#541 – Jetpack Joyride

Box

Base price: $25.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: ~20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 4 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Jetpack Joyride was provided by Lucky Duck Games.

Next up this week is Jetpack Joyride! I’ve played a few titles from Lucky Duck Games already (mostly in the Chronicles of Crime space), but this and It’s a Wonderful World, there are going to be a few more Lucky Duck titles coming down the pipe. It’s not really a Gen Con title, but, you know, gotta shuffle up the ordering and such over time. Let’s dig into Jetpack Joyride and see what’s going on there.

In Jetpack Joyride, y’all have stolen a fantastic jetpack! Or, you found it. You know, found a jetpack. Now you’re going to bust out of the lab that you found it in and take as much money as you can, and complete some missions you’ve set for yourself. That’s nice. Anyways, trade off, break out of some labs, and you know, have fun! That’s the most important thing.

Contents

Setup

Setup isn’t too bad. First, take out the Track Tiles:

Tiles

You’re going to return some to the box if you’re playing at certain player counts:

  • 2 players: Return 25 tiles to the box.
  • 3 players: Return 12 tiles to the box.
  • 4 players: Use all of the tiles.

Now, give each player a set of four Lab Cards, numbered 1 – 4:

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If you’re experienced, instead play with the Hard 1 / Hard 4 cards:

Hard Labs

Reveal three Missions:

Missions

And set the Gadgets aside, for now:

Gadgets

You’re all ready to start!

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

A game of Jetpack Joyride is pretty simple. Over three rounds, you’re going to try and fly through these levels and collect as many coins as possible. Along the way, you’ll try to fulfill missions as you work to escape the Lab. After three rounds, the player with the most total points wins!

So, there aren’t really turns in Jetpack Joyride; you just kind of grab tiles and go. You can only hold one in your hand at a time, and you must place them starting from the left and ending on the right (you may backtrack). Placing a new tile means that the new tile has a block on one of its ends that touches a block on the end of the previous tile. If you want to change a previously placed one, you must return all the tiles after that tile, one by one, in order to change that previously placed tile.

Gameplay 2

Note that you shouldn’t move through obstacles (purple blocks), but you can for an end-of-round penalty. Collecting coins, however, is good!

As soon as one player escapes the lab (by placing a tile that goes off the rightmost edge of their cards), they announce it and the round immediately ends. Tally up your coin total, star total, and any penalties from obstacles (-3 points per obstacle) or points from Gadgets. Then, reveal a number of Gadgets equal the to the number of players. Players may choose a Gadget in order from the player who scored the lowest this round to the player that scored the highest. They provide a variety of bonuses in future rounds, and they score every round. Then, pass all your Lab Cards to the left; the next player will use them in the next round.

Gameplay 4

After three rounds, the game ends. Total your scores and the player with the most points wins!

Two-Player Variant

At two players, simply pass the cards to the other player after the first round, and then flip the cards over after the second round. Beyond that, play normally, just with the removed tiles I mentioned in Setup.

Player Count Differences

There aren’t many. A big one is just that there will be more players grabbing after pieces, so, hopefully they all need different pieces or there will be many more less-useful pieces available for all players. There’s no real speed advantage or disadvantage to having more players, either, so the rounds should still take about the same amount of time. The big thing is that, like Dungeon Academy, you flip more cards for more players, so the benefit to players who are struggling becomes a bit larger as the player counts increase. You get first pick of a wider set of cards, so you may be better able to optimize for what you want. Additionally, gaining the most points in a round carries a higher penalty. Getting the worse of two cards isn’t bad; getting the “worst” of four cards might be powerfully unhelpful. Ironically, I think that means it’s a bit easier to catch up at higher player counts, so I might slightly prefer it, there? It’s far from a hard preference, just an interesting observation.

