Designers: The Brothers Chaps & James Ernest
Artists: Chris Schweitzer, Liz Spain, Skylar Woodies, & Mike Chapman
Publisher: Harmless Junk
Play Time: ~30–60 minutes
Target Age Range: 14+
*LOUD HEAVY METAL MUSIC*
BURNINATING THE COUNTRYSIDE!
BURNINATING THE PEASANTS!
BURNINATING ALL THE PEOPLES WHO LIVE IN THATCHED-ROOF COTTAGEEEEES!!!
THATCHED-ROOF C— *record scratch*
Oh, hello. Sorry, I, um… I didn’t hear you come in. *cough*
So today we’re reviewing Trogdor!!: The Board Game from The Brothers Chaps. I’ll be completely honest, folks—this is not a game I ever expected to exist, but when I found out there was a Kickstarter for a board game based on Trogdor, I suddenly realized that it was something I’ve wanted for years without realizing it.
So let’s dive in on a review about a board game based on a third-string character from an email video advice column hosted by a wrestler in a Flash-animated web-series from the early 2000s based on a picture book written by two college students in the mid-’90s!
No, seriously, you guys.
Take a quick trip back in time with me. The year is 2003. It’s a simpler time, before social media took over the world. YouTube won’t exist for another two years, but two brothers living in Atlanta, Georgia have somehow built a successful series of Flash cartoons out of surreal characters based on inside jokes and a series of “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” moments in their lives. One of those characters, a luchador-mask=wearing wannabe villain named Strong Bad, hosts a weekly series of videos where he answers emails from fans.
For those of you who never experienced Homestar Runner and early 2000s internet culture, I swear I’m not making this up.
In one of those emails, Strong Bad is asked to draw a dragon to demonstrate his “skills of an artist.” And thus, Trogdor the Burninator was born. Trogdor was a beefy-armed, wingaling dragon who loved to burninate the countryside, burninate the peasants, and burninate all the people who live in thatched-roof cottageeeeeeeeeeeeeees!
… *cough* … Sorry about that. It’s just, um… It really gets stuck in your head. You should watch the video. You’ll get what I mean.
Anyway, from there, Trogdor went on to get a full song (which features on Guitar Hero 2), a King’s Quest-inspired computer game called Peasant’s Quest where he stars as the villain, stickers, shirts, and even references all across pop culture from that time period. (You remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer by that guy who went on to direct The Avengers? Yeah, he’s in there, among other places.) And, of course, he got himself a board game, which is why you’re here.
So enough about the dragon. How does the game play?
So in Trogdor!! The Board Game, players take on the roles of “The Keepers of Trogdor,” a secret order who are intent on helping Trogdor the Burninator to accomplish his goals:
1. Burninate the countryside
2. Burninate the peasants
3. Burninate the thatched-roof cottages.
Each round, players take turns playing cards from their hands and activating special abilities in order to move Trogdor around the board and achieve these goals. Each player either chooses or is randomly assigned a different “Keeper of Trogdor” to play over the course of the game, as well as an item that they can use.
Players have two cards to choose from each turn which will grant them a special ability that turn (the ability to move diagonally that turn, the opportunity to start the turn on any space on the board, etc.) as well as a number of action points. If they don’t like any of the special abilities, they can choose to simply discard a card for a flat 5 action points. Players then use the ability and action points to move around the board causing wanton destruction. Each action point can be used to do one of five things:
- Move Trogdor to a space next to him in any of the four cardinal directions.
- Eat a peasant that is in the same space as him. (This regenerates health.)
- If Trogdor is on a space with a tunnel, he can burrow from one tunnel to another on the board.
- If Trogdor is on a space with a mountain, he can hide so he can’t be damaged when the knights and archers move.
- Burninate the square he is standing on or a cottage on the square he is standing on.
(Cottages and some squares are harder to burninate and have special requirements before they can be set on fire.)
Once a player completes a turn, they then move the knights, archers, and peasants by drawing a card from the movement deck. This card tells them whether to place additional peasants at cottages that are not on fire and where to move all the enemy pieces. Sometimes, when peasants move, they repair the countryside tiles, which means that Trogdor will have to burninate them again to win the game.
