$10.00
Recommend
65 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

Thunder Road» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Hey! That's my car! (Thunder Road, a review) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Kyle W.
United States
Up Nort' Der
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
Now appearing in Jurassic World! (Not really)
badge
How Me Grimlock get geekgold?
mbmbmbmbmb
Thunder Road is a racing and auto-combat game that was released by Milton Bradley in 1986. The theme is obviously and undeniably based on the second Mad Max film, but lacks any specific references or notes that would indicate the presence of an actual licensing deal.

The overall premise of the game revolves around players racing their group of cars down an endless stretch of road. In the movie, that chase involved a pack of cars chasing down a tanker truck loaded with fuel, but in this game the exact reason is never made clear so that’s left up to the player’s imagination. They could be racing toward some unknown goal (a stockpile of fuel, weapons, gold, etc.) or they could be trying to outrun some unspeakable horror (a nuclear blast, Mel Gibson’s lawyers, etc.). All the while, the cars have to avoid piles of wreckage and attacks not only from other cars, but also from the swarm of helicopters hovering just above.

Rules
The rules in general are well written, straightforward, and include a number of useful pictures and examples. At first the rulebook may seem a bit long for a game that relies so heavily on rolling dice, but there are quite a few different options available during the game so all of the information is useful.

A player begins their turn by rolling the three yellow movement dice and then assigning one die to each of their cars. You can never combine the rolls, so if you have only two active cars remaining you can only use two of the three dice. Likewise, if you have only one car remaining you only get to use one die, but you always get to roll all three regardless of how many cars you have. If any of your cars began the turn on the strip of road down the center of the board, you also get to roll the black road-bonus die. You have the option of adding that bonus to any and all of your cars that are on the road, with the restriction that they must remain on the road for the entire movement.

Cars must always move forward, either directly ahead or into one of the two adjacent spaces on either side of the space ahead. A car must always use the full number of spaces on the assigned die when possible, but zigzagging is allowed so if you want to move to a specific (closer) space, you can usually get there with some clever maneuvering. You cannot move through a space occupied by one of your other cars, but since you can move them in any order that’s never really a problem. You can move through spaces occupied by wrecks or opposing cars, but it requires a die roll.

If your car lands on or tries to pass through a space with a wreck (either a generic wreck or the remains of an opponent’s car), you must roll one of the red “combat” dice. On a 4-6 the car smashes through and may continue on without penalty, but on a roll of 1-3 it becomes wrecked itself and is turned on its side. Due to the inherent risk, smashing through wrecks is usually only something to do as a last resort.

If you move your car into a space occupied by an opposing car, you can ram it. Both players roll a red die and add that to the rank of their car. If the player that rammed has the higher total, that car can continue through the space and the opposing car becomes a wreck. If the opposing player has the higher total or it’s a tie, the rammer’s car has to stop in the space behind regardless of how much additional movement it might have. Ranks are printed on the bottom of each car: the Doom Buggy is rank-4, the Avenger is rank-5, and the Eliminator is rank-6. There is an obvious advantage to ramming with a larger car, but the margin is close enough that taking out a large car with a small one is still very much a possibility.

If you land by exact count in a space directly behind an opposing car, you also have the option of shooting at it. To shoot you simply roll a red die and compare the result to the rank of the target car; if it is equal to or greater than the rank, the shot hits and the target car becomes a wreck. If you miss, nothing else happens.

In addition to moving their three cars, each player also has one Thunder Chopper (helicopter) that can be used to attack any car in play, with the restriction that it can be used only once per segment of the board. You indicate your target by placing the chopper next to a car, and then shoot by rolling a red die (exactly like shooting with a car).

If a car survives long enough to reach the far end of the second board, the starting board segment is immediately placed in front and the car completes the remainder of its movement on the “new” board. When a previous board gets dumped like that, any player-controlled cars that were still on it get removed from the game whether they were still running or wrecks. Choppers cannot be eliminated, so if one gets dumped it is simply set aside until its owner chooses to use it again. There is no limit to the number of times the board can be recycled; as long as two or more players still have cars in play, it could go on indefinitely.

