Jeremy Wilhm
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When I first heard about this game I was really excited. I love the show, and have watched all 5 seasons multiple times. This review was written from the perspective of a gamer who is a fan of the show, and not just from a strict gamer or fan perspective. I wanted this game to be as awesome as Archer is, and while there are some parts to the game that are good, the game overall was disappointing.




Overall Summary

Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Number of Players: 2-8
Playing time: 30-40 Minutes
Mechanics: Secret Worker Placement, Multiple Card Decks, Die Rolling
Victory Conditions: First to reach 20 Upper Hand (Victory Points)



Review Breakdown:


Components:

Best Parts: The Box Insert (which is really unnecessary), Location Tiles (which could have easily been replaced with a single game board to fit the box instead of 6 oversized cardboard tiles)
Worst Parts: Character cards (too big for the card stock used, and visual design is cluttered)

The bits of the game are a decent quality. There really isn't any physical part of the game that is bad, but almost all of it is just....meh. The bits are adequate. The card stock is decent (except for the oversized character cards above), the cardboard tokens are fine but smaller than I was expecting, the die quality is good, etc. This was one of the first disappointments for me. I knew the game play would not be spectacular (more on that later), but I was hoping for a game dripping with theme and quotes and tons of pictures from the show and just completely awesome bits. While there are some quotes and quite a few frames from the series, it was underwhelming. After opening the box and looking through everything and thinking "This is it?", I could hear this in the back of my mind:




Rulebook

Best Parts: Relatively short length, easy to read font
Worst Parts: Unorganized, incomplete.

The rules are again - adequate, but unorganized. There are certain sections out of place, and certain things missing altogether. Example: the instructions about rolling dice when you move into a space with other players so you can draw cards should be at the end of the Movement Phase section of the rulebook. Instead, it is after the Clean-Up Phase section of the rulebook. Also, since the location tiles are randomly assigned for each game, there is a chance that you won't have the Control Room, which gives the Mission Leader token to the first player who gets there. If you do not have this location in play, the rulebook does not say who starts the Mission Phase and draws the Challenge Cards.

The first time this happened we agreed that the player with the Initiative Token would draw the cards and start the Mission Phase, but this proved a bad choice. Since that player places their character token first, they always chose the Reception area. They went first the entire game, always got the first pick of Challenge Cards and won fairly easily. The rulebook does say that if the Reception area is not in play, then the Initiative Token moves to the left after every round. So we settled on a house rule similar to that: If the Control Room is not in play, the Mission Leader token starts with the player to the left of the start player, and then is moved to the left after each round. If the no Control Room situation never came up in playtesting, then it wasn't tested enough. If it's a simple rules omission, then someone needs a better proofreader or editor. Either way, it was the only big hole in a somewhat confusing rulebook. One other minor annoyance is the rulebook says that "If Malory's Office is in play, shuffle the Event Deck and place it face down on or next to the Malory's Office tile." However, there are cards in the individual player's decks that let you draw Event Cards, so even when Malory's Office is not in play, you need the Event Deck ready.

**Thanks to eagle-eyed gamer nvcavri, the rule for this Mission Leader situation is on the back of the Mission Leader token. We never turned it over in any of our games. I even took this picture for the game files after all our plays and missed it. I have no excuse for this. But I stand by my criticism that it was not in the rulebook, when it it really should have been.



Gameplay

Best Parts: Chaining together insult cards to make episode worthy conversations, minor tension in the secret action selection, best with 5 or more players, short playing time.
Worst parts: Game plays itself, no real decision making, limited replayability, painful for 4 or fewer players.


First, with 4 or fewer players you only have three locations in the game, which gives you the greatest chance for the "No Control Room" disaster that I described in the Rulebook section. Also, there just isn't enough player interaction and you can't throw insults at the other players as easily, so just stay away if you have 4 or less in your gaming group.

Second, the game plays itself quite a bit of the time but I have a couple of ideas how to fix it. (More on that later) The only real decision of the game is in the first phase of the round - Movement. Everyone secretly chooses which room they are going to go to, and places their character face down in front of them. Then the player with the Initiative Token turns their character token face up and moves to that location. This continues clockwise until all players have placed. If you are the first, then you get a bonus. If you're not the first, roll 1 die for each person who got there before you. If you roll a 5 or 6, then you draw a card, but you MUST play it immediately on one of the players who are in the room with you. None of us liked this forced playing of insults and was one of the first rules we changed. When you get a card, hold it for as long as you want, so you can pound on someone at a much better time. (Phrasing! Boom!)






After the movement phase, there is the Mission Phase. The player with the Mission Leader token turns over a number of Challenge Cards, as directed by the game, and chooses one to complete. Each Mission has a skill (Guns, Booze, Sex, Smarts), and each character has a number of dice for each skill. Roll the number of dice your character has for that skill and if you match or exceed the challenge level on the card, then you get the Upper Hand Points in the top-right corner of the card and you keep the card. If you fail, then there is no penalty, and the card stays available for others.

