Picture it. You’ve been a spaceship for centuries in cryofreeze, and you find yourself on a distant planet ruled by ape-like creatures who…
Okay, no. I’m not going to recap the entire plot of Planet of the Apes here. Google it if you need to. And if you’re familiar with the movie, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in the board game version released by IDW Games. While you’ll get a kick out of working through some of the major parts of the movie, there might not be enough here for the average gamer to hang around.
His Emotions Must Rule His Brain
Up to four players are going to be working cooperatively to get Taylor through the different conflicts of the movie. How can you all control one man? Well, you’re going to be taking on various parts of Taylor’s psyche. Perhaps you’re Clever Taylor, thinking his way through situations, or maybe Defiant Taylor, screaming “Get your hands off me!” every thirty seconds. Each part of his personality has its own unique skills that will allow players to better approach the game. Some of these skills happen freely, while more powerful abilities require the use of skill tokens, which are all represented by an eyeball, for some reason.
The game takes place through eight major and minor scenes of the movie. In a minor scene, players are given the opportunity to do things like heal or make moves to prepare for the journey ahead. My favorite is the very first scene when Taylor has crash landed on the planet. Each player can choose to draw one to five of the cards which are used for various purposes throughout the game. Then, they must roll a matching number of dice, and they receive wounds for how many odd numbers they roll. For me, it felt very thematic to have the players get hurt while they were trying to collect supplies. I was impressed, and I looked forward to more surprises like this as the game went along.
The surprises were somewhat limited, though, as the remainder of the game took on a fairly straightforward approach. In the major scenes, players will face several encounter cards, which are the major way that you progress through the game. Each card has some sort of dice rolling requirement that must be completed that you will be familiar with if you ever played Yahtzee. So you’ll be working to try to get a straight of five dice, or maybe four of a kind of a particular number. Your rolls can be impacted by the cards you have, either allowing you to reroll or giving you more dice so that you have a greater chance of success.
He Is the Devil’s Pawn
The whole point of completing these encounters is to move the Taylor pawn faster down the Fate track than the pawns representing the apes and the Statue of Liberty. Victories on encounters will allow you to do that, but failure will have those other tokens taking more steps closer to your failure. The ape and Taylor pawns reset with every major scene, but the Statue of Liberty’s slow movements towards the finish line last the entire game. If she ever makes it to the end of the scoring track, the game is over, and you have all lost.
You will continue to play through the major scenes until you reach the final discovery. In this final showdown, one card is drawn at random, and all of the players have to complete a final challenge in order to ensure their victory. This can get very tense, and in our game, only one of our players survived. Luckily for us, that’s all we need, and so we won!
You’ll notice that I mentioned that we only played through this game once. That’s because I feel that this game has somewhat low replay value. There is only one version of every minor scene, so it kinda lets you peek behind the curtain as you’re trying to make your way through the game. You’re able to strategize better, and while that might sound like a positive, it takes away some of the immediacy of a turn during a major scene if you know that there’s not as much risk. I also feel that the game becomes somewhat stale after a few rounds. When it comes down to it, you’re really just rolling dice every time, and that started to get old.
You Blew It Up!
To me, this game is like Elder Sign with a PotA theme thrown on top. And personally, I can’t stand Elder Sign. There’s too much luck involved because of all the dice, and so any plans that you make, though well done, can be shot down by probability. That is not fun to me. So while I somewhat enjoyed my time with Planet of the Apes, I’m not sure I will ever want to play it again. There are too many other good games out there, and I know I won’t find as much joy on a second playthrough.
Now you might be thinking that this is an awfully negative review, and maybe you’re ready to cancel your order, but wait just a minute. I will say that I am not the biggest fan of the movie, so maybe this game isn’t intended for me. Maybe those who love the movie will get a kick out of revisiting the universe from time to time. Maybe some people who love Elder Sign would want to get their hands on a different version of the game. I know those people are out there, and I think they will definitely have a better experience that I did. So don’t take my word for it. If it sounds like it could work for you, give it a shot. At the very least, you’ll get to throw out incredibly dramatic lines with your friends for a while, and that sounds pretty fun to me.
You can purchase Planet of the Apes at your local game store or on Amazon today.
IDW provided us with a retail copy of the game. This in no way impacted our review.
- Artwork is great and feels like the classic film
- Great fan service throughout the game
- Too reliant on dice
- Doubtful this game will have much replay value