The Rocketeer: Fate of the Future
- Designer: Prospero Hall
- Publisher: Funko Games
- Players: 2
- Age 12+
- Time 45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Funko Games
The Rocketeer was a 1991 superhero film that I remember watching in the movie theater. Being a teenager at that time, the superhero story was probably appealing, but more importantly, Jennifer Connelly in the movie was most appealing. Honestly, I probably have not thought of the movie since then. However, there appears to be a constant interest in this film, and this phantom is evidenced by the rocking chair board game released in 2021. That is right, a board game tie-in to a movie that is more than 30 years old!
This board game puts the 2 players right back in the story from the movie, each trying to take control of the plans for the jet pack. The slim board is placed in the middle of the 2 players, and it shows 6 different locations within the city of Los Angeles where much of the action of the movie occurred. One player takes on the role of the Heros, and gets the deck of cards for his side. The other player is obviously the Villains, and that player gets his matching deck of cards as well. Each player also takes the smaller character boards for each of the people on their side.
There is a smaller Luxembourg zeppelin board which is placed off to the side, this will keep track of the progress of the game. When the blimp marker makes it to Los Angeles, the game is over. There is a deck of current event cards which govern the movement of the blimp, this is shuffled in place next to the blimp board. Finally, the deck of Finale cards is shuffled and placed on the table.
The hero gets the 3 jet pack plan cards to start the game. He secretly chooses which of his characters gets the actual plans, and gives the two fake plans to the other characters on his side. These cards are placed facedown underneath the character card of each member of his team. Each player deals themself a starting hand of 7 cards from their deck.
Again, the game is played in a number of rounds, usually 5 but sometimes it can be 4 or 6. There are 4 phases in each round. First, you reveal the top card of the current event deck. Look at the top right corner and count how many zeppelins you see. You move the zeppelin marker on the Luxembourg track as many spaces as there are zeppelins. Most of the cards have 1 Zeppelin, though there are a few that have 2 or 0. Then read the event found on the bulk of the card. Finally, look at the location listed at the bottom of the card, and place a star finale token on the matching location on the board.
Next the players take their character turns. Turn order is decided by the player who has the plans currently; that player goes first. The active player chooses one of their available characters and then flips the turn token over to show that the character has now been used this round. The player chooses to play cards from their hand which have the matching symbol in the upper left corner.
There are 2 possibilities with each action card. First you could use the action icons shown in the left most strip on the card. Otherwise you can use the main action which is found to the right of this. Note that there may be a cost to perform the main action.
Some of the possible actions are:
Move: Move your character laterally to a different location. The number in the icon tells you the maximum number of spaces you can move. Note that when you move to a new location, you also get to take the location action which is found at the edge of the board for that location.
Tussle: This is how you fight another character of your opponent found in the same location is due. The strength of your tussle is seen by the number in the icon. Some of this strength can be deflected with shield icons played by your opponent. The attack and defensive values can also be modified by discarding grit tokens from the particular character boards. If the defending character cannot meet all of the attacking strength, he or she is knocked out. If that character has any plan card, it is immediately revealed. If this happens to be the actual plan card, all of the plans cards are handed to the other player who then gets to distribute him secretly amongst his own players. Additionally this knocked out character cannot do anything else until any card is played for it to allow it to stand up.
Gain grit: Grit is used for a number of actions, most notably fighting.
Gain clout: Clout is used as the currency for taking main actions on cards
Draw a card: Draw a card from your deck and add it to your hand. You can play this immediately
Draw a Finale card: Finale cards allow you to score points at the end of the game.
Recruit a soldier: This is found only on the Villians cards. If you have activated your secret Army, you can use this to bring soldiers onto the board.
Play alternates from one side of the board to the other, until each side has had a chance to use all 3 of their characters.
After all of the characters in the game have had a turn, players now gain rewards – either tokens or finale cards. First thing, the player who currently has the plans, gets a Finale card from the deck. Then, evaluate each of the locations on the board. If one side controls a location, this means they have more active (not knocked out) players at this location then the opponent, then that side will gain any reward seen in the center of the location. If the star shaped finale token is here, you draw a finale card for this.
Finally, check to see if the game is over. This happens if the zeppelin is on the space for Los Angeles on the track. Otherwise prepared to get in for the next round. All players flip over the turn tokens on their character boards, and then each may discard any cards that they want from their current hand. Finally each player draws back up to 7 cards in their hand.
