Tales from the Loop started as an artbook by Simon Stålenhag, before becoming a roleplaying game (reviewed here) and then a television series. The setting has now been adapted into a board game, faithfully retaining the core premise and original artwork.
Set in Sweden during the 1980s, Tales from the Loop – The Board Game follows a group of ‘kids’ (as they are called in the game) that are exploring the area surrounding the Loop. During their exploration, they will encounter mysteries that need to be solved to progress the scenario, which could be anything from robots running amok to rampaging dinosaurs.
Although this is a board game, it shares many similarities with tabletop roleplaying games. In the board game, players assume the role of one of the different kids, each of whom has their own skills and abilities, as they explore the setting and investigate the scenario. Key to completing the scenario is solving the mysteries, which increase the Insight rating (which is spent to progress a scenario). Failing a mystery leads to enigma points being accrued and should too many be gained the game is over.
The core rules of the game are fairly simple; each encounter requires the player rolling a number of dice, based on the kid’s skillset. Although the rulebook is quick to read and easy to understand, the game’s complexity lies in the number of systems that are in place. These systems can include scenario-specific effects, mysteries that need to be solved, and robots that wander the board, to name but a few – all of which can interact with each other, creating further challenges and unforeseen consequences.
Players who appreciate logical and mechanical systems may find the number of random elements within this game to be frustrating. However, the game remains consistently thematically appropriate, recalling the atmosphere of the original artbooks, and has a strong narrative influence. Playing the game evokes the thrill of exploring as a child. There is a sense of wonder combined with the boring mundanity of everyday life.
Each of the playable characters are eminently identifiable, through their archetype, with little overlap between characters. Although the game can be played with only one or two players, it works best when there are three or four, as this allows a balance of skills between the players. There is a little in the way of roleplay, but players need to work together in order to complete the scenario. This is a game that requires collaboration in order to win, as there are no personal goals to be met.
As can be expected from a Free League game, Tales from the Loop looks amazing, which includes some of Stålenhag’s artwork. The character art is also impressive, evoking each character’s individual strengths. The Insight and Enigma trackers are dials that are neatly built into the board. All of the tokens are sturdily made and evoke the mood of the game – such as the X token for the turn tracker on the calendar.
One design issue is that many of the cards have icons listed in the centre of the card, making it challenging to find a particular card. If the icon had been in the corner of the card, it would have allowed players to quickly skim through the cards to find the ones they need.
That said, this is a minor quibble for an otherwise fun game that effortlessly recreates the mood and atmosphere of the Tales from the Loop artbook. This is not a game for everyone, but those who appreciate narrative-driven board games will find a lot to enjoy in Tales from the Loop – The Board Game.