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Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island» Forums » Reviews

Subject: After 10 plays: A bad rule book and an extremely high luck factor rss

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Zoe M
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I was really excited about this game. I love the theme and I enjoy coops in general. And it was soaring up the BGG rankings, so it seemed like a pretty safe bet. So safe that last December, with my pre-ordered reprint copy not yet in hand, I decided to include this game in my 10x10 challenge for 2014. I was so convinced that I’d like it that I was willing to commit to playing it ten times, before I’d even tried it once. So when the game arrived, I immediately opened up the box and started reading the rules.

Uh.... I still had no idea how to play. Fortunately BGG was there to help. I soon came across an incredibly helpful quick-start guide, which I read myself and encouraged my gaming partners to read as well. No one was very excited about the slog through the rules, but we did eventually manage to get the game going. Our first game actually went pretty well; there was a lot of tension, and we came away with a narrow victory. Of course, this victory was entirely due to the fortuitous discovery of some mushrooms just as we were about to starve, but that didn’t bother me at the time. I wrote an enthusiastic session report, and only later came to reflect on how the outcome of the game had been determined entirely by chance.

I’m not going to use this review to describe how to play the game; you can find that elsewhere. Instead, I’ll give only a very brief overview before moving on to some specific topics that had the greatest impact on my overall opinion of the game.

If you’re not familiar with the game at all, you should know that it’s a cooperative, thematic game about being stranded on a desert island. There are several different scenarios with different goals, and you always need to make sure that everyone survives. Each player has a different role (cook, carpenter, etc.) that gives them some special powers. The game is basically worker placement, where you choose which action(s) to do each turn and then roll the dice to determine whether you succeed or fail, and whether you get a wound. A third die determines whether you have an “adventure”, in which case you draw a card with some other effect. You can avoid all of the die-rolling by assigning more workers to perform the action. Actions consist of things like exploring the island, hunting wild beasts, gathering food or wood, and building new inventions (a rope made out of grass, a shovel made from a shell, and so on). At night, everyone needs food to eat and hopefully a shelter to protect them from the elements.

There’s some consensus about various game characteristics: it’s very hard, it’s thematic, and it has a terrible rulebook. Of course, not everyone agrees, but these are the common points that get mentioned again and again. So I’m going to focus on these three elements in what follows.

The Rules and the Rulebook

The basic rules themselves are actually pretty straightforward. There’s really no reason for the rulebook to be so bad. I waited four months between my second and third plays, and realized that the bad rulebook was acting as a major deterrent. If it hadn’t been for the added motivation of the 10x10 challenge, I might have given up on the game right then.

But I persisted, and the good news is that the rule-comprehension aspect does get better eventually. After ten plays, we can get through a game relatively smoothly, with no need to refer to the rules for basic questions.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite the end of the story. This game is based around different scenarios, each with its own different requirements. The scenarios introduce new rules, and lead to unexpected results from cards, which basically means that the rule questions are never quite done. Even in our seventh game, we found ourselves taking huge pauses in the middle to head over to BGG and look up various questions. If we were lucky, we found the answers in the FAQ. If we were unlucky, all we found was some inconclusive discussion among other players.

However, there is a way around this. By the eighth game, we got to the point of just not caring. We’d encounter an ambiguity in the rules, and we’d just come to our own decision about what to do. I guess it works well enough, though it’s not entirely satisfying to just make up the rules as you go along.

I wish this game came with a scenario-by-scenario FAQ that addressed the various issues that might come up with specific cards. It would be nice to have quick and official answers to the numerous questions that arise during gameplay.

The Randomness and the Difficulty

This game has a reputation for being very hard. My initial experience didn’t really support that: we had a pretty high win ratio for our first seven games, until we got to the Robinson Family scenario (#6). Prior to that, we had won six of seven games, and got through all but the Volcano Island scenario on our first attempt. I had noted, though, that several of our victories were due to incredible luck, and would have been losses if a single die roll or card draw had been different.

When we started the Robinson Family scenario, everything suddenly changed. We were rolling much less successfully than before, and the card draws were not very friendly either. On our first attempt, it was pretty clear by the second round that we were going to lose; our second attempt was a bit better, though nowhere close to victory; and on our third attempt we just drew the “you lose” cards: not one, but two cards that made us give up three items each. Too bad nine of the items are required for the win condition, and many of the other items are required to build those.

