Before I Kill You, Mister Bond…
by Tom Warin
Before I Kill You, Mister Bond
Board game manufacturer:
Number of players:
Another high-concept, simple gameplay card game from Cheapass/James Ernest that has no business being as fun as it is. The fact that Before I Kill You, Mister Bond mirrors the plot of every Bond film adds an extra layer of enjoyment. It’s a nice, light diversion from more serious games.
The basic idea behind the game is that players build up a villainous lair and dispatch spies to destroy their opponent’s lairs. Points are scored by capturing the spies sent against you. Extra points can be scored by taunting the spy before killing them, but this runs the risk that they will escape and destroy your lair.
“Before I Kill You, Mister Bond…” has a slightly storied release history. The original release was a Cheapass box game with the same high concept, but somewhat lacking in fun. The version I own is the Cheapass “Better” edition that tweaks the rules slightly to improve gameplay.
The folks behind the James Bond franchise finally noticed that a tiny games company in the pacific northwest was encroaching on their copyright and sent a cease and desist. Cheapass stopped manufacturing the game at that point.
After extensive re-tooling, the game was released in a fancy full-color edition (similar to the special editions of Give Me The Brain and Lord Of The Fries) as James Ernest’s Totally Renamed Spy Game. The new edition features higher-quality cards and much better, dare I say sexier, art all around.It’s a card game. There are three types of cards: Lair cards which feature things like the “Cavern of Woe” and “Loyal Henchlings”, Spy cards which feature characters such as “Mr. Bond” and “Ms. York”, and Taunt cards which feature such class arch-villain taunts as “I shall give you one last opportunity to divulge what they believe I think I know.”
Even in the older Cheapass editions, the cards are pretty good, made out of glossy card stock. The art on the older editions is somewhat dull, but the new color edition improves things all around.
Every player is dealt five or six cards (depending on the number of players). The rest of the deck is the draw deck, with room for a discard pile next to it.
On every turn, a player must draw a card from the draw deck. Optionally they can then play one Lair card face down in front of them. The value of a player’s lair is the value of all of the lair cards they have in front of them added together.
A player may play one Spy card from anywhere (from their own hand, from someone else’s hand or even from the top of the draw deck) into anyone’s lair. The target lair must be declared before looking at the Spy. You can play more than one Spy card as a team, but only from your own deck and only into another player’s lair.
When a Spy is played into a lair, all Lair cards are turned face up. If the total Spy value exceeds the value of the Lair cards, then the lair is destroyed. Otherwise, the spy is captured.
When a spy is captured, the player who owns the lair deals with them immediately. There are two options: you can simply kill the spy and receive the points value of the spy, or you can taunt the spy by playing one or more Taunt cards.
Every Taunt card that is played will double the points received from the spy, but increases the chance that the taunt will be foiled. Each Taunt card has a letter and there is another Taunt card in the deck with that same letter. If a player has the matching Taunt card to the one just played, they can play it to foil the taunt. If a taunt is foiled, the spy escapes and blows up the lair.
There are special Spy cards that are actually Bombs. These cards simply destroy the lair they are played into.
The point of the game is to reach 33 points, or to have the highest score when the game ends. The game ends when there are no more Spy cards that can be played.
The strategy is to build yourself a mondo lair to trap spies in and to prevent the other players from doing the same. It’s not a good idea to throw all of your high value Lair cards into a lair, because you’re just inviting a visit from a bomb. If you’re lacking in Spy cards, it can be worthwhile to play them from other player’s hands, but you risk drawing a bomb.
If you have both cards of a Taunt pair you can play them on different spies without risk of being foiled. It may be worth passing on a foil if a player is doubling a low value spy, because then you know that you can use that Taunt without fear of being foiled later in the game.
Pros and cons
The concept is a lot of fun and the game is easy to explain, because it basically mirrors the climax of every Bond film ever made (except for the part where Bond dies).
A single game moves pretty quickly. Although it does work with two players, it’s more fun with more than two.
As is often the case with Cheapass games, it’s more fun to play with people who don’t take things too seriously and who are willing to use silly voices when taunting the spies.
Although some players like to have a white cat around to stroke while they are taunting spies, this can backfire horribly if the cat gets on the table and starts batting the cards around.
Before I Kill You, Mister Bond is a fairly simple game that might get tiresome if you had to play it over and over, but it’s a fun diversion. Each edition of the game has been better than the one before. It’s a good game to take on a trip, as it’s played with just a single deck. The high concept definitely adds to the fun of this one, adding an extra layer to the mechanics that really are rather basic.