09 May 2022

Thunderbird 5 is the Giant Robot, Right?

 Alternate Title: Further Baby Steps into the Board Game World

I discovered a new board game recently, Thunderbirds Co-Operative Game by Modiphius. OK, not new as it was produced in 2015 and apparently will never be reprinted due to licensing but new to me.

The click-baity title is only slightly tongue-in-cheek: I know hardly anything regarding Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds TV show. I knew of Gerry Anderson from his association with model-maker Martin Bower; as a huge Martin Bower fan I’ve seen Anderson referenced in the many biographies and interviews I’ve read. So I knew Gerry Anderson as the driving force behind Supermarionation and could probably even name most of his shows. Still, I knew very little of the Thunderbirds mythos prior to owning this game. The concepts of the Tracy family, the Hood, and International Rescue were all foreign to me. I do not exaggerate when I say that I honestly thought the five Thunderbird machines linked together to form a giant robot, sort of a prototypical Voltron.  Oops.

Anyways I stumbled across reviews for this game and sought it out since it sounded intriguing. The game goes for quite a bit secondhand due to its rarity but I managed to secure a mint condition copy with all the expansions.


Will Gordon Rescue the Rig Workers?
Notionally designed for multiple players, the board game plays beautifully solo with little modification.  Component quality is top-notch and so far there is a ton of replay value.  I’ve played six games without even using any of the expansion material and enjoyed all six of them, even the three I’ve lost.  Perhaps that’s what drives the high replay value: the difficulty of the game.

BoardGameGeek features links to quite a few play through videos showing the components and gameplay.  I won't belabor that here.  Apparently Thunderbirds shares much of its mechanical DNA with the popular game Pandemic and (presumably) like that game (I've never played) features a lot of tension with the player racing against two different game-ending danger tracks.  Good fun!


The best part of the game for me is the fast set-up. Although there are multiple decks to shuffle, I can still get the board prepped in ~5 minutes and then play for 60-90 minutes. That’s a great time sink ratio.

I’ve no critiques but I’ll note that the game certainly targets Thunderbird fans over casual gamers. The Disaster cards illustrate this. Although each Disaster features a crystal-clear still from an old Thunderbirds episode, many of the images show an appropriately perilous event like an explosion, or fire, or building collapse. The Thunderbirds fan probably has the episodes burned into his/her head and the amorphous pyrotechical image on the Disaster card acts as a touchstone stoking fond memories. Those of us not steeped in Thunderbirds lore likely find some Disaster images a bit boring, especially knowing all the cool set pieces and models that each episode showed. I can rectify this “problem” however by finding some Thunderbirds episodes to watch. In the meantime I’m going to explore these expansion sets!

EDIT: Just finished my first game with the expansions... the additional material adds a lot to the game, from leveling up characters, to Disaster Vehicles, to additional Schemes and Disasters.  Great fun; it's a shame Modiphius no longer publishes the game. 

4 comments:

  1. When I was a kid, I LOVED Thunderbirds! In fact, I liked all of Anderson's Supermarionation shows. However, they might no longer hold up well for me.

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    1. I'll volunteer to watch a few, just to give the middle-aged perspective, ha!

      Maybe you can watch an episode with your kids and get them into it... then, if you can find this game at a reasonable price, you'll have a ready-made fanbase eager to play.

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  2. I was brought up watching the Thunderbirds and loved them, and some others of Anderson's work such as UFO and Captain Scarlet. I played this game at someone's house about 7 years ago. So good I brought it and all the expansions when Modiphius had a 50% sale on them back in 2017. I immediately played a game with my two children, one whom thought it was OK, the other didn't like it. When I packed up a lots of my gaming stuff 4 years ago due to moving, renovations etc (that should be complete by the end of this year), this game came with me as it is so good and very soloable. I agree with your opinion of it entirely. But while I look it over every few months, I have not had much of a chance to get it out. I am now very tempted to do so!

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    1. Score for you Shaun, getting everything at 50% in 2017! I'm ashamed to say what I paid... then again, it's absolutely worth it.

      So I watched "Trapped in the Sky" yesterday as it is a free promo on Youtube. Wow. If I would've seen that as a kid, I would have LOST MY MIND. Everything I loved as a child: explosions, aircraft, futuristic cities. And the best part was how straight they played it. There were no comedy relief characters or routines; everything was presented as deadly serious. I know that as a kid I would've appreciated the presumption of my maturity.

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