The Goonies Adventure Card Game Review - Heeeeey Yooooou Guys!!

Ask anyone within about a 5 year span of my age (32 if you're interested) and chances are they'll have heard of a little family movie from the 80's called The Goonies. This was basically as close to a classic treasure hunt adventure as you could get, from deadly traps to cool puzzles to skeletons covered in gold and a cool looking pirate ship. Back then I loved this movie and placed it in the same top rankings alongside gems like The Labyrinth.

Nowadays I look back and still give it a lot of respect, but I'm not sure I could watch it again. It's definitely aimed at younger audiences and the more I think about it, several of the kid characters did get on my nerves rather quickly and would probably make me cringe now. But that's personal nitpicking, it's still a cool movie and worth checking out for nostalgia alone.

Out of nowhere comes this card game based on the movie though and I'm always a little wary when a game uses a well loved intellectual property. They are very hit and miss and don't always keep the theme strong. Is this one going to rekindle my respect for a cult classic?  

Designer: Matt Riddle & Ben Pinchback
Publisher: Albino Dragon
Age: 8+
Players: 1-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
RRP: £32.99

From Board Game Geek:

In The Goonies: Adventure Card Game, you play as a ragtag group of kids from the Goon Docks neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon. You must join together on a quest to find the treasure of legendary pirate One-Eyed Willy so that you can save your homes from demolition! You will need to keep your wits about you and use your unique skills to avoid One-Eyed Willy's booby traps and also stay one step ahead of the Fratellis, a family of criminals intent on claiming the treasure for themselves.
In this cooperative game, you'll work with your fellow Goonies, taking actions to clear obstacles, defeat the Fratellis, and discover secret paths to long-lost treasure.
You all win the game if you discover the hidden paths to One-Eyed Willy's ship and manage to secure his booty. But if too many obstacles mount up, you run out of event cards, or too many Fratellis hit the board, it's all over...

Booby Trapped Box

When I see the words "adventure card game", I usually expect to see a fair variety of content. It is however quite surprising just how over-sized the box is for what you get. The insert holds everything nicely, but you could have made the box half the height and depth if you wanted, like those nice thin boxes that Fantasy Flight used for games like Citadels for example. You've got a few tiles, a stack of cards that could have been separated into multiple trenches and one of the most unique Meeple's I've ever seen. The quality overall though is fine, nothing feels cheap and nasty at all, but in no way is this befitting of a £32.99 RRP tag.

The graphic design is pretty good though. Icons are clear and large, the colours are easy to distinguish and if you're colour blind, it doesn't matter as during the game it's the numbers and icons that are important. I definitely had no issues trying to figure out a card's function and it's quite clever how the items and obstacles are the same card, just orientated differently. Always a sucker for multi-use cards.

There is not a ton of artwork as such, instead you get still images from the movie for the characters, locations and Fratelli cards. You may argue it's a lazy way of doing things, but if it's a choice between stills and bad artwork, I'm happy for it. The old Alien Predator CCG I loved as a school kid was all still images and that looked fine, though maybe I'd have sacked the person who chose what picture went on what card. . .

Lightly Flicking the Nostalgia Strings

The first thing you should bare in mind immediately is that just because it has Goonies on the box, doesn't mean this is a thematic romp tied in to the movie. It's not. The theme is essentially a paste on job as what you're doing is basically a puzzle of being efficient with your actions and collecting/playing sets of cards. The character powers barely touch on their movie counterparts and there is zero thematic tie in for the locations, they're basically just 5 places for cards to go with a different completion effect. At no stage are you going to feel like you're exploring for treasure, dodging deadly traps and engaging in sword play.

The co-operative element is strong in that you perform actions as a team, however when all said and done, you could simply just play this solo and it would make little to no difference in the experience except for making it quicker. However you play it, you do have a fair mix of decisions you have to make during each turn. Where do I want to travel to, which obstacles to take out first, when do we start mapping out the route tiles, etc. It's also one of the first times I've seen a game where deliberately taking less actions to increase card draw is actually effective and worth doing regularly.

The rule book was surprisingly easy to follow (it's a Kickstarter, you tend to expect bad rule books) and when all said and done, it's perfectly placed at gateway level. Rule ambiguities are minimal (though I still don't understand why obstacles should continue being placed and be an issue at locations already explored but hey ho) and you've got some variants to increase the difficulty even further . . . .though that might not be the best idea.

So generally The Goonies is a smooth flowing, accessible puzzle game that a child could understand. And at most it will take about an hour to play unless you've got some very slow players. That's a good start. But for as many positives as there are, there's also a few weaknesses.

Clever Puzzle Solving or Pure Dumb Luck?

Luck is a factor in many co-op games and I get stick for this from those who don't like the genre. But many of those games allow for a lot of mitigation and they tell a good story anyway. Here in Goonies though the luck factor is turned up to a million. Card draw for what you get in your hand and what obstacles turn up will determine how well you do greatly. But it doesn't stop there. The "Escalate" trigger can chain react the board state to silly levels. In my first game I tested, I was in a comfortable position and then a trigger of multiple Escalates lost me the game from a position in which I should have not have feasibly lost. Talk about a massive buzzkill.

On top of that though, you've got Encounter cards, which aren't really encounter cards, just simply "chance" cards, some of which are good, some are horrendously bad. But that's random as well. Draw only the bad cards and you're as good as done. And EVEN MORE on top of that, each location has 3 tiles that you explore in turn, randomly shuffled before the game starts. One is the diamond you need, the other two are booby traps, which add more obstacles and move your characters around. If you constantly keep triggering these, you've got no chance of winning as the tempo hit you take mounts up considerably. So that's a lot of factors that are driven entirely by luck of the draw, which makes you wonder just how much your previous decisions in the game actually matter.

And with regards to those decisions, you have to be very careful with Alpha Gamer issues. You don't really have your own hand or decisions, you're doing it as a group. That means that one person could easily control the whole game if you give them half a chance. Just be aware.

Verdict on The Goonies

Overall The Goonies is not a bad game, but I'm not finding a lot that's special about it either, at least not for me personally. On the plus side it is very easy to teach with a good rule book and no unnecessary complexities. Die hard fans will bring out the references and enjoy a nice basic puzzle game that doesn't take too long to resolve itself.

But the theme is fairly abstracted and other than the still imagery you don't really feel you're playing a Goonies game, moreso a puzzle game with Goonies pasted on to it. The puzzle itself is fine, but the high luck factor is a big concern. It's a hard game already before you use the variants and a lot of that is down to just how much the cards and tiles can spiral the game out of control without any way to effectively plan ahead for it.

It's a great fit for a solo player though and works well in a family setting so if you don't mind the issues above, it will work nicely for your group. But if you're a die-hard gamer or just a casual fan of the movie, this probably won't keep you engaged long enough.

BROKEN RATING - 6 One Eyed. . . . . . . . Skeletons! 


You are a die hard fan of the original movie and for nostalgia alone you want this.

You want a co-operative card game that's quick to teach and set up or perfect for solo.

You want a challenge that can get even harder.


You can't stand the high luck factor - a loss can happen without warning or mitigation.

You want the strongest theme possible - this is a little abstracted despite the still imagery.

You play with max players often - this will outstay its welcome with frequent group discussions.