Generally speaking I am usually pretty leery of board games based around popular movies. The games are usually more interested in making a quick buck rather than actually making a fun and satisfying game. That has changed somewhat in recent years as movie tie-in games have started to get better. As a fan of the Home Alone franchise since when I was a child, I was hopeful that the 2018 Home Alone Game would buck the normal trend. The Home Alone Game is far from a deep or innovative game, but it is still a fun and interesting game that fans of the franchise will likely enjoy.
How to Play Home Alone Game
- Decide who who will play as Kevin and who will play as the Bandits.
- Place the Kevin Board in front of the Kevin player and the Bandit Board in front of the player playing as the Bandits.
- Shuffle the Loot and Kevin cards separately and place each deck face down on the corresponding space on the Kevin board.
- Shuffle the Bandit cards and place them face down on the corresponding section of the Bandit Board.
- Place the Paint Bucket Die on the corresponding space of the Kevin Board.
- Place the three Location tiles between the two players.
Playing the Game
The game is played over a number of rounds. Each rounds consists of the following five phases:
Each player will draw cards from their corresponding deck until they have six cards in their hand.
If a player’s deck runs out of cards, they will not draw anymore cards for the rest of the game. Once the Kevin player runs out of cards in their hand and draw deck, they will no longer be able to place traps. If the Bandits run out of cards they no longer can break into the house and can’t acquire more loot. If the Loot deck runs out, the game ends.
The Kevin player will draw three cards from the Loot deck and turn them face up on the table. Both players will get to look at the cards to see what Loot is available this round.
The Kevin Player will then decide which location they would like to place each piece of loot. They will place one Loot card face down next to each of the three locations. The Bandits player will not know which Loot card was placed next to each location. During the game the Kevin player can always look at the value of each of the face down Loot cards. If the Bandit player wants to know the values of the Loot cards for the round, the Kevin player must tell them. They shouldn’t tell them where each Loot card is located though.
In this phase the Kevin player will be able to lay traps to prevent the Bandits from stealing loot. Each Trap card will feature a number of different symbols which indicate what will have to be done in order to overcome the trap.
Bulbs – The Bandits player must play cards featuring the same colored lights to disarm the Trap.
Paint Bucket – The Kevin player will get to roll the Paint Bucket die before the Bandits make any other moves (see below).
Penalty Cards – These numbers indicate how many cards the Bandits must pay to overcome a Trap without disarming it.
Special Abilities – If a card has a special ability, you can activate the ability if the qualifications are met.
Decoys – Decoy cards pose no threat to the Bandits. These cards are played to make a location look more dangerous than it actually is.
The Kevin player can place up to three cards to each of the locations. You could choose to place zero cards on one of the locations if you want. Each card will be placed face down in the order that the player wants them to be revealed. If the Kevin player doesn’t want to use all of their cards in one round, they don’t have to.
During this phase the Bandits player will get to choose which locations that they will like to loot. To begin they will choose which location they would like to break into. The Bandits could choose to not break into any of the locations in one of the rounds.
After a location is chosen the Bandits player will first pay the cost for breaking in. Each location will feature one or two symbols. These symbols indicate how many cards that the player has to discard to break in.
- A number inside a mitten is how many cards the player has to discard from their hand.
- A number inside a square on top of a mitten is how many cards a player must discard from either their hand or the top of the draw pile.
After the Bandits pays the cost to enter a location, the Kevin player will turn over the first face down card that they played to the location (the one closest to the location). If a Decoy is revealed, the Bandits will immediately move onto the next card.
If a Paint Bucket is displayed on a revealed Trap, the Kevin player will immediately roll the Paint Bucket Die. If they roll a blank, nothing happens. If they roll a colored paint bucket, the Bandits player must discard a card featuring the same colored light bulb from their hand if they have one. If they roll a color that the Bandits don’t have, they must show their hand to the Kevin player so they can verify that they don’t have a card of that color. If they don’t have a card of that color, the Paint Bucket Die has no effect.
If a Trap is revealed the Bandits have three options.
Each Trap card can be disarmed. To disarm a Trap the Bandits player must discard cards from their hand matching the light bulb colors shown on the left side of the card. If they discard bulbs of all of the colors, they have disarmed the Trap and can move onto the next.
If the player doesn’t want to or can’t disarm a Trap, they can choose to “Take the Pain”. When they choose this option they will look at the penalty cost at the bottom of the card. They will have to discard a number of cards equal to the penalty. If the player discards enough cards, they will be able to bypass the Trap.
Finally the Bandits can choose to retreat from their current location. The Bandits must retreat from a location if they can’t disarm or take the pain from a trap. After retreating the Bandits can choose a different location to break into, but they cannot return to the same location that they ran from for the rest of the round.
At any point during the Bandits phase, the Bandits player can play Action cards. They will perform the action described on the card, and will then discard the card.
