To The Table: Jason Donovan – Straight From The Heart & why we need a sequel

Board games of films, TV shows and video games are a common trend and have been for many years, with developers realising it is another market to exploit and bring in some extra money. Some of them are absolutely brilliant (although often are just a re-skin in of a game that was great beforehand). Some are not. Then there are those few which are so utterly ridiculous in their subject matter that they are that guilty pleasure which you get amusement from, while everyone else you know just thinks your crazy for enjoying it.

1989’s Jason Donovan – Straight From The Heart board game is definitely one of those games. Not that subject matter of Jason Donovan is silly, but more the fact that the trivia game covers only 1 year of his music career and seems to be aimed at breaking up friendships.

Over the years I’ve tried writing about the game in some detail, but it is only now after many years, I feel I can truly bring justice to the board game. This may not be the last time I write about it, but it will be my magnum opus of Jason Donovan board game reviews.

Who is Jason Donovan? some may ask and to those people, I will shout blasphemy and chase them with a withered stick before explaining;

Jason Donovan is an actor, singer and presenter who became crazily popular in the late 80’s/early 90’s following a big role in the television show Neighbours in which he was onscreen partner to Kylie Minogue. He went into singing in 1988 and had some massive hit singles. This game covers his music career in that first year of his transition to singer. It also covers much of his personal life and asks you to make some tough decisions which will truly test how close you and your friends are.

Its a game made for 2-6 players (up to 12 if you happen to have 2 copies of the game. Before you ask… yes I own 2 copies of the game, each strategically placed in different locations) in which you work your way around a board, drawing cards and answering questions about Jason, while blindly collecting jigsaw pieces of his face. The aim is to complete one of the heart-shaped puzzles and claim victory over everyone else.

That’s easy I hear you say. Not so, says I.

Each time someone correctly answers a question about Mr Donovan they have a choice to steal all the pieces of a puzzle from another player (Or at least that’s how we read the rules) or to blindly grab a piece from a bag/lid of the box. This can truly screw another player over and create enemies quickly. Just imagine passing go in monopoly and stealing all if the money from an opposing player. That’s how it feels. You could, in theory, play nicely and just keep drawing pieces with the hope of completing a puzzle without conflict, but I feel this would be missing a key part of the game.

The game board is broken into 4 sections each supposedly focusing on a different part of Jason’s career, but they all end up covering the same material. The fact that at the time he only had one album and 2 almost chart-topping singles, does mean the majority of questions requiring an answer with the name of a song or a year, all have one of 3 answers.

Each time I’ve played the game its been with 4 – 6 adult males, who I believe, are not the target audience for this particular game. The questions are very much geared towards teenage females, with many referencing boyfriends and your other girlfriends with whom you are playing with.

The other popular question choices involve Jason himself, his likes, dislikes and loves. Trivia such as ‘What’s Jason’s favourite food?’ gives us some deep insight into the lifestyle of Jason, while testing your knowledge. I can quite worryingly say that  9 years since I last played the game that his favourite food is, in fact, Garlic bread.

By far the greatest question on any of the cards is ‘Does Jason believe in nuclear disarmament?’. I mean they just casually slip it in there between a question on what animal your friend’s boyfriend would be and a random question on King Edward VIII. The answer is not that surprising. I imagine if he had answered ‘No’ then we may have had tens of millions (maybe slightly exaggerated) of teenage schoolgirls flocking to the streets demanding nuclear warfare.

It is good to know that Jason does agree with Nuclear disarmament, but I do feel that it’s something I suspected even without ever asking myself the question.

In terms of actual playtime, you are looking at anywhere from 2.5 hrs to about 6. It could be we were playing wrong but that is how long it took us. Most of the gaming group were mentally destroyed by the end of it with facts on Jason ingrained into their minds for eternity.

As you can see, my gaming group had lots of fun

The components aren’t anything to write home about. The board is nice as are the puzzles, but they are your average components for a game if this period. The player pieces are simple plastic markers, nothing more, nothing less. It’s nice it doesn’t take up too much shelf space and it fits quite nicely next to games like Cthulhu Wars on the shelf.  It’s also nice that 2 copies can be combined into a 12 player game (It doesn’t say anywhere in the rules but you can just combine 2 lots together ), although I imagine finding an extra 11 people to play could be an issue.

Weirdly, although I’ve found 2 copies (well a friend found one and gave it to me as a joke) in charity shops, it does seem to have its collectors market with some copies going for good money on the secondary market.

When all is said and done, the game is a straight forward trivia quiz with a small amount of interaction with your opponents. If you like Jason then it’s a must buy, if you want a fun novelty, you could do much worse.

The fact the game was released 30 years ago leads me to believe we deserve a sequel (possibly entitled Jason Donovan 2: Straight Through the Heart). The cover could feature Jason roundhouse kicking Martians while wearing Joseph’s coat of many colours. I also feel it should be a big boxed game with player pieces being miniatures of Jason in one of his many roles. We could even incorporate enemy miniatures such as the Martians from War of the Worlds or Ant & Dec.

In terms of questions, there are 30 years of trivia to draw from so the possibilities are almost endless. Questions such as Jason’s favourite food can be revisited as there is a possibility it isn’t still garlic bread. I hope his views on nuclear disarmament haven’t changed as that could be a little awkward. But if they have it could be a game mechanic where on the side, instead of building a heart-shaped puzzle, we, In fact, have to construct a nuclear missile silo.

There are so many ideas and with board games being so popular these days, I feel it needs to happen. I mean, isn’t that what Kickstarter is there for? Expansions could be created with more focus on his individual roles on stage and screen. Who even says it needs to be a board game. It could just as easily be a tabletop skirmish game in which each player commands an army led by one of the many faces of Jason. You could have Martians, Egyptians, the cast of Neighbours.

I think that this needs to happen and it would provide a nice change from the never-ending string of re-skinned zombiecides and dungeon crawlers. Jason Donovan vs vampires entitled Too Many Broken Hearts with him piercing Dracula’s heart on the cover.

Sadly as much as I want it, I’m sure it won’t happen unless Jason reads this and decides it’s a fantastic idea.

Either way. Thank you for reading and I urge you to experience the wonders of the first game.