CMON is embracing the chaotic fun of the Looney Tunes franchise with their brand new Looney Tunes Mayhem board game, and those who jump in will find the franchise’s signature humor and madness intact. The game features adorable characters such as Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and Wile E. Coyote, and players will create a team of two to face their opponent in an attempt to gain 5 victory points. It’s a simple premise, but to win you really need to think about your turns, maximize your skills, and utilize your teammates and their environment, and that welcome layer of depth is what makes Looney Tunes Mayhem such an entertaining game.
As the name suggests, you command characters from the Looney Tunes franchise and use abilities straight out of the cartoons. The core set comes with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Taz, and then there’s a separate character pack with Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. Each has access to two skills, and the double-sided Toon Dashboards have an alternate lineup. Your characters also have one special ability to activate, but how much you get out of those skills depends on how you roll and how you divide your rolls.
At the start of a new round, you and your opponent roll your two dice, then you add up the numbers and the player with the highest number goes first. You then take those dice and use them to activate your Tunes, and this is where the strategy kicks into gear. Each skill has two levels, the standard effect and the special effect. The standard goes off when you place a die in the slot, so you get that effect anyway, but if you rolled a number equal to or higher than the number listed on the ability, you activate the Special Ability layer; but there is one more level to consider.
When you roll your dice, you also roll the Mayhem die, which determines the amount of damage attacks deal, but they can also contain a star. When it does, that circular text with an asterisk next to it about your skills is triggered, so each turn there are three potential levels to unlock for your skills, and it leads to a careful consideration of things like who’s the best Toon to lead the turn, how that sets up your other Toon later in the round, and how that sets you up for your opponent’s next turn. There’s fun to be had in these core options alone, but the game isn’t done giving you tactical opportunities.
Those special abilities can give you options such as pulling your opponent into your space or pushing them into another space, as well as hitting with melee and ranged attacks, stun them, and more. You can also heal your teammates, protect them from damage, or hit your opponents with Poison Tokens, although the most entertaining option for me was laying traps. Wile E. Coyote in particular excels at this, as he can use his skills to place two traps in a space and hit a large number of trap spaces in just a few turns. If you can use Obstacle Tokens, Flee Tokens, and Poison Tokens when laying traps, you’re a damage-dealing machine, though you can also use traps like other characters to great effect.
Working with traps and obstacles really opened up the game for me, and it really took me the second time to get a real sense of the chaos that can ensue during a game. That’s because the recommended starting group didn’t really embrace traps or obstacles, but it did get over the basic elements of the game, so mission accomplished. The game really shined when I started mixing up other characters, as some characters can avoid traps while others can manipulate and draw more Mayhem cards, which are also crucial to kickstart your plans, but are highly coveted because you only get a pair for the whole game.
Experimenting with all the Toons and finding a few that suit your playstyle is part of the fun, which is why it’s disappointing that you can only get one upgrade pack. The Kickstarter featured eight more characters that were exclusive to backers, and some of my favorites are in that range, including Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin The Martian, and Yosemite Sam. Having even more characters and skill setups would have made the game even more replayable, but as it stands, the eight character lineup will be versatile enough for many on its own.
Then I haven’t even mentioned locations, which all have a unique activation when you land on them. Those locations are fun and effective, and I enjoy how the 10-square grid keeps your characters close together and promotes interaction. Still, more options to choose from for each game would have been welcome. After all, the goal is simple, as you’re just trying to earn 5 victory points, so any chance to shake up how you get to that number would help keep games fresh.
When it all comes together, it’s glorious chaos and can lead to nail-biting scenarios. At one point I was one victory point away from victory and the opponent was doing everything they could to keep me from winning. Getting to even the space I needed was a challenge after obstacles were placed in my way, and then Mayhem cards and abilities kept trying to pull and push my Toons out of position. That back and forth was exciting and quite fun, and made the win that much better. Mind you, that doesn’t happen in every game, and that kind of experience depends a lot on finding the right combination of tunes and skills to suit your playstyle.
Living up to its name, Looney Tunes Mayhem embraces the fun and over-the-top nature of the franchise, and you’ll probably be surprised how tactical it can be.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Published by: CMON
Designed by: Alexio Schneeberger
Graphic design by: Max Duarte
Review copy provided by the publisher