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Subject: A Journey into the Unknown rss

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Colin Degnan
United States
Maplewood
Minnesota
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Overview:

Unknown is a post-apocalyptic action allowance, resource management, and tile placement cooperative board game. In the game you will choose one of many different missions to complete, exploring the underground tunnel that you are living in seeking food, ammunition, medicine and scrap.
If you would like to see a playthrough of the game please check out my channel: One Stop Co-op Shop

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QRffMQr4QA&list=PLrSwu7NfI3...

In this game, each player will have 3 or 4 actions they can take during their turn. Some of actions include (but are not limited to) exploration, gathering, trading, ranged attack, simple movement, healing, creating traps etc. You have tons of options for actions, but you are limited in the amount of action you take per turn.

After each player has taken their turn, the enemies have a phase where they activate and move either towards the closest survivor or the base tile. Last but not least, there is an upkeep phase where the base must eat one food to support the families of the survivors that are exploring the ravenous tunnel.

To win this game you will need to complete the objective on the mission card. You can lose by either having all players go incapacitated or the base running out of food at the upkeep phase.

Components/Art: 7/10

This game has a very unique type of art used on the cards and tiles that I like a lot. It is simple and provides the vibe of being underground. When I look at the pictures of the survivors they all seem to have a feeling of being in a tunnel (I think that is the use of a dark background, or the survivor picture feels like they are stooping in the picture). The art on the tiles makes it easy to differentiate the different tiles and if it is an enemy’s tile, the picture matches the meeple used to depict the enemy.

Let’s talk about the enemy meeples. I LOVE them! I have played many a miniatures game, but these meeples which are so simple yet their shape and color make each enemy unique from all the other enemies. I can glance at the playing area and immediately point out the different enemies in one quick glance.

With the enemy meeples looking so awesome, I was slightly bummed when the Survivor meeples were just plain meeples. I was hoping each color would have had a different design, similar to the enemies. This also goes with all the generic tokens used in the game. I was hoping to see more than just color variability in the wooden tokens used for objectives etc.

I have only had the game for about 3 weeks and my tiles are starting to see some wear. There is no way you can put a sleeve on a tile, so I am not sure what else I can do to stop the backs of the tiles from peeling. The peeling is not terrible, but after only 3 weeks I can tell some tiles backs are starting to tear. It is probably from me flipping the tiles over multiple times and maybe my fingers are getting caught on them.

I will say that you can tell Rob and Dave worked hard to come up with a practical insert. Everything fits very nicely and I see lots of room for expansions! That makes me quite happy

Theme: 9/10

First, let me talk about the title of this game. Unknown as the title is just perfect for this game! In order to complete any of the objectives your missions throw at you, you are going to need to explore the tunnels. To do this you will be flipping tiles over and placing them adjacent to your current tile. As you seed the tile deck with 13 hazard tiles, 5 enemy tiles, plus the 6 standard enemy tiles you never know what tiles are going to come up next!

A great example of this was in one of the last games I played. I had explored two tiles that can provide food and was going to use the gather action to collect food from both tiles. Instead however, I decided to explore one more time before gathering in case I flipped another food tile. Instead it was a flood! This hazard washes away all your resource tiles within a range of 3! So I lost all that food due to this unknown hazard.

The three actions per player (or four if you play the Explorer) provides you with tension as you need to think of how to use each action as efficiently and effective as possible, or else you are going to run out of food! I like how the way you lose the game is if you run out of food. Not if an enemy gets to the base, or a simple timer of turns. Instead you lose because you literally could not feed the people at your base.
As you play the game you have to continually bring food back to base, which to me fits thematically with the game quite nicely. You have to juggle many competing priorities in the game just like you would if you were trying to survive in an underground tunnel.

Gameplay Mechanics: 8.25/10

Missions/Tasks
I enjoy games that allow you to play them in different ways. This game does not disappoint with having only one or two different missions, but instead comes with 10 different missions. On TOP of that they provided 5 tasks that can be paired with any mission. The tasks are an additional objective you need to complete during the game, however when you complete the task you gain a benefit. I punched the numbers, and including the fact you can play a mission with no task, there is 60 different ways to play this game. SWEET!

Hazards
There are a total of 9 different Hazard tiles and all of them work differently! Some will set other rooms on fire, collapse the room you are in making it impassable, etc. I really like that there are not just enemies in these tunnels, but also general hazards we have to watch out for.

Survivors & Enemies
There are a total of 15 Survivors in this game and each one has unique abilities. I will say I think one or two of the survivor abilities are better than others (can anyone say the Doctor?), but overall they are well balanced, yet each play quite differently. One of my favorites is actually the runner. Her ability to move quickly through cleared tiles provides her with a lot of options during her turn.

There are also 7 different enemies in this game all with different abilities, different hit points, and different targeting rules. Some enemies you cannot destroy but you can only stun. Some leave barrier tokens on the tile they leaving making it harder for your team of survivors to move around the tunnels. One enemy even has a range attack. AWESOME! Talk about variety!

Now you may be thinking, “how do I keep track of all of this!” Have no fear, Rob and Dave thought of this and provided all the pertinent information on a very detailed, somewhat daunting player aid!

Options!
If you think of a game of Pandemic, you have about 6 different actions you can take on your turn. In Unknown you have 11! All of these options provides you with a unique experience each game and allows you to have multiple ways to complete objectives and defeat enemies.

Resource Management
This game differentiates itself from other co-op survival games or action point allowance games by adding in the resource management aspect of the game. I not only have to complete a specific objective, but I have to ensure I continue to explore and gather enough food so that we don’t all die! Also, many of the mission and task objectives requires your team to do some sort of resource management.

