|Release Date: 2021||Players: 2-4|
|Designer: Prospero Hall||Length: 45-60 minutes|
|Artist: n/a||Age: 12+|
|Publisher: Funko Games||Complexity: 2.5 / 5|
|Plastic (by weight): 13%||Air (by volume): 40%|
Hello! My name is Gavin Jones and this week I’m going to be standing in for the wonderful Oliver with a guest review. Buckle up and adjust your rearview mirror – things are about to get wild.
First gear. Screams of tortured rubber and plumes of acrid smoke fill the air as we barrel over the brow of the hill, rapidly advancing on our target. The tank is an incongruous sight, squat and menacing in the middle of the highway, two shiny black beetles flanking each side: SUVs filled with seemingly infinite numbers of violent goons, like clown cars of criminality.
Fast & Furious
Sorry. I got a bit carried away there! Didn’t mean to leak my script for the latest instalment in the now double-digit Fast and Furious movie franchise. Which I would call “So Fast, So Furious: Speedy and Rage-filled: a Family Reunion”, by the way – that’s right two sub-titles! I was just trying to invoke the vibe this board game – Fast & Furious: Highway Heist from Funko Games – is aiming for.
Now, those of us of a certain age will no doubt grimace at the thought of an IP-based game. Back in the day, these were often joyless affairs: money spent on the IP license rather than – you know – an actual game designer. But recently the tide has turned, and Funko Games, spear-headed by the talented in-house design studio who go by the “nom de jeu” of Prospero Hall, are leading the way. Titles like Pan Am, Jaws, and Rear Window, have managed to combine a nostalgic sense of setting and theme with well-designed games that can appeal both to families and hobby gamers. Will Fast & Furious: Highway Heist follow this successful formula?
Firstly, a quick pit-stop into the “Fast & Furious Cinematic Universe” for the uninitiated. Released in 2001, The Fast and the Furious was a gritty, nu-metal soundtracked, action-packed ride into the world of street racing and high-speed heists, and featured a gang of lovable rogues and the under-cover cop infiltrating their seedy underground world. So far, so Point Break! However, something about this heady mix appealed, and sequels have been cranked out ever since. Usually starring the muscle-bound Vin Diesel as tough-guy Dominic Torretto, they are known for gravity-defying action, macho posturing, and an emotional core of loyalty and ‘family’ – the clumsy handling of which is much teased in modern meme-heavy internet culture.
Here’s a fun fact: the first film’s title was licensed from an old Roger Corman B-movie, but the rights to numbered sequels weren’t. Hence the franchise’s peculiarly inconsistent naming scheme – 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Fast Five, leap to mind.
Fast Family Fun
So, has Prospero Hall condensed these films into an exciting tabletop experience? Join the Jones Family as we open the box lid and find out!
The first thing of note is that this is a cooperative game. Makes sense – we are family after all! We’ll be facing one of three scenarios. These are a ‘greatest hits’ of the extreme situations from the movies, namely: a tank, a speeding semi-truck heist, and a showdown against a chopper and armoured sports car combo. Each has a unique win condition; for our first game, we have the simple task of destroying a tank by wrecking SUVs causing them to smash into it!
The first strategic choice comes during setup as players select a combination of film character and car, each providing both a set of stats, and a unique special ability. It’s probably best to carefully mix and match to construct a well-rounded team, or just fight over the coolest car! Remember, the car and driver’s stats mesh together to determine the number of dice rolled in skill checks.
Yep, this is a dice-chucker! But fans of determinism need not fear, as there’s also plenty of careful planning and coordination needed, as well as mitigation against bad rolls using boost tokens.
Setup continues by laying out the highway board and filling it with small plastic vehicles, ready to do battle. This is a deliciously thematic touch as the miniatures have a wonderful toy-like quality, including a semi-truck with a hinged back door and enough space underneath the trailer for a player’s car to slide under – just like Letty‘s skilful trick from the first film!
Turns progress at a brisk pace as each player completes two actions using the handy reminders on the player boards. These actions are what you may expect from a driving game: Drive, Ram, Leap, and… wait! Leap? Yes. This is the sort of game where you can jump out of your speeding vehicle (by placing a little plastic peg representing your character on top), land on the roof of another car, punch a bad guy off, and then steal their SUV! The game revels in recreating wild moments such as these and produces some strange-sounding table chatter as we discuss our next moves: “Do you want to punch that guy off your roof first, then meet me round the front of the tank next to the smoking wreck?”
