Tracy Island box).
Notably, these nine initial cards strip each character of their secondary abilities, leaving only their roll bonus intact (or, in Lady Penelope’s case, an Intel draw as an action). These, however, are the Level 1 variants. Dependent on the players sat around the table, these cards then call for a number of missions (between two and four) to be completed to level the character up. It’s worth noting at this early stage that that leaves nothing to differentiate between Alan and John.
However, once the level up requirement is tripped, the Level 2 card enters play, restoring the secondary ability players know and love from the regular variant of the Thunderbirds game, but even these have some tweaks to make up for their early game absences – all of Scott, Virgil and Alan’s draws of tokens are now free rather than costing an action, while Penelope’s European Intel draw becomes free, and, when combined with her ability to exchange tokens for free, essentially becomes ‘draw any token you like at the start of your turn’ – provided she remains in Europe, which is the big caveat.
Where it gets most interesting, however, is when the next level up is triggered (requiring one more completed mission than the last) and the second card is flipped over to Level 3, not only raising all rescue roll buffs where available to 3 points, but also potentially bringing nine brand new abilities to the game.
Scott gains an ability befitting his role as the lead scout and co-ordinator on rescue ops, and is able to place Intel tokens from the supply onto any Disasters taking place in his space for free once per turn. These tokens can then be spent by any player attempting the rescue.
Virgil, often the go-to Tech guy, can repair Thunderbirds crippled by Event cards completely gratis. It’s situational for sure, and still requires Virgil to be in the same space, but is a useful counter to the likes of USN Sentinel Strike, Pod Hydraulics Sabotaged and Rocket Engine Malfunction – indeed, the first two of these Events concern Thunderbird 2 herself. We’re hopeful that future expansions will see fit to affect Thunderbirds 1, 4 and 5 and make this ability even more useful.
Alan takes his Teamwork-generating ability one step further at Level 3 and addresses one of the game’s biggest spikes in difficulty – transferring tokens between players. But for a scant few FAB cards, this is ordinarily an impossibility. Alan can now confer a Teamwork token upon another player any time, anywhere for free.
Lady Penelope, meanwhile, can draw two Intel tokens at Level 3 if in Europe, still exchange one for free and give a token for free to a player sharing her space, moving her out of the danger zone of being one of our lesser favourites. Combining her with Parker can create a token distributing monster, especially given that Parker himself draws an Intel token for free regardless of his location at the start of each turn when he hits Level 3 and adds 3 to his rolls if in either FAB.
Brains at Level 3 gets free Tech draws on Tracy Island and, when taking the Plan action, is able to draw three FAB cards for consideration.
Tin-Tin is able, at Level 3, to draw FAB cards gratis on Tracy Island once per turn and can utterly ignore one Hood result for each rescue she performs in a watered-down variant of John’s ability. Indeed, coupled with him she is the perfect insurance against the dreaded 1 in 36 double Hood roll.
Indeed, taking all the characters into consideration thus far, it’s clear that something else is being subtly addressed here: the first Hood scheme being too easy and the last one being too tough for large player groups in particular to take down, and it’s done expertly.
“But hold up,” you cry, “what about Gordon and John.” Well, Gordon’s a bit disappointing given that he already has a +3 buff to rescues at Level 2, which does not grow at Level 3. Further, Gordon’s Level 3 ability actually replaces that of his Level 2/Standard Game card rather than being a third option in its own right. Instead of drawing a Determination as an action when in TB4, Gordon is able to draw both that token and another of his choice, making him a veritable scheme-busting powerhouse for sure, yet more limited in options when compared to the other eight characters.
And yes, then there’s John, LIL’s perennial punching bag when it comes to this game.
Unfortunately, John is not Beyond, and is only Above in the sense that he still remains irrevocably rooted to Thunderbird 5. Worse, his abilities are a hodge-podge of those belonging to other characters. Sure, he gains an even more powerful version of Scott’s ability at the third level, able to place an Intel token on any rescue once per turn – provided he remains on Thunderbird 5, and it still remains only an augmented version of Scott’s own bonus. Likewise, when you consider Tin-Tin’s Hood-negating powers, John’s play only as an enhanced version of these, and as for his Space rescue bonus, that isn’t even an enhanced version of Alan’s, being the same 3 points at Level 3.
