Though the 1986 Milton Bradley game Thunder Road – which brought Mad Max-esque, post-apocalyptic vehicular combat on an endless stretch of highway to the tabletop – isn’t the most famous game in the world, it’s fondly remembered by those players who were lucky enough to play it back in its day.
The subject matter made it feel edgy and mature, the gameplay mechanics were simple but satisfying – particularly when a lucky dice roll saw a smaller vehicle take on and defeat a much larger one – and especially for a game of its era, where so many games were either roll and move or based around gimmicky plastic components. Not so with Thunder Road, which had solid presentation and plastic components that properly fit the theme and mechanics. It was a game that never outstayed its welcome either – fast, furious and fun; so fast, in fact, that I used to take it to school and play it with my friends every morning just before it was time for registration – for months on end in the late 80s, this was a daily tradition in our classroom!
So it’s absolutely wonderful to see the game make a return in the safe hands of Restoration Games – a board game publisher who specialise in bringing back classic games from the dead, which is of course alluded to in their name. The Kickstarter campaign for Thunder Road: Vendetta has launched today – January 25th – and runs until February 14th. At the time of writing, the campaign seems to have got off to an appropriately turbo-charged start, having already reached 63% of its not-insgnificant $300,000 goal. This is a fantastic achievement – and should see the game smash through its stretch goals in no time.
Of course, much has changed in the board game world since 1986 – so Thunder Road isn’t simply being reprinted; it’s been lovingly recreated and expanded to fit the expectations of the contemporary board game audience. As in the original game, players have a crew of three cars – large, medium and small (they have a chopper too, though this is used as a special ability (which mirrors the chopper’s role in the original somewhat too). Though the mechanic of movement is similar, it’s been improved somewhat, as each of your cars has its own dashboard card; this is used to assign movement dice to your vehicles. You have a command card too, which can be used once per road board. Once you’ve moved, if any of your vehicles are in shooting range of another vehicle, they get to attack. Vehicles can take two hits before they’re rendered inoperable. Once a car reaches the end of the lead road board, the rear board becomes the lead – and anyone who was on the rear board when it shifts is instantly eliminated.
There’s a few extra wrinkles of course, but those are the basics; it makes for an incredibly fast-paced and exciting experience – just like the original. Aside from some new mechanics and components – including some lovely new dice types for combat and to handle those aforementioned fresh gameplay elements.
Along with this, there are several expansions which add even more to the experience. Firstly, there’s a tuckbox of cards containing multiple mini-expansions called Extra Ammo (which will add more options to the game as the campaign funds increase!) – which is free to all backers of the game.
Next up, there’s the Big Rig and the Final 5 expansion, which adds a multi-section Big Rig, five motorcycles and even more new options to the game – including the option for a fifth player to join in on the fun.
Third is Carnage at Devil’s Run, which adds in new road boards, new effects for your drivers to deal with and even fire, with a beautiful fire token and die too!
Lastly, there’s the Choppe Shoppe expansion – which adds crew leader characters, each with their own special abilities, and vehicle upgrade cars for faster, deadlier vehicles.
The overall visual design of Thunder Road: Vendetta adds a lot of character to the game too; it’s respectful to the original spirit of its post-apocalyptic petrolhead aesthetic, but definitely – especially with the cool designs of the Choppe Shoppe crew leaders – adds its own Grindhouse-esque, straight-to-VHS spin on things to make it feel unique and cleverly retro-futuristic.
There’s numerous reasons to back it on Kickstarter (even to back early – a free Start Player coin is included if you back within the first 48 hours), including reduced prices on RRP, early shipment and of course, those lovely extras and stretch goals. Perhaps most enticing is the Kickstarter-exclusive Maximum Chrome pledge level; this includes the base game (in a fancy foil-stamped box), all of the expansions, a custom plastic insert and even an exclusive crew leader.
You can check out Thunder Road’s Kickstarter campaign page – and back the game yourself – right here.
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