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Check out the full review with pictures at https://projectgamingunplugged.com/2016/11/24/game-review-sa...
This was released earlier this year, around July. I heard it had some similarities to Dead of Winter, except that this was a full co-op game. Plus, the theme is post apocalyptic, which is right up my alley. I love the Mad Max movies, and I feel that more games need to incorporate this type of theme. I’m very happy that I got to try this game, as it seemed very cool. How is it? Let’s find out!
SALVATION ROAD (2016) Designed by Peter Gousis & Michael Kelley; Published by Van Ryder Games – for 2-4 players and takes about 45-75 minutes to play.
The premise is actually a pretty detailed story. Set in a post apocalyptic wasteland, the players are survivors that managed to hole up in a compound. But now the reactor is leaking and can explode anytime. Plus a bunch of marauders found you and want into the compound. You have one hope. Over the radio, you heard broadcasts from a settlement calling itself Salvation, that has lots of food and promises to be a safe place. Now, the players must work together to search for resources needed to survive the long trip, but we must be careful of the attacking marauders as we’re out and about.
In this co-op game, players must work together to gather enough resources for the trip. Each player controls 2 characters, A hero and a survivor, and will be sneaking around to different locations gathering supplies. The players must also defend the compound, which is threatened to be overrun with “mohawk-wearing” baddies riding motorcycles and buggies. When the players think they have enough resources to survive the trip, they head for salvation. But if they don’t have the correct amount of specific resources, they lose. And if that wasn’t enough, players only have a limited amount of time before the compound is overrun.
Like most co-op games. There are several ways to lose and only one way to win.
If the last marauder token is placed at the compound, everyone loses!
If a player loses both their hero AND survivor (meaning they’re killed), everyone loses!
The players draw the last apocalypse card (which will kind of act as a game timer), everyone loses!
If the players start their journey to Salvation, but don’t have the correct number of resources, everyone loses!
The only way to win is to have enough resources when traveling to Salvation, and then once you get there, you must have the right resources to pay the toll to enter.
Everyone starts at the compound. Each player has a survivor and a hero. The hero has a special ability that you can use throughout the game, while the survivor has a negative ability that is in effect for the entire game.
Players will also have character sheets and activation markers for their characters.
On the board, there are spaces to place all of the tokens, like the resources and wound tokens.
There are location cards that are placed face down on the board. The number of locations placed varies on the player count.
There will be search cards, which will determine which resources will appear at a location.
There are road cards that will tell you which resources you may need for your journey. One is placed face down at the beginning of the game, on the top of the board.
There are apocalypse cards that players will draw at the end of the round. These are always bad. No matter what!
So like I said, the point of the game is to gather enough resources from different locations, to prepare for your journey. There are also ways of finding out which resources you need from the road cards.
Let’s go over how a game round will go:
There are 4 phases to a round:
Action Phase: During this phase, beginning with the start player, everyone will take turns activating one of their characters, rotating clockwise. Once everyone has activated all of their characters, the action phase is over.
When a player activates a character, they can perform 2 actions with them. Here are the possible actions to take:
Move – Move a character to any location card or the compound. Locations can’t have more than 3 characters. The compound does not have a population limit. If a character moves onto a location card for the first time, they reveal the location, and flip over a search card, placing those supplies on the location. There are 4 types of supplies: Food, Fuel, Meds, and Ammo.
Gather: Take ONE resource token from the location supply and place it on one of their open health circle spaces on their character sheet. If they don’t have any available spaces, then they must drop a resource they already have if they can. Otherwise, they can’t gather.
Search – Draw a search card and add the resources listed to that location. And also increase the threat marker at that location.
Rest – Only if you’re at the compound, you may remove a facedown wound token from your character card.
Fight – If you are at the compound, you can remove a single marauder token. Then you most roll black threat dice to see if you take any wounds from the fight. If you are a hero, roll one die. If you are a survivor, roll 2 dice.
Shoot – If you are at the compound, and have an ammo token, you may discard an ammo token to remove up to three marauder tokens.
Heal – If you have a med token, you may discard it to heal 3 facedown wounds, or 1 faceup wound from your character. Some cards will tell players to flip over their wound token, which will most likely be a bad effect.
Recover – Some actions will cause you to be delayed, which will make your character lay down. You must use a recover action to stand back up. Otherwise you can’t really do anything.
Transfer – The first time you transfer, it’s a free action. You may transfer any amount of resources on your character card to the truck, if you’re at the compound. This is how you collect resources for your trip. You can also give resources to another character at the same location. You may also choose to take one resource from the truck too, if you take this action.
There are also actions on some locations that you can use. Some are actual actions, some are special abilities. Once a character has used one of these location actions, it can’t be used for the rest of the round.
