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Posted on Aug 16, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“We shook the pillars of heaven!” Big Trouble in Little China Board Game Review

“We shook the pillars of heaven!” Big Trouble in Little China Board Game Review

By Rick Martin

Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game Board Game Review. Publisher Everything Epic Designers: Christopher Batarlis, Boris Polonsky and Jim Samartino Price $99.99

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Beautifully designed components, tons of replay value, excellently written rules with examples, full index, easy to learn and play, great sense of humor, perfectly captures the feel of the film

Failed Basic: 1 important rule (character starting locations) was addressed in a side bar when it should have also been in the set up procedure

I am a huge movie fan and was a film critic for a local newspaper in Dayton, Ohio for 8 years. Director, writer, producer and musician John Carpenter is a major influence on my taste in films. From Dark Star and Halloween to The Thing to Escape from New York, The Fog and Big Trouble in Little China, Carpenter’s films can always be counted on to thrill, scare and entertain. To me, Carpenter’s golden period was the 1980s when he worked with almost a repertory company of actors including the always fantastic Kurt Russell. Kurt Russsell in the part of Jack Burton, the heroic lead in genre twisting comedy/horror/action/kung fu/fantasy film “Big Trouble in Little China”, completely captured the gregarious nature of the stereotypical “all American hero” trapped in a supernatural situation. The 1986 movie, itself, has developed a huge cult following over the years and has probably made more money on VHS, Laser Disk, DVD and Blu-Ray then it ever did during its initial theatrical run.


In brief, the plot of the movie is that Jack Burton, all American truck driver of the 18 wheeler named “Pork Chop Express”, gets involved in strange supernatural going-ons in China Town when an ancient god, Lo Pan, and his army of demons and kung fu thugs kidnaps a woman “with green eyes” to fulfill an ancient prophecy. The movie is brash, violent and pure adrenalin fueled fun!

Now Everything Epic has released a massive board game based on the film! Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game perfectly captures the feel and design esthetics of the movie and draws the players in to a tactical struggle against the forces of Lo Pan and his Kung Fu thugs! Not only is the game a masterpiece of design but it also one of my favorite games of 2017/2018! It’s that good!

Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game comes in a massive box packed with two layers of game playing goodness. The beautiful graphic designs and art work are by Henning Ludvigsen and Boris Polonsky. The box features stunning artwork which perfectly captures the actors from the movie and emulates the crazy feel of the game.

Upon opening the massive box you will find:

• Rule book (40 pages)
• Quest book (92 pages)
• Double-sided game board
• 89×63.5 mm cards
o 18 Big Trouble cards
o 15 Showdown Quest cards
o Act II Showdown setup card (the 16th Showdown Quest card mentioned in the rule book)
o 22 Side Quest cards
o 6 Special/Co-op Ability cards
o 12 Minion cards (6 normal, 6 hard)
o 6 Companion cards
• 120×80 mm cards
o 20 Main Quest cards
o 4 Player Aid cards
• 68×44 mm cards
o 24 Upgrade cards
o 15 Reward cards
o 26 Hell cards (rule book states 24†)
• Fate Track
• 6 Hero boards
• 1 Margo Demon Bride hero board overlay
• 5 Boss boards
• 12 pegs (4 blue Chi, 4 red health, 4 black Boss health)
• 2 Event clips (for the Main Quest cards)
• 1 Pork Chop Express token (rectangular)
• 1 Threat token
• 1 Audacity token
• 30 Item tokens (18 crates, 12 shop items)
• 25 Special Effect tokens (5 Sewer Monsters, 5 Demons, 5 Rubble, 10 Lava)
• 18 Level Up tokens (rectangular)
• 8 Pass/Fail tokens
• 4 Special Ability tokens
• 17 Quest tokens (12 hero, 2 boss, 3 side quests)
• 40 Miniatures (in a tray, with a placement reminder sheet)
• 38 dice (20 action, 6 fate, 6 skill, 6 epic skill)

Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game can be played with from 1 to 4 players. Yes, it is perfectly solo friendly but also a wonderful party game!

The rule book is logically designed and narrated by Jack Burton, himself. There are tons of examples and a full index which keeps page flipping to a minimum. The only problem our players had was with the rule showing where to set up the heroes at the start of the game. Initial Hero Placement was addressed in a side bar when it should have also been in the set up procedure. This delayed our first play by about 15 minutes as we tried to figure it out.

The 40 beautifully sculpted miniatures alone are worth the price of the game! The sculpts look exactly like the actors and monsters. For those who love to paint, you won’t be able to resist bringing these bad boys to life.

The game play will feel somewhat familiar to players of the Lovecraftian game Eldritch Horror or its companion game Arkham Horror. The game uses different cards in order to create the random events and to control enemy movement and other actions. The players chose the main heroes they will play and then, based upon the number of people playing, side kick non-playing characters are assigned or picked.

The game boards captures the day glow neon feel of Big Trouble the movie’s China Town and underground sets perfectly. It is double sided so one side provides China Town to explore while, at a certain point in the game, the whole board is flipped over and the players enter the tunnels and temples found underneath China Town. As the picture of the game board set up which accompanies this review can attest, you do need a good sized table to accommodate the cards, status counters, monster minis and the huge game board, itself.

