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Subject: Castaways - a Pros and Cons Review rss

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bryden
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Castaways: a Pros and Cons Review

A supplemental to this review was added later on and below.

Introduction (the biases):
When I saw that a game called Castaways was coming out and it was going to have a similar theme my immediate thoughts was “that will teach Z-Man to undersupply the gaming community”. “Watch this one be a better game and steal RC’s thunder. I like that there is a storytelling component as my only previous experience was with Tales of the Arabian Nights.

I must admit that I have enjoyed my plays of Tales of the Arabian Nights very much and found the play to be engaging and the stories interesting. It mattered little that they were not connected. Whether I actually had control of what was going on is debatable but I like to think that I did. I have certainly won more than I have lost.

When I saw Robinson Crusoe coming out and the high level of challenge that it was going to bring I couldn’t wait for it to come out. But like most everyone else in the U.S. at least I am forced to wait … a long time. I had a chance to play the game recently and it was decent and challenging. We won in the last turn playing scenario #1. The play was not top drawer but I am sure that it will get better with more chances. I did not find the rules too confusing and everything moved fairly quickly.

I enjoy challenging Co-Op games and my family enjoys competing with each other versus against each other. Ghost Stories has far and away been the most played but Sentinels of the Multiverse (I don’t mind the fiddly as long as the experience is there) has seen quite a bit of activity over the past year. Both of these games have prepared me for what I was about to get into.

What I want/like in co-op games:
1. Low luck (controllable at least)
2. High level of difficulty (Forbidden Island? Legendary? = no good)
3. Interesting play mechanics
4. Variable play

How to Play:
1. Sort out 8 different types of cards, placing some here there and everywhere (even back in the box)
2. Sort out a number of 1.5” chits which are mostly one offs onto the main board, to the side etc.
3. Place the story point disks and the plastic food/wood to the side
4. Choose a character to play (male or female, nice)
5. Choose a start player and off we go … now what?

a. Flip an event card and resolve
b. Start player chooses an action in the camp to perform (taking the action)
c. Each player in turn places one of their 2 meeples onto an action space paying any energy cost immediately.
d. Once all meeples have been placed you resolve the action from the top left to the lower right of the main board. Action options: forage (for food, 0-4, AVG:2), gather wood (1 piece), write a story (take a story disk), draw 5 wreckage cards with each player keeping 1, light the campfire, build an item, rest (gain energy and heal injuries), take a camp action or go on an adventure.

All of you will repeat the actions 12 to 20+ more times and if you have not adventured to the top of the volcano (end of the exploration track) and completed one of the goal(event) cards you have all lost. If you were successful, you get to compare the story points that each player has collected and whoever has collected the most tells the best story upon returning home and wins the game.

So this is one of those competitive co-op games. I had played Legendary once and got to experience this twist on the co-op genre. Did I like that aspect? Read on to find out.

Pros:
1. The story aspect of the play. The way that different cards can enter play based upon the random setup has an effect on the story told. The flavor text and images on the cards was a nice touch and very thematic. This is by far the game’s strength. Without it there is no game here.

2. The start player mechanic is interesting and gives the camp actions more value as many have only marginal value/benefit to the players.

3. I like the event deck component. It adds a nice variation each turn and the weather effects are integrated well into the play. This also changes how the game can play out.

4. The injury and healing mechanic is a novel idea the way that it is implemented. Taking this into consideration makes for the tougher choices in the game. On the other hand it is fairly easy to manage your health.

Cons:
1. Semi Co-Op: This semi co-op thing is just silly. I didn’t care for it in Legendary and I don’t care for it here. The cards that come into play that force this little distraction just serve to take up space. Arguments, dirty tricks, taking all of the ink, stealing from those that are trying to help you leave the island? Why would I want to spend an action to perform one of these actions? Whatever.

2. Dull action options: The actions that you take are not that interesting. For 2 energy you can forage and run the risk of getting nothing for your trouble (the average is 2 food) or you can go fishing with the possibility of gaining on average 1 food for no energy (you could get nothing) or you can just take 1 food. Foraging is a very weak action for the energy cost, unless the cook is in play especially with the lower player counts. There is no resource accumulation, and by round 8 (in every game played so far now passing 10 plays) we spend all of our time choosing adventure and food (as needed). Write in your diary? why is this even an option (yes, there are a couple oddball opportunities to use them)? Oh right, semi co-op. To be fair, in the early rounds it is more interesting just getting things going.

