The story of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Adventure Board Game! is a story of mystery. I have no idea where this game came from. Its been in my family for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t mine originally. I think it was at my Grandfather’s house for the kids to play with it, but I have no idea who bought it or why, since my cousins either didn’t give a crap about G.I. Joe or were too young (like me). Still, I inherited and have wanted to play it for years. The only thing stopping me is that it has all its pieces except the directions. Unlike most kids boardgames, all the directions aren’t printed inside the box. It wasn’t until the invention of the internet and me realizing that directions were probably on that internet that I was able to play it, allowing me to bring you this review. (Thanks to Yo Joe.com for having the directions!)
The first thing I found really interesting about this game is that it was made so early in the world of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero that the classic characters don’t have names on their character tokens. Instead, they have their mission specialties. For example, everyone knows who Snake Eyes is, but here he’s listed as “Commando.”
The art for the character tokens as the art on the cards that feature vehicles is taken directly from the artwork used in packaging the toys. The vehicle that doesn’t exist as a toy, the Hyrdofoil, looks enough like the classic Joe stuff to pass.
The cards that mark the objectives are pretty decent. Again its interesting to see how artists handle the cobra planes, since at this time Cobra didn’t have any jets. One of the airfield pieces has an old timey propeller driven airplane. Not exactly an imposing air force.
The box art is blech. It certainly doesn’t have an impact like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom game did. Its too bad, an eye catching board game is a thing of beauty even if it will spend most of its life on a shelf and viewed from a side. The art for the board isn’t exactly stellar, but it is serviceable.
Gameplay begins with the players rolling to see who goes first. The first player gets to pick their Joe, which makes sense because I could see kids getting into bloody fist fights over who gets Snake Eyes. I was play testing with my girlfriend Aria who didn’t give a flip who Snake Eyes was and was clearly blind to how awesome he is. Regardless, I won the roll to be first and picked the ninja commando. She went and picked Scarlet, the lone female G.I. Joe in this game.
I have to note that we changed the rules up a bit as well. Instead of us just picking one Joe we picked two. I figured it might give the game a better feel for controlling a G.I. Joe “team” and let us do more stuff in order for me to write about the game. For my second Joe, I went with Stalker. I figured Snake Eyes and Stalker both served in Nam together, so they might work well as a team. Unfortunately, there’s no real difference in what Joe you pick. In this came, one cardboard token is the same as any other.
Each player pics one of two training locations for the G.I. Joe team. During “training” you can pick up cards for the vehicles that you will probably need on your adventures. We kind of broke the game mechanics a bit by having a shared pool for our respective teams. We could have each kept one Joe on base getting equipment cards while the other was in the field, but we had a gentleman’s agreement not to do so.
The way the game works is you get objectives and you basically have to make it to the objective in order to get points. The trick is having the right number of equipment cards to make it to a space. For example, if you don’t have a “Vamp” card, you’re not going to be able to land on the Vamp space, so you miss a turn.
There’s some combat, but not much. This is incredibly strange since G.I. Joe is all about war, a glorified and pretend version of war, but war nonetheless. Every so often you land on a sneak a attack where you have to roll two dice. One die represents the Cobra forces and the other is for the G.I. Joe team. If the G.I. Joe wins, he or she gets to move forward. If not, they go backwards. Its odd that there’s no need for a die roll to capture an objective. That would probably be a good house rule addition.
The game we played was fairly close, though a bit dry. It only became fun in the last few minutes when we were both close to victory. In case you’re keeping score at home, I won. Of course I did, I had Snake Eyes.
Overall, I’d say this is a fun game to own if you’re a die hard G.I. Joe fan. Its neat to see something when the brand was just getting off the ground. For anyone looking for a super fun licensed game though, G.I. Joe A Real American Hero Adventure Board Game (what a mouthful!) is probably not for you.