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I have played Matt Leacock's Thunderbirds board game many more times than I originally thought I would. When I first saw it I was unsure of it's durability. Sure, everyone of a certain age loves Thunderbirds - the old original Gerry Anderson TV Puppet Adventure Show - but younger folk haven't the memories we old-folk have and think of Thunderbirds as that pretty poor movie and the abysmal recent television series. MODIPHIUS has given us older players the chance to relive the past and younger players the opportunity to understand what we are talking about when we begin sentences about Thunderbirds with "In my day ...."

The boardgame itself is already reviewed on GGO. It is a very difficult game to win unless you can defeat at least one Disaster a round and someone has their character in Thunderbird 5 as this allows the player to Scan (move a Disaster card back one space - something you cannot do unless you can create the space for it to move into - it's the Disaster Track that gets us every time. 

 

Having lost far more games than we have won playing the basic box game we decided to try our luck with the three Operations Packs available to us: The Hood, Tracy Island and Above & Beyond. All of these use the majority of the components from the basic set playing mix & match accordingly by removing some parts and adding others - the Disaster Deck and Character cards for example being prime components for integration, plus of course the character pieces themselves. Each expansion adds either new characters or updates previous ones such as the Hood who is a full stand-alone miniature in the boxed set and later in the Hood expansion he arrives as a head & body figure (a Peg model) suitable for piloting and driving vehicles.

 

The main new additions ABOVE & BEYOND gives us is a whole new set of miniatures and cards specific to them; these being Disaster cards and models. They come into play with specific disasters, the models being placed on the appropriately associated Disaster cards, and the players have the option of taking the model and its card when they prevent the Disaster. These are one-shot bonuses and like the F.A.B. cards they can be played from your hand at any time. Usually we keep these face up in front of the player who secured it by preventing the Disaster so that all players can be reminded of the bonuses available to us as a cooperative group.

The Fireflash and it allows players to transfer characters between any Thunderbird machines on Earth.
The U.S.N. Sentinel adds 1 to a Sea Rescue and you can keep it or it adds 3 and is discarded.
The Sidewinder discards any one Disaster card on the Disaster track (very useful and helps a lot towards the players being successful).
The Sun Probe allows the current player to choose between 2 drawn F.A.B. cards.
The Crablogger gives the user two additional actions.
The Roadbuilder is +1 or +3 to Land Rescue (like Sea Rescue).
The Martian Space Probe is +1 and +3 for Space Rescues.
The Helijet is +1 or +3 to Air Rescues.
The Drilling Rig allows the movement of the Thunderbird 4 to any space on Earth.
The Zombite Fighters allow the swapping of two Disaster cards on the Disaster track.

Each of these miniatures has it's own card. There is also a Jeff Tracy miniature plus 18 large character cards, 9 of which are level one and used as replacements for the original smaller cards and the other 9 are double-sided for levels 2 and 3. These cards are for the Tracys; Virgil, John, Gordon, Alan and Scott, Aloysius Parker, Lady Penelope, Tin-Tin Kyrano and Brains. Disaster cards may be "spent" to upgrade your characters.

The Hood can get a Level V Scheme in the Epic level variation which ups the ante quite considerably, not that the ante needs upping, the game is difficult enough most of the time. Finally for ABOVE & BEYOND  there is the introduction of the sand-timer which puts the players under more pressure.

 

The TRACY ISLAND expansion adds 14 pod vehicle models, 10 of which are for the pre-existing vehicle Tokens that come with the Basic Set and four new vehicles along with their Tokens. You also get the Ladybird Jet, FAB2 the ship and a small model of Tracy Island itself. The Tracy Island miniature is the most/only disappointing model of the entire series I have seen. It's a sad replica that is only just over half the size of the Thunderbird 2 model and shorter in length than Thunderbird 3. I can understand it's inclusion because it is a Land piece where characters like Lady Penelope, Parker, Tin-Tin and Brains can be stationed (the last three of this quartet are represented by Character Pegs in this expansion). The rules state clearly that International Rescue Pilots must be in a vehicle at all times "Each character must be in a Thunderbird machine at all times... " so the non-player Tracys may not be dropped onto Tracy Island whilst your character confiscates his vehicle. There is a NEW rule for this expansion (and usable in all games now including the original if you so wish) that allows you to use Tracy Island as a holding platform for transferring characters between vehicles - to be honest we played this rule almost as soon as we started playing the game (from Basic) laying the Character Pegs down on Tracy Island on the map board as this was possibly the only rule that made no sense to us - the Tracys own Tracy Island so it seemed a bit daft that they could never stop on it.

