Today marks a first for The Nostalgia Spot – a board game post. Like probably everyone my age, I grew up playing board games. Most of them were terrible. They were either overly simple, but long to finish, like Candy Land and Shoots & Ladders or they were gimmicky and over in five seconds like Shark Attack and Crossfire. Board games felt like the at-home equivalent of busy work: give one to your kids and forget about them for a half hour or so. Good vacation fodder for when you have nothing to do and also a rainy day activity. Video games largely replaced them for me as I got older, but they were always around.
Not all board games were terrible. It’s tried and true, but Monopoly is fine and my family even experimented with a Monopoly night that might have lasted a few weeks. There were also more aggressive games that asked more of its players. I had an X-Men game that was pretty neat and required you to enter rooms inside the mansion and clear them of bad guys. I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but it was something I enjoyed when I could find someone to play with. Hero Quest was a popular one that was basically Dungeons & Dragons light and took a long time to play. I actually don’t know if I ever finished a game of Hero Quest. The one kid who had it always wanted to be that game’s equivalent of The Dungeon Master, and he was a brutal liar. I think we always lost and couldn’t trust he was playing by the rules so every game just ended with an argument.
Board games seem to be enjoying a quiet renaissance these days. From time to time I notice friends and acquaintances having a game night on social media. I had one such night with some cousins though it was mostly silly games eventually just leading to a Cards Against Humanity setting. I have not tried to get into a more complex board game, and maybe that’s just because I was waiting for the right one.
Enter Trogdor: The Burninater. In the early 2000s, homestarrunner.com was a thing. I first encountered it in 2002 when a friend basically camped out in my dorm room at my computer watching the flash animation over and over. The first one that caught my eye was the Strong Bad email that gave rise to Trogdor. It was ludicrous and quite funny, and after that I started keeping up with it as well. It didn’t take long for me to start hearing about it in class or booming from the speakers of another dorm. The site was popular for much of the early part of that decade and Trogdor would even be included in Guitar Hero and Strong Bad also had his own game for the Wii.
The creators of that website, The Brothers Chaps (Mike and Matt), sort of quietly retired the website. They had their fun and moved on, though on occasion a new video will pop-up. The website is still active and the archives can be plundered and merchandize can still be purchased. You can also find most of the videos on YouTube now as well. Last year, the property returned via a Kickstarter campaign. It was for a board game centered around Trogdor, Strong Bad’s dragon invention. Kaizer from CA wrote in asking Strong Bad to draw a dragon, and a legend was born. After first coming up with something that admittedly sucked, Strong Bad stumbled onto Trogdor utilizing techniques such as consummate Vs and the inclusion of a beefy arm. The video then pivoted to a scene of other characters doing their own interpretation of the character. After Strong Bad burns up Strong Sad’s version that may have been superior, the video then unexpectedly goes into a song all about Trogdor burninating the countryside and all of the peasants, which serves as the basis for the new board game.
When I saw the Kickstarter last summer, I had to back it. Almost exactly a year to the day, it arrived. The game was super popular and it took almost no time to fulfill the parameters of the Kickstarter campaign. It’s a collaboration between the Brothers Chaps and James Ernest. It’s a cooperative game that can support 1 to 6 players. The players are to aid Trogdor and his mission is to help him burninate the countryside including all of the peasants and their thatched-roof cottages. The game contains lots of fan service, due in part to the Kickstarter goals being exceeded, and if you’re a fan of the characters you’ll probably like what you see here.
The game is fairly complicated, but not overwhelming. It’s the type of game where your first play through will be done with the instructions at hand. Your second will go better, and after a few games are under your belt you’ll be off and running. Since it’s cooperative, you’re not competing with fellow players which is a unique approach. I thought maybe there would be folks controlling the peasants or adversaries of Trogdor, but that’s not the case. And it’s in spirit with the original cartoon in which Trogdor and his atrocities are celebrated. We don’t want to oppose Trogdor, but celebrate him!
