I saw Robinson Crusoe pretty early on when I was initially exploring the board game world. The game has seemed to be very high on ratings list and popularity charts but for some reason I was just turned off by the theme. Still, so many people recommended it and it made top lists for a lot of players. Also it’s supposedly a very good solitaire game. So I decided to look into it more and was actually pretty surprised by the kind of game it is. It seems to be more about the surviving, which has always been appealing to Keen and myself. We loved playing survival games like the Island Troll Tribes custom map in Warcraft III and I suppose it extends out to other games like Minecraft and Rust. Something about just trying to survive really harsh conditions can be a lot of fun.
We picked up the game and so far we have only played about 1 and a half times. The first half game was cut short because we were both pretty sure we were playing it wrong and we were. The second game we did manage to play through the first scenario but we didn’t quite make it. The game is really hard and Keen isn’t entirely sure we’re still playing it right but we both agree that it was still a lot of fun regardless of the poor outcome.
We attempted the first scenario and our objective was to try and survive long enough to build up a wood pile large enough to set on fire and attract the attention of a passing ship. Each scenario sheet also spells out various additional effects and options that are unique to each scenario. This one in particular told us when to start adding weather effects, what certain symbols meant for this scenario and some optional actions we could take.
The game is broken down into rounds, the first scenario being something like 12 rounds. Each round has a specific set of phases that you have to execute, which we refer to as EMPAWN.
Event – Drawing an event card which causes something to happen. Mostly negatively from what we’ve seen.
Morale – There’s a morale track that shows how you guys are handling things. If it’s positive then you can gain determination tokens that allow you to perform special actions. If it’s negative you have to discard said tokens. This is handled by the first player and switched off every round.
Production – The tile that your camp is set up at will yield resources. Usually it’s + 1 food and +1 wood unless modified.
Action – The largest phase. It’s broken up into 2 parts: Planning and Resolving. Here you can choose to do many things such as: resolving threat cards that were drawn from the event phase, hunt wild animals, build something (Shelter, roof, palisade, invention, weapon, etc.), gather a specific resource, explore the island, fix up the camp to boost morale and gain determination, or rest. Each character has two pawn tokens that they can assign to actions. Some actions require 2 pawns, some let you do it with 1 or 2. For example: if you build, gather, or hunt with two pawns then it’s a guaranteed success. If you only use one pawn then you have to role dice to see if yo are successful, which in turn may net you some wounds and possible make you draw an adventure card. So you really need to decide if it’s worth spreading yourself out so you can accomplish more with a higher risk or go for the sure thing with a narrower focus.
Weather – The weather will wreck your day, especially if you don’t have a roof over your head. If your roof level isn’t sufficient enough then you can potentially lose valuable resources or even health. Cold weather will also force you to burn more wood. There’s also the chance that hungry animals might give you grief during this phase by stealing your food, wrecking your palisade, or straight up just attacking you.
Night – The final phase. You must have a shelter to sleep in or you risk taking wounds. You also must have enough food to feed everybody or else you take wounds. In the night phase you can also use certain abilities that let you heal and decide if you want to move your camp to a new tile for the next day.
So as you can see just one round is a pretty big ordeal. It can be rough trying to keep track of all of this stuff. Keen and I managed to explore several additional tiles of our island and build a few useful items, but in the end I died when I got lost and had to spend the night outside in the cold and rain. Unfortunately any death results in a loss of the scenario. Even so, we were on our second to last day before the rescue ship sailed out of sight and our wood pile was barely over half. We most likely never would have flagged them down anyway.
I’m looking forward to trying again and seeing if we can get it done. Hopefully we aren’t doing anything wrong. I actually really love this game already, even with the little amount of time I’ve spent with it. I’m not sure where it rates with Keen yet as he can’t seem to get past the fact that Robinson Crusoe doesn’t seem to be in a game called Robinson Crusoe.