There really isn't much of a choice for these cards. The game rewards a simple decision tree. A) Choose the challenge that's worth the most points. B) If tied, choose the one that has your 3-dice skill. C) If no 3-dice skill is left, use one of the 2-dice skills. D) If no 2-dice skill is left, roll 1 die for your worst skill. There are no more decisions than that. You get to draw one of your player cards if you succeed in a non-3-dice skill challenge, but it's not enough of a bonus to make you choose a lower point value card on your turn. Once all players have had a chance to claim a skill, the Mission Phase ends and the Clean-up Phase begins. All unclaimed Challenge Cards go into the discard pile, and players remove character tokens from their locations before the new round begins.

Having read the online rulebook before playing, I had an idea that the game would be formulaic. I was hoping that the Character Decks would be the saving grace, and that the insults would make the game worth it. To an extent, it did work out that way. The best part of the game for me was chaining the insult cards together between other players to make really funny dialogue. When the character cards started being played was when we had the most fun, but it was short lived. The effects of the character cards are mostly 'You gain 1 Upper Hand' or 'One opponent loses 1 Upper Hand', and don't add much to the game play. The character decks only have 20 cards each, and three of the insults are the same in each deck. All eight decks have "You Suck", "Leave me alone" and "Sex Sandwich". Also, if you go through your character deck, you DON'T reshuffle. Once the deck is used, it's gone. I'm disappointed that the character decks weren't bigger and had more insults and lines from the show. AND there's no Babou!






Final Thoughts:

I really wanted to like this game, and I think there is something to salvage here. First, eliminate the rules on forced card playing, and if you are not the first player in a location you automatically get to draw a card. It's bad enough that you don't get the bonus for the location, so no need to try and roll a 5 or 6, just take a card for each person who got there before you.

Second, change the Mission Phase completely. Here's what I want to try: Add some excitement to the game by making it more press your luck. Turn over a number of missions equal to the number of players. On your turn, you choose the order to complete the missions, and when you pass one you can choose to take your points and stop, or continue on and try to complete another mission for more points. If you fail, then you don't get anything that round, or you try all cards and lose points for each failed mission. The Mission Phase is where most of the game is played, so it needs the most fixing. Players need to have more interesting choices than what the game currently offers.

Finally, beef up the character decks (expansion idea maybe?), and give them more options than +/- 1 Upper Hand. Discard three cards from your hand to add an extra die to your next skill roll. Discard one card for +1 to your next skill roll. Add more insults. 20 cards per character is not enough.

As the game stands right now, I'd have to give the game 4 out of 10 Bloody Mary's, but if some variant can be created and if the character decks can be improved through expansions, then this rating may improve. Thank you for reading!



*edited for grammar and spelling, and one stupid, stupid mistake.
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Christopher Brown
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I too hope for a decent variant game. I vote we take this game back!
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Matt Connellan
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Wait, whaaaaat? Something else, Danger Zone.
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Chris J Davis
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I've got some ideas in mind for how an Archer game *should* work, but it would be a long time coming...
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Jeremy Wilhm
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bleached_lizard wrote:
...but it would be a long time coming...


HEY!!! Phrasing!!
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The rule about who is Mission Leader if the Control Room is not in play is on the Mission Leader token - it's the player with the least points (roll for ties) . . .
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nycavri wrote:
The rule about who is Mission Leader if the Control Room is not in play is on the Mission Leader token - it's the player with the least points (roll for ties) . . .


Thank you for the clarification. Where is that in the rulebook? I obviously missed it. I must have been picturing Whore Island again.
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jwilhm wrote:
nycavri wrote:
The rule about who is Mission Leader if the Control Room is not in play is on the Mission Leader token - it's the player with the least points (roll for ties) . . .

Thank you for the clarification. Where is that in the rulebook? I obviously missed it. I must have been picturing Whore Island again.

It's not in the rulebook - just on the token. I was wondering myself when setting up the first game, and spotted it when getting ready to play.
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Jeremy Wilhm
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nycavri wrote:
jwilhm wrote:
nycavri wrote:
The rule about who is Mission Leader if the Control Room is not in play is on the Mission Leader token - it's the player with the least points (roll for ties) . . .

Thank you for the clarification. Where is that in the rulebook? I obviously missed it. I must have been picturing Whore Island again.

It's not in the rulebook - just on the token. I was wondering myself when setting up the first game, and spotted it when getting ready to play.


I know.

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Adam Deverell
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I've never even heard of Archer, and have no interest whatsoever in the game, but after watching the YouTube clips I'll definitely have to catch up on season one. There's some great lines in there.
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...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.
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No one wanted to like this game more than you, so it sucks that the game, er, sucked harder than Pam at a truckstop. It's obvious that no imagination at all went into the making of this game, might as well have made a Cards Against Humanity clone with quotes from the show.

