1-4 players, Cooperative, Exploration Survival
Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Artwork: Tomasz Bentkowski
Publisher: Portal Games
Overview of Gameplay
In Robinson Crusoe you are basically trying to survive on this wretched, wretched island. There are quite a few different actions to take throughout each round that either help or hinder you in your quest to survive. You start out drawing an event card (which is usually bad) on this card something will happen immediately and then you place the card on a specific spot on the board with something else bad that will happen later if you don’t complete whatever action is listed on the card. Then you check the Morale Track to determine if you gain or lose Morale tokens…..which could lead to damage if you don’t have any to lose. After that you collect resources based on what tile your camp is located, usually wood and/or food.
Now the meat of the game, the main actions. During this phase you are going to be assigning your players tokens to specific spots on the board to complete actions. Usually you will want to focus on working towards whatever scenario you are playing out of the…8? That are in the box. There is a time limit as there are only so many rounds per scenario to beat it before game over which adds an extra layer of difficulty to the fray. From my play experience, if I wasn’t actively working on doing what I needed to do in order to beat that specific scenario, I would fail. Your actions could be to explore the island which flips new tiles and reveals new resource potentials, or new animals to hunt etc. You could also build, which allows you to construct new useful tools to aid you in your mission. Also there are the gather actions which allow you to gather up that extra bit of resources that you might need such as food or wood. You can set your people to completing those pesky events I mentioned earlier so they don’t suffer the consequences listed on the card. Or you could simply have them rest to regain life or tidy up the camp which gains morale.
After all those are placed you work through them in order completing the actions but either rolling for success if only one person was placed at a spot or just taking an auto success if two people are placed. I really love this mechanic as it introduces a cool push your luck ability in there and forces you to make a decision on risk. Do I RISK not succeeding at a particular action just to be able to place another person somewhere else? Then both could fail if only 1 is at those spots, it’s a possibility and I love it.
Then comes the weather effects. In later rounds during a game there will be weather dice added to the weather track that you have to roll on. These will determine damage and food loss based on how well you’ve built up your camp. If you have no roof then you are in for a licking let me tell ya. Also different scenarios and events will dictate possible different weather effects as well.
After that craziness is done, onto the night phase. This phase allows you to move your camp over a tile if you want to try for diff resources during the production phase or getting closer to unexplored areas. Then you discard all your perishable food, 1 for each survivor and then the rest. For each survivor that you cannot feed, they lose life. After all that’s done, move the round tracker and rinse/repeat with a new event card!
Win Condition /Length
So this could be a pretty fast game the first time you play since you are not accustomed to the nuances of surviving and what actions are more critical than others. And when I say fast I don’t mean you will blaze through it, it will blaze through YOU. Actually that being said I suspect this game will continue to blaze through you multiple times before you eventually beat it. It’s tough. Of the many games I have played so far it’s really not all that long, maybe about an hour or so playing solo depending on which scenario you play. Upping the player count does add a bit of time as people will contemplate which action to take but not by much.
So the win condition varies greatly between each of the different scenarios. The very first starting scenario tasks you with gathering enough wood to create a signal fire out on the beach. That sounds simple enough but to this day I still have not beat that one. I can never seem to gather enough as other things keep coming up that need my attention such as food or Morale shortages. Because if you don’t manage that stuff you will die a horrible death very quickly. And that’s what makes this game so great, so many different puzzles to try and navigate. Another scenario had me trying to build a raft to rescue “Jenny” off this rock and that one was pretty fun and I actually won on my first try! So there it is, it is possible to beat this game. But what it really all boils down to, you must survive. This is the ultimate survival game.
The setup does take a bit of time as there are a bookoo of components. I have most everything separated into individual baggies to make it easier but you will be needing piles for a variety of wooden tokens and the cardboard tokens that all represent so many different things in the game. Not to mention all the different card piles that need to be shuffled and sat up. I will say though that they do a decently good job of having board space dedicated to most of the card piles. So setup is pretty straightforward with knowing where you need to place stuff. The cards are color coded and have symbols as well to make it even easier. Each scenario usually will have a specific rule change that is listed on the scenario card itself, be sure to read that card thoroughly so you know what you need to focus on as well. Take down is much the same, just bagging up everything and tossing it into the box. The game has a pretty lengthy setup time but honestly, for me, it is worth it.
