Fans of American sitcoms can bring a slice of that flavour to the regular board game nights now that both Ted Lasso and Parks and Recreation have been adapted into lightweight party games, courtesy of Funko. Both boxes have been spotted in the wild already but are planning a wider release sometime this summer.
Simply titled Ted Lasso Party Game and Parks and Recreation Party Game, the pair look like they take punchlines, references and general vibes from their respective sitcom predecessors and alchemize them into approachable tabletop experiences for up to six players. Publisher Funko Games has an established history of releasing tie-in board games such as these, though the acquisition of the team at Prospero Hall did give them some legitimate design power that often make these more than simple licence cash-ins.
Parks and Recreation Party Game is a pseudo-cooperative game where each player will take on the role of one member of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks Department - Leslie, Ron, April, Donna, Andy or Tom - and attempt to complete a project. As an understaffed wing of local government with a meagre budget to suit, they will need to recruit help from cards depicting torn residents and manage the special effects of visitors such as Ann Perkins and Jean-Ralphio. Everybody wins a little bit when the project is complete, but the player who contributed the most resources takes home the technical victory.
Ted Lasso Party Game is another collaborative joint, but the information provided in the press release leaves its rules a little less clear. It will lean heavily into the broad themes of friendship and support that mark the show’s titular character, an American who finds himself coaching a UK football team through, well… sitcom shenanigans. Players will be members of the coaching staff that help each player reach their full potential by “believing in Believe.” Trouble tiles come in a pink biscuit tin, though it’s not clear how they affect the game. A clever little football die is rolled inside a game box that looks like AFC Richmond. Why? Again, not clear. Friendship, I guess!
There’s something weird about the emphasis on positivity in the marketing material for both of these games. Nobody can deny both shows rely on a strain of unfettered optimism in the face of issues larger than any individual, but the games don’t bother to pick up either programme’s darker, more complicated existential throughlines. Parks & Recreation created a version of competent and empathetic small town governance so detached from reality it was almost surreal, while Ted Lasso found an audience driven desperate for a win by the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to deliver a largely successful examination of toxic optimism.
Given what Funko Games has provided, neither of these titles will attempt to wrestle with these heavier parts of their inspirations. And that’s fine; they’re party games. They exist for an audience to read quotes on a card and go “Ha ha, I remember that line! What a riot” for half an hour’s time. Nobody should be denigrating small moments of fellowship and laughter right now. Both board games will be sold at a $19.99 (£16) price point and can be found online, in local game stores and in participating retail locations sometime this summer.