As you might expect, cars will be getting wrecked left and right, but even if all of your cars have been disabled you’re not out of the game yet. As long as you still have at least one car on the board, even if it is wrecked, you still get to roll the three yellow movement dice on your turn. If you happen to roll double sixes, you can repair any one of your cars. Repairs happen instantly and don’t “use up” any dice, so you can still use those sixes to move.

If all three of your cars get dumped off the board, you’re out of the game. In order to win the game, you have to be last player with at least one car on the board.


Components
The components in Thunder Road are decent, but nothing spectacular.

The board is made up of two separate pieces that interlock on either end, so switching them as cars progress throughout the game is nearly effortless. They’re made of cardboard that, while not particularly thick, is more than sturdy enough to hold up to typical gameplay without any fear of bending. The boards in my copy have warped just slightly, but not enough to have an impact on gameplay. Considering that this game is over 20 years old, they’ve held up amazingly well. The artwork on the boards shows mostly sand and dirt with explosion craters and scattered bits of debris everywhere, and the road is distinguished by a darker strip down the middle. Overall it’s pretty dull and drab, but fits perfectly given the game’s post-apocalyptic, theme – it is a barren wasteland after all.

Each of the three car types are made of up two or three molded plastic pieces that snap together snugly. Some of them have a tendency to fall apart if you pick them up the wrong way, but that seems to be due more to years of wear (including repeated disassemblies) than any problem with production or design. The choppers are made of two pieces – one for the body and flight stand, and another for the main rotor blade (it spins!)

The player colors (dark green/olive, dark orange/rust, tan, and white/light gray) are somewhat unusual in gaming, but fit the theme of the game very well. You really wouldn’t expect to find many bright and vivid colors like red, blue, yellow, purple, etc. in this sort of environment.

Five of the dice (three yellow, two red) are just like the ordinary six-sided dice that you can find almost anywhere. The black “road bonus” die has smooth faces with no indentations, and instead has numbers printed in white. Unlike the other dice, this one is “weighted” slightly to roll lower, with face values of 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4. That makes it a worthwhile bonus to go after but not so powerful that it’s an essential for victory.

Also worth noting is the box insert. In the version I have, that insert is a cardboard panel that fills roughly three-quarters of the box, leaving a nice space on the end for the game pieces and enough of a gap on top for the boards and rulesheet. Printed on that insert are detailed pictures and stats for the four different vehicles in the game. That information has no effect whatsoever on gameplay, but adds to the theme by giving you a better idea of what it is you’re dealing with in the game. These are heavily-modified war machines, not just your average sedan, sports car, or pickup truck.


Gameplay
Make no mistake; there is a lot of die rolling involved in this game, however, that doesn’t mean you can play it on autopilot. There are a number of meaningful decisions to be made and a surprising amount of strategy for what looks like a simple roll & move game.

Choosing how to assign your die rolls is critical. You must constantly decide whether it is better to keep all of your cars in the running and risk losing them all at once, or if it is best to focus on just one or two and abandon the rest. You have to decide when to drive on the crowded road in order to get the bonus, when to stay on the slower but less hazardous off-road areas, and when to switch from one to the other.

Blocking is a huge factor on the road because it will often force a player to choose between smashing through a wreck, ramming a larger car, or going off-road. With the odds of succeeding at the first two around 50/50 (or worse) it can be a tough choice, especially if leaving the road means you have to give up a large road bonus of three or four.

