♫♩♬ It’s the most, wonderful time of the year. With the dark cold depression, rampant cap-it-alism and stress induced fear! Let’s all play, boardgames to bring, us, good cheer! ♩♫♪
Let’s get festive and talk about Home Alone!
Home Alone is a two-player asymmetric card game based on the 1990 movie. The rules support more players, but then it becomes a one vs. many experience that feels unnecessary. The game is aimed at families, specifically during your holiday gatherings. Thirty minutes is all you need to recreate the siege of Fort McCallister by home invaders that should definitely be dead by the end of the film.
At the start of a round, Kevin will reveal three treasures from the deck and secretly place them face down at the top of three columns representing entrances to the house. Kevin then fills the columns with face down trap cards like he’s Yu-Gi-Oh MacGyver. The robbers will then choose an entry point into the home and try to avoid (or possibly recover from) the traps placed in front of them.
The robbers avoid the traps by discarding matching christmas lights from their hand and/or deck. They have the option to flee at any time, causing Kevin to have wasted the remaining traps. In a two player game the robbers need to acquire $2000 worth of goods before they run out of cards. Kevin needs only to stop them before they reach that point.
As a kid in the 90s, I always thought the robbers should just give up. Now? There are a lot of head injuries I’d be willing to accept for $2000.
Kevin does not need to place all his traps, and a few of them are decoys anyway. But this is where the mind games play out. Was the best prize behind the strongest traps, or did Kevin hide it upstairs behind a single card? The robbers need to calculate the worth and risk of each entrance, knowing what the three treasures are but not their location. You need to read your opponent as much as know the odds.
The game places the players in the roles of the movie characters without all the pesky brain damage and childhood trauma. Getting through the traps to snatch an item is successfully exhilarating. Smashing someone with a paint can is cathartic. The back and forth dance plays out really well and I congratulate Big G Creative on making a decent game based on a 30ish year old Christmas movie. That couldn’t have been easy.
That said, the game is too difficult for the robbers. I think they could use more cards in their deck, less in Kevin’s, or a lower monetary goal. The root problem is the randomness of the family jewels. It’s reckless and wasteful for the robbers to acquire all three items in a round, so when three high valued items are available together it really hurts their chances.
I had reservations at first, but this game is perfect for your family gatherings during the holidays. It’s simple, but interesting enough to keep people engaged. If you’re looking for a year round game, this probably isn’t it. I can see repetition making it stale, and playing it in April would feel off. The ugly Christmas sweater aesthetic is just too strong.
I would experiment with some house rules to balance out the robbers. Or maybe we’re just really bad at the game! Or too experienced compared to the casual family audience. Either way, it’s frustrating to always lose as the robbers and you’ll need to figure out if that’s a problem with your group.
If you’re looking for something similar but a bit more complex, I strongly suggest Android: Netrunner (if you can find it). Home Alone could be considered its younger brother, the running and robbing similarities were hilarious when I realized it. Of course, now I’d like to watch a Home Alone remake set in a cyberpunk future. Get on it, Hollywood.
Review copy provided by publisher. Thank you Big G Creative.