It's hard to believe that 40 years have passed since the original release of Steven Spielberg's iconic movie E.T. As you might guess, there have been other attempts to tie games in with this popular intellectual property (IP) but most of the IP-inspired games from the 1980s were very poor fare. Happily, things have greatly improved in the last few years, and a large chunk of the credit for that improvement has to go to the Prospero Hall design studio and the games they've produced for Funko Games and Ravensburger, including Jaws and Rear Window.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years from Home is a fairly faithful board game recreation of the movie. It's a fully cooperative game, officially for 2-4 players but it's very playable too as a solo/solitaire game. The players represent the four children from the movie and they are represented by quite detailed figures on bikes. Their stands are designed to interlock, and one of the options in the game is for players to link up. This allows them to use each other's asymmetric special ability but at the cost of attracting more attention from the 'authorities' - the police and agents assigned to capture the kids and E.T.
In terms of game play, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years from Home is primarily a pick up & deliver game. On your turn, you'll be moving, picking up initially face-down tokens and collecting them to deliver to their matching colour location. When the players have dropped off four matching colour tokens at the appropriate slot, and they've brought E.T. there, then E.T. can use them to create a 'phone home' device (a customised six-sided die of the same colour as the items from which it was constructed: with phone symbols on two sides and blanks on the other four). Players can in this way create up to three dice. They need to deliver the dice to the clearing at the bottom left of the board so that E.T. can roll them to try to phone home. Whenever a roll shows a phone icon, E.T.'s mothership moves a step closer to the clearing. Players win if they can get the mothership and E.T. to the clearing before it is surrounded by the three police cars. The police cars act as a game timer - determined by another custom d6, one will move after every player's turn.
Players are also trying to keep one step ahead of the agents who are following them. If you're captured by an agent, you drop any items you were carrying and you are moved back to the starting position. E.T.'s tracker will also move down by 1; it starts at 6 and if it gets to zero then it's game over and the players have lost.
So in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years from Home, you're exploring to find matching tokens, you're collecting sets and you're optimising your movement so as to avoid being caught by the agents. Key to the game are the push-your-luck decisions players need to take over whether and when to link up with other players and when to pick up E.T. When you carry E.T. you get to use another special power (chosen from the three cards displayed from a deck of 16) but you trigger an additional danger dice that on four of its six sides will advance either the agents or a cop car.
Once again, Prospero Hall have come up with a highly playable IP-inspired game that's family-friendly, faithful to its source material and is still a rewarding play for seasoned gamers. And full marks too to Funko Games for the game's production. The mothership, for example, is really only used as a simple marker yet the game comes with quite an elaborate mounted piece that certainly adds to this game's impressive table presence.