Hello friends! Welcome back once more to the wonderful world of board games based on Disney theme park rides.
Where last time we talked about a game based on a ride that basically everyone hates however, this time we’ve got a more positive subject. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the most popular rides at Disney, part of the legendary Disney Mountain Range, and now we’ve got a board game made from it! So, let’s take a look.
How We Got Here
Before we get into the game, let us talk a little bit about the ride itself. I know not everyone has access to the parks, so a brief overview of the source material seems reasonable.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the most ubiquitous rides in the Disney Parks ‘canon’, present at four of the six Disney parks around the world. The first was in California, unsurprisingly, and opened in 1979 replacing an opening day attraction, Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. The others would open afterwards, none replacing anything else.
Details vary between the parks, but all versions of the ride share basically the same lore. In the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American Southwest and a boomtown grew around the peak. However the mountain turned out to be sacred, and their desecration of it resulted in a great disaster (what disaster depends on which park). Some time later though, people noticed that the trains were still running on their own, and decided to make it into a tourist attraction.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is, like I’ve said, one of the most famous and beloved Disney rides, one of their rare roller coasters and brimming with atmosphere and the beauty of the desert. How will the game adapt that? Let’s find out!
Going ‘Round The Mountain
The game version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is set during the operation of the mining town, a prequel of sorts to the ride. You’ll be going to the cursed town of Tumbleweed to attempt to strike it rich, dealing with the twists and turns of fate all the while.
The setup of the game itself is interesting. The board interlocks like a jigsaw puzzle, wrapping around the plastic mountain in the center, as seen above. The game features cards and tokens, but also, most curiously…marbles. Every turn you run three marbles down the mountain from the peak at the top, letting them roll down into one of the seven mine shafts.
Curiously, there are no dice in this game. Movement is based entirely on the cards. You have a number of Supply Cards, and you can play these to determine how much you move around the track. You can only move clockwise, and if you bump into another player they themselves will be pushed forward to the next space. No sharing.
In addition you have the red ‘Fate’ marbles. If one of these rolls down the peak, then you’ll need to draw a special ‘Fate’ card and do whatever it says. This can result in anything from being forced to move a space, to just getting to add more resources to the mine shafts, to potentially forcing all players to return to the town. It adds a fair bit of chance to the game, though with only two ‘Fate’ marbles it doesn’t wind up coming up as often as one might like.
Once you’re set up though, the game is fairly simple. You move around Thunder Mountain, seeking out the gold and brown marbles. Gold marbles are worth two Town Tokens, and brown are worth one. These Town Tokens can be used when you return to town to buy upgrade cards or Town Shares. Upgrade cards increase your ability to gather gold and ore (the brown marbles), while Town Shares count towards your score total. Each is worth a different number of points, and the game ends the turn after a player hits twenty points.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a good game for those who like games that are filled to the brim with chance. When everything is based on the luck of the draw and how the marbles roll down a plastic hill, strategizing can be tricky. If you’re the kind of player who likes to set everything out, to plan their moves in advance, this might not be the game for you.
As a licensed game…this kind of falls flat. It’s not ugly but it’s not gorgeous either, where even the it’s a small world game did a decent job at capturing the aesthetic and style of the ride it was based on. It’s not especially fast paced…not slow, but hardly ‘the wildest ride in the wilderness!’ like the ride it draws from. It being based on the backstory of the ride makes sense, but further separates it from the ride.
Ultimately, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a good came for a casual game night among friends. It can be quite fun in that regard. More intense game enthusiasts and Disney park fans might be left wanting though.
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You can pick up Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on Amazon, your FLGS, and at some Disney parks. It’ll run you about $29.99.
Images Courtesy of Disney and Funko Games
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