Second gear. Dom Toretto‘s American muscle car bucks wildly as he stamps on the brakes. The tail-gating SUV reacts way too late, forcing out a sickening screech, then tinny crunch, as it plows into the back of the armoured supercar. Silence now, and time moves slowly, as the SUV traces a balletic arc through the sky, shards of crystalline glass sparkling in the desert sun.
Some actions require a skill check to succeed: roll the number of custom dice indicated on your player board and count the pips. Failed rolls can be transformed into a success by spending a boost token and converting all rolled boost symbols to pips. A very cool coop touch here is called an assist – before you roll, another player can spend a boost token to give you two extra dice. These sort of decisions are great at keeping all players involved in the game.
After each player’s turn, they roll a die which determines the enemy actions. These include some standard results (such as making all SUVs move closer and clatter into the players’ cars) as well as instructions to draw cards from a special scenario-specific deck. The cards have an immediate effect when drawn (such as placing fresh enemy SUVs behind each player vehicle) as well as creating a nail-biting build-up of tension. You see, each card acts as a countdown as new card draws will push it along a track and will activate a devastating effect when it reaches the end. This adds some real urgency as you can see this horrible event creeping along, unsure of exactly when the die will push it into the activation slot.
The game uses the well-tested coop mechanism of ‘player turn, then enemy turn’ to scale well with the number of players, and makes for some great moments as your careful cooperation is undone by a vicious enemy turn! Here’s an example: we smashed and bashed our way across the road, resulting in three wrecked SUVs perfectly lined up and ready to crash into the tank at the end of the round. The wretched enemy die then somehow intuits this and causes the tank to swerve out of the way, the wrecks sailing harmlessly by, only to pummel two other following SUVs which are destroyed in a traffic jam of write-offs! Pure chaos!
So, with our attempts at tank destruction foiled, victory seems far away. How do we lose anyway? Presumably, characters have some sort of health bar and can die? Nope! Plot armour to the rescue as our heroes can get into all sorts of physics-snubbing scrapes with nary a scratch. Their vehicles can be destroyed, causing a hilarious scramble to hijack an enemy SUV. But the overall loss condition is down to a ticking countdown playing out along the bottom of the board. This timer is a trick used by many coop games, and can also offer a nice way to scale the difficulty by granting players more or less time accordingly. However, the twist here is that the countdown mechanism also offers salvation by providing even more exciting action in the form of stunts!
Here’s how it works: each scenario has a deck of stunt cards from which one is revealed each round. There are only three slots available, and the new card pushes the others along – the one being bumped off the end is lost for good. When the final card in the deck falls off the end, you lose! However, the stunts available are fantastically helpful – madcap schemes that cause maximum mayhem. They often rely on very specific positioning of miniatures, making the game into a spatial movement puzzle. Some can only be performed once (hey, don’t bore the audience), but provide an extra reward in the form of boost tokens.
For example: the Clothesline stunt requires an enemy SUV to be flanked by two player cars, and a successful skill roll against the Control stat can then send then smashing together, and the SUV soaring through the air to land on, and damage, the tank!
Ramping up the drama, the last stunt card in each scenario allows a truly spectacular finale, with an instant win, but can be very tricky to pull off. Our first game saw us wearing the tank down and attempting the final stunt on the last possible round – two cars pushing the military beast off the side of the road. All or nothing. Death or glory. With the skill roll needing three pips plus the tank’s current health, things weren’t looking great for our band of outlaws.
Before we cut to the final dramatic scene, what’s the verdict?
As with many of Prospero Hall‘s big box games, this title promises theme, fun, family, and thinking, all tied up with nice production values and excellent graphic design. And, pedal-to-the-metal, it delivers! The game manages to drive down the central white line of the highway of ludology – on one side a cooperative, thinky, movement puzzle, on the other side a thematic, dice-rolling, tension-building, fun time. It does present quite a tricky challenge, especially for younger players, but you can always start on the easy difficulty level, and perhaps dish out an extra boost token to help. There’s a lovely physicality to pushing toy cars around and enacting the zany stunts. The game does not do much to prevent the so-called ‘alpha gamer’ problem (where one player takes control of strategy, leaving the other with little agency), but in that case maybe just pop on a white vest, flex those pecs, and repeat the words of Dominic Toretto: “I don’t have friends, I have family.”
Third gear. Choking black smoke pours from the battered tank as it weaves erratically across the debris-strewn road, teetering precariously on the edge of a sheer precipice as its tracks struggle to grip. Tyres wail as Brian and Letty swing their cars violently into its dented side – a dangerous game of push and shove where the stakes are fiery oblivion. Metal crunches against metal. Closer. Just a little… bit… closer.
Five dice clatter against the table and… roll end credits!
I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I