If knights travel through Trogdor’s square, he takes damage by removing one of the peasants from the Trog-Meter (aka Trogdor’s health) and placing it into “The Void.” Except for under special circumstances, these peasants are completely removed from the game, which means that Trogdor can’t eat them any more to raise his Trog-Meter. Archers, on the other hand, can move in or out of Trogdor’s space with no negative effect on Trogdor, but if they are facing him when they end their movement, they shoot in both directions, damaging him the same way the knights do.
If Trogdor is able to survive and burn everything around him, the players win! There are a few other rules that can alter gameplay, but those are covered well in the rulebook, and this really takes care of the bulk of the game.
It’s amazing how simple the rules feel while still being interesting and keeping the game challenging! You can play the game solo or with up to 6 players. I tried it on my own as well as with other players, and the game definitely changes as you add in players, since each player’s abilities and items are unique. Both experiences were still fun, though, and offered an enjoyable play.
Visual/Physical Appeal (8.5/10)
Because I consider myself a true Trogdor fan*, I went ahead and ordered the Burninator level of the game, which comes with cool, plastic miniatures in addition to the custom wooden meeples in the base game.
The plastic miniatures look really nice, and they’re a cool addition to the game. But that’s not a slight on the wooden meeples at all. The plastic miniatures boast quality while the wooden meeples have a special sort of charm to them, especially since they’re custom meeples made specifically for this game. Either way, you’re going to have fun.
The tiles on the board are also a really high quality, made from a very thick, stiff cardboard. This is really good, because you’re going to be handling the tiles a lot as you flip them over after either Trogdor burninates them or the peasants (rotten peasants!) repair them.
One last fun little touch that they added as a stretch goal during the Kickstarter campaign: each copy of the base game comes with a set of “alternate Trogdor” meeples. The one in the top right of the picture above is the basic Trogdor meeple, but the others (based on the different variations of a dragon that were drawn in the original Strong Bad email episode) can be swapped in and used instead if you prefer. They’re all made of the same thick, high quality wood as the other meeples.
*Fine, fine, there were also several levels you could back that were higher than the Burninator level, going all the way up to an $1800 pledge that would net backers a wooden-inlaid board made from fancy wood with silver stringing, indentations to make it so you could easily flip the tiles over and a built-in lazy Susan, but you don’t have to be a rich fan to be a true fan, okay?
Setup Time (2–3 minutes)/Play Time (30–45 minutes)
Trogdor is really quick to set up, and it plays really quickly. Since the layout of the tiles does matter, there are several suggested layouts for various difficulties in the instruction manual. It’s a simple matter to lay out the 25 tiles and get started, though.
A full play of Trogdor!! should only last about 30-45 minutes. In fact, one of my playthroughs took only about 25 minutes. It’s also easy to put the miniatures away, as they have a custom tray in the box that has an easy-to-recognize spot for each miniature to go.
Because of all the player trays, setup for this game is pretty quick. Everything locks into place, and the game even comes with a removable storage bin for all the extra side pieces you’ll be using during play.
Complexity (Rank 4)/Teach Time (~5 minutes)
I was able to teach my roommate how to play this game in just a few minutes as I set up the board, and we were able to dive into a play almost immediately. The rules are clear, and if you need some more clarification, The Brothers Chaps made a few additional videos to really get the rules stuck in your head. (They’re worth watching just for the entertainment factor!)
While it’s not a game that screams “Different every time!” there’s enough randomization, possible strategies, alternate Keepers and items to use, and map layouts to try that keep the game fresh. If you and your game group enjoy it the first time, you’ll probably enjoy playing it several more times.
Bonus Minigame: “Stack ‘Em to the Heavens”
As another stretch goal from the Kickstarter, the game also now includes a small canvas bag and a card with rules for a meeple-stacking minigame called “Stack ‘Em to the Heavens!” It’s a fun little addition that you might enjoy. I, personally, haven’t really spent much time with it, but it’s nice little bonus feature if you want to try something new.
So yeah. My early college days suddenly came rushing back to me in a completely unexpected way when I heard about this game, and I’m pretty happy about it. If you’re a fan of Homestar Runner and/or Strong Bad Emails (and you really should be one, because they’re hilarious!) or you’re just looking for a fun, quick co-op game to play, Trogdor!! The Board Game is definitely worthy of a spot on the shelf.
Alright, now, everybody. Sing it with me!
And the Trogdor comes in the NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!!!!