Ultimately, I’d estimate the luck-skill breakdown of this game as maybe 90-10. Decisions do matter—you had better build the hatchet early on if you need to gather an enormous amount of wood—but they’re often pretty obvious, and good decisions can’t compensate for bad luck. You’re not going to win by playing completely randomly, but if your choices aren’t crazy, the outcome will be determined by the dice and the cards.

It might be nice to build the lantern in the Robinson Family scenario, so that we could have fewer building adventures and hopefully avoid drawing both of the cards that make us abandon invention ideas. It’s too bad that requires discovering some mountains, to get the flint needed to start a fire. It’s too bad we couldn’t manage to discover any mountains until our sixth time exploring, even with the help of the explorer’s special ability. There's sometimes just nothing you can do to overcome bad luck.

Getting lucky in the opposite direction isn’t any better, either. We’ve had a couple of plays that felt too easy. If you do manage to avoid adventures, with the help of the dog or various inventions, you’re losing out on most of the excitement in the game. We used the dog once (for our second play), and it made the game so uninteresting that we’ve never done that again.

Once I realized how very heavily luck-dependent this game was, my interest declined sharply. I want to feel like I’m actually playing a game and helping to determine the outcome, not just going along for the ride as the passive observer of a story.

One benefit to the unpredictable dice is that losing a scenario can encourage you to play again. Of course I can do better; that scenario isn’t going to get the best of me! But that’s not really a very satisfying reason to pick up a game again. I want to revisit a game because my last play was just so much fun, not because it annoyed me and I want to beat it. We were glad to finish our tenth game for the 10x10 challenge, and I don’t think we’ll be playing it again for a while. And yet I do still have a sense that something is incomplete, since we haven’t succeeded in the final scenario despite three attempts. So we’ll see.

The Theme

I do love the theme, but somehow I don’t feel like it fully comes across in the gameplay. I sort of wonder whether this is my own personal failing, whether I’m just not trying hard enough to experience the story. When I’m playing the Cook, and I use one of my special abilities, I know I should be thinking, “I’m in a great mood, so I’m going to whip up some hooch, and then we won’t even notice that it’s raining!” Unfortunately, what I’m actually thinking is, “I’ll pay two determination to remove a rain cloud.” I’d love to know how to resolve this disconnect.

I do think that Robinson Crusoe’s theme isn’t quite as closely connected to the gameplay as the themes in some other games, though. Possibly this is due to the dice-rolling pause between the action and its effect, with the potential introduction of other unrelated events. If I’m playing Agricola (which is not at all my favourite game), I can just plow a field and plant crops in it and watch my animals breed. In Flash Point, I can move around the building and put out fire and carry victims. In Robinson Crusoe, I may try to make a rope out of some grass, but the stick that I was using as a lever breaks and I suddenly don’t have as many weapons. Wait, what was I doing with a lever while making rope out of grass? And I thought my only weapon was a knife? The actions and results aren’t quite connected enough, so it’s very easy to get pulled out of the story and just look at outcomes like “+1 weapon” or “-1 palisade”.

For a long time, I thought it was just the long and frequent pauses for rule checks that were detracting from the narrative. But on our last few games, when we finally managed to play straight through without any breaks for rule checking, the game still didn’t feel super thematic to me. It probably doesn’t help that the random events are generally disconnected from the rest of the game. I may be feeling incredibly determined after failing numerous attempted building projects, but when I do finally succeed, I get so discouraged that I give up on several new ideas for the future. The story sometimes just doesn’t make sense, and it’s a series of disconnected events rather than a coherent narrative. Even the inventions often don’t feel like they have significant long-term effects; I might get +1 weapon from building a knife, but there are so many other events moving the weapon tracker up and down that I never actually feel like I have a knife.

I don’t know. I’d love to hear what other people do to get immersed in the experience, because it doesn’t seem to be working for me.

Conclusions

I really wanted to love this game, but in the end I found it pretty disappointing. The initial experience is unpleasant because of the bad rulebook, so for a long time I held out hope that it would improve once I had internalized how to play. But the rule ambiguities never quite end, and when the gameplay does go smoothly, it becomes apparent how much the outcome is determined by luck rather than player action. That’s not quite the experience I’m looking for.

