Pablo Escobar: The Boardgame – Board Game Review
Follow Genre: Strategy
Players: 2-4
Age: 12+
Duration: +-60 minutes
Distributor: Just Games

Pablo Escobar: The Boardgame – Board Game Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: Mechanics, Design, Concept
Bad: Cartel skills feel somewhat useless
User Score
10.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

While it has already been twenty-five years since the legendary Pablo Escobar has been shot and killed by police, his name is still known throughout the world as he was leading, probably the biggest drug cartel, known to date. With Netflix recently creating a series about the druglord, it was only a matter of time before other memorabilia would surface again, especially now the twenty-five year mark of his death is drawing closer. This time, oddly enough, we get treated to a newly created board game that revolves around this evil mastermind, creating a game that’s all about smuggling drugs by either working together with other cartels, or trying to halt their movements, making sure all the blood money would disappear in your own pockets.

Contents

  • Rules
  • Game board
  • Die
  • 4 player boards
  • 30 development cards
  • 80 bank notes
  • 16 competence cubes
  • 16 crew pawns
  • 16 parcel tokens
  • 4 alliance bars

Even though the game has many different components, they make one good looking whole. Notwithstanding the fact that the pawns and other wooden pieces look a bit simple, it’s always fun to have some quality materials used rather than simple plastic pieces. The crew pawns look simple, the competence cubes equally so, the alliance bars are somewhat peculiar and the different parcel tokens look fit for the job. It’s the game board and the bank notes that stand out and give the game that extra punch to make you feel like a proper druglord. The map used on the game board is detailed and looks clear and inviting to play. The player boards do the trick as well, but feel somewhat like an oversized character card.

Mechanics

In Pablo Escobar: The Boardgame things remain on the simple side when it comes to the goal of the game. You’ll have to be a proper drug trafficker and manage to sell your four parcels filled with drugs before any of the other cartels do. How do you achieve this? That’s up to you, but more than often you’ll also be helping out the competition as they might be obstructing your own parcels.

The map is divided into five zones, and in these zones parcels can be moved by throwing the dice, but only if you have crew members in the zone. At the beginning of the game you’ll only have members in the production zone, or the first trafficking route. If you have a full party (4 players) you’ll start off with two players in the production zone and two in the first trafficking zone, which will allow the players to move the packages in both zones. Of course, you can only move parcels in your own zone, which means, if you’re in the other zone than the packages are, you’ll have to rely on the other players to move your parcels. Why should they do this? Because moving a parcel, might unblock one of theirs, as the starting stacks of parcels are always the four different colors, which means that all four stacks have to be moved in order to unlock all the different parcels. This also means when players move parcels and they land on the same spaces as another parcel, the top parcel is the one that has to be moved in the future. If one of your parcels lies underneath it, you’ll then have to move another player’s parcel first if he/she decides to keep you blocked. You can also undergo real alliances with other players, in which they promise to move a parcel for you, but then they will receive money from the bank for doing so. You’ll only get money for a parcel when it reaches the end of a zone, and depending on if your crew is upgraded in that zone (which costs money) you’ll earn a specific amount. Sometimes it’s useful to upgrade your crew, as it will earn you more money. If you can do this early on, this can lead to some extra money reserves. Upgrading in zones will also allow you to move parcels further by adding a number to your throw.

As stated before, there are five zones on the map, and at the beginning of the game only the first two will have a crew member in it. If you wish to start transporting parcels further, you’ll have to buy a position in other zones. Again, this is something you can delay or opt for early on. Both strategies can work, as you can either opt to wait, and skip a zone, or you can take a zone early on, and be the one that earns money first in that zone.

There are also development cards, which can be purchased for a price, which when unlocked will grant you a passive bonus. Things can go from moving extra spaces, to doubling your turn and so on. These cards are more important in a late game scenario, but keep in mind that you can only buy cards for a zone in which you have a crew member, as they are otherwise rendered useless. Buying cards or crew positions happens at the end of your turn, after the movement phase.

Outside of the movements and buying phase, you can also level your cartel. You have four different areas in which you can level your cartel, but you only gain one skill upgrade per parcel, when it reaches a delivery point of a zone. This means you can opt for different skills, but investing in one area might be more beneficial, as it allows you to use stronger and better skills. Nonetheless, we felt the skills were somewhat underwhelming and these were only used when no proper parcel movements were possible or sometimes for an early game benefit.

Luck or Strategy?

While the game involves playing with dice throws, the strategy portion of the game seems to overwhelm the overall luck factor. You’ll have to plan your moves properly, and this means that you’ll sometimes have to undergo alliances with other players, or simply are forced to move their parcels to clear the way for yours. The game also requires you to direct your funds towards something that benefits the transport of your parcels, such as placing crew in an area further along the shipping route, or buying development cards that can boost your influence in the zones you already have crew in. And ultimately, you can also opt to use your cartel’s abilities in order to steal some money, move parcels, and so on. The game requires a sufficient amount of planning, making it feel like you’re somewhat in control of the flow of the game. Of course, you can’t argue with the dice when it has been rolled, but even then you still have a lot of options to decide what to move, to use abilities, etc.

Conclusion

Pablo Escobar: The Boardgame is a fun addition to your collection of board games. While the game is categorized as adult only, the mechanics are simple and you’ll be good to go after mere minutes. While a few rules are a bit open to interpretation when first reading them, you’ll soon notice everything falls into place. Being ‘frenemies’ is a fun concept when it comes to transporting drugs to reach the market, and it also creates fun mechanics in which you have to choose which parcel to transport in order to allow yours to move as well. While the cartel skills are somewhat underwhelming, this whole game is recommended as a fun game night experience.

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Pablo Escobar: The Boardgame - Board Game Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Ibuki
Ibuki


Aspiring ninja.

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