For sure, there are definitely game balance considerations working, if you’ll forgive the pun, under the hood (Ooh, a Thunderbirds joke, I’ll bet the girls love you – Ed.) but it seems such a shame that this opportunity to really set John apart from the others feels wasted. John is better only by virtue of standing still, and yet by Level 3 everyone else is trucking around and keeping mobile and doing a job two-thirds, even three-quarters as well, especially Scott, Alan and Tin-Tin.
But let’s move it on to happier things, since Above and Beyond does not stop there. In a follow up to the 14 adorable minis in Tracy Island, ten more are added to the roster depicting the ten most iconic rescue targets in the series – and finally making good on the printed keywords on the bottom right of certain Disaster card art. The Sun Probe, Fireflash, Eddie’s Roadlayer, the Martian Space Probe, USN Sentinel, the Crablogger, the Sidewinder, Seascape Rig, a captured Zombite fighter and… erm… a helicopter from the imagined Bolt from the Blue scenario all feature alongside cards explaining their bonuses.
These ten vehicles, some of them from the game’s most difficult missions, leave players with a tough choice – go for the tokens ordinarily offered, or instead take the vehicle and its card as a reward – rewards which can be very powerful indeed. Standouts include what we’ll call the four ‘buff’ vehicles, each of these offering the player a permanent +1 bonus to the relevant rescue type. This allows characters to play as diminished versions of others on or off the table, or can turn the matching character into something unholy – a Level 3 Scott with a Helijet, for example, adds 4 to his Air rolls. In a move mirroring FAB cards like Personal Hoverjet or Underwater Sealing Unit, these vehicles can be discarded for a one-time +3 bonus in emergencies.
Rounding out the expansion are two new FAB cards, two new Events and five much-needed new Level V Hood Schemes which really up the ante for a group of Level 3 players. While the game recommends one of five difficulty levels, a full Scheme roster now brings the potential number of difficulty levels to a not-to-be-sniffed at 125, from three Level I Schemes for the newest of the new to the hardcore slamming down three Level V cards – and buying a lottery ticket while they’re at it. In seriousness, though, it and the character-levelling both add to the game’s scalability that we lauded in the original review.
Actually, make that number of difficulties 150, since a completely blank Scheme VI card is included in the box for through-and-through sadists to have fun with – and that’s not all, since a sand timer is also included in the box to curtail long, drawn-out turns, although with a 60-second run time we found this a little generous.
Still, here and now we’re throwing down the ultimate gauntlet – beat the game as a team of 4 against a triple V setup with the timer running and let us know how you do.
If, instead, you’d prefer slightly lighter fare, blank variants of all the game’s card types are included. We’re pleased to say this resulted from some fan questioning over on the Kickstarter, and these were delightedly fed to the LIL scanner. You can enjoy a few of our humble creations below, though Modiphius have promised that a submission process entitled Brains’ Notebook will at least see fan ideas shared with the community (though it’s our secret hope that even more will come of it.)
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s one last addition, and it’s a bittersweet one: Modiphius originally intended, as one last stretch goal, for 28mm figures of each of the characters to be produced to supplement the RPG. Only Jeff’s made it, sadly, as a new first player marker. Our quiet hope is that the other figures aren’t entirely dead and buried…
All going well, Above and Beyond will wing its way to you this August.
+ Levelling system is a brilliant difficulty smoother – the early game is harder but the endgame is more achievable for large play groups;
+ More lovely minis, this time in the form of 10 iconic disaster vehicles which really encourage some though when completing their missions;
+ Sadists will love the new Scheme V cards, sand timer and scope to create Scheme VI cards;
+ Photoshop junkies will love the new blank cards.
Watch out for:
– Jeff’s 28mm figure will leave you furious that we didn’t raise enough on the Kickstarter;
– Gordon doesn’t come off as brilliantly at Level 3 as the other characters;
– The feeling that so, so much more could have been done to make John shine.
Pandemic unified its players against its fiendish AI, four (five if you expanded) diseases and pandemics and outbreaks. But as in video gaming, there’s a combined dread and satisfaction in taking on a living, breathing human that can learn, adapt and be creative rather than an AI, however well coded, that goes through the best motions it can. There’s another element to this thinking too, since an AI can be coded to cheat or be unfair, or at least be accused of doing so by more sore losers.
Pandemic’s bio-terrorist from On the Brink addressed just this line of thinking, placing what was previously an AI-only element into human hands, in a stroke making it tougher, adaptable and creative whilst also allowing select players to inflict misery rather than suffer it. This alone can bring untold harmony to certain groups who feature the aforementioned AI-paranoid player or the player who doesn’t really like co-op player and quickly apportions blame when a game goes south.
