Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc are one of the most prolific duos in modern board gaming - Mr. Jack, Cyclades, Dice Town… the list goes on and on. In 2013, they created SOS Titanic, published by Ludonaute and distributed in the U.S. by Game Salute. This is their first cooperative game together, and the design is inspired by… Solitaire. You know, the card game on every computer. Can such a simple concept really produce an “exciting and thematic” game? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:
Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?
Components: There’s not much inside the box here – just 90 cards, the rulebook, and the very cool booklet that shows the Titanic sinking as the game progresses. This is not a complaint by any means – I love when components are minimalist as long as they’re pretty and efficient. Titanic hits on both of those. The cards do a lot to inspire the era, and the artwork in the booklet is just gorgeous. The booklet also goes a long way to keep track of things for the game as well. As far as I can tell, this is Sandra Fesquet’s first time illustrating a board game, and she did a fantastic job – I hope we see more of her work in the future. I also think the graphic design of the rulebook is extremely good.
$25 MSRP is about normal for a game like this. Compared to small card games like Jaipur, Citadels and Sobek, it doesn’t have any tokens, but it has a lot more cards and the booklet. (Man, that booklet is cool.) I don’t know how Game Salute’s distribution exactly works, other than to know that my favorite online deep discounters don’t have this game listed. However, I imagine most FLGSs can order it, and we’ve got a great one here in Fort Wayne (Nerdvana Games) that marks everything 25% off. The point is: the game can be had for a perfectly reasonable price.
Accessibility: If you’ve ever played Solitaire/Klondike/Patience, many of the mechanisms are almost exactly the same. There are, however, some major differences, and I felt that the rule book very clearly explained the rules and neatly identified the character and action card abilities. (However, a few things were left out, but there is now a FAQ). I also had to reference the rulebook a few times regarding Action cards, but I found my answers quickly. I also thought that their well-thought-out names, which fit well with the thematic meaning of the mechanisms, made the effects easy to memorize. It might be because I learned the game from someone before I got a hold of the rulebook, but I feel that the game is extremely easy to learn and teach.
Depth: Yes, this is just Solitaire. Just like we’ve seen many times recently, we are at a point in modern board gaming where we’ve begun refining games rather than trying to come up with completely original ideas (as if such a thing actually exists!). However, the designers have really taken the game far from its origins, even though it seems the same at first glance. The fact that you can lose Lines at the front of the boat and force reshuffles of the cards is a very interesting change, and one that requires a ton of tactical decisions. It’s actually not always a bad thing, because you might know a card you desperately need is buried under a card you can’t move.
That’s actually what I think makes SOS Titanic such an interesting game, even though it seems so simple. The correct decision is rarely obvious, and moves that appear to be bad ones can actually be good. When do you try to tank a Passengers’ Rescue so that you can get an Action card? When do you use those cards? Is it better to fill a Survivors’ Group or keep cards back for Line building? It’s actually a very tough game. I have found that it’s actually a little easier and more engaging with other players, which is ironic given its origin. You can get more mileage out of the characters that can’t draw Action cards (they seem terrible in the Solo game), and can work out combos several turns in advance when you use the character powers together. It’s still very interesting on your own, though.
Theme: Even though you’re just moving numbers around, this game really draws you into its theme. It is extremely cool how the booklet works with the game and how the lower decks sink, making you feel a real sense of danger as you play in a way that thematically makes sense. The concepts of the Action cards also really fit in with the theme and the panic around the event. The game is very intense and nerve-wracking, even solitaire.
Some have taken issue with this game’s theme. Given that it’s been over a century since it happened, and it was already made into a blockbuster movie 17 years ago, I don’t find it inappropriate. It certainly isn’t any worse than playing games where you try to win wars as the Nazis (and those exist in spades). If it was something more sinister, maybe I could see the point, but we’re trying to save the passengers. What’s wrong with that? If anything, it made me more interested to look up facts about the event and become more educated.
Fun: After 2013's Gen Con, I called this game the best of the con, because it was such a pleasant surprise. After getting to play this a little more, I should have included it in my "Best of 2013" picks as well. There’s just something addicting about the Solitaire mechanism – it’s so exciting to see what card you reveal when you move cards to a new row. Honestly, it feels a bit like gambling. That, combined with some seriously tough decision-making make this a game that you’ll play over and over. It’s really interesting to see how things work differently with more players, but I think this is a game that will be played solitaire more often, because it feels natural to play it alone, rather than feeling like a cooperative game was adapted to be a 1-player experience. It’s a bit bulky to take around and play on the go, but if this game is ever on the iPad… Somebody make that happen! For now, if you’ve got the table space, this is a fantastic game 1-player and probably the best solitaire board or card game I’ve ever played.
If you want a fresh, exciting, thematic solitaire experience – or a cooperative one – SOS Titanic hits all those points and more. When you add in the tricky decisions and the low price, this one becomes a no-brainer.
Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
- Last edited Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:06 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:43 am
Re: Review: SOS Titanic
Yes it is....