It might seem obvious to assign all of your highest rolls to your Doom Buggy because that starts the closest to the far end of the board, but it’s never that simple. There is a definite advantage to being behind so cars in the lead become targets for everyone else, and the buggies are particularly vulnerable because of their relatively low ranks. Runaway leaders become especially appealing targets, and tend to draw chopper attacks like moths to the flame. You always want to get at least one car onto the lead board as quickly as possible, but you don’t want to get too far ahead too soon. The trick is finding just the right moment to make your break and go for the win.

The choppers themselves present a conundrum. You only get one attack per board, so you have to make sure it will count. If you strike too early you might knock out the current leader, but that could just open the door for someone else. If you wait too long you might miss your chance entirely as all of the worthwhile targets have already moved on to the next board. You also have to consider what the other players might do with their own choppers. If you knock out the lead car, will everyone else turn their attention to one of yours? If you attack a high-ranked car and miss, can you trust your opponents to follow up the attack or will they ignore it this turn because all of their own cars are already “safe” on the lead board? Do you go after a trailing car in an attempt to knock it out of the game but risk a retaliatory attack from that player?


Negatives
Despite all of the good things about this game, there are a few negatives that need to be mentioned.

The main one, of course, is that despite the various strategic options available you are still ultimately at the mercy of the dice. A player that can consistently roll high will have a definite advantage, although low results are mitigated somewhat by the fact that you always roll three dice for movement. You should get at least one decent result with each roll that will help keep one of your cars in the running, even if that means you have to abandon one or both of the others. The combat dice can be especially fickle. I’ve seen a rank-4 Doom Buggy survive an onslaught of seven or eight attacks in a row, while nearby rank-6 Eliminators were dropping like flies at the mere mention of an attack.

Second, the repair rules are functional but a little too luck dependent. Doubles are seen far more commonly when rolling three dice than with two, yet double sixes seem just as elusive as ever, especially when you *need* them to get back in the game. The cars should be more difficult to repair than they are to wreck, but this is a bit much. Games can often be decided by a roll-off between two remaining players, with the win going to whoever is able to roll the double-six needed to repair his or her wrecked car and move the few remaining spaces to the end of the board.

Downtime between turns is minimal, but getting knocked out of the game very early on can be frustrating as you wait for everyone else to finish. Fortunately games rarely last more than ten or fifteen minutes even with four players, so if you do get eliminated you won’t have to wait that long to get back into it. If a repeat play isn’t expected, an early elimination could be the perfect opportunity to pick out and start setting up the next game for the night.


Suggested House Rule
House rules can be a tricky subject. While some people might tweak the rules of a game so much that it is barely recognizable, others might be “purists” that refuse to play a game by any rules except what was in the box when it was published. Most house rules simply change how a particular aspect works, for better or for worse (depending who you ask), but occasionally you’ll find a house rule that seems so essential and beneficial to gameplay that you wonder why it wasn’t in the actual rulebook.

Falling into that latter category is an adjustment to the repair rules that takes the rank of a car into account. Instead of double-sixes being the only way to repair a car regardless of rank, you can repair any car with a rank equal to or less than the doubled number. In other words, while a double-six will still allow you to repair any car, a double-five will allow you to repair only the rank-5 or rank-4 cars (but not the rank-6), and a double-four will allow you to repair only the rank-4 car. This simple change has a major effect on the later stages of a game by equalizing the three car ranks. The Eliminator is the hardest to wreck, but is also the most difficult to repair. On the other hand, the Doom Buggy is the easiest to wreck but also the easiest to repair. Splitting the difference is the Avenger. I’ve seen all three go onto victory, so instead of the Eliminator being the obvious “best” choice, the right car often comes down to which one a player likes best.

I’ve been using this house rule for many years (long before finding BGG), but what is particularly interesting about it is that a number of others here use the exact same rule. To me, a house rule carries far more weight if several different people come up with it independently than if it becomes common by spreading directly from one person to another.