When it comes to thematic games, I’d rather play Merchants & Marauders, where the story is driven by the player actions and there’s a sense that decisions have long-term effects. I’d rather play Dead of Winter, where a weapon is a weapon rather than an adjustment to a numerical tracker.

When it comes to dice-rolling coops, I’d rather play Flash Point or Elder Sign. Both have nice themes as well, and they offer a much more consistent level of difficulty rather than swinging wildly all over the place.

After ten plays of Robinson Crusoe, I’m not sure where it fits in my collection. At some level, it would probably make sense to get rid of it, since there are other games I’d rather play. And yet even now, I’m not quite ready to give up on it, and I don’t know why. Other people obviously love the game a lot, and a few of my plays were really enjoyable. But maybe I’m just not ready to admit defeat on that last scenario. Either way, what I can say with confidence is that this game failed to live up to my high expectations, even when I gave it a fair shot. Of course, your mileage may vary.
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Dustin
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It's a story adventure game. If you are looking for a eurobore, this isn't it. It's about the journey the game takes you on, enjoying and reading the flavor text and getting put into the world.
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Zoe M
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SeerMagic wrote:
It's a story adventure game. If you are looking for a eurobore, this isn't it. It's about the journey the game takes you on, enjoying and reading the flavor text and getting put into the world.


Would you consider Merchants & Marauders and Dead of Winter to be "eurobores"?
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Ken Dilloo
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Very nice negative review. Tough to do, and you have done it well.

Not sure if I completely agree with you, but I can certainly see your points. For me, it is a nice middle ground between Euro and Ameritrash. Really tight worker placement abstraction, and I think the luck is in line with other co-ops, generally.

I didn't have much trouble with the rules, but I do still feel uncertain about some things, sometimes. I would say this is likely true of most thematic games with this depth. Even after playing hundreds of games of Mansions of Madness, and I still rely on summaries/rules at times.

Good review. Keep writing!
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Zoe M
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bigloo33 wrote:
Very nice negative review. Tough to do, and you have done it well.

Not sure if I completely agree with you, but I can certainly see your points. For me, it is a nice middle ground between Euro and Ameritrash. Really tight worker placement abstraction, and I think the luck is in line with other co-ops, generally.

I didn't have much trouble with the rules, but I do still feel uncertain about some things, sometimes. I would say this is likely true of most thematic games with this depth. Even after playing hundreds of games of Mansions of Madness, and I still rely on summaries/rules at times.

Good review. Keep writing!


Thanks! That's an interesting point about rules ambiguities being par for the course in thematic games, and something I'll have to look out for in the future.
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Dustin
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Dunyazad wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
It's a story adventure game. If you are looking for a eurobore, this isn't it. It's about the journey the game takes you on, enjoying and reading the flavor text and getting put into the world.


Would you consider Merchants & Marauders and Dead of Winter to be "eurobores"?


Yes and no.

And if my response came across mean or something, not what I meant. I was just stating how I feel about the game. Review was nicely done, even if I disagree. High luck? It's a push your luck game that I win 75% of the time.
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Zoe M
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SeerMagic wrote:
Dunyazad wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
It's a story adventure game. If you are looking for a eurobore, this isn't it. It's about the journey the game takes you on, enjoying and reading the flavor text and getting put into the world.


Would you consider Merchants & Marauders and Dead of Winter to be "eurobores"?


Yes and no.

And if my response came across mean or something, not what I meant. I was just stating how I feel about the game. Review was nicely done, even if I disagree. High luck? It's a push your luck game that I win 75% of the time.


Not mean, just sort of disconnected from the point I was trying to make (which is probably my own fault for not being clearer). I have no problem with the game being thematic; I actually felt like it wasn't quite thematic enough and didn't fully succeed in bringing me into the world. I think Ken is right that it actually has significant Euro elements.

I wish I had played Tales of the Arabian Nights more recently, because I think that would be a relevant comparison in having even more story and less game, and I have enjoyed that one in the past.
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Thomas Westrope
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That's a well written review. Thanks.

Sometimes if a game doesn't mach your expectations, or your experiences are tainted by events during gameplay, then there is no going back. Other times the game just isn't right for you.

