Summer Blockbusters & Board Games

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on May 17, 2017

One of my favorite things about Summertime- which is coming up on us faster than you think- is sitting in a movie theater with the AC cranked up and watching one of the big summer blockbusters. It always takes me back to the summer of '91 when a friend and I went to go see Terminator 2: Judgment Day seven times before school was back in session. Of course, summer is a great time for playing games and for this month's feature, I gave our Review Corner writers the trigger phrase "summer blockbuster" to see what they would come up. Whether they already have set their sights on some of the surefire hits coming out in the next few months, want to share some games that evoke that blockbuster feeling, or they are hyped up for games they are looking to play when the weather outside starts to heat up, it's looking like it's going to be a great season for gaming.

Michael Barnes

Review Corner Editor-in-Chief


There's no doubt that summer '17 is going to be all about the 8th edition of Warhammer 40k in my house and in game clubs and shops around the world. This is the premiere gaming event that will matter the most over the next couple of months. Numerous previews have been released by Games Workshop and it looks like it could be revolutionary, taking cues from Age of Sigmar's simpler approach to rules and moving the game in a more accessible direction. Over the past few years X-Wing, in particular, has challenged GW's relative dominance of the miniatures genre especially among newcomers. But I think the free availability of rules, smarter rules-writing in those free rules, and a ground-up reboot with lots of tasty new lore such as the new Primaris Marines will see 40k soaring back to the top of the sales charts again by the end of the year. This about as blockbuster as it gets in the hobby gaming world!


It's been a while since I've had a "summer break". But I still cling to the idea that free time will materialize during the warm months and I'll be able to sit and watch all the popcorn flicks that flood the theater. Reality bites. Fortunately I've found the gaming equivalent of the summer blockbuster: Star Wars: Destiny. Destiny is a light and tactical affair, though there is plenty of meat on its bones for those who love digging into deck construction to find all the ways General Grievous can ruin your opponent's day. This year it has a blockbuster release of its own. The second set, Spirit of Rebellion, brings the characters and events of Rogue One into the game. Chirrut, Baz, and Jyn wait in booster packs ready to hit the table with blasters firing. We've also just had a reprint of the excellent starter sets - perfect to get started with the game. While I may not have hours to sit in a theater anymore, I can easily squeeze in 30 minutes for a lightsaber duel; and when I can't I can slip into the basement to open just one more booster in hopes of finding that Tie Pilot I need.


The summer blockbuster means spectacle- big production, big explosions, big stories, and lots of action. And there's only one game in recent memory that brings that same excitement to the table: Conan. Undeniably, the production value is huge. The game eschews wooden bits or cardboard characters and instead utilizes a huge array of finely detailed miniatures and exquisite illustrations. But more than just the minis, the artwork is fantastic and the presentation is remarkable. And Conan is no slouch in the cinematic action department - every session provides wonderful narratives of Conan and company chopping down enemies, facing terrible threats, and overcoming them (or succumbing to them) through equal parts tactics and brawn. A play of Conan is a bit like your own personal summer blockbuster.


When I hear "Summer Blockbuster" I think getting kicked in the teeth by a game that is grabbing you by the ears and demanding your attention. The kind of game that everyone is going to be talking about and it feels like you can't miss out on it. No, I'm not talking about the next Michael Bay flick, which can probably be safely missed. I'm talking about Star Wars: Rebellion's first expansion. Rise of the Empire offers a whole host of gifts in its summer release, including the introduction of elements from Rogue One. U-Wings and TIE Strikers enter the fray, offering interesting new combat actions. Supporting these units are faction specific tactics decks which promise to revamp combat, taking a cue from recent FFG standout Forbidden Stars. Toss in Jabba the Hutt, Nebulon-B Frigates, and Interdictors and you have a huge, marquee release that I can't wait to sink my teeth into. Rebellion was already among the best releases Fantasy Flight Games has ever published, can Rise of the Empire inch it closer towards perfection? Anticipation is half the fun!


Nothing encapsulates the archetypical summer blockbuster like a star-powered comics-based flick. Packing in all of that big name talent with non-stop action and screen-blowing special effects generally leaves little room for character development or plausible plot. But that’s not why we go see them. Few games let me dive into that kind of shameless spectacle like the Legendary: Marvel Deck Building game. It may not have the same obscenely embarrassing budget - although it can if you collect every expansion - but few designs get you into the action as quickly and ferociously. Though there is the usual ramp up standard to the deckbuilding genre, this one still gets you right into the cinematic action as you start building your dynamic team, punching bad guys in the teeth and feeling the pinch with every failure. Legendary gives you a tabletop superhero movie with fantastic fights, super powers, evil henchmen and devious masterminds straight from the big screen. To make it even better, bringing your own popcorn to the table is way cheaper!


Summer blockbusters mean big movies: spectacles with a lot of action and, let's be honest, not a lot of depth. And that's totally okay. Sometimes I just want to be amused for a little while until I return to the less exciting world of bills, errands, and whatever other adult stuff I've been putting off. So what better way to start off game night than with some mindless action? Dexterity games like Flying Kiwis, Rhino Hero, Click Clack Lumberjack, or Coconuts get everyone cheering and jeering at one another. For the adrenaline junkies, PitchCar is the surefire way to go. And if you'd like a little more strategy or depth in your action, Flick 'em Up or Junk Art give you a little more to consider without substituting the raucous play. No matter what you choose, all of these games will etch their way into your brain, and perhaps end up being more memorable than that movie about the guy who blows things up and saves the day.


When it comes to capturing the big twists and relentless pace of summer action flicks, the Legendary Encounters series does it the best. Legendary Encounters: Alien was the first to twist Marvel Legendary's semi-cooperative deckbuilding formula into a fully cooperative experience that takes players through the biggest moments of the first four Alien films. The best thing about the game is how it can surprise you: the goal is always clear, but you won't find out how to accomplish it until you reveal the right card. The Predator box gave players two ways to experience the first two Predator films: either as a human or a hunter. Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China doesn't have the tight pacing and narrative structure of an Encounters release, but it's still a great way to bring the heroes, villains and the Pork Chop Express from what may be the best popcorn flick ever into your Legendary games.


Nothing screams "summer blockbuster" like explosions, car chases, and machine gun fire. Fortunately for us game nuts, there's a wide variety of games that fit the bill. If I had to pare it down to just one choice it would absolutely be Zombicide or any of its offspring. It has everything you could possibly want in a summer blockbuster - scantily clad, bad ass death vixens and musclebound, macho murder gorillas with firearms and machetes cutting down an incessant onslaught of nightmare creatures. Just as in summer blockbusters, there's always that final boss that our beloved heroes and heroines must defeat against all odds....which Zombicide has as well. It's like the misbegotten offspring of The Expendables and Resident Evil. You cannot beat this series for action-packed madness on an unrivaled level. It simply is the board game embodiment of a summer blockbuster film.