Interesting Quirk
The generic wrecks that come with the game are single-piece bits of plastic molded to look like the inverted remains of a car chassis. The “roof” has a large flat spot meant to allow the wrecks to rest on the board at a slight angle without tipping or rocking about, and in the center of that flat spot is a rectangular opening that was likely intended to reduce the weight and amount of material needed for the pieces. The briefest of inspections is all you need to see which side is clearly meant to be up and which should be down. Yet, every single time I’ve played this with someone that hasn’t seen it before, without fail, at some point during the game when a board gets dumped and placed at the front they will grab several of those generic wrecks and place them on the appropriate spaces wheels-down. We’re so accustomed to seeing vehicles oriented a certain way that our minds will tell us to place those pieces how they’re “supposed to be”, despite the obvious clues to the contrary. If you’ve ever played the game, you have no doubt witnessed that very same phenomenon and/or done it yourself.


Conclusion
Overall, Thunder Road is an excellent filler game. It’s short enough that if you really enjoy it (or you got knocked out early and want revenge) you can play it multiple times in a single sitting, but if you hate it you won’t have to suffer long. It is light enough that it can be enjoyed by non-gamers and kids, but carries just enough depth and strategy that the average gamer won’t be wishing it was over the instant it hits the table. Ultimately, a really lucky player will usually be the one to come out ahead, but a good player will definitely be able to give them a run for their money.


I loved playing this game when I was growing up, and if it wasn’t for Fireball Island this would sit squarely in the number one spot among my favorite childhood games. I’ve since moved on to games that are bigger, more complex, and just plain better, but that hasn’t made this game any less fun to play. Even to this day I still greatly enjoy the rare times when this game makes it to the table.

If you ever run across this game at thrift store, at a garage sale, collecting dust in the back corner of a relative’s basement, or anywhere else, don’t pass it up. If you can’t find it, go get some of the files in the downloads section and make your own copy. You won’t regret it (unless you’re the kind of person that absolutely hates dice and loathes anything that involves luck or randomness – then you should look elsewhere.)


Rating
Since the suggested house rule has such a positive impact on the game, I’ll end this review with a dual rating:

(Rules exactly as written): 6.5
(With the suggested house rule): 7.5

meeple

Reason for edit: fixed a few typos, and other errors.
50 
 Thumb up
0.37
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Tandlmayer
United States
Wilkinsburg
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Great review--I've been looking for this game for awhile and your review has rekindled my interest!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Glad to see thiss little old gem get some friendly attention and respect. I always pictured that goggle-eyed guy with the bad teeth dropping stuff from his autogyro in the movie and we'd always designate one vehicle the "Mel Gibson Car."

It might help to drybrush some rust-colored paint on the chassis of the wrecks to pop out which side goes "up."

By golly, I'm gonna dig this chestnut out and play it. Thumbs up to you, boyo.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Holyoak
United States
Idaho Falls
Idaho
flag msg tools
Designer Wannabe
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Great timing!
I just barely got this in the mail (found it on ebay for $8).
The house rule is a nice addition.
Been having a great time playing this with my son.
Thanks for the detailed review.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Watson
United States
West Jordan
UT
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
WOW, it probably took you longer to write that review than it would to play a game of Thunder Road! Thunder Road is GREAT fun. It's in my top 10.

We've been considering the exact same House Rule you suggested about repairs, though we usually play by the rules.

Another one I've been contemplating is something to distinguish each car by speed. I mean c'mon! That Doom Buggy has GOT to be faster than the Eliminator. I'm considering ALWAYS rolling the black modifier die and using the following guideline:

1) The DOOM BUGGY gets to use the modifier die all the time, off road or on.
2) The AVENGER uses the modifier die normally...only on the road.
3) The ELIMINATOR never gets to use the modifier die.

This just seems it would add to the theme. Anyone out there try this or something similar? Does it break the game?

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kyle W.
United States
Up Nort' Der
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
Now appearing in Jurassic World! (Not really)
badge
How Me Grimlock get geekgold?
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, thanks everyone! When I first decided to write this review, I didn't realize there were so many others still keeping an eye out for the game - I figured this review would slip away into limbo and not see any comments or thumbs for months, if ever.


