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The Metal Gear Solid board game commits a cardinal sin and gets away with it

It’s easy to forget what sin is in the middle of a battlefield

A photo shows Solid Snake, with and without a cardboard box, in painted miniatures from Gen Con 2023. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

When creating a board game based on a video game, the absolute worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is to directly port it to the tabletop. The resulting analog adaptations that I’ve played over the years have all been invariably tedious and dull. If I wanted a direct dose of the source material, I’d rather just turn on my PC or game console and plop down on the couch. So it was with great trepidation that I sat down to a demo of Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game at this year’s Gen Con. Turns out my long-held opinion on video game adaptations doesn’t apply here. CMON’s latest effort is both very close to the original and extremely well done.

In Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game from one to four players make their way through a 14-mission narrative campaign. Playable characters include Solid Snake, Meryl, Gray Fox, and Otacon. The moment-to-moment action, skillfully designed by Specter Ops creator Emerson Matsuuchi, directly mirrors the action of the beloved third-person action game. You will sneak through the hallways of secret military installations and knock out unsuspecting guards, all while making your way toward the inevitable objective.

A photo shows Grey Fox sneaking in for a stealth kill. Meanwhile, a guard rolls well and rounds the corner in hot pursuit. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The combat takes its inspiration directly from the original Metal Gear Solid. Moving quickly generates noise, and noise gives up your position. Used to your advantage, it’s a great way to set an ambush. But get sloppy and you’ll have a pile of enemies to deal with and more streaming at you as you move along.

Once you reach your target, the action moves to a boss battle against the likes of Revolver Ocelot, Sniper Wolf, Psycho Mantis, and other classic villains. Adding more allied players to the game gives you more options for fulfilling your mission, of course, but it also makes the game a little bit harder as well. There’s a delightful curve to its complexity that I think fans of the source material are really going to enjoy.

But of course, the big draw here is the miniatures. The single piece, hard plastic figures — including the towering Metal Gear itself, available as a pre-order bonus only — are superb. Best of all there’s no crowdfunding campaign to contend with, no laundry list of extra add-on modules to tempt you, and no box bloat to fill your tiny apartment with things you don’t need.

The only trouble is the long wait. The $110 game won’t be available at retail until May 2024.

Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game

  • $100
  • $110
  • 10% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

• 1-4 players, age 14+

• Playtime: 60-90 minutes

  • $100 at Backerkit