What that means, then, is the bio-terrorist brought in previous naysayers, and now Thunderbirds has its own version: The Hood, due in November.
Where the previous two expansions featured bits and pieces of everything, The Hood’s singular focus is on bringing a very different (and potentially fifth) player into the game and, much as with Above and Beyond’s levelling system, upping the difficulty.
First point of note is of course the brand new purple Hood character card and peg. While excluded from the levelling up shenanigans of Above and Beyond, The Hood is still a formidable character to play since he has a host of abilities rather than just the two afforded to IR members. His brief is simple: make sure everyone else loses the game.
Helping him are two brand new vehicles for his exclusive use (and a double-sided speed overlay to incorporate these or the full suite of vehicles for owners of Tracy Island) in the form of a plane and a submarine. In a nice mirroring of his niece, Tin-Tin, the Hood’s plane behaves very similarly at 2-speed, while his submarine is an evil Thunderbird 4, pootling along at 1-speed. There’s also the imposing Hood’s temple, placed in Asia at the game’s start. You’d be forgiven for calling it an evil Tracy Island, except it stands in far more direct opposition to the game’s other new building: Creighton-Ward Manor, which is placed in Europe to really bring Lady Penelope into the action as another, convenient layover spot. As we’ll see in a bit, however, it does a lot more than that.
The first big changes to game mechanics to note is those to the game’s Hood track. Scheme cards stay in the box and, instead, three Act cards are put in their place faceup, with Act I bearing one blank space and Act III, unsurprisingly, three of them. Onto the blank spaces of the track the player controlling IR’s nemesis then places a host of tokens.
Again, scalability was clearly the watchword when devising this expansion, since the Hood can make this initial draw from a ‘standard’ pile of ‘B’ tokens or make half of them ‘A’ tokens for an easier game or ‘C’ tokens for a harder one. Of course, as with the base game’s Scheme cards, it’s more than straightforward to subvert the manual’s recommendations, and with three token difficulties and seven spaces, we make it just shy of 2,200 potential combinations, and the game doesn’t just include 21 tokens to cover it either – it goes for 32. Long story short: each game is going to be different and as hard (or easy) as you’d like it to be.
Finally, a token (B at any of the three difficulties recommended by the manual) is placed in Asia alongside one of the Hood’s 8 minions, which are his variant of IR’s Teamwork tokens, buffing any of his rolls by two points. That, indeed, is a good time to talk about what the Hood actually does.
Rather than playing once per round like the other players, the Hood instead acts at the end of each player turn. To keep things balanced, the Hood only gets two actions per turn rather than three, but without the distraction of rescues to complete and lives to save, the range on offer is diverse.
First up, whenever we saw the Hood in the TV series he was always trying (and failing) to photograph the Thunderbirds and sell the snaps on to one tinpot dictator or the next, and the Hood can pull up alongside a Thunderbird in this expansion and do likewise: provided he rolls a 6, and he removes a point for each IR character sharing the space with him. Should he get the goods however, he adds a photo token of the Thunderbird he just snapped to a rather nice camera board – and moves his figure up the Hood track one space. IR can counteract this with an Erase action, and rolling a 5 removes the photo (with a buff of 1 for each other IR member in the space) and sets the Hood one space back on his track. This last element is important, being a much more reliable way for IR to control the Hood track and slow his advance than FAB cards that may (or may not) appear.
Then there’s Conspiring and Plotting. Conspiring allows placement of a minion in the same space in preparation for tough rolls, with each minion so discarded offering the 2-point buff. Plotting, meanwhile, allows the Hood to draw an Event card from the deck and place it faceup on the track. We were a tad unsure of the faceup placement, and presumably there’s nothing stopping the institution of a face-down house rule instead.
Mind you, it doesn’t matter much given that the Hood can place the Event card on any free space and react to IR as needed since the Events trigger, as in the regular game, when the Hood figure reaches the matching space. Drawing up Rocket Engine Malfunction could see the card placed in the next available slot when a host of space missions are available, or placed much later for when they appear instead. Worse for IR, the Hood can also move backwards on the track as already discussed, and this allows for some delicious plays that present IR with some devil-or-deep-blue-sea choices. A favourite is to photograph a Thunderbird, move ahead one space on the track and then slam down a nasty event in the previous space to deter erasure of the photo.
That’s not all, since Events not marked for discard stay in play and can come round multiple times! The one shame is that the Hood’s camera is the only way in which the Hood can actively cause the track to move up – and he has no way of moving it down beyond goading the Thunderbirds into tampering with his camera. We made several confused passes through the manual to see if there were any other methods for manipulating the track – and couldn’t find them.