Strategy

  • Gotta play fast. This is fundamentally a game of speed. Don’t overthink your route, just pick the closest you can get to an optimal one. You’re not going to usually be able to play so quickly that everyone else will be leagues behind you, either. The key is local optimizations so that you’re still finishing but mostly so that you’re getting a bunch of coins.
  • Make sure you are keeping an eye on the missions. If you ignore these, you’re going to lose. At the very least, make sure that you’re getting 2 / 3 of them accomplished in a round. If you’re doing that and getting a bunch of coins, it’s probably fine; if you get all three, you don’t necessarily need to run wild on coins. It’s balancing.
  • Coins aren’t always necessary. Like I said, if you get enough of the missions complete then coins aren’t going to be a major negative factor for you. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to collect every coin (unless, of course, a mission makes it your problem).
  • Don’t forget that you can backtrack if you need to. If you need to get certain coins, this is your big play. You can loop back from one card into a previous one so that you can get something you missed. Maybe it’s near-missing an obstacle; maybe it’s hitting the roof. Doesn’t matter! As long as you play following the correct rules for piece placement, you’re solid.
  • Your main points are from coins and missions. You don’t necessarily need to be first if you’re getting both. If you really power through it and get 20 coins and 10 points on missions, or so, you’re generally going to be powerfully getting a bunch of points over the course of the game. I think the highest score I’ve seen in the game is mid-90s, so, that’s almost a winning play if you can pull it off. Bonus points if you can do this and finish first, just so that it makes sure your opponents are likely getting fewer points.
  • Try to match your Gadgets up with your preferred playstyle. This is a major advantage, if you can score the right stuff. Even better if it lines up with the level you’re about to get or the missions you’re going to get. You can’t exactly predict those with a high degree of accuracy, so just try to grab Gadgets that seem useful. Occasionally you get obvious ones that a Gadget that gives you three points vs. a Gadget that gives you four points, but in general you should be able to find things that you think are more useful for the way that you prefer to play the game. There are many different ways to do so!

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Gameplay 3

Pros

  • Alright, so, this comes with a plastic cover to keep the pieces in place while the box is closed, and it’s wonderful. This is far and away the best thing about the game, in my opinion. It latches on pretty snugly, so it’s impossible for the pieces or cards to go flying no matter how you store the game. I wish every publisher did something like this to keep the pieces kind of locked in place; it would do a world of good.
  • The tiles are a very nice quality. They’re a solid weight and I do like them. I also think they’ll photograph nicely, so we’ll see how that plays out. In general, I like their whole business, though.
  • The game looks fun while it’s being played. The yellow is a really nice color contrast for the labs, and it’s translucent enough that everything is visible, so it really does look like a jetpack just streaking through a lab. Why use a jetpack indoors? Well, we don’t learn the answer to every question. Or most questions, to be honest.
  • Pretty simple to learn. You just lay tiles to build a path to collect coins. First one out of the lab is generally good, depending on what instructions you get. That’s not too bad to pick up.
  • Plays quickly. As a real-time game is usually apt to do. It’s a nice thing about the entire genre, really.
  • Pretty portable, too. I love these smaller boxes. You can fit a bunch into a bag and then you’ve got a whole day of games.
  • The Hard Mode cards are pretty difficult. It’s definitely a solid balancing mechanic for new players vs. experienced players; I have played several times and lost one round to a new player when I was playing with two Hard Mode cards. It was great!

Mehs

  • Still don’t love tiny cards. This is an ongoing fight between me, publishers, and God. I will never fully be rid of tiny cards, and it saddens me, but they are a bit less wasteful, I suppose.
  • The distinction between stars and coins doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. I believe it’s to avoid weirdness where certain Gadgets give you stars for a certain number of coins collected, but it just ends up being a confusing extra thing to track of.
  • What is that notch for? Okay, I figured it out. There’s an expansion that does come with a die, and they used the same insert for the standard game. That was driving me up the wall.

Cons

  • Stalemates are pretty unsatisfying. I mean, you just end up at a place where nobody can place the tile without losing points, and they don’t really want to lose points, so everyone just gracefully ends the round. It’s not … particularly exciting. It happens a bit more at two players than anything else. Hopefully it won’t happen when you play!
  • If spatial games aren’t your thing, this game won’t be for you. This is similar to Eco-Links in that it’s a real-time path-building game with major spatial components. Lots of rotations, lots of connections and speculation, but more zones for things like exclusion and avoiding certain areas (and you have fewer possible options for tiles). If that doesn’t sound like it’s up your alley, you’re very better off trying something else.

Overall: 8 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I think Jetpack Joyride is a blast, and I’m fully aware of the pun on that. I’m always a big fan of this style of game, and while I’m not super attached to the theme, I’ll freely admit that it’s a fun extension of the app to a tabletop game. I think it’s a smart implementation of it, and there’s a lot to look at in this game with respect to adapting an existing video game app to a board game. You don’t want something like Pokemon Master Trainer (though I would love to have that game) where it’s essentially random; you want to have similar mechanics, a generally consistent set of behaviors, and a language that’s adopted from the app but is still pretty accessible to most players. And I think Jetpack Joyride does that! It’s easy to pick up, but still provides a variety of difficulty levels to try and balance the game against more experienced players, which I also appreciate. Generally speaking, I just think it’s a solid end-to-end experience, and it’s a lot of fun to play! It’s quick, hectic, and frenetic, just like the app should be (I guess), and that’s good! If you’re looking for that kind of game, or you’re just a big fan of any real-time game with a major spatial component (like me), I’d recommend checking out Jetpack Joyride! It’s a nifty experience.

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