Big Trouble In Little China

If you’re a fan of the martial arts, you’ve probably heard of John Carpenter’s masterpiece action thriller Big Trouble in Little China. It’s a 1986- starrer with Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, James Hong, and Dennis Dun. The film is set in 1980s San Francisco, in the grim underworld locality of Chinatown

Players: 1-4

Game Time: 60-120min

Complexity: Low

Age: 14+

Release Year: 2018

Jack Burton, and his friend Wang Chi have to rescue Wang’s green-eyed fiance, Miao Yin, from the underworld bandits while battling an ancient sorcerer, David Lo Pan, who wants to marry the said green-eyed woman he can break an ancient curse that was cast on him.

Though the film wasn’t for the box office, it certainly left its mark on the audience, and families soon recognized its storyline as a cult classic for generations to come. Observing this unique outcome of original commercial work, Carpenter then decided to use the storyline for something else: a board game!

Made by Everything Epic Games, Big Trouble in Little China: the board game, is a 2018 adaptation and is doing reasonably well in an already saturated and segmented market despite being much younger than other decades-old classics. It was designed by Christopher Batarlis, Boris Polonsky and Jim Samartino.

You may have heard your parents go on and on about Life and Mastermind and Samurai, but now you may prepare for something much better and different; Big Trouble in Little China: The Game! So, let’s dive into this game review.

What is the Game About?

Well, it’s a close depiction of all the horrors and thrills of the original movie, as you read above. The rule book opens with the following words from the protagonist Jack Burton:

“This is your old pal Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I’m talkin’ to whoever’s listenin’ out there. If I told you what I’ve been through in the past few days, there’s not a chance in hell you’d believe it. So I’m gonna do you one better – you’re gonna live it, through your own eyes and skin. Whaddya think about that?”

After a detailed explanation of the game, he says, “If you get stuck, just do what comes naturally. And remember, like your old pal Jack Burton says, it’s all in the reflexes.”, which is quite aptly put when you see it in the movie’s context. There are different quests, challenges, and unforeseen dangers lurking at each step of the movie and the corresponding game scenarios.

While the film only shows Jack and Wang navigating through unavoidable circumstances, there are many other paths and decisions they choose against. These mini-games or quests, as shown in the film version, are what make the game an outstanding one. The ultimate objective, though, remains the same: defeat Lao Pan and wait until he has breathed his last. Just like in the movie, you can only be a victor if you annihilate the villain. If otherwise, Lao Pan remains undefeated, he will transform into an ancient and freshly-revived monster who will rule and ruin the earth forever

Concept

The game is similar to a saga. In the movie, Jack and Wang follow only certain paths that lead them to specific quests. In the game version, however, you will get many more opportunities than just that. The gameplay consists of two acts: Act I: The Quest for Little China and Act II: The Final Showdown. The first act consists of a series of quests and challenges on the Chinatown side of the board. Here, Jack and Wang will defeat minions and bosses to unlock Chi and Audacity.

The players then collectively navigate through the Chinatown and get to Lo Pan’s Lair, where the Hero Phase ends and the Enemy Phase, or Act II, begins. Here, the players will continue playing until they eventually defeat Lo Pan. The game will have a basic structure in the Quest book, but for the larger part, players will decide their fate for themselves using the main and side quest cards, dice, tokens, chips, and other gameplay elements. As you will see below, the product comes with a hefty range of gameplay components, which means there will be no two gameplays that could be exactly the same.

This means you’ll never run out of new game options, and you will also be able to switch up the game settings in some instances. If you take the premium game version, you may also get up to six-player accommodation!

Game Components

The package is enormous. No doubt about that. When you first open it, you’ll also probably wonder if you should just return it because a lot of elements will seem confusing. However, once you get into the nitty-gritty of how all the elements come together, you’ll find it quite exciting to work your way across the game. Here’s a breakdown of all that the game consists of:

Boards

Big Trouble calls for a big fat collection of boards, too, right? Although it falls under the category of board games, it has several smaller boards to help you position your role in the game and advance quickly as the game progresses. Here are all the several boards you’ll see in your package:

Double-Sided Game Board

The best thing about Big Trouble in Little China is that the board doesn’t cramp all the elements into one space. You get one whole side of the board for one act, so the board has picturization on both sides. The side representing Act I has a series of separate nooks for each quest, while the one with the final showdown is designed like a Colosseum. Each side is elaborated with intricate details that add to the attractiveness and visual appeal of the game.