Just a note about the edit above - I fixed a few typos and "corrected" my rating. I forgot (until after posting) that I had actually given it a rating of 7.5, not 7. Given how much I like this game, plus the whole nostalgia factor, a 7.5 seems more appropriate anyways. cool

Poltergeist_2000 wrote:
We've been considering the exact same House Rule you suggested about repairs, though we usually play by the rules.

Another one I've been contemplating is something to distinguish each car by speed. I mean c'mon! That Doom Buggy has GOT to be faster than the Eliminator. I'm considering ALWAYS rolling the black modifier die and using the following guideline:

1) The DOOM BUGGY gets to use the modifier die all the time, off road or on.
2) The AVENGER uses the modifier die normally...only on the road.
3) The ELIMINATOR never gets to use the modifier die.

This just seems it would add to the theme. Anyone out there try this or something similar? Does it break the game?
Sounds interesting, although I'd consider reversing the bonuses - give the Eliminator the permanent bonus die instead of the Doom Buggy. Sure it's a much larger vehicle, but that cylinder running almost the full length of its chassis looks an awful lot like a jet engine or rocket (think of Adam West's Batmobile). Plus, it has to start all the way in back so it could get outpaced pretty quickly without the bonus.



On a seperate note, there's one other house rule we've been using that deals with the potential for early player elimination:
Unlimited Chopper Attacks: Any player that has had all of his/her cars eliminated still gets to make a chopper attack on their turn, and also gets to ignore the "once per board" restriction.

It's a love it or hate it type of rule though, so I didn't include it in the review. It does tend to make the game take a little longer to finish and can turn things into a repair roll-off, but it also adds a lot more tension for the remaining players because they're never safe from attack. It also gives the eliminated player(s) an immediate chance for revenge on whoever it was that knocked them out...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Todd
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
flag msg tools
Fez.
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. It is now on my want list. Any doubt about that was resolved when I found this sweet 80s commercial for the game. Fairly high budget for a game considering they had to work up some "mad max" style cars.
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ed Dexter
United States
Lynn
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Ah, Thunder Road. This one was in heavy rotation in my gang's Sunday gaming days back in the day.

We had a couple of house wreck rules to make things a little more chaotic. Whenever a wreck is hit (or you cause a car to wreck) you'd roll a d6 to determine where the wreck is moved to.
1-2 one space ahead and left
3-4 one space directly ahead
5-6 one space ahead and right

We also worked out a dice system for randomly placing the wrecks when starting a new board so they wouldn't always be in the same place. I forget how it went, but we'd roll dice to determine the row then more dice to find how many spaces in it would go.

My copy's sitting in a closet at my parent's house and will probably never see me play it again. I guess I should grab it next time I'm there and see if I can pass it on to someone that'll actually use it!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Ignorant
Norway
flag msg tools
You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
mbmbmbmbmb
Woelf wrote:


Interesting Quirk
The generic wrecks that come with the game are single-piece bits of plastic molded to look like the inverted remains of a car chassis. The “roof” has a large flat spot meant to allow the wrecks to rest on the board at a slight angle without tipping or rocking about, and in the center of that flat spot is a rectangular opening that was likely intended to reduce the weight and amount of material needed for the pieces. The briefest of inspections is all you need to see which side is clearly meant to be up and which should be down. Yet, every single time I’ve played this with someone that hasn’t seen it before, without fail, at some point during the game when a board gets dumped and placed at the front they will grab several of those generic wrecks and place them on the appropriate spaces wheels-down. We’re so accustomed to seeing vehicles oriented a certain way that our minds will tell us to place those pieces how they’re “supposed to be”, despite the obvious clues to the contrary. If you’ve ever played the game, you have no doubt witnessed that very same phenomenon and/or done it yourself.



