Get your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape! It’s time for a trip back to 1968, when a heroic and courageous Colonel George Taylor – definitely not a bitter and cynical Colonel George Taylor – launched into space aboard The Liberty along with his crewmates Dodge, Landon and Stewart in a quest to find a new world explore and maybe start anew. Kinda shortsighted of the mission planners to send three men and only one woman, but it was the 60’s, after all. Little did those planners know that centuries later, the Liberty would crash-land on a brutal and savage planet where apes were the dominant species,and humans were feral, savage animals. Oh, and spoiler alert, Stewart’s hibernation pod cracked and she didn’t survive the trip, so it’s up to the boys to figure things out on their own. It’s been almost 50 years since the original film, is the spoiler alert really necessary?
IDW has taken this story – one of a struggle for survival against seemingly insurmountable odds – and turned it into a co-operative game for up to four players. I should note you can also play it solo, if you’re up for the challenge, and there’s a scaling difficulty option as well, should you find it too difficult or want to challenge yourself further. Let’s take a peek inside the box…
Crackiung it open, we’re greeted by some very nice quality components. Superficial when it comes to gameplay, I know, but there’s just something so much more satisfying about holding sturdy, well made bits. The board is tri-fold, the tokens are thick cut, and there are plastic standees for the Liberty, Taylor, the Ape, and the Statue of Liberty. If you were lucky enough to get the launch edition of the game, you don’t need to use the standees, you get…
… plastric minis! Let’s take a moment to explain what each does, and to cover one of the more unique conceits of the game – everyone’s the came person.
In most multiplayer games – even co-op games – each player has their own token, their own character, whatever. In Planet of the Apes, everyone is playing Taylor, but everyone has a different aspect of his personality – Clever, Defiant, Cynical, Commander – and with them, a different ability only they can use
The game has you playing through the movie. You start with the Liberty’s crash site, and then follow through each major chapter in the film. Every chapter is a race between the human – Taylor – and the ape. The Liberty marks which chapter you’re currently on, while Liberty moves the endgame inexorably closer and closer.
The game sets challenges as you work through each major chapter where you are looking to roll combinations of red, white or grey dice to yield certain results. You can use abilities and action cards to gain additional dice, rerolls or other effects. Each challenge you succeed at moves you closer to finishing the chapter, and moving on to the next. Each you attempt and fail, however, advances the ape, damages the players, or worst of all, advances the Statue of Liberty. If she gets to the end of the track, the game is over. Period.
The challenges are broken down into major and minor scenes. The minor scenes advance the story to the next with minimal challenge – more just effects to prepare you (or hinder you) as you move on to the next major scene. The major scenes have decks of challenges, providing variety and replayability. Three challenges are flipped up at a time, and as players you have the choice of which you wish to attempt each turn. Some are easier, some are harder – risk vs reward. Some also have negative effects that trigger each dawn, so you may find yourself taking on harder challenges just to try to get rid of them.
You can see two of the challenges here. Each lists how many dice you get to start with, which action card suits (there are five) you can use at this point in the game, and the max number of rerolls you can attempt. If you succed – eg, in getting four of a kind with 3’s or higher after all rerolls and extra dice have been rolled – you get the green result (Taylor token moves and your choice of a skill token or special card). If you fail, you get the red result (the active player takes 2 damage, and the apes move closer to the end of the track). If sunrise occurs while the example card is on the board. then the effect on the bottom of the card also triggers.
Every turn you’ll be able to draw Action Cards to gain additional dice or rerolls, though as mentioned, the challenges will specify which cards you can use with them. Having a reroll of the yellow suit doesn’t help if you can’t use yellow suited action cards, for example. Special Cards are stronger abilities that have more of an impact, though you can only replace your Special cards through in-game effects such as completing a challenge, or by discarding a set of four matching Action cards.
The Planet of the Apes cards are, pretty much universally with only a few exceptions, unpleasant, and they trigger every dawn.
Behold, yon Lostie TheGreatGaspy trying to figure it all out. Ignore the half-full bag of days-old movie popcorn.
We picked up the core concepts pretty quickly on our playthrough, and only had to go back to the rulebook a few times. It became a case of carefully weighing the risk-vs-reward aspect of the challenges, considering the Action and Special cards available to us, and then hoping the dice gods were with us as we tackled each goal in a desperate race to beat the ape to the end of the tracker each chapter, and the Statue of Liberty to the end.
We did make it to The Discovery in the end, and there’s several cards here as well – one final challenge – that Taylor must defeat to win the game. For all the challenges we’d faced on our way to that fateful beach, we were all in fair health when we flipped the statue and were faced with one last attempt for this damned planet to kill us…
Clever, Defiant and Cynical, we took the blows and stood, bloodied but proud. WHO’S THE DAMN MONKEY NOW, ZAIUS!
IDW’s Planet of the Apes boardgame is quick to pick up and a fun way to spend a couple of hours. The escalating challenge difficulty as you move through the chapters combined with each chapter having its own deck of challenges, the different personalities of Taylor, the different Special card abilities and the variable endgame challenges make for good replayability. Yhere’s a huge nostalgia element for older gamers like myself, blended seamlessly with modern game mechanics, component quality and game balance. The price point is excellent for the product, and it’s well worth introducing to your game group on game night.