Breaking Bad is huge. The success that’s come about from the many series of the hit streamed show has spawned multiple different products, and it was probably only a matter of time before a board game appeared to whet the appetite of the Blue Sky enthusiasts. But despite the potantial for a pretty cool game, this falls short of what might’ve been and unless you have a real obsession with the program you most likely won’t get much out of it.
The first thing I should point out is that I’ve never actually watched Breaking Bad. It’s on the “to watch” list once I’ve finally got through House of Cards (yeah I know, but I like it) but I’d hoped that even though the theme wouldn’t sit with me on this one I could at least enjoy the game through strong mechanics while others in the group could fill me in on the theme-specific stuff. But it turns out that while you might get a bit of extra recognition from the cards if you watch the show it doesn’t, in our experience, make the game one we’ll go back to any time soon, and that’s down to the fact that however much you like the theme it’s the way the game works that is its biggest failing.
My main gripe was how easy it is to end up being out of the game for large chunks of time. You can be booted out of the game all together, or end up missing multiple turns until a certain card comes up, all while other players are happily building their way up towards a win, or making themselves more powerful than anyone else can compete with. The balance feels off too, with some players having a clear advantage over others, and while the players who knew the characters involved suggested that it was a reasonable representation of how the show panned out, it didn’t necessarily make for a fun game to keep playing.
From the perspective of a non-watcher, this is just a game of picking up or playing cards, trying to either help your own cause or provide problems for others. The idea is to build up your collection of Blue Sky meth (which has some very cool little plastic crystals to keep track of the amount you’ve got) or eliminate other players to the point where you’ve either hit the Blue Sky goal or you’re the only person left in the game. The DEA team have various law-based options such as placing players in jail (which brings about the problem of missing lots of turns) or placing them under surveillance; the latter of these options leaves players open to nasty attacks if they play certain cards or produce drugs, and that at least brings in a “do they, don’t they” issue of trying to decide if the DEA players have the relevant cards to punish you while this is going on. Without the cards, the surveillance is nothing more than just a scare tactic, so there’s some level of tactical thinking going on.
One other positive point here is how the idea of factions works. There are three main ones (excluding the DEA) and each can have 1 or 2 players with no reason for each faction to have the same number of players in them. Each faction has a deck of cards to use, and if there are two players in that team they share the same deck of cards. Playing this way means you potentially have some people playing as a team and others running solo which gives a nice mix of play styles, although with the paired players getting through their cards faster that also means they’ll redraw the better cards earlier than solo players, so while it does open up some nice possibilities it does bring about further potential downsides.
It’s also worth noting that I’m not against the idea of games that have you punishing other players. I enjoyed Unfair much more than I enjoyed this, but I never had to sit out 45 minutes of a game of Unfair just because a couple of others chose to get me out of the game as soon as possible. I feel like Breaking Bad is leaning too much on the theme and not enough on the game itself, and as such unless you’re a hardcore Breaking Bad fan you can probably give this a miss and not feel like you’ve really missed out.