Go to your game shelf and look at your games. Do you have Lord of the Rings Monopoly? Maybe Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, or Game of Thrones Risk? All of those games are made by USAopoly. They’ve been in the game since 1994, when they first made San Diego Monopoly for Parker Brothers. Since then, they’ve worked extensively in creating new versions of classic Parker Bros/Hasbro games like Monopoly, Risk, Clue, and even Operation. But they don’t just adapt the old. They also have spent recent years diversifying their catalog with incredibly creative new games both licensed and original. Always a big part of GenCon, USAopoly invited me to visit and take a look at their newest games with their Marketing & Events Coordinator Jake Davis.
No Leaning On The License
According to Davis, USAopoly’s philosophy when developing games is simple: is it fun, does it fit the license, and will the fans like it? And with licenses from the biggest entertainment companies in the world, they have a lot of fans to juggle. But they never take those fans love for a property to sell a game on its own.
Davis emphasized that the games USAopoly produced strive to innovate even as they emulate and that they’re always trying to find new and exciting ways to play board games. He was kind of enough to show me some examples of this philosophy in the games USAopoly debuted at GenCon.
Wizards, Dwarfs, and Purple Titans
USAopoly’s next adventure in the Harry Potter universe, Perilous Pursuits follows the plot of the 2016 Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them film. After Newt Scamander has lost his collection of magical beasts in New York, he and his friends must team up to collect them before they wreak havoc in the Muggle world. In Perilous Pursuits, the players take up the roles of Newt, Queenie, Tina, and Jacob and team up to recapture all of the missing creatures. In a sense, it is a co-op dice placement game. The action takes place on each player’s board, with the player strategically placing their dice on the board to cast spells, draw cards, and work to capture the beastie in question.
The game is absolutely gorgeous in look and feel. It surrounds assets from the film with vivid colors and patterns straight out of 1920’s New York. The character boards are incredibly sturdy and are actually recessed to both keep placed dice from moving and to give the game a much more tactile field. USAopoly even puts this attention to detail onto the dice themselves, which are embossed rather than simply painted. They feel really good in the hand and stand out even on the chaotic and colorful play boards.
Fantastic Beasts: Perilous Pursuit will go onto retail shelves in October, just in time for the Crimes of Grindelwald movie. It is recommended for ages 8+ and can be played with 2-4 players. Something that makes USAopoly stand out is that despite all the detail and craftsmanship in their games, they never retail for exorbitant prices. Perilous Pursuit, for instance, is going to retail for $29.95. It is a good year for Potterhead gamers, as USAopoly will also be releasing a Harry Potter themed edition of their popular Codenames party game. That will come out later this year and retail for $24.95.
Skewing a tad y0unger, USAopoly’s newest game in their Disney themed line will use a similar gameplay style to Passport’s Quartz game. Rather than fantasy dwarves toiling in the mines, players will instead act as one of the iconic seven dwarfs from the 1937 classic. Players will “dig” gems up from the mine and combine them to receive bonuses from their friend Snow White.
The game has the soft palette and rounded edges one expects from a Disney game. But despite appearances and obvious recommended age range, Davis is confident that older players can have just as much fun as younger ones. A great game for parents and Disney heads alike, Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game will hit shelves in September of this year. It can be played by up to, naturally, seven players, and will retail for $34.95.
In some ways similar to the Fantastic Beasts game, Thanos Rising pits the characters against a singular foe, in this case, the world’s grumpiest California Raisin: Thanos the Mad Titan. The players each take up the role of a “team” of heroes fighting to save the universe from Thanos’s evil scheme. The game is a race against time to recruit heroes to your team and fight to prevent the Mad Titan from getting the six Infinity Stones. The game ends when Thanos gets the gems and dusts half of reality, or when he kills all of the heroes.
The big attraction, for me, was the Thanos figure himself. While I didn’t get to sit down with the game too much, I was able to look at the little statue and it is amazing. It would make a passable display statue on its own, let alone as the centerpiece for a board game. Hefty and well detailed, there’s no question who the star of the show is. The rest of the game reflects USAopoly’s usual craftsmanship, with the hefty embossed dice and high-quality card stock that is in all their games. Even the Infinity Gems feel like a step above the regular plastic board game gems.
Unlike the other games I got to see, Thanos Rising is actually on shelves now. Recommended for ages 10+ and for up to 4 players, it retails for $49.95.
Back to the Past not only was on our own Top 10 list going into GenCon, but seemed to be on the list of most attendees as well. All of the people I attended the con with and many other attendees had USAopoly’s booth high on their list simply to try this game. The demo table for Back To The Past was swamped all weekend, and even while interviewing a USAopoly employee I couldn’t get a seat at the table. But I did get a good look, and its a heck of a game.
The relatively simple appearance belies a game that, according to Davis, requires a great deal of strategy. Based on the 2017 revival of the classic Genndy Tartakovsky action cartoon, players take on the role of one of Jack’s friends and work to take out Aku’s minions and defeat him before Jack goes crazy. Players gather weapons and traits in order to maximize Jack’s honor. The board, such as it is, is a series of hexagons that correspond with locations straight out of the show. This board also changes throughout the game, with the hexagons being gathered, shuffled, and laid out each round. According to Davis, this mechanic was chosen in order to increase the replay value of the game. But as Jack and his pals fight evil, Jack will slowly lose his sanity. If he goes insane before Aku is defeated, then the game is over and he will never return home.
As with Thanos Rising, Back To The Past has a major draw in the quality of its production. The figures are not just sturdy and painted in full color, but also have the heft and quality of a collectible. There’s no cheating on the details, even down to little details like Sir Rothchild’s mustache or the Scotsman’s tartan kilt.
Samurai Jack: Back To The Past was a GenCon debut and will be on store shelves starting this week. Recommended for 2-5 players aged 13+, it will retail for $34.95.
For a full range of USAopoly’s games, from GenCon or otherwise, you can go to their website at USAopoly.com.