The components are pretty top notch. There are little wooden yellow bananas and brown wood pieces. You have some wooden pelts and other small circular colored tokens. The cardboard tokens are sturdy, heck even the few explore tiles have a really nice linen finish and are very sturdy cardboard. All the cards feel nice too. The one thing that I don’t really like are the stickers that you need to stick to the colored tokens. They (so far) haven’t come loose yet but I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that they will. They just don’t feel premium like that rest of the game does.
The board itself is amazing. As I mentioned earlier, it has spots for most of the card decks and locations on the board are numbered to help you remember which actions need to be resolved before others. Other than that it just has a ton of variety on it. It’s for sure not your standard looking bland board. There is a decently large space for the explore tiles, then the other half of the board is for the building cards. Along the top you have the morale track and the event deck on one side and the other side has the building spots for the camp, roof, palisade and weapon level for hunts. Along the bottom you have the resolved event cards, all the deck for building, searching and exploring. And then spots for the rest of the actions you can take such as the clean up camp and rest action. Next to those are the weather effects space and night phase.
When I opened the box and saw the insert I had to double take to make sure this wasn’t put out by Fantasy Flight as the insert is exactly what you would expect from them. For anyone familiar with their games I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that do not, it’s a folded piece of cardboard that’s only purpose is to hold the punch boards in place during shipping. Once you get those punched out it really doesn’t serve any more purpose other than to take up space. It doesn’t keep anything organized which is why you will need many plastic bags. The box itself is pretty nice and sturdy and basic game size so it should fit in with many other games perfectly in your collection without taking up too much space.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Theme is one of the things I rate the most critically in my reviews. I feel as though, most of the time, a game is only as strong as its theme. This game is no exception. And I am happy to say that the theme is strong in this one. I mean you slap down a base stranded on an island idea which isn’t terrible to begin with. But then you slather it with ALL these different flavors! And by that I mean all the different scenarios of course. I mean there are so many options on theme here to cater to just about anyone. You have a Cursed Island theme, a King Kong theme, a Volcano theme. There is a rescue mission, a simple gathering mission and so many more. And what’s more, is that the different themes/scenarios will all change the play style just a little bit so it keeps the game new and refreshing. This is my favorite part about the game and is what keeps me coming back for more.
Not bad! Not bad at all actually. I had heard horror stories of the old 1st edition rulebook and going into this one I had prepared myself to spend some time online finding little rules that weren’t properly explained. However I am happy to say that I did not have to get online even once during my learning of the game! The rulebook does a (mostly) great job of explaining setup and starting play. There is even an index with pictures of the symbology so any token that might confuse you, you can just flip to towards the back of the book and find out what it means easily. Plenty of pictures and examples to explain the ins and outs of the rules.
Now all that said even though I feel the rules do a good job explaining the game, this game has a TON to remember. Luckily it comes with an awesome round tracker reference card that details in short what you need to do every round. This thing has been a lifesaver and I have kept it next to me during all my games to make sure I’m not missing something.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
Loads of fun in this one even and possibly more so, when playing solo. When you play solo you utilize an extra character named Friday. He isn’t a player character and his ruleset differs a tad bit but you can use him mostly like an extra pair of hands to get stuff done during the action phase. There is also a dog….which now that I think about it is named, “dog” that can be used to help hunt or explore. It does make the game a bit easier to use the dog but I love him. It really adds to the theme for me to take a dog along hunting or exploring. Also when you take him it’s an auto success so that always welcome. Playing will a full 4 players will unlock additional character abilities. Let’s see there is a Cook, Explorer, Soldier and Carpenter. Each one can use Morale tokens to activate unique abilities only available to that character that helps out in their specific field of expertise. But also upping the player count also increases the amount of resources needed to build and upgrade your shelter and of course the amount of food you will need to collect every day to feed everyone. It all basically evens out though.
Optimal Player Count
That’s a tough one! I have REALLY enjoyed playing it solo but also playing it with more players creates an interesting group dynamic oh just how to solve the puzzle of the island. Everyone brings great ideas to the table on how to proceed and seeing reactions to events and weather effects is amazing. Personally whether you plan on playing solo or with a group you can’t really go wrong with this one.
This is an outstanding game no question. I’ve been hard pressed to find anything about the gameplay or theme to gripe about and it seems the only thing I really dislike about the game is the lack of a proper insert with the game. Beyond that small issue, this game is a must have in any collection and now that I’m actually thinking about it I would rate this game in my top 3 all-time favorite games to date. There is just so much included to do and explore. The puzzle changes by scenario and the themes are just outstanding. If you are on the fence about this one please do yourself a favor and give it a try, you will not be disappointed.