Fate Track

The Fate Track is a smaller board that keeps track of all the player’s positive and negative health statuses. Here, you will see the effects of various quests and dices on your player’s health, powers, and abilities.

Hero Boards

The game comes with six hero boards, one for each player. You can keep track of the progress, collections, tokens, and other storyline elements.

5 Boss Boards

Bosses are the ultimate quest trouble besides the villain Lo Pan, so it’s only fair that they get their own boards, too, right? Well, when you will deal with a boss, you’ll notice there’s a lot of exchanging of cards, contemplations, and other activities, so it’s best to have separate boards for those thrills!

Cards

So you will get a total of 167 cards in the game. Although they’ll be a hassle to store and collect, they are all divided in a simple manner amongst all the players. These cards are categorized in the following areas:

• 18 Big Trouble Cards

• 16 Showdown Quest Cards

• 22 Side Quest Cards

• 20 Main Quest Cards

• 6 Special Co-op/Ability Cards

• 24 Upgrade Cards

• 15 Reward Cards

• 24 Hell Cards

• 12 Minion Cards

• 6 Companion Cards

• 4 Player Aid Cards

Pegs and Minis

Pegs and minis (or miniatures) are what move you and your enemy across the board. There are twelve pegs on the game. Four blue for Chi, four red for Health, and four black for Boss Health. As for the minis, there are a total of 40 minis; 6 heroes, 5 bosses, and 29 minions.

Dice

Other than the range of boards, the game is also unique in the number of dice it provides. You will get 38 dice in one game. Of these, you’ll have 20 red action dice, 6 black fate dice, 6 white skill dice, and 6 gold epic skill dice. Each of these roll on different occasions and yields further developments on the game boards.

Tokens and Clips

Tokens can either make or break your entire campaign. The game comes with 30 Item tokens, one Threat token, one Audacity token, one Pork Chop express token, 18 Level Up Tokens, 10 Fail/Pass Tokens, 4 Special Ability Tokens, 20 Quest Tokens (12 hero, three boss, five side quest), and Special Effects tokens, including 5 Sewer Monster, 5 Rubble, 5 Demon, and 10 Lava tokens. You also get two event clips.

Questbook

The Questbook is where all the fun is born. You get to explore various combinations, campaigns, player privileges and limitations, and how you can score and determine winners.

How to Play the Game

Well, it’s impossible to explain all the possibilities and probabilities of the game, but a general overview will clear out most of your confusion regarding the game’s setup. As you already know, there are two parts to the game, for which you get a double-sided board. You may note that you won’t be playing on both sides of the board simultaneously. Rather, you will first explore the Hero phase, or the Act I of the game. In this phase, you will work your way through the Audacity track of the game. This track measures your strength against that of your enemy, in your case, Lo Pan and his cronies.

During the Hero phase of the game, the Heroes are the only ones advancing through the board. Each player takes a turn in advancing through the board and navigating through various pawn shops, stores, and other game-changing elements. Once all the players have had their turn, they then proceed to the other side of the board, where Act II begins and where Lo Pan unleashes wrath on the players, although you may sometimes get lucky and avoid getting cooked due to uncertain probabilities. Once the round is cleared, the Threat token advances one space on the Big Trouble Track.

Once a whole round is completed on the Enemy base, you will again return to Act I, the Hero’s base, and move on with the game.

Actions on the Board

The dice, tokens, cards, minis, and all other elements crave some action on the boards. Each development during the game is an ‘Action’, and there are two types of Actions in this one:

1. Dice Actions

Dice Actions are serious and highly consequential Actions in the game. These are unfurled through the 38 dice you get in the set. These Actions include Task, Combat Check, Movement, Skill Check, and Rest Actions.

2. Free Actions

Free Actions occur with the Action dice. These are miscellaneous and add more fun and variety to the game. These Actions include Trigger A Quest, Open a Crate, Use an Item, and Trade Actions.

Gameplay Experience

Big Trouble in Little China offers a rich, layered experience that helps you develop an extensive range of skills: risk-taking, crisis management, leadership, bravery, probability, patience, resilience, and innovative solutions, to name a few. With every move and in every campaign, players get to experience new skill combinations, a feat which is quite rare across most board games! Everything epic we can think of comes in this game.

Final Thoughts

Whether you watched Big Trouble in Little China or not, this game will offer a unique and refreshing experience each time. The game is quite elaborate, so it will take some time before you can use various gameplay elements across different campaigns. Having said that, you may also find that some people will have a harder time getting the hang of the game as compared to others. You may also find that much of it is unsuitable for children, so you’ll either have to water it down or arrange new campaigns for some players.