For more than 10 years I have dutifully hosted at least one game of Thunderboats! at Enfilade. It has a regular following and usually sucks in a few new players too. It’s fun and a very easy game to run. Each year I send copies of the game off to others who think it would be fun to run at home.
This year I ran Thunderboats! Friday afternoon. The Red Lion ballroom was rockin’, and there was no shortage of games or players. By the time the game began at 2:00, I’d lost two players and picked up one more. We started with seven racers, three with experience.
Often Thunderboats! games can be a snooze for the game master. Lots of inexperienced players start very conservatively, playing very slowly, taking few chances. Not this group. Playing on a five foot wide table, made for a narrow race course, with lots of congestion. These players weren’t afraid to push engines, push corners, fly through rooster tails and chance collision checks.
We lost a few boats, but the racing was great. Al Rivers in Miss Exide, led a lot of the way, but almost everybody took a nitrous bottle in their builds, which meant there were some opportunities to make up ground. He was pursued closely by Denny Hartung in Miss Smirnoff. But both suffered the old water in the carburetor card in the final turn. Just as it seemed Al might crawl across the finish line to win, Michael Hiemstra, a new player, in Miss Hawaii Kai crossed the finish line in a tie requiring a quick run-off. Al won as Michael took enough damage to break down. It was a super race.
Mad Wet Max is related to Thunderboats! in a chaotic, angry way. While Thunderboats can be wild and exciting, it’s still a race around an oval course with everybody trying to finish three laps first, MWM has all the players running their own race, following their own path and god help you if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I ran two helpings of MWM this weekend. It was my featured Friday night game, and then again on Sunday morning when I was nearly ready to fall over. Both games were pretty fun, but distinctly different.
We had a full house for the Friday night game. It included lots of veteran Thunderboats! racers, including Dale Mickel, Shawn McEvoy and Chris Rivers. Chris had his heart set on the Stag Beetle, but when he rolled for boat choice, he was last and got stuck with Red Scorpion and its rear firing cannon.
This group did a great job of trying to run a race. However it was kind of a chaos race, with boats running hither and yon trying to grab up the buoy tokens, while sewing mines in the channels between islands and on buoys. Even so, as things began to wind toward a conclusion, it was clear Chris and the Red Scorpion was in a position to win it all. With a shot to exit with one big die roll, Chris tiptoed past two mines, survived a collision check and passed the checkered flag. Winner.
The Spectators made their first appearance in a Mad Wet Max game. The Peshmerga showed up with RPG’s just to keep things interesting. They missed. Sigh
The Sunday game was wild and woolly compared to the Friday night game. Unfortunately, I decided to pack my camera for a quick Sunday getaway, so there is no means of documenting the carnage. Lots of friends in the Sunday game as David Sullivan, Brian Shein, daughter Nicole and her husband Raul, Scott Murphy, Doug Hamm and Neil Marker all took part.
It was wild from the beginning as everyone was lining up to take their best shot. Neil was the first to go, but others dropped out quickly as Raul was polished off by his spouse, and then took Doug’s boat when he had to leave, and was sunk by David Sullivan.
However, unobserved by others, Grace, whose last name escapes me, was racking up tokens in the Stag Beetle, shooting when necessary.
The course was set up with the islands in the middle of the board, so it was possible to circumnavigate the course fairly easily. Players were willing to dodge around the mines and take chances in adjacent hexes, mostly succeeding in avoiding explosions. Not always, but usually. Spectators appeared-first the Peshmerga with their RPG’s, then their Stinger missile crew for knocking down parascenders. Eventually the Armed Rural Americans would make their appearance with decisive results.
Brian Shein was mined, and eventually Scott Murphy lost his zillion hull points. It came down to Grace and David. As Grace snagged her last token and sped toward the finish line, David passed the Armed Rural Americans toward his final token. A shotgun blast killed his gunner, and he coudn’t prevent Grace from getting off the table. Winner.
Both games were fun, and everybody enjoyed them. They went fast, but because of the initiative system, more folks had to wait a bit longer as we rolled off ties and the like. It might be that eight players are too many and we should consider six. I’ve also thought about including a mine sweeper option during the builds that would cost some points, and wouldn’t be 100% effective.