Updated: Apr 10
Players: 2-4 Ages: 16+ Game Time: 60-90mins
I have been kindly leant a copy of this game from a friend who backed the project and have now played it several times with a variety of people. It's great to share my feelings on the game with you all now.
This game is based on the Die Hard movie. So if you have not seen the movie, this is your fair warning: this review will contain spoilers. So if you want to go and watch Die Hard now and come back in a few hours, we'll be waiting....
Now that we've got that little disclaimer out of the way, let's continue. Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game follows the exploits of John McLane, Hans Gruber, and his band of thieves. The game is designed for 2-4 players and the play length is generally 1-2 hours. The game recommends an age of 15+, however, I am really not sure why as there isn't anything too complex. I would say 10+ was more realistic.
The game is broken up into three acts, which generally follow the movie plot.
Act I represents the start of the movie where John is starting to figure out what the thieves are up to and generally trying to equip himself.
Act II is getting into the meat of the movie, where John is becoming a nuisance to the thieves and alerts the police to what is happening at Nakatomi plaza.
Act III is the conclusion of the movie. The thieves are trying to blow up the roof, so the FBI kill the power for that all-important final lock, and John well John just wants to cause chaos, and you know... throw Hans out the building.
The game mechanics are quite interesting, but generally it's an inverse many vs one where one player takes the role of John McLane and the others take control of Hans Gruber and his band of thieves.
... a nice twist on the classic deck building mechanic.
The John player plays cards to perform actions each turn trying to complete the thematic objective of each Act. His main dilemma is that only the cards he plays will be taken forward into the other acts. This is a nice twist on the classic deck-building mechanic, and adds some agency to what would otherwise have been a boring role.
However, you can't wait too long as McLane runs out of energy and dies when his deck runs out. This creates an interesting strategy element of balancing the time taken to complete his objective and make sure he has the right balance of cards available.
As the game progresses, John gets stronger thanks to the support mechanic, until he basically activates 'god mode' where he basically automatically succeeds at every dice role.
... he basically activates 'god mode'
While John is busy trying to mess things up, the thieves are working on the locks standing between them and the $640 million of bearer bonds in the Nakatomi vault. Trying to slow John down is an optional extra that can provide bonuses to their core goal, breaking the codes.
Trying to slow John down is an optional extra
Each turn the thieves all choose a card, when these are revealed they are ordered based on the numbers on the top left of the card. The outer two provide numbers towards the lock codes and the middle card provides the action the thieves can carry out. When there are fewer than three thieves there is an element of randomisation with draws from the supply instead for the missing thief players. I like this somewhat collaborative element of the game and it feels like a fresh new mechanic at first... but then you realise it's just a different version of a drafting game.
One gripe for me is that Hans really doesn't have much substance to him, he doesn't feel like an adversary to our hero McLane. He really is just an objective marker. I would have liked there being something more added to utilise his character more and give the game a bit more depth.
There are three styles of miniatures in the game: a red miniature of McLane, a black one for Hans and nine thieves in green based on the character Karl. I'm a little disappointed in these as they don't have much detail and are quite small. Both of these elements mean they won't paint up easily, and to be honest they just don't excite me enough to want to anyway. I would have liked a little more variety or a more generic thief miniature as Karl was quite a distinctive character from the movie.
The game certainly has its own style.
The game certainly has its own style. All the cards have titles which are phrases from the movie and the card images are black and white illustrations of scenes from the movie, as though seen through the security cameras. This style is nice and gives the game a unique feel.
The finish of the game is very nice and I love the way the board folds out to reveal the new board space for each act, moving from a simple corner in the first act to the full board in Act III.
I wish that this game had a bit more substance. It's a bit too much of a slave to its theme and doesn't have much game underneath. The promise of strategy and unique mechanics is only skin deep and I found the gameplay to be very linear, which limits its replayability.
The game is quite balanced with every game played thus far being quite close. However, by Act III the result is almost a foregone conclusion; either John has got through the first few acts and now has all the time to do what he needs or the thieves have cracked too many locks and there isn't much John can do by himself to stop them at this point, as stopping the thieves and progressing your objectives are somewhat mutually exclusive.
Writing rules that are easy to digest is a challenge and I would like to say this game has achieved it... alas no. The rulebook has been streamlined so much that more than half of the book is a description of the set-up of each Act. There is no quick start that would have helped so much. If it had been me I would have done a separate book for John and the thieves, as their gameplay is so different.