TOBOGGANS OF DOOM
You live in Saskatchewan where a hill with a covering of snow -- which can happen anywhere from late September to mid May, as we saw this spring – attracts a bunch of kids and their toboggans. It's a childhood activity, a near rite of passage, a coming of age sort of thing. That's why the kids can usually convince mom and dad to take a few runs down the hill without too much argument.
Of course as a kid, you often dream of speeding up the old sled, and cartoons of course do that with all manner of rocket engines and imagination.
So when you see the board game Toboggans of Doom from Bucephalus Games, there is an immediate interest, not to mention the attraction of the game box which shows a Sasquatch swinging a club at a sledder. Come on, how cool is that?
The 2008 game release looks good on the outside. And, once you crack the box on the two-to-four player game you get a pretty good idea what the game is all about.
To start with the main components are a bunch of well-made, glassy, cardboard tiles, which of course influence the game as they are played. There is a meteor shower, fireworks array, portable hole, avalanche, the frightening ex-girlfriend and of course the Sasquatch to name a few. Yes it sounds like the Acme catalog from Looney Tunes is alive and well.
The cards are basically divided into two categories, obstacles, and sled upgrades. One helps you, one disadvantages your opponents.
The next big thing you notice in the box is a bag of dice, the standard array of four, six, eight, 10, 12 and 20-sided ones. So, yes you guessed it, the luck of the dice is a huge influence on the game. Randomness reigns supreme here. Generally a personal turn-off, let's face it when you are talking about a game which is essentially a fantastical race down a mountain on a toboggan dodging shark attacks, and Viking opera singers.
The Obstacle cards are shuffled and laid out face-down in three columns of 10. They essentially make up the run. An obstacle is turned face up, and through the roll of dice again, you have to clear it.
You score points as you progress down the hill.
Upgrade cards are purchased depending on the roll of dice and how that corresponds to the upgrade 'cost'.
As you can see rolling dice and the randomness of the race down obstacle cards create a lot of uncontrollable mayhem.
A game lasts only three rounds, so it plays rather quickly, although getting to the bottom is a monumental task given the luck involved and only three rounds to survive.
The game has replay in the sense the run varies each time, but the lustre wears a bit quickly. Yes it's kind of cool getting past the Sasquatch the first time, but you soon realize there is no skill at all. It's kind of like pushing the button on a VLT, you have zero control.
Good premise, solid components, but game play just isn't as fulfilling as a serious board gamer may seek. That said, a fun once in a while game where no one has to think, and there are some laughs and chuckles along the way.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 16, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada