So...what does it take to get a great Indiana Jones boardgame, anyway?
Indy Jones is celebrating his return to the cinemas (review of the film forthcoming, I'm seeing it this afternoon). If you've been trolling the aisles of your friendly local mass retailers, you've no doubt had your eyes catch these two new Indiana Jones games sitting on shelves, hoping to cash in on the movie craze:
Early word on the streets is that neither game is exactly going to give the designers at FFG cause to sweat in terms of their quality. The Temple Race game looks like the sort of thing that kids might be nostalgic for someday as a roll and move game with a neat little gimmick, and of course DVD games as a rule are "The Suck". I'm probably enough of a sucker that I will buy one or both of these just to have them, because I'm stupid like that.
Plus, I really want a great Indy game and I keep settling for substitutes.
Last year Uba did a great article talking about getting a great Harry Potter game, but being left with crap like Quidditch and other jank. All that goes double for poor Indy, a billion-dollar franchise that just has never seen a "great" boardgame. There were crappy mass-market games in the 80s (back when getting a movie-based boardgame meant "ROLL AND MOVE, BITCHES~!!") but for the most part Dr. Jones has been left high and dry. Sure, he's seen some great video games, including the Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark and some decent Lost Crusade games that came out for the various systems. But boardgames? Nada.
It's not like there aren't games that haven't TRIED to capture Indiana Jones' adventure aesthetic...I mean, honestly, what franchise would more lend itself to a good adventure-based boardgame? You've got snakes, temples, traps, mystic treasures and artifacts, exploration, fight scenes...there's practically a laundry list of Ameritrash-quality items in there waiting to be exploited. Instead, what do we get? Would-be pretenders coming out with decent games that leave us saying, "Yeah, that's got that Indiana Jones feel." Tomb Raider CCG is a great example in that it has Laura Croft exploring a temple, using her wits and weapons to dodge traps and creatures, and also having to be on the lookout for double-crossing by rival explorers in the form of other players. That was certainly my first impression years ago when I played it--"this feels just like an Indiana Jones game."
In fact, it seems players are so desperate for some Indy action that even if a game seems to brush up against that theme even a little, it gets slapped with the "Indiana Jones-like" theme. I've read everything from Diamant to Lost Cities described in this fashion. It's hard to see those Nazis in Tannhauser and picture what the good Dr. would do when faced with those freakshows.
This was probably the last chance to get a 'great' game now that the movies have emerged front and center in the public eye again, but it sadly appears that we're only getting those two Hasbro offerings. Definitely a missed opportunity.
What's really weird is seeing all these cutesy Indiana Jones toys aimed at children. The melting-faced Nazi is nightmare fuel for children, so they just never seemed like the target market before. I mean, seriously, imagine explaining this:
"What happens in this scene, daddy?"
"Well, Indy is getting his face beaten in, but then the German Mechanic is bloodily decapatated by some propeller blades."
Fantasy Flight, if you're listening, in your licensing frenzy, PLEASE give Indiana Jones a look someday. I want to punch out some plastic Nazis. And name the dog Indiana.