When I first heard Plaid Hat Games was going to be releasing a ‘Bioshock Infinite’ Board Game, visions of Fry from ‘Futurama’ holding out a stack of cash and shouting “Shut up and take my money!” danced through my head. I can discuss later how ‘Bioshock Infinite’ has been hands-down my favorite game of the last five years, perhaps all time. And I’m the type of fan who unabashedly sleeps on ‘Mass Effect’ sheets, uses a ‘Portal’ shower curtain, and takes ‘Game of Thrones’ House Tyrell-brand Growing Strong vitamins, so I have no qualms about shelling out my hard-earned money for merch.
But, sadly, not all merch is good merch, as was discussed earlier in the cheesy cash-grab that is the ‘Walking Dead’-themed MONOPOLY and Risk games. I may love the undead, but don’t tape a zombie on something I already own and try to convince me I need to buy it again.
The more I’m learning about this ‘Bioshock Infinite’ Board Game, the more I don’t think it’s for me. First, you play as your enemies from the video game. Choosing between the terrifying robotic former American Presidents that make up the Founders or the rebellious and dangerous Vox Populi, you and your friends attack each other for dominance while the game’s protagonists move merrily along their pre-designated route. That’s about all I could stomach to learn about gameplay during this 40-minute how-to-play video because the 10-second pauses the gentleman uses between each word really. started. to grate. my nerves.
You don’t buy a game from your favorite franchise to play as the enemy unless your friend is the protagonist and you can rightly role-play smiting each other. I hate Lannisters as much as anyone, but there’s something about playing as them in the ‘Game of Thrones’ board game and screwing my Baratheon and Stark friends out of all their worth that brings out the power-hungry conniving dictator inside me, so I can certainly see the appeal there. But with no one playing as Booker or Elizabeth, the drama seems a little empty.
The ‘Bioshock Infinite’ Board Game’s rules sound convoluted, but again, it’s not that I have no patience, since the ‘Game of Thrones’ Board Game takes 6-hours minimum, and that’s after reading the novel-sized rulebook and consulting Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War.’ That game has historically ended friendships, which, like ‘Mario Party,’ is usually the hallmark of an amazingly intricate experience where anything can happen, ruthless planning can pay off, and a shuffled card ordering a shift in power can screw anyone. From what I can figure out, the gameplay of the ‘Bioshock Infinite’ Board Game relies exclusively on random chance from dice rolls and drawn cards. Where’s the fun in that?
Even the visuals I loved in the video game — the bright colors, expressive characters, racing on skyhooks — are muted in the board-game version into tiny plastic figures and scrunched locations. Color me disappointed. And if the miniatures are anywhere near as chintzy as the one-inch Handyman that came with my “Collector’s Edition,” you’d be happier hitting up a friend with a 3D printer if you’re all about the collectibles.
Perhaps the old adage that I just made up is right: don’t judge a board game by the boring YouTube and cheap plastic figures without actually playing it. But at the retail price of $84.95, I think I’ll save my cash for some DLC. Or a Booker DeWitt brand whiskey flask.