Robinson Crusoe is one of my favourite stories, being shipwrecked on a desert island and having to build a shelter, find food and hide from the natives. It is a classic story and one that’s constantly being reinvented, whether it’s Tom Hanks and a volleyball or a Disney family building one of the most impressive tree houses.
So, when I heard that Portal games were putting together a Robinson Crusoe board game for release at Essen the pre-order went in and I waited impatiently while reading everything I could about Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island. When it arrived it didn’t disappoint.
Crusoe is one of the most thematic games I have ever played, it’s also one of the hardest, but that doesn’t detract from an amazing game. You get a real sense of being stuck on an island where the odds are against you. Trying to survive by building a shelter, finding food while also inventing things that will make your life easier. All with limited time and resources.
Opening the Robison Crusoe Box… You Get a Lot of Bits!!
There is a lovely board that depicts the island to be explored as well as areas to store the cards and counters. Four different characters to play, Soldier, Cook, Carpenter and Explorer each having their own quirks and abilities. More tiles, cards and counters than you know what to do with and the scenarios.
These scenarios will determine what happens in the game and they are quite different.
The introductory scenario sees you having to build a pile of wood and invent fire so that you can signal a passing ship. Sounds easy, but with a turn limit to get things done and an incoming weather system that’s going to cause havoc – means it’s not going to be an easy ride.
Setup for the scenario is explained as well as the special rules or items. For example there is a ship’s mast available to be scavenged for wood resources in this scenario.
Setup is a little fiddly, there are a lot of cards and counters to be placed on or around the board, but once you have played a couple of games and having an extra pair of hands things settle down.
Phases in Game Turn… Which Circle around the Board!!
To start the Robsinson Crusoe board game, first you draw from the event deck. This will tell you what’s going to happen this turn. The event deck is initially built from some random cards, but cards are added to it as the game progresses. These event can be anything from a rain-storm to animals attacking the camp. The event card is placed on the board, as it will have to be resolved by the players. Any cards that are already on the board are then resolved and the detrimental effect happens. There is always something for the players to contend with here.
Next up is morale, this is a track on the board that either rewards or harms the players, depending on the morale of the camp. Usually, this gives the players determination tokens which they can use to active their special powers in the game. But if things are not going well, then players will lose health.
Production follows next, with players getting resources from the hex where their camp is located. There are a few resources in the game, but wood and food are the most common. Cubes for the gathered resources are placed on the board to be used later.
Player Actions… What is Good Now could be Disaster Later!!
Next comes the meat of the Crusoe board game, the player actions. Each player has 2 disks which they place on the board to show what action they are doing. There are a few to choose from, but the main ones are building, exploring or gathering resources. Each of these actions has a deck of cards and dice associated with it. If you want to guarantee that you manage the task at hand you have to use both disks. Otherwise you can split your disks onto two different actions and roll the dice to determine if you have been successful or not. Typically you want or need to do many things, so spreading the workload usually happens. This is where the theme really comes in. Generally you will have to draw a card from the relevant deck. This will describe what will happen now and what happens later.
For example if you were gathering resources, the looking for food card may say that you have found some berries and to add 2 food resources to the board. But the trade-off will be that you have to put the card into the event deck and when drawn you become ill and loose some health unless you have discovered the cure.
There are lots of cards, so it will take a while before you start seeing the same ones appearing.
Now for the Bad things to Happen… Hold on Tight to Your Wilson!!
Once all actions have been resolved, it’s time for the bad things to happen. First up is the weather phase and this involves rolling some weather dice. What you roll determines what resources you will need to sacrifice. Usually its food and wood to get through storms, but this can be mitigated by the improvements to your shelter. If your have built a good roof then things are not so bad.
The final phase is the night phase, here you have to feed everyone in your camp by using up those food resources. Then any leftover food is discarded unless it’s been preserved.
As you can see from the Robison Crusoe board game, there is a lot going on and I have only skimmed through the options available. There is a lot in this game and more has been added with an expansion and some extra scenarios (King Kong) have been released.
It is a Very Challenging Game… Yes You will be Back for More Punishment!!
It’s a tough game, but when you have won a scenario you feel like you have accomplished something. There is also a good story in the game, you will remember exploring the jungle to find hidden treasure, injuring yourself while trying to build a fire or using your cook’s power to brew up some moonshine to get you all through a particularly bad storm.
The designers (Ignacy Trzewiczek) motto is that board games should tell stories and this one certainly does. It’s one of my favourite games not just because it has lovely components and a great theme, but because I can play it solo with the help of Friday.
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I have been a gamer for many years. Game lover since my school years, was in an out for a little while but now a full on gamer. I am also part of the Dice Tower awards, helping Tom and the gang decide on what we thing the best games of the year are.