Threat Phase: For each occupied location, a number of white threat dice must be rolled in order to see if any wounds are given out. The number of threat dice is equal to the number of characters at the location, plus wherever the current threat track monitor is for that specific location is at. Count up the wounds and then the players decide which character will take the wounds, if any. If there are no empty wound spaces left to place a wound, you must drop a resource token. If your health circles are all filled with wounds, that character is dead.
Apocalypse Phase: Draw an apocalypse card, and resolve its effects. This will determine how many marauders show up at the compound. Sometimes, the card will tell all players to gain a wound, or discard a resource as well. If there aren’t enough marauder tokens left, then all players lose.
Refresh Phase: Refresh your activation markers, pass the first player marker to the left and refresh locations. If all players are at the compound, they may choose to begin the journey to salvation. If not, go on to the next round, unless the last apocalypse card has been drawn, then the players must begin the journey, otherwise they lose.
During the game, there is a specific location that allows you to draw a road card. These cards will give you an idea of what resources you will need to successfully complete your journey to Salvation.
One action at this location allows you to draw a facedown road card, which will show you which resources you need, but not how many. If you take an action to flip it face up, this will tell you exactly how many resources you need. The number of road cards you need will depend on how many players there are (3-5 cards).
Once you begin the journey, this is what happens:
Transfer all resource tokens from character cards to the truck. One at a time, go through each road card, and discard the indicated resources on each card. If there is not enough road cards out, then draw the appropriate number of road cards you need. If at any point, you’re unable to pay the resources, everyone loses.
If the players are able to make it to Salvation. They must do one final task. They have to pay a toll. Players will draw a number of search cards one at a time, depending on player count. On that search card, players must choose which side of the resource card they want, then they must discard those resources. If they manage to pay all of the tolls, they win!
Whew! That’s kind of a long-winded way of winning, huh? But you know what? It really fits the theme.
There’s a lot of little details going around in this game, but everything makes sense thematically, so I felt like it had a good flow to it. Never really fiddly.
Now, there are some comparisons to Dead of Winter. I’m a big fan of that game. In this game, you’re kind of doing the same thing. You’re going to location to location, gathering resources. In fact, even some of the resources look the same, especially the food tokens. They’re almost identical.
But where that game shines through its possible hidden traitor element, I feel like this shines because everyone MUST work together. Players will constantly be talking amongst each other about where to go, which resources to collect, who should take out the marauders, and who should flip over road cards.
And when those apocalypse cards come out…… man! It really feels like you’re getting down to the wire on every turn. Bad things are constantly happening, and it’s up to everyone to try to make something good out of it.
There is some combat, but it’s not really the main part. Sure, you’re rolling dice to move marauders out of the compound once in a while, and also rolling dice at locations to see if you gain a wound, but really, this is a co-operative resource management game. And I like that!
I thought having the characters have special abilities was cool. One of your characters is awesome, and the other is a pain in the neck. I thought that was a neat idea and gives the game a nice balance.
Like I said, the theme is really good. I’m a big fan of The Road Warrior. In fact, there is one hero card that looks identical to Mad Max, complete with his dog. I thought that was awesome.
The components are fine. I wish there could have been some miniatures for the marauders, but then again, it’s not really that kind of game, so I really shouldn’t nitpick there. The artwork is okay. It didn’t blow me away, but it’s not bad.
However, I really liked the graphic design of the board. It might be one of the coolest looking boards of the year, which is a blueprint map of the compound, and the road to salvation. I love how some of the rules references on the board are hand written. And the location cards are Polaroids. That was a really nice touch that gives the game a distinct feel.
I also really liked the game play. I felt every decision was an important and vital one. I’ve played it a few times and still haven’t won. I definitely will keep coming back to this one.
There are also some variants in the back of the rulebook that make the game easier and harder. Plus there are some promo cards and mini-expansions at the Boardgamegeek store that can be used too.
I’m not sure how replayable it is though. I feel like that if I ever win the game, then I won’t visit it as often. I’m sure I’ll play it again, but now that I haven’t beaten it yet, I’m more likely to play it right now. But that’s not saying anything against the game design.
This is a solid co-op game that has a strong theme, and a very cool looking board. This was an easy game to get into, and has been a hit with every group I’ve tried this with.
If you are a fan of Co-op games (and are getting sick of that “hidden traitor” element), then you should definitely check out Salvation Road. It’s a good one from Van Ryder!
Michael D. Kelley
Thanks for the review Austin! Glad you're enjoying the game.
I think you'll be surprised by the replayability. Changing out a few characters, road cards, and apocalypse cards can have a huge influence on gameplay. And that's without the variant scenarios.
Thanks for the review. Glad you are enjoying it. We had a lot of fun making it and I still love playing it. Hope you get to Salvation soon. For me every successful journey feels so good that I want to play it again sooner