When life gets overwhelming, the thought of being stranded on an island doesn't sound too bad. However, when the island is cursed, such as in this game, it definitely raises your anxiety.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a co-op style game, supporting 1 to 4 players. I typically prefer games that support up to 6 or even 8 players, but after playing this game for the last 2 days, it totally deserves a spot on my gaming shelf.
I played the game the 1st time in solo mode, while I worked on learning the rules. The Rulebook is solid, however, there are a few rules that are placed in more difficult places to locate. An Index would have been terrific, but after reading through it a couple of times, and trying a few games, you can pretty much get the hang of the rules well enough to play smoothly.
There are only 4 characters in the game, and I wish there were more to choose from. However, the characters which are included are VERY well thought out, and fit perfectly with the theme of the game. Their abilities are very relevant and powerful, and you get a unique invention card which is specifically adapted to your characters strengths. I think if the game came with 6 or 8 characters, it would be that much more amazing.
The theme of the game is terrific. From the beginning (discovering that you are on a beach tile location) you feel as though you really are on a deserted island. Every piece to the game contributes to the theme, and the items, adventure, and event cards all move the theme forward.
This game gets difficult. Even brutal at times. You never have enough resources to do everything you want to do, and you really feel the pressure of opportunity costs as you make decisions. Spend too much effort gathering wood, and someone goes hungry. Focus too much on building inventions, and you get punished by the weather. You think its fun to explore a few new areas in a single turn, and the event progression punishes everyone. This is really where "the game" happens, and this is what generates the kind of anxiety that really makes you think about your next move.
The recommended 1st scenario is very fun, and totally represents the theme of the game. Just this single scenario can carry the game itself. The great thing here is that there are 6 scenarios in the box, which totally expands the game experience. Each one looks interesting to play, and relevant to the game theme and experience. Cant wait to play through more of them.
I have played the game solo, and it functions very well. Then I played a 2 player game, and things seemed even more fun, and slightly easier. We cranked it up to 4 players, and things really became challenging. I anticipated the game to get easier with more players, since you have more actions each turn, however, you now have more mouths to feed (we usually had 1 or 2 people going hungry each night) and it costs twice the price in wood to build your core structures.
The game has randomness in it, however, I think its very well balanced. Other games totally rely on D6 dice rolls, which can really sway the outcome. This game has custom dice, and there are 4 sets, which all are crafted to balance the random dice rolls very well for their corresponding game mechanics. This is really well done.
In my opinion, there could be a few changes which would further polish the game. First of all, there are wooden and plastic colored blocks which you use in many different ways. I would be nice to have a red heart token to track your health, yellow bananas for food, wooden mallets for building actions, etc... Each character gets 2 wooden cylinders that you use to represent where you are planning your actions. These could be color coordinated to your character (in a meaningful way) and also could have some shape that would better represent action. Anyway, these arent a really big deal, I just prefer more theme rather than simple shaped wooden pieces to represent a variety of different things. Another suggestion is that there could be like an "outcome" card for the win / loss situations. Adding more to the story could really flesh out the experience. While often we do not read every sentence of flavor text which is presented during the game, we totally read it at the start, and and the end when its available.
Overall, this game is really fun. I am surprised I have not obtained it sooner. It is the kind of game that is fun to play, has an engaging theme, is easy to introduce new players to, and requires some serious strategy in order to survive. This game is a very welcome addition to my gaming shelf, and I am sure it will receive plenty of attention in the years to come. I already have friends scheduled to play!
William the Fool
In my opinion, there could be a few changes which would further polish the game. First of all, there are wooden and plastic colored blocks which you use in many different ways. I would be nice to have a red heart token to track your health, yellow bananas for food, wooden mallets for building actions, etc... Each character gets 2 wooden cylinders that you use to represent where you are planning your actions. These could be color coordinated to your character (in a meaningful way) and also could have some shape that would better represent action. Anyway, these arent a really big deal, I just prefer more theme rather than simple shaped wooden pieces to represent a variety of different things.
Although I agree that it would have been awesome to see that stuff in the original box I think I can understand why they wouldn't, given the increase in price this would have entailed.
However, you might want to pay a visit to Portal Games' online shop: http://portalgames.pl/shop/index.php?route=product/category&.... They have everything you are asking for: custom wooden pieces, an extra character, stickers for the pawns, new beasts to hunt and even two extra scenarios (Livinsgtone in particular is well worth your money as it takes a gamebook approach to building up the story and has been beautifully designed). They have a very good reputation too, where it comes to shipping.
Have fun with this great game!!!