If the Bandits overcome all of the Traps at a location, they will take the corresponding Loot card and add it to their total. The cards will be placed face up next to their board so both players can see how much Loot has been stolen.
The Bandits can choose multiple locations to break into. When they are done breaking into new locations, the round moves onto the next phase.
All of the cards played during the round are discarded. This includes all Traps not revealed (these should be discarded face down so the Bandits can’t see what wasn’t revealed) and Loot cards not stolen. The players will keep any cards that they didn’t play (still in their hand) for the next round.
End of Game
The game can end in a couple of different ways.
If the Bandits steal $2,000 or more in Loot, they will win the game.
If there are no more Loot cards remaining or the Bandits run out of cards, the game ends. If the Bandits didn’t get $2,000 or more in Loot, the Kevin player wins.
Three or Four Players
If you are playing with three or four players, there are some tweaks to the rules. One player will play as Kevin while the rest of the players play as Bandits.
In a three player game the two Bandit players together must steal $2,200 worth of Loot. During the Draw Phase each Bandit will draw until they have four cards in their hand.
In a four player game the three Bandit players must steal $2,400 worth of Loot. During the Draw Phase each Bandit will draw until they have three cards in their hand.
The Bandit players may show each other the cards in their hands and discuss strategy. The Bandits take turns breaking into the house. If a Bandit has to retreat from a location, another Bandit can enter the location without having to pay the costs already paid by the first Bandit. The same Bandit may not enter the same location twice in the same round.
Paint Bucket rolls only impact the Bandit currently breaking in.
To disarm/take the pain from a Trap, one player must pay the whole cost. It cannot be spread between two or more players.
Nothing about the game changes for the Kevin player.
There are a few cards in the game that require more clarification than what is written on the card.
Case the Place!: If this card reveals a trap that features a Paint Bucket, the symbol is ignored. This card will also ignore the Christmas Ornaments Trap special ability.
Peek In Window!: If two or more cards are tied for the lowest value, all tied cards must be revealed.
Christmas Ornaments: The Kevin player will have to choose whether to add a card to the location without looking at it. This must be done before the Bandits disarm the Trap or take the pain.
Fan & Feathers: This card only goes back into Kevin’s hand if it is disarmed. If the Bandits take the pain, the card is discarded.
Ladder: Once stolen the Bandits can choose to discard the ladder in order to break into the Upstairs Window without paying the cost.
$200 Cash: Once the $200 is stolen, you can choose to discard it to gain cards. You will shuffle your discard pile and randomly choose three of the cards to add to your hand. In three or four player games, the Bandits can choose who to give the cards to.
Safe and Key: By themselves these Loot cards are worth nothing. If you acquire both though, they are worth $600.
Stereo Components: On their own each component is worth $200. If you acquire two of the components they are worth $600 total. If you acquire all three they are worth $1,200 total.
My Thoughts on Home Alone Game
While the game is not perfect, I have to admit that I was kind of surprised by the Home Alone Game as it has some interesting ideas for a movie based board game. I haven’t played all of them to verify for sure, but I am pretty confident in saying that it likely is the best Home Alone game ever made and it likely will be the best to ever be made. I attribute this to the fact that the designers actually put real thought into how to make a game based around the movies and tying it into game mechanics that rely on more than just pure luck.
Playing as Kevin is mostly about risk management as you can’t protect all of the Loot so you have to selectively choose what Loot you are willing to lose and you might try to throw in some deception in order to trick the other player(s). Playing as the Bandits is more about trying to read the Kevin player to figure out where they put the most valuable Loot. Usually the Kevin player will want to put the best protection in front of the most valuable Loot, therefore the location with the most cards likely will have the best Loot. The Kevin player knows this as well though so they might put up a decoy and actually hide the best treasure without any or little protection since the other player(s) may think the lowest valued item is in that location. There is an interesting dynamic between the two roles. I think some players will prefer one role over the other for different reasons.
I will admit that the Home Alone Game should not be confused for a strategic game because it really isn’t one. The game can rely on quite a bit of luck at times. The Paint Bucket rolls in particular rely entirely on luck. If a Kevin player rolls the die well and gets to discard multiple cards from the Bandits, they will have a huge advantage in the game. The order of the cards can be quite important as well. If the Bandits don’t have much variety in their colors they won’t be able to do much on their turn. If Kevin gets a lot of Decoys on one turn, they won’t be able to defend much even if they want to. Even what Loot cards come out each round can be key. If multiple high value cards come out in the same round, the Bandits are basically guaranteed to get at least one or two of them as Kevin can’t protect all of them. At the same time the Bandits won’t have enough cards to get all of them, so they will lose out on one of the most valuable treasures. To enjoy the Home Alone Game you need to be willing to understand that luck will play a role in who ultimately wins.
