Comics : Spider-Man 3: Board Game Book (Meredith)

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Board game books aren't that common to see. In fact, if I recall correctly then the only other one I actually own is Super Heroes Giant Game Board Book (Tormont).

It's not surprising perhaps, since the construction and physical design of a product like this takes considerable effort, while actually creating games is somewhat of a specialist skill - at least creating good games is a specialist skill.

In Detail...

Spider-Man 3: Board Game Book (Meredith)
Apr 2007 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0696234114
Publisher:  Meredith Books
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This game consists of thick card outer cover which contains six inner cardboard pages. That gives seven double-page spreads, one for general blurb and introduction, and six separate games to play. As you'll see from the picture, there's also a space to store the two game markers (black Spidey and red Spidey), plus a spinner.

Down the bottom there's also two wheels which keep track of score for each player. Each score from 100 to 190 (in steps of 10) has an associated random-ish "web power" bonus. Your score might go up, but if your web bonus goes down, you'll be disadvantaged.

Each of the six games is similar in the base idea - spin the spinner and advance the indicated number of squares from the "speed" circle on the spinner. But from that point each game is a little different, as the tasks on some of the squares vary from game to game. In general however, they involve a second spin, this time reading the "power" circle and applying your current bonus. Succeed in achieving the required power total and things will go well, fail and things will go poorly.

I played the first two games with my eleven year old daughter. The game mechanics are a little daunting at the start, but we figured most of it out. We were mislead by the arrows on the board (they just indicate the direction to travel, but don't imply that you do anything special when landing on them).

Some of the special squares are a little tricky. Do you take your second spin immediately? Do you go to the next square, or the one after that? What about when you get all the way around the wheel, do you go back to 100? I'm sure that with a few plays you'll agree answers to these questions - but I did find that the rules were a little incomplete, I would have liked to see a bit more explanation.

I play a lot of board games, from the incredibly complex like Avalon Hill's "Squad Leader", to the deliciously simply like Steve Jackson's "Car Wars: The Card Game". It's abundantly clear to me when a game has been well play tested and reworked to achieve top playability and clarity. These games haven't. They're not terrible games, but unsurprisingly they just lack maturity and completeness.

In General...

There's no skill element, at least not in the first two of the six games. Your success is totally random. That immediately makes for an unsatisfying game as far as I'm concerned. If you want randomness, then why not just make bets on which raindrop will get to the bottom of the window first. If I'm playing a game, I expect to do the playing, not merely the spinning and housekeeping. How hard would it have been to introduce choices at some points?

The games themselves are adequate, though the instructions are slightly below par. The game artwork is clear though not very inspiring. The black blue and red theme gets tiring real quick. While this is nominally a "Spider-Man 3" book, there's no actual movie tie-in other than some generic "Spidey on building" artwork. I guess the black costume appeared in the movie, but it doesn't resonate with the film in any sense.

Overall Rating...

Three webs for the game, three webs for the artwork and presentation, four webs for the sheer courage to take on a difficult project like this. Final count is three and a half webs - it could have been much, much worse.

Footnote...

I ordered my copy from Amazon.Com. It was shipped with half a dozen other books in a big box. Sadly, the book bumped around so much that the cardboard corners were badly mashed in.

Amazon were great and sent me a second book, no charge. That one was better packed, but also had the corners slightly dented. However, I wasn't going to hit them up for a third copy. I applied some glue to the frayed corners and held them flat while they dried, and that made them more structurally sound even though the dents were still visible.

Just be warned then, the outer card is thick, but it's quite soft. Don't expect the book to take a lot of battering - and be aware that Amazon's stock of this book already seems to have taken a few knocks.