Nostalgia is strong and some of my fondest memories playing as a kid revolved around G.I. Joe’s. Every pile of dirt outside became a COBRA hideout and every piece of furniture in the house became a mountain to scale. I’m constantly holding myself back from spending my children’s college funds on all the new G.I. Joe items that hit the market.
In 2020 Renegade Games Studios showed off the upcoming G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game and that nostalgia hit hard! A mechanic I love and my childhood toys were being smashed together.
Blast from the Past
The G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players. Everyone starts with your basic equipment and Joe’s along with a single leader that can be upgraded during the game. Each game is setup by creating a deck of mission cards that you’ll tackle together as a team. The variety of missions are really solid and the game honestly has more replayability to it than the description on the box led me to believe.
Missions will ramp up as you play. Once you’ve played a couple times, you can dig into the second set of mission cards for more difficulty. Complication cards and COBRA leaders will make things more difficult for your team every step of the way.
Players decide to send their Joe’s on main missions, side missions or to attack COBRA leaders. Asking the players to join in the main missions are a must. Players will pile their Joe cards into vehicles that are available in the Hanger. Vehicles will have limited seating so choose the right Joe’s for the mission.
Missions are a success or failure based on die rolls with available bonuses and equipment that can help mitigate bad rolls. The more complications and COBRA leaders that are out, the more frustrating a mission can be. Cards in the game give players buying power to recruit familiar G.I. Joe’s from my childhood. New equipment and vehicles will hit the table and players can even spend points to upgrade their leader which gives them more diverse abilities.
Nostalgia vs Gameplay
On paper, the G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game is something that I get so excited for! From recruiting new Joe’s to assembling a team for missions, this game FEELS like G.I. Joe. Since the game is played cooperatively, not everyone will be a fan, we know that. You feel like a team and each mission feels critical as the difficulty climbs during the game.
While I love this game on paper, on the table I’ve had a much different experience. From the frustrating rulebook to the constant need to remember what phase things happen, this game has been a burden to play.
When I think of G.I. Joe as a property, I imagine this being accessible to anyone who grew up playing with the toys. The box art and look of the game screams “Remember your childhood? Buy me!” The truth is that I would have a tough time suggesting this to anyone that isn’t really deep into gaming. There’s so much about this game that feels fiddly and more complicated than it should be.
I think of G.I. Joe’s being such an accessible property. Good guys vs. bad guys, lasers and awesome vehicles. The G.I. Joe Deck-Building Game is the opposite of accessible. If you can make it through the rulebook and play it correctly, you deserve an award. It took me 2 readings of the rulebook and 3 videos before I played the game correctly.
In no way is this a bad game, I think I’m struggling to know what audience this game is for. Gamers who play the game often will be able to remember the steps and rules each round. When I didn’t play the game for 3 weeks, I felt like I spent half the game in the rulebook just to keep everything straight.
Every review is subjective, so if you don’t like my opinion on this game, there are lots of other voices out there. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas on this game and read next to nothing about it prior to receiving the game. I’m not sure what I expected going into the game but it’s definitely more complex and frustrating than I expected.
This game is going to hit a sweet spot for seasoned gamers that also really enjoy co-ops. This is a small group and definitely not the broad audience that pines for the nostalgia that G.I. Joe invokes. For me, it was a missed opportunity to bring modern hobby board games to adults that grew up on this property.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Equipment and vehicles offer plenty of dice mitigation
- Loads of classic Joe’s that made me geek out
- Tackling missions feels so G.I. Joe
- The rulebook is a mess and how to play videos are a must
- Not a game for new gamers or casual players
- At times felt overly complicated and rules heavy