Control boards are included for each of the heroes in the film – Jack, Eddie, Egg, Wang, Gracie and Margo. Each hero has a control board which includes the name of the hero, his or her level (you can get better at doing things in the game with experience and you also unlock new items – it makes the game play like a role playing game in many ways), a place to put body, mind, spirit and defense dice to help with challenges during the course of game play, a health track and a chi track. The health track allows you to show how much damage your hero has taken while the chi track allows the hero to gain points from certain heroic actions. As the chi track goes up, you get closer to raising your hero in his or her level of experience. The level indicator is brilliant! Depending on the number of players, you start your hero at a given level. This helps with the conflicts in the game and gives you access to special items and/or powers. Each hero has a Level Chit which is then placed on your control board which easily indicates what your level is and what special items and abilities you receive. As you go up in levels, the chit gets either flipped over or replaced with the next level chit. This keeps tracking levels quick and easy.

The key to completing quests and surviving the game are the dice. There are 38 specialized dice included in the game. There are burgundy Action Dice, silverish Skill Dice, yellow Epic Skill Dice and black Fate Dice. I wish the yellow dice were actually gold in color as shown in the rules but that is just an aesthetics criticism. You roll a given number of dice for each turn and the symbols on the dice give you the type and success of various actions you can perform in the game. The black Fate Dice are interesting. Rolling Fate Dice can give you a boost in an attempt to fight a monster or perform another legendary heroic feet but beware, the more you use the Fate Dice to help you out, the greater the chance that they’ll either cause some type of bad effect or, at the worst, they can even kill you! This is a wonderful way to give the players a boost when they need it but the possible negative effects can balance this out keeping the players from availing themselves of this too often during the game.

The flow of the game is controlled by several design methodologies. The first is the “Big Trouble Track” on the China Town side of the game board. This track moves along every turn by a specific number of points based upon the “Big Trouble Number” on the “Big Trouble Cards” which are drawn each turn. These cards provide random events as well as advancing the “Big Trouble Track”. When the “Big Trouble Track” reaches the end of its run, the game enters the final phase as Lo Pan has gathered his minions in the underground and the players are immediately sucked in to the underworld to battle the evil god!

The “Audacity Track” keeps track of the heroic actions the heroes perform. As the track progresses, the heroes are automatically granted more chi points which increases their powers and gives them access to more powerful spells and items. This helps insure that the heroes have the proper powers and experience to avoid an immediate slaughter by Lo Pan when they are transported to the underground during the final act of the game.

While the heroes are on the China Town map board, they can explore the city and do things such as visit stores, the black market or shrines. Each of these places gives the heroes access to various items which can help later in the game. Some places allow the heroes to heal wounds or gain chi but watch out for wandering gang members, kung fu thugs and monsters.

Thugs, monsters, martial artists, floating head creatures (if you haven’t seen the movie, think “Beholders” from Dungeons and Dragons) and other assorted nasties populate the city as well as the under city and, guess what, they wall want to either kill you, take your items (as happened to me when I was playing Jack – they took my truck the “Pork Chop Express”!) or take your soul. (insert evil laugh here)

Combat is very efficiently handled. You roll your dice and assign items to use. Then you must get so many successes in order to beat the threat’s defenses. Skills and modifiers can be used plus you can always risk the fates in order to get a success. The threats attack you too – they don’t just wait to be walloped. The game effectively controls the actions of all the threats setting parameters for both melee and ranged attacks and establishing the enemy’s target priority and movements. In the tradition of the movie, if a hero takes enough damage to kill him or her, they can return to the game after drawing a “Hell Card” in order to see what the hero must go through in order to return to the game. Initially I though the lack of the lasting threat of death would take away some of the game’s edge but this was not true. The lasting effects of the Hell Cards can seriously mess up your day while still maintaining the lighter tone found in the film. Some Hell Cards can be removed at shrines or by certain spells cast by other characters.

The use of effective squad tactics helps immensely when attempting to beat Lo Pan and his minions. In one game we played, Jack and Eddie forced Lo Pan to flee and materialize in another part of the underground. Jack and Eddie didn’t have enough actions to follow so Jack opened up with his machine gun which pinned down some thugs allowing for Egg and Margo to use a back tunnel to cut off Lo Pan’s escape and bring him to justice “Little China” style!

The Quest Book and Quest Cards add extra story elements to make sure that the game, while remaining true to the movie’s plot and subplots, offers enough scenarios and events to make the game replayable with no two games playing out the same. That and the ability to play the game solo or with up to 4 people (a 5 and 6 player rule pack is coming soon they promise) gives this game excellent potential for everything from a rainy weekend playing solo or with 3 or 4 friends playing the perfect party game.

I really can’t recommend this game enough! It’s simply fantastic! So go out and get Big Trouble in Little China the Board Game and jump behind the wheel of the Pork Chop Express! I dare you – defeat Lo Pan or die trying but at least you’ll shake the pillars of heaven! This is your old pal Jack . . . er . . . Rick . . . signing off.

Armchair General Rating: 99 % (1% to 100%)

Solitaire Rating: 5 (from 1 to 5 with 1 being not solo at all while 5 is perfect for solo)

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 board game design, 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)!