If the zeppelin is in Los Angeles, the game ends. Both players reveal all of their Finale cards which have been collected and scores points as shown on them. Some of the cards simply give you a set number of points, while others give you points based on the game condition at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins. If there is a tie, it is broken in favor of the player who currently has the plans at the end of the game.
My thoughts on the game
So whether or not you have seen the movie, the game here is an interesting two player challenge. It is slightly asymmetric and that the bad guys will eventually deploy their secret Army which gives them numerical superiority as far as number of characters on the board, though the Heros get the advance movement of the rocket your character which can be very helpful in the game as well. The extra numbers of secret Army men can be super helpful to win location majorities and the bonuses that go with those; but they definitely make it harder to hold onto the Plans cards (and having the Plans cards at the end of a Round is a great way to get a Finale card).
The bulk of the game (for me at least) is hand management. Each round, you are presented with an interesting puzzle of 7 or 8 cards in your hand that you have to get the most out of. Firstly, you need to see which characters can use which cards, and then try to figure out a rational order for the characters to go. Of course, the actions of your opponent may change what you want to do, but you’ll want to have a plan to start with. Once you are taking the actions, you then also have to figure out whether you want to hold some cards back (either because they have icons to allow other characters to use them or because you want to save them as possible defense cards).
The cards give you an interesting choice between the free ribbon icons and the main actions which usually, but not always, cost clout. You’ll have to try to plan out your turn in advance when you get your hand and then try to leave yourself enough freedom to change up if you need to.
As you are planning your turn, you have to look at both the short term effects (getting stuff from cards, getting location bonuses, etc) as well as long term things (getting in the right places for location bonuses or fights with specific enemies). And heck, if your initial hand doesn’t stack up nicely, you might try to get your first character to take actions to let you draw more cards into your hand that hopefully work for the characters who have yet to go! The decks of cards are fairly similar, with most of the main actions available to both sides. Obviously there are some differences given the different team compositions as noted above.
Scoring is a bit on the random side as you can only score from Finale cards, and some of those cards provide discrete rewards while others are conditional on the end of game situation. Early in the game, it’s maybe nice to have a few conditional rewards cards because it gives you something to work towards, but at the end, it is distinctly possible that you draw a Finale card that is worth 0 points to you – and you have no time to try to get the things that you need to make that card worth anything. I suppose the randomness may just even out over the game, as it’s not uncommon to have 10 or more Finale cards, but overall – I’d prefer a bit more control (or less randomness) in the distribution of the only way to score points.
The production quality is great for this mass market release, and the cover art definitely evokes the visual aspect of the movie that I remember. I’m guessing that Funko did not get the rights to the actor’s images as most of the art of the people is…. Well, not close to the actual actors/actresses. It doesn’t bother me at all, but one of my opponents was a movie guy, and he definitely felt the art could have been closer to reality than what you get. As far as the game goes, the icons on the cards are easy to understand, and the card layout makes it easy to see all your options. It takes me a few seconds each time to identify the plastic figures – until I realized that the shape of the bases matches their action shape, and now I don’t have any issues at all!
The game itself flows along fairly nicely, with a nice back-and-forth action between the 2 teams. The game length is also well calibrated, usually lasting 5 or 6 rounds-but the actual number of turns is somewhat uncertain due to the distribution of the zeppelin cards, and this allows you to try to anticipate when the game will end. The games that I’ve played clock in at 30-40 minutes, and this feels just right for the game.
Whether or not you love the movie, the Rocketeer gives you a nice 2p strategy battle. I have enjoyed my plays of it over the course of this summer and fall – and it has been requested by a number of my regular gaming friends when we have had only 2 players to game. I don’t know if there is enough of a fan base for this to be an impulse buy at Target when you see it on the shelf, but that’s probably why I don’t work for Funko. They tend to know what the public wants, and they make games with licenses that sell well, so I hope this does it for them again. I think it would be a must buy for a gamer who wants to relive the movie.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Mark Jackson: I am a huge fan of The Rocketeer film (not just because young Jennifer Connelly was perfectly cast as the young starlet in late 1930s L.A.)… and I’m very excited about the Disney+ “Return of the Rocketeer” film in the works. I even read the original Dave Stevens Rocketeer comics back in the day.
For me, the game does a nice job of carrying the theme (thanks in part to great production from the Funko folks) but ran a bit long in my one play (nearly an hour). I think that length is an outlier, but it’s certainly possible in the design of the game.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor