As much as I love a game of Landmines, Wizard Sticks, or good 'ol Beer Pong, sometimes I want to be a little less stationary. The reason I love Thunderball is because rather than getting drunk and sitting still all participants are moving and interacting at high drunk speeds, resulting in a clusterf*ck of hilarity. That and I love body-checking friends. Oddly enough, I learned this game in the basement of a fraternity house in a state that doesn’t allow drinking games — shout outs to the bros in PA. If you have a decent-sized basement or, more likely, a big grassy/sandy area and two long tables, it’d be a sin to not play this on your Fourth of July weekend.
First you will need 8 participants, 4 on each team. Set up the two long tables opposite each other about 6 to 8 feet apart, with the long side of the tables turned toward the players rather than the short side as in traditional pong. Similar to Civil War, Set up four 6-cup pyramids on each table, one for each player to stand behind. On both ends of both tables are two completely full cups of beer (these will be explained shortly). Fill up the pyramids as you normally would for a beer pong game. You will need 6 balls.
And now for why this game is one of my favorites: put your two smallest guys on the middle two pyramids and your two biggest guys on the outsides. In Thunderball, a missed shot doesn't automatically transfer the ball to the other team; every ball is up for grabs following a miss. So the inside two men are considered “divers.” Their job is to retrieve missed shots that fall into the no-man’s-land between the two tables. The quickest way to do this, obviously, is by diving underneath the tables. The outside two are the equivalents of Scott Stevens or Ray Lewis, the “checkers.” If any missed shots fall to the outsides of the tables, these two are responsible for annihilating the other team’s respective outside man in any way possible to get the ball. This usually takes the form of body-checks, form-tackles, or general push and shove asshattery. The game usually starts out a little bit tentative, but as soon as a proper amount of Natty is imbibed, each ball is fought over as if it were life or death.
Now for the actual rules. You play as if you were playing normal beer pong, but you are not forced to shoot on the player across from you. You are allowed to double, triple, or quadruple team a player on the opposite side in order to get them out as fast as possible. Once a player is knocked out, the game stops and everyone holds their balls; he gets one rebuttal to try and get himself back in the game. If he sinks it, neither player loses a cup, neither cup is drunken, and the game continues. If he misses, he is out and the game continues without him. This goes on until all four players on one team are knocked out.
The two full cups on each table are where the strategy comes into play. You can choose to sink a ball on either of these cups at any point during the game. What sinking one of these full cups does is make each player on the opposite team drink and remove one of their cups from their pyramid (and the team must elect one player to drink the full cup as well). Therefore, if each player on the opposite team has a single cup left, and you sink the full cup, they are all out and are able to rebuttal ONLY if they have a ball in their hands (the ball made in the full cup does not count). Or you can sink one simply to slow down a team who is on a hot streak. Use the full cups wisely.
- If you only have 6 players you can instead play with a single diver.
- You may not shoot until you’ve drank all cups the opposite team has made on you.
- There is no crying allowed unless someone ends up with a compound fracture. (Has happened.)
- If a diver or checker knocks over a table he is an a**hole and immediately forfeits the game for his team.
- Each team starts with 3 balls. If you prefer, the winners from the last round start with four and the challengers start with 2.
- You may play with one full cup on each side instead of two so that timing is more critical. (Once a ball has been sunk in a full cup, it is removed.)
- Full cups may be hit on the rebuttal, thus redeeming all team members who are up to be removed from the game (e.g., if there are 3 players rebutting and the first to shoot hits the opposite team’s full cup, the other two do not have to rebuttal and the game continues).
- The game can also be played without the full cups, making the focus the ass-kicking instead.