3. Cumbersome adventure mechanic: The adventure system is a great idea but just does not work as I had hoped. It is mentioned elsewhere in this forum that apparently there were some last minute changes to this part of the game before it was released. If this is true, it shows. The thing is that if this part of the game was not in there then there would not be a game because the rest of the game is just dull.

My issue stems from the fact that there are not enough footprints (which move you forward on the adventure path) especially in the heart of the island to get you to the end of the track and game success. To back this up, in all of the plays that we have had so far only once did we have enough footprints to reach the peak “unaided”. Nowhere in the rules does it say what happens if your run out of cards. We play that we all lose. Is this right?

At this point I mention that we have house-ruled the heart of the island basing additional advancement on how far you have moved on the map (risk) track. Any card drawn that takes you to 9+ on the map track gives a footprint if the card does not. Note: even with this we failed to reach the summit by running out of cards on a few plays.

To top it all off, if you don’t advance to the next part of the island by the time the appropriate deck has run out, you get to move up for free. This just devalues the whole process. Whether this is thematic or not is really irrelevant. You will ultimately go through all of the cards in all 3 adventure decks. Why not just say this and eliminate the track?

Adding to this is the fact that avoiding an adventure card event may move you back on the exploration track which you can ill afford while working up the heart of the island. So the decisions on some cards are almost automatic unless you just want to do something different than last time. During the beach and interior sections we just pass on the card event as taking the injuries to advance on the track does not mean anything since you get to move forward for free later anyway.

Then there are some really problematic “choices”. Why would I want to build a raft or explore a cave to get a flag or other bauble risking injuries, etc than just going through the wreckage deck and getting what we need there? I can tell you that my kids were really let down on that one. After a few plays we just ignore some option path ‘rewards’ (go to the temple anyone?). If there is going to be risk there should be a decent reward not a further punishment.

4. The game goes on and on etc: Due to the adventure system the games goes on for far too long with no real way to speed things up because we are not moving up the mountain and thus have to go through the entire deck. The threats that plagued us earlier have all been handled and we are just waiting for someone to reach the peak.

5. Too easy: You would have to be really inattentive not to finish one of the 12+ possible end game goals. I mean why spend more time spelling HELP with rocks than just building the bonfire? The odds of not seeing that card that you need is very remote (dare I say impossible). All of this assumes that you can reach the heart of the island.

6. Setup takes a bit: By the 3rd game I had a system for setting everything out quickly but that 1st game was something else. You have parts going everywhere and the rules are not streamlined on this point. This does not bother me in the long run as long as the game experience is there.

7. Card text is poorly worded/formatted in some cases: Lack of double spacing (formatting) and oddly written text leads to too much downtime as we try to gather the intention of the card. We have just house ruled the cards to fit what we think the designer intended. They might turn out not to be house rules.

8. Long term replayability?: Since you go through all of the “blank” cards every game due to the adventuring mechanic you will know the events that are about to come up. By game 3 you will know what your options are and where your adventure is going. More ‘blank’ cards in each grouping would help but really the system needs to be reviewed. We have just passed 10 plays so it has at least some replayability.
With all of these negatives you might think that I don’t enjoy the game. But this is not true. At least with not without some critical adaptations …

The Adaptations:
1. We play pure co-op. Any card that works against this is ignored.

2. Additional end game requirement: To win, each player must accumulate a minimum amount of story points and the team must also hit a goal. We use a minimum of 25 and a goal of 30 story points per player to win. This makes the diary option at least an end game option and strengthens the camp ‘adventure’ action.

3. We modify the heart of the island advancement as noted above (advance to 9+ on the map track, +1 footprint, if there is no footprint on the card). This feels thematic as well. If you want to continue to charge hard to the top you take the risk of getting lost and thus losing the game. I have left the rest of the adventuring as it is designed. I tried altering the other parts of the island but it took more away from the heart of the storytelling which is the real focus.

4. You must choose whether to keep one of the event cards as an option to finish the game before it is covered up by the next event. The team can keep, at most, 1 option in addition to the face up event at the end of the game. 12+ options are just too many. You can also complete the last event card faceup alternatively.

Final Opinions:
As designed, I feel that the game is flawed. While interesting and a decent story telling pastime it just does not make for a fun game. If the intention was a great story, Arabian Nights does storytelling better due to less story repetition. I would not have thought that going in.

As designed rating: 6 and not a game to be played often

With adaptations, the game is much more challenging and the players need to work together more often to ensure that a rescue is even possible (not because the cards aren’t there). The decision on whether to keep a certain event card for a possible end game goal is particularly tough (do we take this one now or do we hope that the spyglass, ledger, bonfire comes up later and what if it doesn’t?).

Adapted rating: 8 (due to the increased gaming challenge which helps to cover up the story repetition)

So far the game has provided many enjoyable moments with my family, in particular my youngest son. He really tries to put some effort into reading the cards. Now that we actually have a chance to lose, it really feels like we are just struggling just to survive. This is where the fun is for me.

Comparisons:

As an enjoyable Co-op game: (adapted rules)
Sentinels of the Multiverse>Ghost Stories>Castaways>Flashpoint (only if played at the higher challenge levels). I have played Robinson Crusoe once and would put it above Ghost Stories at this point.

As an challenging Co-op game: (adapted rules)
Ghost Stories(we only play the top level)>Sentinels of the Multiverse>Flashpoint(higher challenge level)=Castaways. It is too early to see where Robinson Crusoe will fall although I suspect comparable to Ghost Stories.

As a Story Telling game: (I haven’t played many of these)
Tales of the Arabian Nights >> Castaways (It does not matter to me that each paragraph does not tie out to a previous one, everything else going on provides the atmosphere. In case you are wondering, I have tightened up TotAN to shorten the game length and add additional choices.)

Comparing to the similarly themed Robinson Crusoe:
The worker placement element in Robinson Crusoe was much more interesting and the challenge was much higher even with the alterations that I have given Castaways. The fact that you have different scenarios (an additional expansion is coming as well) will further strengthen the case for RC.

Final Thoughts:
Castaways is a great idea for a game and was a little bit of polishing(depth?) away from being a comparable game to Robinson Crusoe. It makes me wonder if it was rushed to beat the Robinson Crusoe release during the summer (if you can call it that). Perhaps the part of the game that was left out will be put back in as an expansion. Where have we heard that before?
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gabriele romagnoli
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Very nive overview. The rules modification look very interesting but i don't know if maybe i'm playing with the wrong rules:
the winning conditions is that the items collected match the the activa event card and THE CARDS LEFT IN THE DECK, and not the one discarded.
You are saying the game is too easy and this could be the explanation.
Tomorrow i will try the game with the victory point variant and the exploration advancement variant as well and let you know about it.
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Damien Seb. ●leoskyangel●
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NoDicePlease wrote:

7. Card text is poorly worded/formatted in some cases: Lack of double spacing (formatting) and oddly written text leads to too some downtime as we try to gather the intention of the card. We have just house ruled the cards to fit what we think the designer intended. They might turn out not to be house rules.


Thank you for the review.

Right now, the inconsistent structure of the text on the cards is a big turn off for me. It's cumbersome to try to check the forum for answers every time this happens, plus not many are actually answered. I'd appreciate if the designer himself or someone from the publisher come forward to sort this out.

Right now, I'm waiting to try my friend's copy of RC, and by that time, I should be able to decide which one to keep.
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Brandon Holmes
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This game has so much potential but I am holding off buying it for two reasons:

1. Semi-co-op - I am not a big fan of semi-co-op play and this is a big turnoff as I have yet to see it work well in a game.

2. No expansions - The replay value of this game seems very limited.

I may still break down and buy this game because of the low price point and see if the adaptions you have above will fix my semi-co-op concerns. and I will definitely buy it if they announce an expansion that adds more cards (and hopefully has an option to play without the semi-co-op style).

 
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Michael F
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This was a fantastic review, and you came to a lot of the same conclusions about the game as I did. I also enjoyed hearing about your house rules. I may implement a couple of them, because I also find this game to be a little too easy. Sure, there's enough luck here to ruin things (I've lost 1 of my 4 games by my castaways dying, but it really amounts to the dice and whether or not your injuries turn into traumas), but you never have that hopeless feeling that being stranded on a desert island should give you.

There are a few points I wanted to comment on:

NoDicePlease wrote:

The story aspect of the play. The way that different cards can enter play based upon the random setup has an effect on the story told. The flavor text and images on the cards was a nice touch and very thematic. This is by far the game’s strength. Without it there is no game here.


Totally agree. And I think one thing this game has going for it that Tales of the Arabian Nights doesn't have going for it is consistency in what's going on, as you mentioned elsewhere in the review. The monkey that keeps hassling you and the possibility of dealing with pirates are just a couple of the ongoing events that add to this game's theme.

NoDicePlease wrote:

2. Dull action options: The actions that you take are not that interesting. For 2 energy you can forage and run the risk of getting nothing for your trouble (the average is 2 food) or you can go fishing with the possibility of gaining on average 1 food for no energy (you could get nothing) or you can just take 1 food. Foraging is a very weak action for the energy cost, unless the cook is in play especially with the lower player counts. There is no resource accumulation, and by round 8 (in every game played so far now passing 10 plays) we spend all of our time choosing adventure and food (as needed). Write in your diary? why is this even an option (yes, there are a couple oddball opportunities to use them)? Oh right, semi co-op. To be fair, in the early rounds it is more interesting just getting things going.


This is a really good point. I've also found that in the early turns of the game it's imperative to get a shelter built and a good amount of food stored. After that though, there's nothing much else to do but explore the island. Even keeping the fire lit isn't really as important as one might think. Sometimes I'll spend a turn with the extra effort action (The one that gives you more energy in return for an injury), and finish the bonfire or the HELP sign, but that's about it.

And as much as I dislike the semi-cooperative nature of this game, I feel that the latter half of this game becomes a race to explore and accumulate story points. In my first game, my wife and I both went exploring, but she got to go first. She ended up exploring so much, that I was lost for the next 3 turns since she had abilities to return to camp easier. This was when I stopped having fun. I wanted this game to be a fun co-op, but the semi-coop nature, imo, comes out eventually, whether you want it to or not.

NoDicePlease wrote:

My issue stems from the fact that there are not enough footprints (which move you forward on the adventure path) especially in the heart of the island to get you to the end of the track and game success. To back this up, in all of the plays that we have had so far only once did we have enough footprints to reach the peak “unaided”. Nowhere in the rules does it say what happens if your run out of cards. We play that we all lose. Is this right?


I may be wrong, but I think once you go through an entire deck (Including the heart of the island one), everyone advances past that section to the next (Or in this case, the top of the volcano). I haven't run into this problem like you have, so maybe this would be fixed if you spent more time exploring the earlier parts of the island (Thus adding in story cards into the heart of the island deck)?

NoDicePlease wrote:

8. Long term replayability?: Since you go through all of the “blank” cards every game due to the adventuring mechanic you will know the events that are about to come up. By game 3 you will know what your options are and where your adventure is going. More ‘blank’ cards in each grouping would help but really the system needs to be reviewed. We have just passed 10 plays so it has at least some replayability.


I worry about this as well. My wife really enjoys the game, and whenever that's the case I usually end up hanging onto it unless I absolutely hate it. I don't think it's one I'll break out all the time because of the limited variety in events, but I think it does give you a solid thematic experience.

NoDicePlease wrote:

Perhaps the part of the game that was left out will be put back in as an expansion. Where have we heard that before?


Yes, I'm thinking this will be the case as well. Like I just mentioned, my wife enjoys this, so this may be one of the few instances where I end up getting the expansion in hopes of it improving the overall game. Normally I take the stance that games like Lords of Waterdeep and Legendary should be great right out of the box, because I'm not going to spend money on an expansion if the base game isn't good to begin with. Unfortunately I may have to bend this rule since I already have Castaways.

Much like Last Night on Earth, I think this game suffers a lot from there being a lot of "bendable rules" in order to make the theme shine through. I enjoy this sometimes, but it really does make me think Robinson Crusoe would have been the better choice in hindsight. Thanks again for your review. I enjoyed reading it
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bryden
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Dungeonlord wrote:
The rules modification look very interesting but i don't know if maybe i'm playing with the wrong rules:
the winning conditions is that the items collected match the the activa event card and THE CARDS LEFT IN THE DECK, and not the one discarded.

The English rules don't state this and I believe another place in the forum the question was asked and it was explained that any of the turned(past) events can be considered as a game end condition.

To consider the ones remaining would seem random. Unless you write down a list of the possibilities and check them off as you go.
 
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bryden
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Supplemental follow up:
In our last play I decided that we were going to do our best to burn through the adventure decks as quick as possible to see how quickly we could get the game done and I was alarmed at the result:

We found the goat and this resolved any feeding issues. I had the cook as a backup but we never foraged (2 player game). This proved to eliminate a large portion of the early game. My partner built 2 levels to the shelter and kept the fire lit. I went straight for adventuring every turn until the weather got bad. I was lost once. I used the bad weather period to heal up.

We went adventuring together (twice) but there was really no reason to do this. Why take a chance of us both getting lost and having the home fires go out. I quickly worked my way through the beach deck and started running up the interior.

I chose to ignore events whenever possible but those that advanced me on the adventure track (dangerous leap, for example). By turn 8 I had reached the red section (cards remained in the interior deck). We had chosen the end game card that we were going to complete and I took a break to get the help sign done. (As I mentioned in the review, we only get to choose 1 to try and complete and the HELP, spyglass, ledger was it)

The step back red event (always an annoyance) came up early which was nice. Then myself and fellow gamer, went adventuring together (him from the interior deck and me from the heart of the island deck) so that I could get the push that the interior deck gives which the heart of the island lacks. In 3 rounds I had reached the top with the last return only needing a roll of 5. I did not need the modification for the heart of the island by adventuring this way. Had we gone together through the interior we would have been stuck at the peak, which is what we had issues with before. (Moral: don't adventure together in the same area and certainly let only 1 person go to the top)

What this showed was that ignoring the story to cause the timer to tick faster games the system. To top this off we ended with 85 story points between us far above the 60 mandate (see requirement that we use above, 30 per player). I qualify this by adding, at least for the 2 player game.

To me this validates that if you are a gamer you have a very high probability of winning in your first play and should have no issues from then on as you tighten up your action choices.

Is the goat that powerful? Why would you ever want to eat the goat? We fished once and never foraged thus making the actions needed to gather food beyond the start player going to the goat unnecessary.

Note: I chose to play this way to validate my opinions of Castaways as a competitive game which it proved not to be. To ignore large portions of the game and then to win the game easily by adventuring every turn gives this game a singular path to victory. In actuality, that is all there is. I am referring to the game play approach.

Follow up to semi Co-op:
I have been contacted by BGG Mail and have read in another thread that you must play as a semi co-op to get the full effect of the game and to make it challenging. My question is how do you do this?

In my mind you would have to choose to play sub-optimally selecting actions that do not further the cause and create table tension to make the game challenging. Why and who would choose to do that? Is the goal to never play the game again with the same people? When the game is over there would be finger pointing and negative discussion about how so-and-so made us lose the game etc. I don't know about others but that is a negative gaming experience.

My opinion of Castaways has been further muted by the last game played.

We will still play on occasion but I need to figure out how I can make the end game even harder to achieve than I currently have. The semi co-op play will never happen in my house. I love my family too much.
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bryden
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newkillerstar27 wrote:

NoDicePlease wrote:

My issue stems from the fact that there are not enough footprints (which move you forward on the adventure path) especially in the heart of the island to get you to the end of the track and game success. To back this up, in all of the plays that we have had so far only once did we have enough footprints to reach the peak “unaided”. Nowhere in the rules does it say what happens if your run out of cards. We play that we all lose. Is this right?


I may be wrong, but I think once you go through an entire deck (Including the heart of the island one), everyone advances past that section to the next (Or in this case, the top of the volcano). I haven't run into this problem like you have, so maybe this would be fixed if you spent more time exploring the earlier parts of the island (Thus adding in story cards into the heart of the island deck)?

What I saw in the rules was that when a deck runs out you go to the next section automatically to draw cards from that deck. In the case of the heart of the island there is no next section/deck. If there was a rescue spot then I guess you could argue that point. It is vague, in my opinion. The game needs to be harder anyway so game loss suits me fine now.

As far as figuring out the mountain, I think that I have found the solution. Don't climb the mountain together (at least in the same section). See my additional comments that I posted.
 
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Michael F
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NoDicePlease wrote:
newkillerstar27 wrote:

NoDicePlease wrote:

My issue stems from the fact that there are not enough footprints (which move you forward on the adventure path) especially in the heart of the island to get you to the end of the track and game success. To back this up, in all of the plays that we have had so far only once did we have enough footprints to reach the peak “unaided”. Nowhere in the rules does it say what happens if your run out of cards. We play that we all lose. Is this right?


I may be wrong, but I think once you go through an entire deck (Including the heart of the island one), everyone advances past that section to the next (Or in this case, the top of the volcano). I haven't run into this problem like you have, so maybe this would be fixed if you spent more time exploring the earlier parts of the island (Thus adding in story cards into the heart of the island deck)?


As far as figuring out the mountain, I think that I have found the solution. Don't climb the mountain together (at least in the same section). See my additional comments that I posted.


Yeah, I never saw a reason to adventure together in this game. My wife and I have always done so separately. I mean, I guess if you want some of the benefits for there being more people in your group, but that doesn't happen that often at all. It's more disadvantageous, imo, to adventure together.
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Guillermo Tarazona
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Great review!

I want to add a couple of details.

When a deck runs out of cards, the solution is in the second note in page 8. I copy/paste the note here.

Quote:
NOTE: When a card is fully resolved and there are no cards left in that deck, all castaways with markers in that part of the island
immediately move their markers to the first space of the next part of the exploration track. This means that all of that part of the island has
been explored. This also applies if someone enters a part of the island that has no cards. If the last deck is depleted all players advance to
the headland and the end of game is triggered.


I was part of the playtesting of the game, and during the process somethings were changed. But no that rule specifically, the main change was the way that the castaways go out of the island, at the beginning instead of the item mechanic, there was a dice roll that was really "anticlimax".
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Eddie Ng
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NoDicePlease wrote:
Dungeonlord wrote:
The rules modification look very interesting but i don't know if maybe i'm playing with the wrong rules:
the winning conditions is that the items collected match the the activa event card and THE CARDS LEFT IN THE DECK, and not the one discarded.

The English rules don't state this and I believe another place in the forum the question was asked and it was explained that any of the turned(past) events can be considered as a game end condition.

To consider the ones remaining would seem random. Unless you write down a list of the possibilities and check them off as you go.


I believe it is on page 10 of the English rulebook.
Quote:
END OF THE GAME
The first player to reach the headland (the last space on the exploration track) must decide whether the game ends that turn or at the end of the next turn. The game continues as normal until the Survival Phase of the last turn is complete. Then, the group checks the active event card and all event cards left in the deck to see if they can signal the ship.
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Jon Reed
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NoDicePlease wrote:
Follow up to semi Co-op:
I have been contacted by BGG Mail and have read in another thread that you must play as a semi co-op to get the full effect of the game and to make it challenging. My question is how do you do this?

In my mind you would have to choose to play sub-optimally selecting actions that do not further the cause and create table tension to make the game challenging. Why and who would choose to do that? Is the goal to never play the game again with the same people? When the game is over there would be finger pointing and negative discussion about how so-and-so made us lose the game etc. I don't know about others but that is a negative gaming experience.

My opinion of Castaways has been further muted by the last game played.

We will still play on occasion but I need to figure out how I can make the end game even harder to achieve than I currently have. The semi co-op play will never happen in my house. I love my family too much.


My family really enjoys co-ops. We also love playing mean games together like Survive, Werewolf, Shadows Over Camelot and semi co-ops. We must not love each other cry.

Now, I'm a newb but let me try to answer your questions. The trick is to not approach semi co-ops as pure co-ops. It's a mistake I see players make and they don't realize they're doing it. Remember it this way: you as an individual player has two goals to win- 1. survive and be rescued (for this you will need to co-operate with the other players) AND 2. score the most points (for this you will need to look after your own interests). In the end, if you did not accomplish BOTH goals, then you have lost the game. It's finding the right balance that makes these games so unique and rewarding especially if all players grasp the idea. If everyone does, there can be no finger pointing because the ultimate goal was never for everyone to win the game. I think too many people shy away from the "semi" concept because they don't understand it yet; it's still relatively new to the hobby. Once you do understand it, approach the game the way you'd approach those other games I listed- have a blast being playfully mean with each other. Do you play sports or a simple game like Crokinole with your family members? Is it being mean by blocking their jump shot or flicking their disc off the board? It may seem like it is to some people, but really it's just good competitive fun using the game's rules. Just learn to approach all "mean" board games this same way and keep it in the context of the game. Now I will admit some families don't have the thick skin to handle it so they should probably stay away... or ...grow thick skin by playing more games like these .

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Stoodster
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Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review. Would you mind elaborating a bit on this...
NoDicePlease wrote:
In case you are wondering, I have tightened up TotAN to shorten the game length and add additional choices.
 
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stoodster wrote:
Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review. Would you mind elaborating a bit on this...
NoDicePlease wrote:
In case you are wondering, I have tightened up TotAN to shorten the game length and add additional choices.

I will put something together to outline our play mechanics in the ToTAN forum.

In short, the game (ToTAN) is much quicker with more decisions to make with the modifications. Density is always good in my opinion. The storytelling remains unchanged and enjoyable. We started thinking differently about our action selections. I wish that I could play it more.
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zeroichi wrote:

I believe it is on page 10 of the English rulebook.
Quote:
END OF THE GAME
The first player to reach the headland (the last space on the exploration track) must decide whether the game ends that turn or at the end of the next turn. The game continues as normal until the Survival Phase of the last turn is complete. Then, the group checks the active event card and all event cards left in the deck to see if they can signal the ship.

Thanks for your response. I had hoped that I was wrong about the ending as the rule you noted brings in the whole card counting business. Just check each event off of the list as it appears.

This further exemplifies that you need to charge hard the whole time with adventuring one at a time, collect all of the items that you can salvage and then hope for the best. As I said, this makes it kind of a random pastime and less of a game.

It kind of stinks that you don't really know the end game condition and just have to build and take whatever to hope that you chose wisely. I can see the point to it but I would not want to play for 2+ hours and then find out that we should have taken the spyglass or ledger but didn't. Then think, wait they both came out at the same time how could we have?! That would not make for a good experience.
 
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I assumed the point of this mechanic was that if you finish the game quickly by getting to the headland you will probably only have a few items for rescue, but you will have more event cards left in the deck so a higher chance of matching them. If you make/gather all the rescue items it will take longer so you will only have one or two cards left to match, but because you have most/all of the items your chance of matching increases.

I don't understand the card counting aspect - I thought each card just had a random set of required items on the bottom, so there's no way of knowing which set of items will be on the last event cards, even if you track the ones that have been used, especially as only some of the Event cards are used in the game and the rest are put back in the box?

I have only played once so far, but I thought this part of the game was all about judging the risk and getting the balance right - do we take longer and get more of the items, but reduce our options on the remaining event cards, or finish quickly with lots of options but less items? There is probably an optimum point to reach the headland and you have to try to aim for that.



 
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whitescar wrote:
I assumed the point of this mechanic was that if you finish the game quickly by getting to the headland you will probably only have a few items for rescue, but you will have more event cards left in the deck so a higher chance of matching them. If you make/gather all the rescue items it will take longer so you will only have one or two cards left to match, but because you have most/all of the items your chance of matching increases.