You've raised three main areas, and in each you have presented a very balanced explanation of your position, also highlighting areas where you can see how others might view things differently. You have also asked a number of questions seeking others' views. I'm not going to answer each specifically, rather give my take on the three areas.


The rules and the rulebook:
It's not a well written rulebook, but there are worse. I personally found that reading it carefully gave me all the tools to answer many of the regular questions that appear in the forums; those that can be genuinely answered by understanding the rules. However, I am aware that I pick up rules and nuances in rules fairly easily and this is not everyone's, maybe the majority's, experience.

You answer the other 'rules' issue yourself: for all of those quirky conflicts and dodgy situations requiring interpretation, the best thing to do in my opinion is to house rule it based on what makes 'sense' thematically or whatever you are most happy with. I realised this fairly early on and have been quite comfortable doing it using my take on the designer's direction, but I know that is not satisfactory to many on account of wishing the game rules to be more 'complete'.


The randomness and difficulty:
This is an interesting topic in the context of coop games. Too little randomness and the game is a puzzle, too much and it is too swingy - both sides of the coin are interpretations of the gamer in the context of Miriad other factors that change the experience of a game.

To me, each element of the game is random, which adds up to a balancing effect where the randomness is curtailed. But there are potential outliers of total failure and bulldozing victory. Negative events do not equal automatic failure and vice a versa.

It sounds like a few of your games went down to the wire - exactly what I look for in a good coop. I can't beat the feeling of a stand up dice roll at the end (other than making the perfect bluff in poker). Perhaps yours were not so tense, but I would argue that a well balanced game with multiple random factors can often create the situation.

I must admit admit than I'm not a huge fan of the catastrophe cards, I think there is one in each deck. They add a sense of tension when drawing cards, but it's a bit much and skews the balanced randomness I just described. You could take them out, but because one goes through so few cards in the deck each game, I just about find them acceptable and keep them in as the designer intended.

Having played with a number of different groups. I've found that better players are likely to do well and I am not sure if the relevant section of your review is a simple explanation of 'good' play, or if you have a simplified view of it. One can certainly react to the events as they occur, and must to win - at least that's what I find.


The theme
I can see that it is possible, and indeed the game can draw you down the path, to play this game spreadsheet style. I found myself doing just that playing the game solo and had to consciously go through the story.

My only suggestion, since you ask, is to role play out the events and elaborate the stories: event cards, action cards, repetitive fails, character types etc. My group does this with something like arkham horror in the same way. But again, if it doesn't work for you or your group then I can't suggest a solution, it just isn't for you in that way. But, it sounded as tough you did get some enjoyment from the game nonetheless.

This suggestion might not help of course, because your review explains that your issue is more with disconnects between events and issues of interpreting the 'fight -1' of breaking a stick. It's not something I've had an issue with, as I tend to build my own wider narrative rather than specifics.

Having said that, reading a lot of Ignacy's comments does inspire a feeling that everything is there for a purpose and does make sense. Trust in him.

The last point I'll make is that agricola and flashpoint might have tighter rule sets, and this could improve your experience of theme, but I would argue quite strongly that neither suck me in to the narrative more than Robinson Crusoe.


Conclusion
Great review. Not all games are for everyone.
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Rollo Tomosi
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Awesome review!!!

You echoed (almost exactly) my sentiments - but said it in a much more sophisticated manner....I too 'wanted to like it' (I had pre-ordered it about a year before it hit U.S. publishing)....I too found the rulebook beyond frustrating trying to 'make it make sense' (like Archipelago-maybe possibly perhaps a game in there somewhere but SOOOOO many 'house rules' due to unanticipatated, sometimes apparently contradictory rules), and lastly I too found the luck factor to be the straw that broke the camels back....toss a dice YAY I won....toss a dice O NO I LOST!!!

I feel super fortunate to have made my own 'discovery' vis a vis this game at the height of its fever and was able to cash in pretty handsomely and thus undo a few previous bad trades......

Great review-and one that teaches me (maybe) that writiing a review on a game while I feel some great sense of emotion is probably not a good idea....

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Ambidextrous Waffle Iron
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Dunyazad wrote:



There's sometimes just nothing you can do to overcome bad luck.

