Die Hard is one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, movies of all time. I often watch it on Christmas because it is a Christmas movie after all, but I also tend to watch it at other times of the year when I want to see a really kick-ass movie. Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist board game aims to recreate the original Die Hard by placing one player in the shoes of John McClane while up to three other players play as Hans and the boys and, while it is a fun game, it’s probably going to be a once a year occasion, rather than a game I reach for on a regular basis.
The core concepts of Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist are interesting and fun. Rather than the typical setup for 1vsMany games in which one single player takes on the role of the bad guys while the other players team up as the heroes, in this game (as in “real” life) there is only one John McClane. It’s a fun change over the Descents of the world to have a team of players working together to nefarious ends while the sole operator does his best to save the day. Coupled with copious movie quotes throughout the McClane vs the world aspect of the game really gives it that Die Hard feel.
Die Hard plays out over three acts, with McClane racing to complete his objectives (from attempting to find shoes to chucking Hans out of a high-rise window) while the thieves players work together to both slow McClane down and to open all of the locks on the Nakatomi safe so that they can abscond with $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds. If McClane can work through and finish the events from the movie then he wins, while the terrorists can win if they manage to get all of the locks open and blow the roof on the Nakatomi building. The thieves can also win if they can manage to kill McClane, but that’s easier said than done.
One of the coolest things about this game is the way that the board works. In the first act you use one side of the board, while keeping the rest of the board folded up. For the second act you flip open the board half way, and for the third act you open the board completely and use the other side. It really gives the game a sense of escalation, and does a great job of representing the different locations from the movie, even though nearly everything in the game uses a rather minimalist art style.
Another great thing about the game is the card play. Both McClane and the thieves are controlled via cards, and both are interesting and deeper than they first appear. McClane’s deck of cards changes act to act, and the cards that he used early in the game gain power as the game moves forward, so McClane not only needs to play the cards that can benefit him in the moment, but he also has to keep an eye on what the cards will let him do later in the game. Making the right plays early on can set McClane up to take some seriously powerful moves later in the game, which can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The thieves use their cards to determine what actions their thief figures will get to take each round, but they also must coordinate to try to disarm the lock codes as efficiently as possible. Each card has a number than can be used to help disarm the lock, but only the highest and lowest of the three numbers played can be used toward the combination, and both numbers can only be used if they appear next to each other on the current lock. The thieves can’t tell each other what cards they are playing, but all thief players know what 1 of the 3 cards will be each round, so trying to coordinate effectively without talking can be quite challenging, but it can also be incredibly satisfying when you and the other thieves find yourselves on the same page.
Generally, if the thieves are going to win they are probably going to do it before the third act by killing McClane, whereas McClane can only win by playing out all 3 acts, and if the McClane player has been wise about their card play then he is close to unstoppable in act 3. This make some plays of the game feel a bit anticlimactic, but thankfully a whole 3-act session comes in under 2 hours, and once you get a feel for how the three acts play out then both sides can feel the tension and know which pivotal points are approaching.
There are a few things that are both positives and negatives simultaneously with Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist. Nearly every card and component has a memorable quote from the movie, which is great if you are a long time fan of Die Hard. On the flip side, every card has a quote, including the Thief cards, so simply saying some of those memorable quotes can tip the other players off as to what card you are playing. It’s actually much more difficult to refrain from quoting some of the best lines, which is a bummer since it feels like the quotes are there TO be quoted.
Another thing that rides the fence between positive and negative is the fact that this game follows the plot of the movie, and only the plot of the movie. It wouldn’t really make sense otherwise, but most games like this have multiple missions that can be played individually or as a campaign. As it stands, there are only the three acts that follow the plot of the movie, so this probably isn’t going to be a game that hits your table very often. On the other hand, this game is cheap enough, fun enough, and hits all of the right nostalgia buttons that you could easily justify purchasing it to play it once a year, either during the holidays or whenever else you might also feel like watching Die Hard.
A note on player count: While this game can technically be played with only two players I would recommend at least 3 if you can’t manage to pull together 4 people. The McClane side always plays the same, but the thieves team is much more fun when you have a few people trying to work together to outsmart the good guy.
A note on “chrome”: Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist is a budget friendly $40, and it shows. The components aren’t bad, but they aren’t particularly good either. The minis are passable at best, and the art style is very minimalist and uses red and green liberally, to the point that those are essentially the only two colors in the game. You certainly wont be bragging about the component quality to your friends, but they don’t directly hurt the experience either.
The bottom line:
Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist is an easy game to recommend to anyone who likes modern board games and the move Die Hard. There are so many quotable lines, and the plots of the 3 acts do a good job of following the script of the movie. This is a 1vsMany game, but it flips the concept on its head by teaming the group of players up as the bad guys while McClane, the most heroic hero of all heroes, is played by a lone player. Because it follows the plot of the movie there isn’t a ton of replayability here, but the game is cheap enough that picking it up with the intention of only playing it once or twice a year won’t leave your wallet empty.
Get this game if:
You love Die Hard.
You like 1vsMany games.
You are looking for an event game that you’ll only play once or twice a year.
You want a fun game to break out during the holidays while watching Die Hard.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike 1vsMany games.
You want a game that will last you a full campaign of plays.
You dislike Die Hard……..who am I kidding, nobody dislikes Die Hard.
The copy of Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist used for this review was provided by USAopoly.