In the ancient time of 1985, a trailblazing film was released that captured the imaginations of many kids. The Goonies is a classic tale of kids adventuring through caves in search of pirate treasure to save their homes. Along the journey they encountered traps, puzzles, and a family of dangerous yet bumbling bank robbers.
For 80’s kids who were already playing Dungeons & Dragons or going off on their own backyard adventures, this movie found a place in many of their hearts that has lasted until they’re the grown ups. That nostalgia creates the perfect draw for building a board game around The Goonies. Grown-ups who want to revisit their favorite movies and go back to those days of imagination and adventure.
There is a pit trap with many nostalgic property based games that look enticing but fall flat once you play. The nostalgia isn’t a pirate’s treasure hoard but just a bunch of counterfeit fifty dollar bills. In other words, it is superficially that property but once the gameplay is examined it could be any other game. The Goonies Never Say Die is not that. The treasure is in the details and you should explore those unknown tunnels with kids to discover it.
“Hey You Guys!”
As a child of the 80’s I was incredibly excited to see this game in person. The artwork is truly fantastic. When you first open the box and see the beautifully illustrated picture of The Goondocks you realize there was care put into this. The board (with a hidden One-Eyed Willy face!), the cards, the figures, and the books, all showcase amazing art direction and design. Even the dice mimic Mikey’s jewels!
On my first playthrough I did it solo. None of my family have the same love for The Goonies that I do. So, I thought I’d step through a game to see how it played. The game plays very simply and is easy to understand. It’s a Dungeon Crawl game which makes perfect sense. You move from room to room, searching for “rich stuff” encountering hazards (pit traps and cave-ins) and creatures (mostly bats and rats). Defeat them and move on to the next room.
Each of the kids and Sloth (no playable teenagers in the base game) have their own abilities and strengths which help everyone move on to the next goal. Dice are rolled to resolve conflicts and everyone has tokens (Wishes) that can be turned in to increase their chances.
One player is the GM (Goondock Master) and has their own deck of cards which they can use to add more dangers to the map, slowing The Goonies’ progress and running out the clock (or hourglass in this case). They get a cool GM screen that looks like the map from the movie to hide the Scenario Book behind. When the Scenario is completed you can move onto the next one.
When I realized it was essentially an “RPG in a Box” I had conflicting thoughts. The veteran RPG player voice said, “That’s it? You don’t even level up your character.” But, at the same time that little 80’s kid voice said “Yeah, but what did you expect it to be? It was fun!”
It was fun!
“It’s our time down here.”
But why was it fun? It was fun because it told the story of the movie and added just enough complexity to make it interesting but not bogged down in rules. It’s a family RPG in a Box.
So, I grabbed my two boys who are pretty close to the age of The Goonies and played through that scenario again. This time with me as the GM and them as The Goonies. We had a blast!
Working together to decide who would deal with an obstacle and who would search or move through the next room, they were picking up on the core mechanics of an “RPG in a Box” without having to remember lots of rules. They had a few regular action choices like Move, Search, Fight and a few abilities to choose from. The dice mechanic is simple: roll a couple of dice (the type of die depends on what you are good at) and get successes. Most things only require two or three successes.
As the GM I could throw obstacles in their path and not feel like I was piling on them unfairly yet still create challenges that required them to strategize.
After we got rolling, I could see all the fun details and mechanics that represent the movie so well. In the second scenario the players encounter the Bone Organ. To play it correctly they have to get at least one success on one die of each type. This is where the Teenager characters do have a small part. The Teenagers can be used as either a one-time use to get an extra die based on their character’s ability (Brand is Strength, Andy is Dexterity, Stef is Search) or as an automatic success in certain situations. In the movie, Andy was the one to play the organ, so if her card is still available she can count as one of the successes.
While that’s going on the Fratellis are catching up. One of my sons played a card to block their path while the other played the organ and succeeded!
This is the optimal scenario – a family playing an RPG-style game based around a movie that is a family favorite. The parents get to enjoy a classic story from their childhood and the kids get to enjoy it through play and excitement.
“Andy, this whole ship is a treasure.”
Altogether, there are nine scenarios provided with the game – three that cover the original story, and 6 that create a sequel story. The stakes are raised in the second story as The Goonies find themselves fighting the ghost of One-Eyed Willy and his Skeleton Pirates. For those who are familiar with some of the other media related to The Goonies, you’ll find some familiar references there as well.
That may be the one obstacle the game doesn’t quite overcome. If you aren’t a huge fan of The Goonies, there’s a lot of quotes and easter eggs (the Octopus from the deleted scene!) that you might not get. It’s still enjoyable as a game but the nostalgia element might be lost on someone who didn’t grow up with it.
If you are a player or group who loves deeply complex RPG-style games like Gloomhaven, this will seem light to you and may not keep your attention as well. But then, that’s not the target audience.
Prospero Hall games are known for quality production value and game design that captures the spirit of the story. Funko Games delivers that once again in this game.
The Goonies Never Say Die is a well-crafted RPG-style game that is designed for the whole family. Parents, grab your kids and show them why Goonies never say die.