The game is a board game, but it doesn’t actually have a board. Instead, it contains 25 terrain tiles that are laid out in a 5×5 grid. Each card has an image on one side, and a burninated version on the reverse. Some tiles have special properties, and by going this route it accomplishes two things: Trogdor can burninate the setting and it can be tracked by flipping the tile, and each game can be slightly different depending on the layout of the tiles. One of the tiles contains a mountain, which Trogdor can hide behind. Two contain a cave that are connected so Trogdor can “warp” across the playing field quickly if desired. Cottages that require burninating are placed on specified tiles, and there are some other special ones. Trogdor always starts in the center.
The game largely occurs with cards. There are no dice. Before the game begins, each player receives a Keeper card which may or may not give them a special ability to exploit on their turn. There are also item cards and action cards. The action cards dictate the movement of the NPCs and provide Trogdor with the action points he has on that turn. Action points can be used to do things like move and burninate. If Trogdor burns a peasant, the action card provides a movement path for the burning peasant. Any tile he touches he burns before he dies, unless he winds up in the lake in which he’s spared. After the turn is done, the NPCs move. There are knights on the board that harm Trogdor if they at any point share a tile with him. There’s also an archer piece that fires in horizontal directions. And once Trogdor is harmed, a super knight called The Troghammer is unleashed to provide additional chaos. The unused peasants are essentially Trogdor’s health. He starts each game with 4 and if he chomps a peasant he gains health. When a peasant dies, it goes to The Void and is removed from play preventing Trogdor from acquiring more health, but also preventing more peasants from entering the game.
When all 25 tiles are burninated, all three cottages set ablaze, and no peasants are on the board the game is over and Trogdor wins. If Trogdor loses all of his health, he gets to rage-quit by going on a rampage with a reasonably high probability of being successful. The game can also end if the players run out of action cards, though I haven’t come close to that scenario in my games. It’s an involved game that’s pretty fun. There’s strategy to employ as one needs to prevent Trogdor from getting hurt, but the limited cards means there’s a de-facto timer on the game too so you can’t play skittish. I haven’t encountered any arguments with fellow players, but I suppose it could get heated in certain settings if some people take things too seriously.
Beyond the game itself, there’s a lot here for people who are fans of Homestar Runner to enjoy. The pieces are either made of plastic or wood, depending on the version of the game you backed. I went for the Wingaling level which was the cheaper one and contains painted wood pieces. In addition to the main pieces needed for the game, there are also bonus Trogdor pieces depicting his other forms. There’s the original “S is for Sucks” Trogdor, Coach Z’s interpretation, and even a piece that just says “DAGRON” with the reverse being Homsar’s Toaster’s Choice. This means that before each game you get to select your preferred version of the now timeless character.
In addition to the game pieces, there are bonus meeples! The meeples are wooden depictions of the Homestar Runner cast so there’s Homestar Runner himself, Strong Bad, The Cheat, Strong Mad, and so on. I think I had to pay extra to get these, though I don’t remember since everything happened so long ago. These have no necessary purpose for the game, I suppose you could substitute knights and such with them if you want, but they’re a fun inclusion and a logical stretch goal for the Kickstarter. They even included a little baggy for the meeples and a suggested game that could be played with them. Given that they’re little painted pieces, I’m reluctant to do much with them as I don’t want the paint to chip, but there’s entertainment value here if you want it.
If you did not back the Kickstarter, then right now your only option appears to be eBay. Some folks are selling their sets there with gross mark-ups. Given the presence of a “Buy It Soon” option on the website it looks like a regular retail version is to come. It probably won’t have the meeples by default, but maybe they’ll be available for purchase as well. You can even sign-up to be alerted when they go on sale. Once they sell out, I don’t know if there’s any plan to make more so you may want to act fast. Should you choose to take the plunge you’ll end up with a fun game that has a great theme. If you’re a fan of the property then you pretty much owe it to yourself to seek this thing out. And if you have a group of friends that still remember this, then all the better as your game crew is ready to go. Now get burninating – Trogdor demands it!