2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kyle W.
United States
Up Nort' Der
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
Now appearing in Jurassic World! (Not really)
badge
How Me Grimlock get geekgold?
mbmbmbmbmb
VikingFury wrote:
Woelf wrote:


Interesting Quirk
The generic wrecks that come with the game are single-piece bits of plastic molded to look like the inverted remains of a car chassis. The “roof” has a large flat spot meant to allow the wrecks to rest on the board at a slight angle without tipping or rocking about, and in the center of that flat spot is a rectangular opening that was likely intended to reduce the weight and amount of material needed for the pieces. The briefest of inspections is all you need to see which side is clearly meant to be up and which should be down. Yet, every single time I’ve played this with someone that hasn’t seen it before, without fail, at some point during the game when a board gets dumped and placed at the front they will grab several of those generic wrecks and place them on the appropriate spaces wheels-down. We’re so accustomed to seeing vehicles oriented a certain way that our minds will tell us to place those pieces how they’re “supposed to be”, despite the obvious clues to the contrary. If you’ve ever played the game, you have no doubt witnessed that very same phenomenon and/or done it yourself.



Photographic proof!

laugh
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
"Take That Token And I'll Ram These Dice Right Up Your Nostrils"
United Kingdom
Scarborough
North Yorkshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I want this myself now! angry
Thanks for the great review! My friend keeps going on about this one and I didn't think I had ever heard of it, but after seeing the pictures here and reading your review I DO remember playing this one in my childhood. Will have to play it when he gets hold of a copy, but if your review's anything to go by I've already spent my money! shakegoo
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justin De Witt
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Yup that sounds just like it. I got the chance to play this at BGGcon 08 and it was a hoot. It's a super simple, ridiculously fun, dice fest with cars ramming and blasting each other. If you want a straight forward Mad Max type of car game this would be it.

Um... that's assuming you've got the ability to travel back to the 80's to pick up a copy. Or get really lucky on eBay.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Ferguson
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I used to have this game when I was in grade 8, and loved it loved it loved it!!!

However, I was 14 then, and I am always apprehensive about things I loved when I was 13 and 14... Heck, I listened to the Monkeys and ate Pizza Pops. So go figure.

The problem is, that this game is gone from my collection, I have NO idea where it's gone. At that period in time, all my games were in a cold cellar in the basement along with a bunch of other junk. Then back in the late 90's, my parents were moving, as I cleared out all my games, this one was notably gone. Very odd.

One theory is that it was lent to a friend and never returned, but I'm usually very good with that stuff.

SO now I have to make a decision if I should buy it off of ebay or something, or let it be as that old 80's game I loved.

I'm not sure if I could get into it again. And I'm really wringing my hands over this one.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Keith Avallone
United States
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
I just picked up a copy of this game at a thrift store for $1.99!! I had never heard of it, but it looked pretty interesting, so I went ahead and bought it--GLAD I did! It appears that this copy of the game got rained on at some point, because the boards are somewhat warped. All the cars and choppers are there, though, as well as the rules. Missing most of the dice, but that's easy to fix! Can't wait to actually PLAY!
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marshall Miller
United States
Malden
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
This sounds like a really fun game. I can imagine that it would be easy to make a copy using matchbox cars. I could also see, while I'm making my own copy, merging the movement concepts with combat and ramming sections from Car Wars. Could be a potent combination...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Boris Karloff
msg tools
Woelf wrote:
If you move your car into a space occupied by an opposing car, you can ram it. Both players roll a red die and add that to the rank of their car. If the player that rammed has the higher total, that car can continue through the space and the opposing car becomes a wreck. If the opposing player has the higher total or it’s a tie, the rammer’s car has to stop in the space behind regardless of how much additional movement it might have.


Minor point, but the rules say that to ram you have to land by exact count on a space occupied by another player.

(Your version was one of our house rules though.)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.