Deterministic Fights
I wanted to point out that this game uses dice for only one element, and that is for the use of random directions for enemy movement. Otherwise, all of the fights, gathering actions etc. are deterministic. This provides the game with more of a strategic feel. You will not be looting by rolling dice or fighting by rolling dice and hoping for the best.

If Only. . .

Excitement
Dependent on the luck of your tile draw, you may have periods in the game where there are no enemies on the playing board. This means that the only “bad” thing that happens per round is the use of 1 food during the upkeep phase. You will see in the playtghrough where there is almost 10 minutes during the game where I have no enemies to fight and so the game starts to get a bit repetitive.

With this however, the food depletion still provides you with a timer count and makes you feel the pressure to complete your objective quickly or find more food. I just wish that they could have kept up the tension in the game a little more even when the enemies are not on the board. (Maybe more continuous spawning tiles?)

Combat
In this game there are two ways to do combat; ranged attack and close combat. Ranged attack uses 2 ammo resources and you can be 2 spaces away to shoot as long as you have line of sight. Close combat you must be on the same tile. In ranged attack, you shoot and either damage or kill the enemy. In close combat you each deal 1 damage to each other, and continue to do so until either the enemy is destroyed or you are incapacitated.

I wish there were more ways you could attack enemies. With all the options and variety in this game, the fighting options feel limited. However this may have been on purpose as this game is not about fighting, but about completing an objective and having enough food to survive.

I will also say that the nice thing about combat is it is really simple. No need for dice as it is deterministic. This means that combat does not make up the game, instead strategy on how to obtain the resources needed to survive and complete objectives become the focus of the game.

Play Again Factor: 9/10

As I mentioned above, with all the different missions and tasks this game has near infinite replayability to me. 60 variations just with the Mission and task cards! That is not including all the different combinations of Survivors and enemy tiles etc. I am not going to get tired of this one anytime soon and am excited to try out more missions and more tasks!

Weight and Player Type:
Medium, Gamers and some nongamers

I place this game right in the middle of the medium level of difficulty. On one hand, there are tons of different actions you can take on your turn, and all the enemies interact with the board in a slightly different way. But, when you only have 3 actions available to you, and the objectives are straightforward in what you are trying to accomplish, I feel that this game can work with anyone.

I have yet to try this game with my nongamer friends, but I just get the vibe they would pick up the concept easily and then I could help them understand the complexities involved with enemies, hazards etc.

Final Thoughts: 8.75/10

I have to say I was really surprised with how much I like this game! Is the game worth the $60 it is going for on Amazon? In my opinion, although the enemy meeples are cool and the art is good I am not sure that the production value warrants the $60 price tag. However, if you look past that and base the price purely on the game mechanics and the overall enjoyment of the game it is well worth the price.

There is a good chance you will feel overwhelmed with the 40 page rulebook and the highly detailed player aid, but please do not let that deter you. The game mechanics overall are quiet simple, and the player aid is awesome at helping you remember the effects of the hazard tiles, as well as all the actions that are available to your Survivor.
I also wanted to say I think it is awesome the game comes with short and long Missions!! I wish more games did this! If I only have 30 minutes to play I can pull out one of the shorter missions.

Overall, this is a great game with tons of replayability, solid mechanics, and lots of variety. If you are tired of the “same old” games, I would suggest picking this one up. Or maybe put it on your Christmas list?







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Bojan Brankov
Serbia
Novi Sad
Novi Sad
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There are actually different ways to fight enemies. My favorite is spending yellow and orange cube to make a trap and lure enemies to it or throw it directly to their tile in which case it's like ranged combat on a range of 1. Also there are different characters, like soldier, who can spend only one red cube for range attack, which is quite thematic.
Playing around with different characters and different scenarios is great. The only thing that bothers me is that it is not challenging enough for us, even on hard setting. The only hard time (and only loss out of five games) was when we had extremely bad luck stream.
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Colin Degnan
United States
Maplewood
Minnesota
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Hi Bojan,

Good point about the traps! I use these all the time, but don't consider it "combat." Also for any of the enemies that have more than one health, a trap is pretty useless as the resources needed to make enough traps to kill the enemy is not worth it compared to using the ranged attack option.

As for difficulty, I have not had this issue (although if you watch the playthrough that was an easy game!) You are right that it can be based a lot on luck of the tile draws, but there isn't much you can do to change that.

Have you tried adding tasks with the Missions? Are you using the red stripped enemy tiles? How are you having sufficient ammo to take out enemies before they run over the base? How do you get enough Medicine when people get injured and lose action points?

I can also say, I am no expert in this game. 8 plays and all are solo. I probably miss some good combos of actions because I like controlling 4 characters.

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Wesley Jones
United States
Hurricane
Utah
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Colin, --the first person to post a review! Thank you for taking the time and effort.

I think I would love this game but am torn at the $60 price tag along with tiles that are apparently showing wear very early.
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Colin Degnan
United States
Maplewood
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Wesley - Completely understandable.

Tiles - After I posted this review, Dave contacted me to let me know that if I need replacement tiles to contact him. So with that being said, if the tiles start wearing out, the publisher is willing make it right. And for me that is awesome!

Price - As for the price, I get that $60 seems a bit high. But when you think of the replay value of this game, you are going to get your money's worth from that alone. The publisher isn't Riot games where they have unlimited resources to spend on the game. They need to make money and I get that. To me, I would rather pay for gameplay quality over production quality.

Hope that helps you make your decision. If you still aren't sure just ask someone to get it for you for Christmas! That way it isn't your $60 bucks
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