Board Game Review: Video Game High School

If you’re not aware of Video Game High technology as a concept, head to YouTube and check it out. It’s not essential to enjoy this board game, but as an independently made online-only TV show (which stretched to three series) based around a school dedicated to gaming, anyone with an interesting in video games should give it some time. I really enjoyed it, and while I can see why others might not have shared the same opinion it certainly made me all the more interested in the VGHS board game. Sharing the same characters and gaming genres used heavily in the TV series it’s a race to the top of the gaming leaderboard, and despite the cartoony appearance there’s some impressive strategic options and dice risks involved which all come together to form an excellent, relatively quick tabletop game.

VGHS Board Game (4)
The cards pretty much represent the characters from the series

Each character you can pick from – there are 6 overall – has a special ability, which will either help you along the way or stop others from achieving victory as easily. Jenny Matrix for example, the hotshot sniper from the show, has the option of changing one dice from those rolled each turn to a side of her choosing, very useful when you realise what the dice are used for. You’ll also have access to some power up cards, giving your character a bit of a boost when the time is right. The Law can gain extra FPS skills for example which can be used when tackling the arcade games, and the principal can reset arcade high scores. Picking a different character each time you play definitely makes a difference to how you approach winning, and adds some useful longevity to playing with the same group of friends a few times.

Setting up the board itself is easy enough – a series of challenge cards are placed face down in the Grand Theft Auditorium (yup…) and each player gets their respective three standees, power-up cards and dice before each character token gets placed at rank 50 on the board. The huge set of bonus tokens, used later, can be plonked down in a big pile ready to be dished out at relevant points. There’s also the five arcade game cards with their current high scores to set up too, but that’s as easy as placing them down above the board itself. It only takes a couple of minutes, and you’re ready to go.

VGHS Board Game (3)

Each round takes on three phases of play: the Prepare phase, Player Turns phase and finally the Challenge phase. The Prepare phase takes no time at all; the next challenge is revealed by turning the top card in the auditorium, each player rolls their five dice (re-rolling any of them up to twice if needs be in a Yahtzee stylee), and then skill tokens and standees are moved in a certain manner which only really makes sense from the second round onwards. It is, as the name suggests, just there to set up the main event: the Turns phase.

VGHS Board Game (1)At this point things become a little more turn-based. Players position their pieces and carry out the effects depending on where they go (in terms of classrooms, arcade games or the Auditorium), and with each area having a limit to the number of people who can use it at once, play can get quite tactical as to whether to try and boost your own position or just hinder the progress of others. The various classrooms and locations on the board give their own benefits (head to the cafeteria for example and you’ll be allowed to change the value of one of your dice to whatever you want), and if you want to set a new high score on one of the games themselves you’ll need to use the relevant rolled dice and any skill tokens you’ve accrued in order to do so. The higher the score, the more your rank increases; get the highest score so far and you might grab a couple of bonus tokens too, pushing you up the leaderboards even more. Some of the biggest gains can be made on the Grand Theft Auditorium though, and while the requirements to win are much tougher, the rewards are up there too. The decision to make though is whether to send someone there at all or not – sure you could be gathering some useful tokens or increasing your rank elsewhere, but if you don’t send anyone to the Auditorium the upcoming Challenge phase is going to bite you in the ass.

Power-up cards can prove very handy, even if it does mean wearing a bunny outfit...
Power-up cards can prove very handy, even if it does mean wearing a bunny outfit…

The final part of each round is simply tidying up a couple of loose ends, and as previously mentioned is a kick in the nuts for anyone who didn’t take a trip to the Grand Theft Auditorium. Those players end up having to carry out the “Game Over” section of the card, which can be dropping ranks, losing tokens, discarding power-up cards or other such things to make life tricky. You can get round this by sending one of your three standees there earlier in the round, even if you have no intention of being able to win anything, but that also means you can’t use that option elsewhere on the board to make other useful progress. An awkward choice, but one which will be a little easier to make depending on how the game is going for you at that point.

In addition to this, the video game cards above the board are sorted out, with bonus points being added to those without a new high score ready for someone to try and earn in the next round. Eventually, it’s all sorted and you loop back to the Preparation phase. All this continues until, about an hour later, someone reaches the top rank on the leaderboard and the game ends. We found the endings to be surprisingly close, with quite a few underhand tactics being deployed late on in the game to try and slow people down who were edging towards the final goal. It made for an exciting ending to a fun game, and was pretty easy to get your head round once you’d played the first couple of rounds.

What I’d say about the VGHS Board Game is that your enjoyment doesn’t entirely hinge on you having seen the Internet series; this is a very enjoyable game at any level, and anyone with a passing interest in video games would probably take quite a shine to it. But if you have seen VGHS, and enjoyed it as much as I did, then this will be right up your street. There are enough little in-jokes to make the tie-in work well without being overbearing, and being able to take Brian D up to the top of the school while sticking two fingers up at The Law will please anyone who favoured the nicer guys in season 1.

I’d happily recommend this to anyone, whether you’re a board game addict or not. Very good fun indeed.

Video Game High School
Available Now, RRP £34.99
Find your local stockist here

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