The introduction of the FAB 2 ship means that you now have another transport vehicle as it can carry FAB 1, Thunderbird 4 or a Pod vehicle of choice and like all the expansions this is compatible as long as the components from this pack are introduced and certain cards etc removed from others.

 

The HOOD expansion is the only one where the players separate into two entities, the Hood and the Thunderbirds, and thus it gives us the Hood model figure and character card, the Hood's Plane and Submarine, a small army of Hood Agents, new Scheme, F.A.B. Event, and Reference cards plus a Camera board and Film tokens. It also has models for the Hood's Lair and Creighton-Ward Manor. The latter being an 18th-century Stately Home in Kent and the seat of Lady Penelope's family, the Creighton-Wards; it is also the only non purple miniature model in this expansion. The Hood's Lair is an armoured, walled castle set up high in the mountains of Southern Asia with easy access to the Indian Ocean; the Hood's Peg model begins here. Certain cards, such as Agent Jeremiah Tuttle (an F.A.B. card) are not allowed in the Hood expansion adventures because his special ability allows any one scheme on the Hood track to be revealed, apparently making it easy for the players (yeah right!).

Playing the HOOD and trying to cause all manner of international chaos is a lot more fun than being part of the Thunderbirds team, at least it feels like it. As the Hood you get to be a spy, a hi-jacker and the most renown villain in the world, plus you get a small army of Henchmen to do your bidding, fly your own plane and escape in a super submarine. In our regular Thunderbirds games we like to bypass the rules of distributing the characters randomly because we all have our favourites amongst the Tracys. When we play the Hood expansion we each select our favourite character and remove their cards which we then shuffle and put one aside. Whoever's favourite character card is removed gets to play the Hood and the remainder get to play their favourite character, so we are all satisfied. This may be seen as "cheating" by some but believe me choosing your characters doesn't give you any advantage.

Despite all the dastardly plans the Hood has in motion to cause mayhem lives are never lost. The Hood can capture the Thunderbird characters and hijack their vehicles for his own use but he never kills anyone and neither does Internation Rescue Agents. It makes it so much more fun to know that your favourite character is going to be available for the next mission even if you fail to prevent the Hood's latest evil plot. and as the Hood it is even greater fun to capture the members of International Rescue or see them scurrying across the world trying to prevent your plans evolving into the world domination you desperately require.

Of these three expansions the Hood expansion is our favourite. Probably because we aren't the best group at collaborating, even in RPGs we like to do things our own way, and because it's great fun to play the villain once in a while. Like all of the Modiphius Thunderbirds game and accessories this has top quality components, heavy durable card, well sculpted plastic miniatures, a strong box with effective cover art both back and front and remarkably adept artwork that looks fresh but is also reminiscent of the sixties when Thunderbirds first took to the air. 

 

The designer and publisher have done a superb job in bringing the THUNDERBIRDS of the sixties back to life in a game that captures the fun, spirit of adventure and camaraderie of the co-operative Internation Rescue heroes (even reluctant ones such as Parker) and the evil designs of the infamous Hood and his terror organisation. These three expansions are in heavy, solid, durable boxes which is rather unusual costwise because they have all been specifically designed to fit, without their specific boxes, into the main box of the Basic Set. When I say "specifically designed" I mean that the cards from each set are marked accordingly: TI = Tracy Island, AB for Above & Beyond and TH for The Hood. Personally I have used zip-loc baggies for the cards and miniatures from each set, and the remaining components, the Camera Board, Counters etc. are all together in the Basic box and my suggestion is that you should do the same - it saves space, ensures all the pieces for the game are in one place and gives you three strong boxes to use for storage.

With the Basic Set and the three Expansions and the fact that the randomness of the cards ensures each game is different there is a lot of replayability in MODIPHIUS'S production of Matt Leacock's THUNDERBIRDS co-operative board game. I, for one, hope that Modiphius are planning on producing and publishing more expansions. It really is an expanding game that continually adds new and different aspects whilst keeping in line with one of our favourite old-time television programmes. I can't say it was my favourite television puppet programme as I still have wonderful memories of Alice Cooper with the Muppets, plus although it was only in Black & White I loved "Four Feather Falls" the first of the Andersons television puppet shows. 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015