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Neanderthal» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Not Entirely Surprised that the Neanderthal Died Out (a Solo Game Review) rss

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The Mirror
United States
New York
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Disclaimer:
This will not include a rules overview, there are better examples out there already. ALSO, this review is based entirely on solo plays using the co-op variant.

Components, Rules, etc:
I'm a big fan of the Eklund small box. Sierra Madre Games pack a LOT of game in to small packages which are more than worth the asking price. Cards are fine, plastic discs are a bit annoying to manage but functional and the cubes and cylinders are standard quality wood game pieces. I appreciate the card design and unlike some earlier Eklund games the layout is clear and consistent making it easy to see important information at a glance. The rules themselves are predictably cumbersome and I'm not a huge fan of the living rules model but for the fact that I know that I have access to the latest and greatest. Of course this is all to be expected, and in fact like all the latest Sierra Madre crop they seem to be increasingly streamlined.

Gameplay:
Neanderthal is immersive game where you find yourself evolving the minds and cultures of three humanoid species who all purportedly coexisted, comingled and copulated in Europe 45,000-ish years ago. After wrapping your head around the procedural hurdles the game actually flows smoothly.

So I feel fairly certain that the solo game that I've been playing is missing the player interaction that tends to make Eklund games sing (and I'm very much keeping an open mind about that), but as a solo game I'm feeling like the experience is a bit flat and procedural. Or maybe that's not quite fair. The gameplay is fairly enjoyable, and the theme is compelling and I've learned a good deal of controversial science and anthropology which I enjoy. That said, as a solo game it's reminding me of a soloist's and general BGG fave which I had some similar issues with and that's Robinson Crusoe. Both of the games are thematically driven with mechanics that can at times lean overly procedural. But the thing that I have an issue with in both games is that I'm not entirely convinced that any of my decisions are all that important at all. I don't mind some luck in the form of thematic chaos, but in Neanderthal I feel like the strategic and tactical aspects of the game are a bit overwhelmed by the literal roll of the dice. Not to mention the brutal event cards designed to strip the species of their advantages. Obviously the game allows for the mitigation of this to a degree, and I actually haven't lost a game yet, but I guess when in comes down to it, the issue that I have is that the decisions simply don't feel like tough ones.

Conclusion:
Now I can see how player the interaction in a competitive multi-player game would add a lot of value to the chaos. Pax Porfiriana, for instance, thrives off of the random card draws and the need for tactical flexibility. And I should also note that this game is easily as thematically rich and immersive as a game like Robinson Crusoe. In fact for those of you solo gamers looking for a somewhat more idiosyncratic (and in my opinion considerably more interesting) but equally immersive solo experience look no further than Neanderthal. And though I have't played it, I'm sure Greenland as well. These are wonderful bits of escapism and storytelling which unlike some other publishers, you can easily stuff in nearly any bag and be playing with even a relatively small spot of table space if (for instance) you're trying to find some space while trapped in your dead grandmother's house, sleeping on the couch surrounded by stressful extended family. Who knows, maybe you can even rally the troops and get some to play along. Ultimately though, I wish that the luck was dialed back a bit and the tension that only interesting decisions can elicit was was greater.

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Phillip McCaughey
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What solo rules did you play with? Those from section K3 of the living rules?
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The Mirror
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filliptoo wrote:
What solo rules did you play with? Those from section K3 of the living rules?


No I've only played K2 the original published solo/co-op
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The Mirror
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Have you played the K3 variant? How is it?
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Phillip McCaughey
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I've not tried the printed solo rules to compare but I liked the game with the solo (K3) living rules. It felt a lot like playing the normal game but I'm not sure that they will address your issues with randomness.

If you give them a try, there is a significant part missing from K3 in the living rules - Take the daughter card if you have the available vocabulary disks. Mandatory 2 disks of the possible disks for bidding (shown on the middle of the card) - which Spurge clarified in the thread where the rules were first proposed.
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Dennis Ku
Canada
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Neanderthal is fun, although I will say that my friend and I found it a bit harder to grasp than Greenland - maybe even a bit less fun? I'll have to play it again and give it another chance so I can really understand it.
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Thanks for the review!
mirror33 wrote:
this game is easily as thematically rich and immersive as a game like Robinson Crusoe.
Just to share a slightly different viewpoint: I must say that I can't help finding Robinson Crusoe much more immersive: in fact, the slowly changing row of animals in Neanderthal feels much less flavorful to me than Robinson's multitude of tools that can be built, actions that can be undertaken and even t cards that can be drawn…
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