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Planet of the Apes

This game from Arkham Horror designer Richard Launius is something of a novelty. It is a fully co-operative game that is so closely based on the original 1968 movie (the version that starred Charlton Heston, not the meritless Tim Burton remake) that it delivers a linear single-story narrative.

In the Planet of the Apes game, players (up to four) each have ‘characters’ that are presented not as separate individuals but as facets of George Taylor (the astronaut played by Charlton Heston). This makes some sense in game-play terms, since the players are collectively only advancing a shared icon, but it can be initially disconcerting for players. It works more comfortably if you are playing this game as a solitaire using all four character traits, and, to be honest, the game appears to work best as a solo game than a co-operative. That’s in part because, as a co-op, the game is prone to ‘alpha player’ syndrome: there’s nothing to inhibit a bossy player from quarterbacking all the play. The other design surprise is that the game board doesn’t incorporate a map; the board is, in effect, just a long playing mat with spaces for setting out the scene cards and a track that functions as a timer.

Game play involves set collection, hand management and a lot of dice rolling and manipulation as the players seek to match Yahtzee style targets set at each of the major ‘scenes’ that make up the game. The major scenes set out a randomised selection of encounter cards to beat, so there will be some variation between plays, but the obviously linear storyline is likely to limit this game’s replayability.

The first printing of Planet of the Apes comes with plastic minis as well as standees representing Taylor, the apes, the sinking ship and the Statue of Liberty. IDW have indicated that the plastic minis will be dropped from any subsequent printing. In practice, the standees are perfectly adequate, so the minis seem an unnecessary option. Yes, of course, the Statue of Liberty does give away the surprise ending of the movie, but you’ve had 50 years to see the film so this really shouldn’t need a Spoiler alert.

If you’re a fan of the original movie, then you may be attracted to this game by its nostalgia value. On its own merits, Planet of the Apes is a workable solitaire and co-operative game, but there are co-op games out there that are likely to get replayed more.

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