Editors note: My apologies for the lateness of this review! I swear I thought I had already written this beauty up and it wasn't until the kids and I broke it out again recently that I realized I hadn't. Without further ado, here's my TMNT: Shadows of the Past review.
Funded on Kickstarter back in February of 2016, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past packs a ton of miniatures into a one-vs-many sewer crawler with attitude. Raising over $860,000 during its campaign TMNT promised to be the Ninja Turtle game we’d all been hoping for. With a designer like Kevin Wilson, and Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman on board, what could go wrong?
In TMNT up to 4 players take control of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael while another player takes control of the game’s villains. It’s important to know that all 4 Turtles will always be in play no matter how many players there are. The game is played over the course of multiple scenarios laid out through 2 Adventure Comics. Each game plays in around 60-90 minutes and will provide the players with different paths depending on if the heroes or villains win the game. As players progress through the story they’ll unlock new items, earn powerful new moves, and uncover more and more story elements from the IDW Turtles universe.
The heart of TMNT lies in the shared dice mechanic of the Turtles. Well. Most of them. Raph is a bit of loner and rolls 6 dice instead of 3. Leo, Donnie, and Mikey each roll 3 dice, but can share 1 die to the Turtle on their left and 1 die with the Turtle to their right. This gives each of the 3 Turtles 5 actions each, one less than that jerk, Raph. Each Turtle also has their own stats and available Special Move cards. Each scenario will let you know how many points of Special Move cards a Turtle may have during that game.
At the start of a round, the Turtles all roll their dice. Leo, Mikey, and Donnie figure out how to lay out their dice to best suit the team. A single Turtle takes their actions and then the villain gets a turn. The villain activates units on the board using a deck of cards dictated by the scenario. Out of a hand of 5, they may play 2, placing them down in front of them. Villain cards stay on the table until 4 have accumulated, then the first 2 in the row are discarded to make room when 2 more need to be placed. The reason for this is that certain Villain Cards have ongoing effects. Once all 4 Turtles have taken their turn and the villain has taken 4 turns the round ends and the villain my spawn more units on the board from any that have been KO’d or are set aside in a unit pool. Play continues in this manner until any of the scenario’s victory/defeat conditions have been met.
Additional Miniatures and Adventure Comics with more scenarios can be purchased in Hero Packs. There’s currently 3 available: April O’Neil, Casey Jones, and Splinter.
TMNT: Shadows of the Past is packed full of amazing, plastic miniatures. You get the Turtles, Shredder, Karai, Old Hob, Alopex, and plenty of Foot Soldiers and goons. There are also decks of cards for the villains, and Turtle Special Abilities, as well as larger cards for the Turtles and villains, themselves. You also get a comic book that introduces you to the Turtles universe, 2 Adventure Comics with all the game’s scenarios, a bunch of dice, tons of tokens for terrain, health, focus, etc… and several, modular boards.
All the artwork and graphic design have the feel of the old-school TMNT comics while still being fresh, modern, and in-line with IDW’s current line of Turtles comics. Overall everything in the box is a fantastic mix of nostalgia and new-car smell. The components are wonderfully made and feel like they’ll stand up to plenty of hours of play.
I went into TMNT with a little bit of trepidation. Games with my favorite childhood licenses have burned me in the past. Especially ones funded through Kickstarter. As I started to read through the rules my hopes rose. After my first play of the introductory scenario, my fears were replaced with joy. TMNT: Shadows of the Past really is the TMNT game I’ve been waiting for. Physically, it captures the feel of Turtles so well from the perfectly sculpted miniatures down to the little slices of pizza used as health tokens. Mechanically you get the Turtles’ personalities drawn out from their stats, special moves, and the awesome shared dice mechanic, or lack of it in the case of Raph. Each of the villains manages to feel unique without adding any fiddly complexity or quirks.
The Adventure Comics are a nice touch. Each provides a bit of story before a scenario starts, perfectly explains scenario setup, and provides instructions on what to do if either the heroes or villains win. The simple method of changing scenarios or skipping certain ones altogether based on who won the previous scenario really helps with the overall feeling of the story throughout the campaign. Thematically they just feel so much better than a standard book of scenarios, even if they’re not much different overall.
I went into TMNT fearing the worst but ended up getting some of the best. I may go so far as to say Shadows of the Past is one of my favorite licensed games of all time. I can’t wait to get more of the available content for the game, and hope there’s more to come.
A copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and the Casey Jones Hero Pack were provided free for review by IDW Games
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.