There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love the offbeat comedy of Homestarrunner.com and people who have never heard of Homestarrunner.com. If you are a member of the latter group then this classic episode of Strong Bad Email is required viewing before opening the box of Trogdor!! The Board Game. If you're a member of the former group then you'll be pleased to hear that Trogdor!! is a challenging co-operative game with art by Chris Schweizer, Skylar Woodies and Liz Spain that stands reasonably well on its own merits whilst also being a delightful memento of early 00's flash animation, littered with references to Trogdor the Burninator and to the wider Homestarrunner-verse.
Players take it in turns to control Trogdor through the use of an action card deck and an action point system. Your objective is to 'burninate' every tile, every peasant and every thatch-roofed cottage on the board. Peasants can either be eaten for health or burninated, causing them to run around the board setting alight to anything they come into contact with, potentially triggering satisfying chain-reactions of mayhem. In between player turns, peasants will move and, perhaps, mend burninated tiles. The Knights and the Archer will then roam the countryside hunting Trogdor, dealing damage if they enter his square.
The team's decisions will be a balance of progressing towards your goals and keeping Trogdor safe from his enemies. Unfortunately, the small size of the board, combined with the randomness of the Knight's movement make it almost impossible to plan ahead or gauge whether or not you will be safe on any given turn. Some action cards will allow you to pull off clever tactical manoeuvres to mitigate this sense of randomness but, since these too are based on a limited hand of cards, some players might just find Trogdor too luck-based to enjoy.
Player roles and items are doled out at the start of the game to give individual players some unique abilities. These abilities will usually provide you with some interesting tactical options and variety that helps enhance replayability. However, mixed in with the 'balanced' abilities are some more jokey ones such as 'The Cheat' whose power is simply that you can cheat - a potentially fun idea in a competitive game but it is unclear how this ought to function in a purely co-operative game. Thankfully these 'unserious' cards are clearly marked so are easy to remove from the starting draft if you're more interested in the game than the in-jokes.
Trogdor!! is a light diversion and would make a good family game. It comes with plenty of setup options to keep you coming back for more, although its difficulty and randomness might make it wear thin after a few plays, particularly if you are not charmed by the surreal humour and loving references. Designed by James Ernest and the Homestarrunner creators' themselves Matt Chapman and Mike Chapman (The Brothers Chaps), this is no lazy licensed tie-in, so, if you're a fan, there is plenty to appreciate.
(Review by Edmund Ward)