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Posted on Feb 6, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“To survive a war, you gotta become war.” Rambo the Board Game Preview

“To survive a war, you gotta become war.” Rambo the Board Game Preview

By Rick Martin

Rambo the Board Game- Board Game Preview. Publisher: Everything Epic Game Designer: Chris Batarlis, Sam Bailey Price to be determined (on Kickstarter now)

Rick Martin

Chris Batarlis who brought us Secrets of the Lost Tomb and the upcoming Big Trouble in Little China Board Game and Sam Bailey of Star Wars Imperial Assault and Forbidden Stars fame have licensed the classic Rambo movies and are now Kickstarting Rambo the Board Game! They sent Armchair General a prototype copy and we can safely say “It’s a blast!”

Rambo the Board Game is a tactical game in which each player plays either John Rambo or Sam Trautman or two other team mates. Three missions are included in the prototype and each mission can be played either solo or with up to four players – each player taking a team member. The game controls the enemy and the story line.


From the press kit “The game provides sealed “legacy-like” Operation Envelopes which gradually expand the game as each mission completes. Each mission tells a story and takes the players on a unique adventure to various locations to save POW’s, escape a military prison, raid a jungle encampment, defend a secret air base, or survive a treacherous jungle and much more! Missions unlock new gear and tactics cards to help players customize their experience and allow for high replayability and great tactical strategy. Taking actions and engaging in combat is done with a card-based system, the player is in control, and every choice may be life or death.”

For those unfamiliar with “legacy” games, simply put, a legacy game utilizes sealed scenarios that are unlocked as the players explore the game. In addition, the game board or maps may change based upon player actions. While it may seem at first glance that this type of rule can hamper replayability, it actually doesn’t in this case as the game can be replayed at various levels of difficulty and detail plus random Threat Cards make each game different.

Each team member has various tactics, abilities and equipment. The tactics and equipment are provided as cards which are added placed around the hero’s game board. Each hero’s game board shows the stamina of the hero (how many hits he or she can take before becoming wounded), the alert meter for the hero (how easy it is for the enemy to spot our hero), the hero’s momentum (each action the hero takes adds special counters to the hero which may then be spent to gain specific powers or abilities such as shooting a gun twice or doing extra damage to an enemy). Another nice concept is that each hero has “Stance” boxes showing how fast they can move and what actions they can take when they do move. “Stances” include running, standing, crouching or lying prone. If a hero goes prone, they can’t move but the level of the bad guys’ alertness goes down. As the hero gets wounded, the Stances are covered over by a wound counter making for a fast and easy way to track how hurt the hero is.

The all important momentum of the hero can come in various types – combat, leadership, stealth, survival and ordinance. It’s always good to be aware of how much momentum your hero is building up and balancing it between the various types based upon your hero’s skills, items and abilities. For example, when playing Trautman, use his leadership momentum to motivate Rambo or use his combat momentum to add a silencer to your pistol so when you shoot, it doesn’t raise the alert level.

Equipment cards are added to your hero and, of course, include Rambo’s mini gun and iconic combat knife.

Tactics cards are used to provide extra abilities that your heroes may need during the mission plus they can be used to earn momentum.

While the game is perfectly set up for solo play, it can accommodate up to 4 players. If playing a multi-player game, the party picks a leader and gives that leader a cut out of Rambo’s knife. The player who is the leader unlocks more abilities shown on the hero’s card. Some events may cause the leader of the party to change which opens up other abilities for the new leader.

Each mission uses different terrain tiles. The tiles come in two types – outside terrain and buildings. Buildings are double sided – when a hero enters the building, simply flip it over to reveal the inside of the building.

The bad guys are controlled by a wonderful system of artificial intelligence. Each bad guy has both a card and stand ups. The cards list different types of actions that the enemies perform based upon different conditions in the game. The more alert the enemy is to the heroes, the more aggressive the enemy becomes. At one point in our game, we encountered two enemy soldiers arguing. They heard one of the heroes move but since the alert level wasn’t too high, they figured it was an animal and went back to their conversation.

Each area on the map initially contains a fog of war card which is placed based upon the scenario set up. When a hero moves in to a fog of war area, the card is flipped over to reveal an encounter which advances the story.

In addition, there are Threat Cards which add variety to the game insuring that no mission plays exactly the same way it did when previously played.

In addition to the map boards, various terrain tiles and vehicles are also included.

Playing the prototype game was like living out a Rambo movie! It was a blast. The rules are still being developed so there were a few problems figuring things out but it all worked out in the end.

Nicely molded prototype minis of the heroes are included but the final game will have even more detailed minis!

The rule book needs to be unpacked a little bit as it was very text heavy and has long lines of text. Text columns would be easier to read. Also there was no index to help find all important rules. In addition, a quick reference list is needed to help define often used terms.

Movement and attack ranges in the game are handled differently. Moving diagonally doesn’t cost additional movement points but attacking diagonally does. We found it a little confusing and think that one system or the other are needed but not both.

In addition, the fog of war counters for buildings need to have the outline of the building made a little more distinct. It was difficult telling outside fog of war cards from building fog of war cards without flipping the card to figure out which is which. Maybe a yellow outline of the building would help alleviate this problem?

These small critiques not-withstanding, Rambo the Board Game has great potential and is developing in to a fantastic game! My team can’t wait to try the next mission!

Rambo the Board Game is being Kickstarted at:″

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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