Oftentimes you will draw 2+ end game items from the salvage stack and unless you get the card that lets you dig through the discard those cards are gone. Let's say that you draw a spyglass and the ledger and can only take one (think solo game) or really want/need something else instead. One of those items is gone and cannot be gained again. As the event stack starts to dwindle down you note that quite a few ledger end game cards have gone by. How many are there? Did the event which discards 1 event unseen discard one of them etc? You could be doomed because of the luck of the draw. If we find that we can only take a couple of the end game items I would like to know if we need to play the last few turns or what we might need. For the most part we take all of the end game items that we can get unless we need some crucial item (there aren't many). This makes the process of salvaging often rote (in our case). If you pass on too many = game loss.

whitescar wrote:
I don't understand the card counting aspect - I thought each card just had a random set of required items on the bottom, so there's no way of knowing which set of items will be on the last event cards, even if you track the ones that have been used, especially as only some of the Event cards are used in the game and the rest are put back in the box?

If you are playing solo, you use all of the cards although 1 may be discarded. If you have seen 4 ledger events go by and you 'find' the ledger in the salvage stack the odds of winning by taking the card is significantly reduce thus being a wasted action. It is important to know the distribution of the items to know the possibilities otherwise you are just randomly taking items.

For 3+ players 3 cards are removed changing the possibilities. You need to know how this affects the probabilities.

All I am saying is that you can get messed up through no fault of your own and the last 2+ hours playing are all for nothing.

We had one game where we took the spyglass on the first salvage and then watched all spyglass events pass by thus making the action a 1 or 2 story point grab without helping the end game.

If you are playing aggressively and without a story point 'requirement' you should be able to win the game by turn 8-10 in all cases as long as the players are not just wasting time with the other busywork. Racing to the top of the island one at time and collecting all of the end game items = victory.

By the book, the method to make the game 'harder' (use story points to reroll) does not make any difference in the play if you do not care about how many you need to get. The story point requirement that I employ does. 30 per player is the end game goal where each player must have at least 25 or they do not share in the victory.

The last part makes for much harder decisions and much more tension in the play. It is less reliable on luck and causes there to be a greater focus on survival. To me that is the fun. To each his own.

FYI - my plays are approaching 20 with my adaptations. Still enjoyable.
 
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NoDicePlease wrote:
I will put something together to outline our play mechanics in the ToTAN forum.

I can't wait to see that!
 
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Nice review bryden.
I agree with the issues you've raised have tried to create my own variant that redesigns some of the problem areas.

There's still some holes, but it is workable and I am looking to further tweak it.
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16157326#16157326


I'm interested to hear how you came to aquire so many SP tokens in the game. In our last game we didnt get very many at all.
 
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ReqMan wrote:
Nice review bryden.
I agree with the issues you've raised have tried to create my own variant that redesigns some of the problem areas.

There's still some holes, but it is workable and I am looking to further tweak it.
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/16157326#16157326


I'm interested to hear how you came to aquire so many SP tokens in the game. In our last game we didnt get very many at all.

I have read your variant ideas and they are quite dramatic but the scaling factor of the shipwreck is interesting. I am not so sure about the adventuring part as this would cause players to constantly rest to heal to get the 'time' marker back to a reasonable number.

To your question: story points are the challenge and really changes the focus in deciding which cards to take from the wreckage. The story points that we gain from those is key to achieving victory.

The last game we played (about a week ago) I had collected 35 total SP while my partner crossed 50 giving us a victory (we play to 40 per player - each player has to have a minimum of 35 to be part of the victory group).

How do we do it? Conservation of actions, important wreckage decisions (sometimes these are quite difficult as I hate to 'diary' but want to increase the chance of rescue) and timing the diary actions to when it fits best into what we are doing. Is this easy? I would say that it is moderately challenging especially as we decide when we think we have enough to make the final ascent to the top.

We drive hard up the adventure track (unfortunately ignoring all of the distractions (adventures that are not worth your time (all 'stored' adventures fit this category)) to get the 'feet' and story points. We will cozy up to one space short, take stock in how confident we feel about going for the victory. The hard part with the ascent is making sure you have enough feet to get to the summit. We play if the heart of the island deck goes empty we lose. Knowing that you have the necessary feet makes a difference on whether we 'cozy up' or push hard for a split ascent (one in the heart and one in the interior to push the player through the heart).

Result: the game is more of a game that needs focused cooperation versus a 3 hour activity in watching the game be played. We play in slightly over 75 minutes with 2 players (about 90 minutes with 3). This feels to be right amount of time for Castaways.
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