While the game relies on quite a bit of luck and I wish it was deeper in some areas, I will say that I was actually a little surprised by it. Games based on movies are generally not very good as they usually just try to capitalize on fans of the movie and don’t put in the work to actually create a good well balanced game utilizing the theme. The Home Alone Game is actually pretty interesting. For the most part I would say that the game is a press your luck/bluffing game as both sides have to try and read the other player. The Kevin player can’t protect everything so they try to make the Bandits waste their cards to get little Loot in return. Meanwhile the Bandits are trying to decipher where the Kevin player placed the best Loot. There are mind games in both directions as both players play the game of “I know, you know, etc.”
Outside of trying to read the other player thoughts, a lot of the game revolves around card management and risk assessment. Each side only has a limited number of cards and since you can’t ever shuffle the used cards you need to get the most you can out of each card. Each wasted card will make it much more likely that the other side will win. The Kevin player needs to debate whether to spend a lot of cards protecting certain Loot cards limiting their options in future rounds, or just letting the Bandits take Loot to have more ammo for future rounds. The Bandits need to decide whether it is worth wasting the cards to get the Loot or waiting for future Loot. To succeed in the game you can’t be too passive or aggressive as both have their drawbacks. You really need to find the perfect balance between the two if you want to succeed.
While there is more to the game that I originally expected, the Home Alone Game is still quite accessible. The game is a little more complicated than your typical mainstream game, but I would say that it is still pretty easy to play. I would say that the game could be taught to most players within five to ten minutes. It may take a round or two to fully understand all of the rules, but after that the game is a breeze. This is a good thing as the game is gauged more towards a casual audience. I think regular board gamers can still enjoy it, but I would consider it more of a gateway game to attract someone that would otherwise play more mainstream games. The game has a recommended age of 8+ which seems about right.
As for the balance between the two characters it kind of depends. In the three and four player game the Kevin player has a clear advantage. Between the Bandits having to steal more Loot to the fact that each player has less cards to work with when trying to break into locations, the Bandits are at a huge disadvantage where I think they will only rarely win. In the two player game I think things are a little more balanced. I still think the Kevin player has an advantage. If both players play at about the same level and the amount of luck is about even, the Kevin player will win more often than the Bandits. The game just feels slightly tilted in favor towards the Kevin player. The Bandits are at a disadvantage, but they will win often enough in the two player game where it doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion.
I do wish the two sides were a little more balanced though. The good news is that the game plays quick enough that you could easily play two games back to back with each player getting a chance to play both roles. Your first game or two may be a little longer, but once both players know what they are doing, games should move quickly. As long as the players don’t waste too much time analyzing their options, I think you could finish a game in 15-20 minutes. The players could then switch roles and play another game. The results of the two games could then be compared to see who ultimately won the game. Whichever player is able to steal a higher value would be the winner. This would fix the balancing issues between the two roles while also giving both players the opportunity to play both roles. If you have the time I would highly recommend playing the game in this manner.
The final reason why I think the Home Alone Game succeeds is because it actually puts in a good faith effort to blend game mechanics with the theme. While it is strange that the Bandits just keep breaking into the same three parts of the house over and over again, I do think the theme and gameplay do blend well. The game does a good job finding a way to simulate placing traps and overcoming them. I honestly don’t think you are going to find a game that does a better job utilizing the Home Alone theme. This is supported by the game’s components which I also think are quite good. The game utilizes an “ugly Christmas sweater” style for most of the artwork which I personally really liked. The component quality is pretty high where it should last as long as you aren’t too rough with them. The only real complaint I have with them is that the box could have been smaller as it wastes a lot of space.
Should You Buy Home Alone Game?
While the game has its issues, I was genuinely kind of impressed by the Home Alone Game. On the surface the game seems kind of basic as a lot of it is built around trying to read the other player. The game is quite easy to play which should attract an audience which doesn’t usually play a lot of board games. The game does have a decent amount of strategy though as card management becomes key. While hiding and acquiring Loot you can’t waste too many cards as they are limited where both sides won’t be able to get everything that they want. The key to the game is prioritizing what is most important so you ultimately come out the victor. The game does a surprisingly good job capitalizing on the Home Alone theme making it the best Home Alone board game ever made. The game does rely on a decent amount of luck though as you need some luck on your side if you have any hope of winning. The game favors Kevin as well especially in games with more than two players. For this reason I would highly recommend playing the game so everyone gets to play as Kevin and then comparing the values of Loot that each player was able to steal.
If you don’t really care about the Home Alone theme or for games that rely quite a bit on reading the other player, I don’t see the Home Alone Game being for you. If you have any interest in the theme or think the concept sounds interesting though, I think you will enjoy the Home Alone Game and should consider picking it up especially if you can get a good deal on it.