In 1982, Steven Spielberg gave us a family adventure film about a small alien creature that got stranded on Earth. After being found by a young boy and befriending him, the alien does his best to communicate with his family back home while avoiding being caught by government agents looking for him. 40 years later, ET The Extra-Terrestrial gets an all-new board game treatment from Funko Games and designer Prospero Hall, bringing us back to the fun and excitement of the movie.
ET The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years from Home Game is a 2-4 player cooperative game in which players try to bring ET home. In Light Years from Home, each player takes control of one of the children and enters the game during the climactic bike chase at the end of the film. The object of the game is to collect items to build communication devices that allow ET to call the mothership back to earth, while avoiding government agents and local police. Bring the mothership to earth and deliver ET to the forest to win!
The game board is divided into 25 areas with 36 movement squares in the corners. Routes around the board combine certain areas into larger spaces, and shortcut spaces are scattered around the board, used by children to cut diagonally across different areas. During setup, 21 item tokens are placed on areas around the board for players to collect. Also added to the enemy board in the form of agent parts matching each player’s color, a special agent called “Keys” who is pursuing ET, and three police vehicles (one of which is a straight station wagon) heading towards the forest. Players can move around the board using streets and shortcuts, but enemies must stay on the roads. Police vehicles take special dotted paths as they approach the forest space on the other side of the board. Players will choose one of four characters, each with a special ability that can be used throughout the game. These abilities help move ET and other players across the board as well as avoid dangerous situations.
During a turn, players can perform up to three general actions, including moving, picking up items or devices, or taking a candy and adding it to the players’ combined supply. During a move action, players can move up to two squares using roads and shortcuts. Moving through an officer or police vehicle is known as a dangerous move and requires players to roll a special red die. Candy pieces, coincidentally colored like Reece’s pieces, are used to move ET around the board. All players use candy from a general supply, so restocking is crucial. Objects are available in three different colors that correspond to three special spaces on the board. Items are used to build devices (special dice) to communicate with ET’s mothership. Items also include wild tokens and ramps. Ramps can be placed on spaces to give characters a special boost when moving and wild tokens count as any color when building devices. As with moving, picking up items near enemies is considered dangerous and triggers a red die roll.
There are also a number of free actions that players can perform. Players have limited item capacity, so dropping items allows players to build the right supplies to build a communication device. Players can move AND one space per Reese… I mean… piece of candy thrown. Players can pick up ET using the basket on their bikes, take it around the board, and drop it off when needed. (Note: the little ET figure is awesome!) Having ET in your basket allows you to use a special power once per turn from a choice of three cards displayed. These powers include ET healing, moving to any space on the board, and trading with players who are not on your space. One of the coolest features is teaming up with other characters. While players can share the same space and swap, character pieces can also interlock and allow you to move together and even use each other’s special abilities. The last and most important free action is building devices. If four elements of the same color are in the corresponding space, ET can build a communication device in the form of colored dice. Players can then pick up a constructed device and deliver it to the forest space to help bring the mothership closer to Earth.
After performing their actions, players proceed to the Phone Home phase. During this phase, players roll all device dice in the forest space. All phone icons bring the mothership closer to the finish line. Players can also deliver goods matching an aircraft die to move the ship faster. The wild icons thus delivered will move the mothership as many squares as dice in the clearing, which can result in large movements.
The last phase of the player’s turn is called Move Enemies. If they are alone in their space, the players must roll the two blue enemy dice. If he is sharing the space with another player or ET, he will also roll the red danger die. The blue and red dice have a series of icons that move enemy figures on the board. Badges will move the agent matching the player’s color to the player. Key icons will move officer keys to ET and sirens will move police vehicles one space forward in their paths. There are also special faces that move everyone’s officers or a police vehicle of their choice. If a player ends up with an enemy in their space at the end of the turn, the ET heart dial loses one health, the player drops all items, and then returns to the starting space. If ET is captured, then Keys moves into space and the heart dial shrinks by one.
Players continue in turn until one of three endgame conditions is met. Players win if the mothership travels to the forest glade and players can successfully move ET to space. Players will lose the game if the ET heart dial reaches zero or if the three police vehicles reach the end of their tracks surrounding the clearing and prevent ET from reaching the ship.
The gameplay of Light Years from Home is fantastic. I didn’t expect a game of such depth from a 40-year-old indie property. The game adapts well to the number and abilities of the players. The number of agents on the board matches the number of players, and the difficulty can be scaled by requiring more or fewer items to build a communication device. The first group I played with took a few tries to figure out some of the strategy. We learned the hard way to watch where your agent was on the board and not end your turn in the path of a police vehicle. The higher the number of players, the more agents on the board and the longer the time between turns to get your character out of harm’s way. Co-op games can be hit or miss, but there was great tension in balancing clever gameplay and taking risks while being thrown out or helped by dice rolling.
The production value of Light Years from Home is also excellent. The character tokens are sculpted to look like the movie actors and the addition of the baskets and nesting bases are top notch. The miniature ET figure is just awesome and brings back memories of those final scenes in the movie. The cardboard used for tokens, agent coins and candies is thick and pleasant to the touch. The board, token, rulebook artwork takes you back to the 80s and helps keep the theme flowing throughout. Each of the power cards is also illustrated with artistic renderings of movie scenes. The mothership token is also fantastic. Although my copy arrived broken in the box, with a bit of glue, the mothership sits above the board and seems to be watching what’s happening in the neighborhood as it heads for a rescue. The only downside on the production side are the player mats and the game aid. While the artwork and aesthetics are great, the paper is thin and was already warping a bit in the box.
This game hit all the right places for fans of the film. The scalability and fetch and deliver mechanism combined with stunning artwork and components, immerse players in the cinematic experience. This game is ideal for families and basic players. I only wish they had included a second ET figure that I could carry on my bike!
ET The game ExtraTerrestrial: Light Years from Home is a great co-op adventure that dives straight into the action as you try to bring ET home. With fun complexity and scalability, this game is perfect for fans who want a nostalgic family adventure.