There’s a moment in every Indiana Jones movie where a fight breaks out and things rapidly spiral out of control. Perhaps a man with a large sword stands in the way of finding Indy’s companion. Maybe a clean getaway in a minecart turns into a deadly chase. Or perhaps a dogfight with a Messerschmitt becomes a crash landing when someone accidentally shoots out the tail of the biplane. Whatever the odds, Indy and the gang always find a way to win the day — usually through teamwork and improvisation.
It’s precisely those action-packed moments that Funko Games’ Indiana Jones: Sands of Adventure tries to reproduce in a board game. And while I usually steer clear of products that make use of a sand timer, in this case it’s absolutely critical to the pace and tension of the game.
In Sands of Adventure, two to four players each take on the role of characters from Raiders of the Lost Ark — Indiana Jones, Marion Ravenwood, Sallah el-Kahir, and Marcus Brody. At the core of the experience is an adaptation of the classic matching card game Uno, with players matching colored cards with symbols like hats and shovels instead of numbers. If your team is able to play enough attack cards before the timer runs out, you win. But, just as with Indiana Jones’ most chaotic action sequences, there are a lot of complications with which players must contend.
First, the game board itself is randomly generated from seven double-sided tiles, each with different effects. That means you can’t rely on the same strategy each game, or even every round. Second, enemies get more powerful in each of the subsequent stages. Col. Dietrich, for example, is a real pushover compared to Maj. Toht. Later, rival explorer René Belloq packs quite a punch.
Finally, there’s that big ol’ sand timer looming over it all. At various points in the game, players will be required to drop a plastic gem into the bucket on top of the timer. That extra weight will eventually make the timer fall over, resetting the timer and instantly triggering the final phase of the fight. What was simply a casual little strategy card game suddenly transforms into a full-on scream-a-thon as everyone at the table stands to attention and begins calling out advice and throwing punches — in the form of cards — left and right before the timer runs out. It’s a blast, and it makes the game appealing for the entire family.
As with almost all of Funko’s board games, the production quality here is excellent — especially for a $29.99 mass-market product. The miniatures are large and full of character, and the art isn’t just a stack of recycled stills from the movie. Every image feels lovingly crafted, from Marion’s rakish grin to Marcus’ flamboyant jab with a fountain pen. My only complaint is that a few of the minis that came with Polygon’s set are a bit warped, but it’s nothing a little hot water and careful reposing can’t fix.
You can find Indiana Jones: Sands of Adventure for sale exclusively at Target, both in stores and online.
Indiana Jones: Sands of Adventure was reviewed using a pre-release copy provided by Funko Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.