IR doesn’t just wipe the Hood’s photos, however, since they can also actively capture him with a roll of 7, buffed in the same way for each other character in the same space and, if successful, sends the Hood for house arrest at Creighton-Ward Manor where his only available action is to roll a 5, escape, and return himself and his vehicles to his Asian temple. Neatly, if the Hood is on his submarine during a capture action, a penalty of 2 is applied to the Thunderbirds’ roll.
And we’re not even at the part yet where the Hood can cause some utterly show-stopping mayhem, since he’s not the only one that can do some capturing, although in his case, it’s called hijacking and kidnapping. On a roll of 8, the Hood can jump into an empty seat of a Thunderbird in his space and use it, removing it and its bonuses from IR’s control. Worse, if a character peg is on board, that peg is considered kidnapped. At this point, the Hood can even take kidnapped characters to his lair and drop them off.
At this stage, a kidnapped character can either try to capture the Hood at the wheel or escape. Captures require a 7, with escapes only needing a 5. If they can, the captured character jumps into a Thunderbird in the same space and burns for the horizon, otherwise they pop back up at Creighton-Ward Manor.
The whole capture/hijack/kidnap/rescue mechanic is a fascinating one. For the players, it’s a deeply unneeded distraction layered on top of the disasters and Hood track and key for the Hood player triggering defeat. It also completely alters the way the game is played, since casually jumping out of one Thunderbird, leaving it empty and commandeering another, is just not an option any more. Players now have to consider the safety of particular machines and personnel. Even pod vehicles aren’t safe for abandonment any more, with a particular Event card allowing the Hood to nab these as well.
It adds a whole new dimension to the game that we love. So: how do you beat him?
That’s the last strand of this box. We mentioned at the very start that instead of Schemes, the Hood draws up three Acts and places tokens on the track and in Asia. As play (and the Hood) progresses, he’ll hit further tokens on the track placed at the game’s start. For each one hit, the Hood places the token face down in a space occupied by one of his minions. Should he lack foresight, the Hood player may find no minions on the board, and the token is immediately added to the next available slot on an Act card.
Otherwise, facedown tokens are flipped faceup by moving into their space. Crucially, this means that should a token appear where a Thunderbird already is, it isn’t revealed. It also means that International Rescue have yet further considerations – attend to rescues or go and investigate Hood tokens? This is doubly the case when a clever Hood player makes sure the tokens pop up where rescues aren’t.
When a token is revealed, it behaves much as a row of an old Scheme card would, demanding tokens or pod vehicles be dropped off at that country as before. As each token is completed, it is added to the scheme card and, when the card is filled, it is traded in for a FAB card as before.
This does remove the simultaneous element from the base game, where all rows of a Scheme card had to be filled at the same time, and instead allows players to ‘chunk’ the Act cards down into smaller parts. There’s also the complete lack of interaction between the Hood and space to be borne in mind. The Hood is never allowed to hijack Thunderbird 3 and thus cannot leave Earth. As with anything, we’re sure there’s a game balancing mechanic in there somewhere, but we’d have loved to have seen the Hood in possession of his own space rocket setting up moon lasers and Martian lairs – it could certainly have given John something to do.
But that’s to uninformedly knock what is a great expansion that nevertheless changes the tone of Thunderbirds massively. It’s tough to call which of these three expansions is ‘the best,’ but if you want the one that shakes the game up most drastically, it’s this one.
+ Turns the Hood from a faceless AI into a living, breathing bastard sat across the table from you;
+ Captures, hjiacks, escapes and rescues are a whole new dimension to the game;
+ The Hood’s Temple and Creighton-Ward Manor are welcome new buildings – the latter has purpose beyond being a sanctuary for characters and a prison for the Hood and works well in the base game;
+ Scaleable, as always, in a bewildering number of ways.
Watch out for:
– The Hood and IR not as able to manipulate the Hood track as we’d like;
– New Act cards remove the simultaneous nature of defeating Schemes, which made the base game trickier;
– The Hood’s domain is Earth – no space naughtiness here.
So all in all, three corking little expansions? Wishlist? A fan expansion of missions for sure, the missing TV episodes added in and, we can but hope, Jeff Tracy. While it’s a stretch for sure, content from both the movies and the new episodes would be the icing on the cake, but with three solid 4s, whether you want just one or all of the boxes, they all get our recommendation.