Thanks for the review, and I hope it's salvageable in some way.
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red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


If you only watched the first half of the first episode, give it another chance. That first 10 minutes is probably the worst of the whole series. The clips I used are scattered throughout the show's history.
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red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


Then you'll miss some brilliant jokes that take episodes to develop. Any show that will have a 3-episode arc to develop a joke about idioms not translating into other languages is, to repeat myself, brilliant.
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Idaho11 wrote:
red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


Then you'll miss some brilliant jokes that take episodes to develop. Any show that will have a 3-episode arc to develop a joke about idioms not translating into other languages is, to repeat myself, brilliant.


What's that one?
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Idaho11 wrote:
red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


Then you'll miss some brilliant jokes that take episodes to develop. Any show that will have a 3-episode arc to develop a joke about idioms not translating into other languages is, to repeat myself, brilliant.


What's that one?


Heart of Archness. First 3 episodes of Season 3.
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Idaho11 wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
Idaho11 wrote:
red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


Then you'll miss some brilliant jokes that take episodes to develop. Any show that will have a 3-episode arc to develop a joke about idioms not translating into other languages is, to repeat myself, brilliant.


What's that one?


Heart of Archness. First 3 episodes of Season 3.


The first two episodes of Season 4 aren't a joined arc, but they are two of my favorite episodes ever, along with the Heart of Archness arc. Patrick Warburton and David Cross have wicked cameos, and James Hong as Bucky is just gold.

Heart of Archness was a turning point for the series. The show has won the Critic's Choice award for best Animated Series the last three years (Seasons 3, 4, 5), and finally broke through to get a Best Animated Series Emmy nomination this year. The ratings have gone up every year, with the overall quality of the show, and FX has already renewed it for two more years. I can't wait for Season 6.

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jwilhm wrote:
Idaho11 wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
Idaho11 wrote:
red_gamster wrote:
...aaaaand half an episode was enough. But yes, there were some good lines there. I'm happy just to stick to "best of" YouTube clips.


Then you'll miss some brilliant jokes that take episodes to develop. Any show that will have a 3-episode arc to develop a joke about idioms not translating into other languages is, to repeat myself, brilliant.


What's that one?


Heart of Archness. First 3 episodes of Season 3.


The first two episodes of Season 4 aren't a joined arc, but they are two of my favorite episodes ever, along with the Heart of Archness arc. Patrick Warburton and David Cross have wicked cameos, and James Hong as Bucky is just gold.

Heart of Archness was a turning point for the series. The show has won the Critic's Choice award for best Animated Series the last three years (Seasons 3, 4, 5), and finally broke through to get a Best Animated Series Emmy nomination this year. The ratings have gone up every year, with the overall quality of the show, and FX has already renewed it for two more years. I can't wait for Season 6.


Heart of Archness was indeed awesome, but I'll always have a soft spot for Swiss Miss. Everything was firing on all cylinders in that episode, IMO. The first episodes of season 2, 3, and 4 are my top three episodes.
 
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Quote:
If you only watched the first half of the first episode, give it another chance. That first 10 minutes is probably the worst of the whole series. The clips I used are scattered throughout the show's history.


I'd definitely watch an episode or two more, and the short YouTube clips were great! Laughed out loud at the "just the tip" gag.

I think there was perhaps TOO many rapid fire one liners for me. I blame Family Guy for that. Set up - bang - set up - bang, in quick succession, without much of a break. Gets a bit exhausting, even if many of the one liners are very funny. I think I like my animation comedy gags drawn out a bit more, like The Simpsons or Futurama, be it one liners or sight gags.

Unsure of the characters as well. I prefer geek characters, or self-deprecation and a bit of whimsy. Archer is funny, but there's too many alpha-females - and far too much overly sardonic/barbed humour too.

But I'll give it another go! Which may be more than I'll give the game if the reviews I've read are anything to go by.
 
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An interesting note: the show's creators don't watch much TV at all. Maybe that's why so many of their references are so far off the beaten TV humor path. (Thomas Corwin Mendelhall, anyone?)

They did also create Sealab 2021 a few years back, though.
 
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red_gamster wrote:
I think there was perhaps TOO many rapid fire one liners for me. I blame Family Guy for that.


Umm....



and...




Pretty sure Family Guy didn't invent the rapid fire one liners.
 
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For those of us who can't view those videos, what are they?
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bleached_lizard wrote:
For those of us who can't view those videos, what are they?


I can't see them either, but I'm going to pretend they're of Groucho Marx.
 
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aardball wrote:
An interesting note: the show's creators don't watch much TV at all. Maybe that's why so many of their references are so far off the beaten TV humor path. (Thomas Corwin Mendelhall, anyone?)

They did also create Sealab 2021 a few years back, though.


And Frisky Dingo!
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Quote:
I can't see them either, but I'm going to pretend they're of Groucho Marx.


I will too, as I'm not a fan so I'm happy to credit them with the rapid gire gag style of comedy. Again, clever, but for real laughs give me Laurel & Hardy anyday.
 
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