What’s the Schwarzenegger line from that action movie? “Get to the choppa!” No, wait. “Hasta la vista, babee.” No, wrong again. Oh yeah! “Get your [self] to Mars!” That’s it! It’s now been 27 years (yikes!) since Total Recall thrilled audiences with hints of virtual realities and Mars colonization and rebellion. Now, you can play a part in a dream of Mars with Total Recall: The Official Tabletop Game, launching on Kickstarter today.
What Is It?
A game of bluffing and deduction for 4-8 players for players ages 12 and up. Total Recall is from Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke, who have also paired up to bring you New Salem, Good Cop, Bad Cop, and Leaders of Euphoria: Choose a Better Oppressor. Total Recall plays in 20-40 minutes and pits rebels against feds against Rekall scientists.
I played with a pre-launch print & play version of the game. I’m told that, while the art is pretty close, it will change a bit so that the rebels and feds are easier to tall apart. Additionally, I had some spiffy player mats, which might not be part of the standard game. Additionally, there will likely be some upgrades that backers can pony up for: plastic minis instead of the cardboard gun standees, metal bars for Turbinium instead of the plastic gems, and more. Finally, like all pre-launch projects, components and art are subject to change!
That said, here’s what you’ll find inside the box:
- 21 Plot cards
- 24 Character cards
- 8 reference cards
- 8 guns and standees
- 12 pieces of Turbinium
- 2 Wounded tokens
- 1 rulebook
The artwork is original. That is, it doesn’t feature the likenesses of any of the actors in either the Arnold Schwarzenegger or Colin Farrell versions. I’m not going to try to understand the licensing that goes on with something like this, but I’m sure it’s complicated and expensive, so I understand the reasons for original art.
While the standees and plastic gems do the job just fine, I’ve seen renders of what the plastic minis and metal bars might look like and they are impressive and fun. In line with that, there’s certainly no need for the play mats; the game will play the same without them, but adding them to the table definitely helps with the theme and are worth considering.
How to Play
Each player gets a gun, a piece of Turbinium, and a Plot card. Character cards are sorted, depending on the number of players in the game, to create a deck. For instance, if playing with 5 players, remove the cards marked 6+, 7+, and 8+. The cards for Cohaagen and Kuato are removed, along enough cards from the deck to equal the total number of players. These are shuffled and dealt out, guaranteeing that no single player might be dealt both leaders. Next, the remaining deck is dealt until all players have exactly three face-down Character cards.
Players review their cards and determine if they are on the Fed team or the Rebel team, whether by simple majority of cards or possession of either leader. Next, players place the cards face-down in front of them. Players may look at their own cards at any time, but not move their positions after they have been placed. Bluffing then begins, trying to convince, persuade, or dissuade others of your true or false alliance. Rebels try to root out the Feds and kill their leader, Feds try to get the Rebels in the same way.
On a player’s turn—players have four options for actions—they may take one of the following:
- Investigate — You may look at a single face-down Character card that another player has.
- Draw Plot Card — By turning one of your Character cards face-up and giving a Turbinium to a player of your choice, you may draw a Plot card. (If all of your Character cards are revealed, you may still take this action. However, you must still pass a Turbinium.)
- Aim — You can point your gun toward a player and take all their Turbinium.
- Shoot — You may shoot the player who you are aiming at.
If you’re shot, you must reveal any face-down Character cards and return your gun to your side. If you have a leader, apply a Wounded token on that card. If the leader was already wounded, the game ends immediately. If you don’t have a leader, you have woken from your dream about Mars and are now part of the Rekall team. Set all of your Character cards aside. Turn your reference card/player mat to the Rekall side. You get to keep the Turbinium you had, but you must give your Plot cards to the character who shot you. You have a new objective: to take all the Turbinium from the Fed and Rebel players.
Rekall Scientists, on their turns, may:
- Swipe — Take all the Turbinium from a single player.
- Lobotomize — Choose any Character card and switch it with another player. (Can be face-up or face-down.)
- Implant — Take a gun that is aimed at a player and aim it at another player.
Play continues until one of four endgame conditions presents itself. If Kuato or Cohaagen receive two wounds, the game ends and the opposite team wins. If all the Turbinium is either in the Supply or in the hands of the Rekall Scientists, Rekall players win. Finally, if a player possesses both Cohaagen and Kuato at the same time, that player wins.
Why You Should Go Back This Game
Total Recall was a movie that really captured a lot of imaginations back in the early ’90s. It was great for geeks too—here was the world’s biggest action star in a sci-fi movie. What a great time! Total Recall: The Official Tabletop Game goes a long way toward capturing those feelings (without putting an oversized probe up your nose). The theme of unsuspected rebels walking among the devious feds is perfect for designers Henk & Skancke’s brand of bluffing and deduction.
We liked Total Recall a lot; it’s wonderful. The tension at the table is often thick enough that you couldn’t cut it with a Sharon Stone scissor kick. As long as cards are hidden, players are overly cautious and deceitful in revealing any information about their affiliations. However, with just three hidden characters, allegiances are soon revealed. One might think this would lead to a quick end game, however, plot cards and the role of the Rekall Scientists can lead to chaos; joyous, exciting, and wonderful chaos.
By swapping out cards of the dreamers (Rebels and Feds), Rekall Scientists can cause players to switch sides multiple times in a round and tip the balance of the majority. It is insane. Plot cards can also cause players to swap cards, divert shots, protect hidden cards, and more. (Note: This project will also include some NSFW cards, which are marked NSFW for language, specifically, lines from the film. The language, in my opinion, isn’t overly objectionable—no f-bombs—but if you want to play without these cards, it won’t affect gameplay.) Having the Rekall Scientists is a great touch because if you get shot early, you are still in the game to the end (a nice improvement over Good Cop, Bad Cop).
However, the game is not without faults. Twice, during an afternoon of play, a leader was exposed on a very early turn and the game was over before the third round ended. Maybe that was just bad luck on our part, but it did feel weird. Another complaint is that the Turbinium is limited and, while the Plot deck is rich with great effects and adds greatly to the theme, I felt like we didn’t get to experience enough of them in the game because players need to have Turbinium to play a Plot card. Maybe that was due to the play style of some of our players, a bit more aggressive than the others, but it was within the rules.
Still, Total Recall: The Official Tabletop Game is a really good time. Games move quickly enough that even if you have bad luck, like we did, were on the losing side, or just didn’t get to shoot anyone, the next game is just around the corner. Like most bluffing/deduction games, Total Recall works best when played with a larger group. It can be played with a smaller group, but isn’t as much fun, in my opinion. In a bigger crowd, there’s more interaction, more deceit, more chance that the Rekall Scientists get involved, and it’s just better.
So get to Mars, jump in a Johnny Cab, start the reactor, back the game, and start having a blast!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of this game for review purposes.