Once I realized how very heavily luck-dependent this game was, my interest declined sharply. I want to feel like I’m actually playing a game and helping to determine the outcome, not just going along for the ride as the passive observer of a story.

The Theme

I don’t know. I’d love to hear what other people do to get immersed in the experience, because it doesn’t seem to be working for me.

Conclusions

I really wanted to love this game, but in the end I found it pretty disappointing. The initial experience is unpleasant because of the bad rulebook, so for a long time I held out hope that it would improve once I had internalized how to play. But the rule ambiguities never quite end, and when the gameplay does go smoothly, it becomes apparent how much the outcome is determined by luck rather than player action. That’s not quite the experience I’m looking for.



I also found this game to be underwhelming. I've played it 9 times, won 1 solo, 1 during a 4 player session, and lost the rest.

At times it felt like each scenario is a variant of the same rat maze. But to make it harder, every deck is stacked against you from the start, add in dice rolling to make it more unpredictable, then have at it until you find the solution.

At times, the game's dice rolling takes away from my immersion... I can accept getting a wound from building a roof or reinforcing the palisade, but I cannot accept getting injured to the same severity while weaving a grass basket or drawing a map.

The 2 pawn / guaranteed success option didn't help either... The carpenter and the explorer each devote part of their day to guarantee success in drawing a map, but since there is an adventure token on the building deck, due to an "adventure" event card, the "stick you used as a lever breaks. -1 to weapon level," but since the groups' weapon level is zero, take 1 wound instead.

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Zoe M
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Thank you for that very thorough response, Thomas! It makes me want to go back and try the game one more time in the future, maybe with one particular friend who loves thematic games and can be counted on to read everything in a dramatic voice, to see if that makes a difference.

I definitely agree that games that go down to the wire are the best ones. That happened in our first play, where we almost starved to death before finding mushrooms at the critical moment, and that's still my favourite of the 10 plays. I think it may also have helped that I took the time to write a session report afterwards, so I had to go back and look at the pieces of the game and see how they fitted into an overall narrative.

It may be true that this game just isn't for me, but it's a sad thought.
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Thomas Westrope
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Dunyazad wrote:
Thank you for that very thorough response, Thomas! It makes me want to go back and try the game one more time in the future, maybe with one particular friend who loves thematic games and can be counted on to read everything in a dramatic voice, to see if that makes a difference.


I'll accept the credit if it goes well, but I won't pay invoices for time spent getting beaten up on the island.

Dunyazad wrote:
It may be true that this game just isn't for me, but it's a sad thought.


A bit of me too gets sad when I have the 'I really want to like this game' feeling. Sometimes I do end up liking the game. Sometimes I don't. Either way, there a loads of games I love.
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Ian Allen
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I also wanted to like this. The theme sounds great.

Unfortunately I experienced all the issues people have been mentioning above.

There is a thematic beast hidden in the dark heart of that game that is lost and roaring and longing to get out into the open, but just can't quite find its way out, so it just thrashes around, frustrated and angry.

So much time and effort went into all those decks and all those events and text and so forth ... just to be ruined by insufficient mechanics.

The game is ridiculously luck based and there are huge thematic disconnects between game components and the effects that happen to or with or because of those components.

I do think it would be a herculean effort to make every knife or gunshot or gorilla attack or snowstorm or buried treasure or brick oven match up with the appropriate effect. As it is you have a lot of arbitrary feeling +1 this and -1 that that disconnect you and knock you out of the theme/atmosphere/ambiance of surviving on a desert island.

You have to do a LOT of mental work to try and justify and explain all the disjointed mechanics enough to try and cobble together a cohesive experience that gives any semblance of realism to the game. Too much work for me.

To me this is a template for some better game to come along with seamless mechanics and a fantastic rulebook - but still using all the incredible depth of the different decks.
I don't want to Houserule RC into something playable ... I want someone to come along and take its bones and wrap it in a real live body and hit it with 100,000 jolts of electricity and get it up and breathing and moving around ...

In its current form it has a crap-ton of wasted theme and is just frustrating and irritating to play.

I really do appreciate the amount of time and effort the designer went into to try and make this have a huge depth of thematic experience, I just feel like he is trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and wish the mechanics and rules could match up to the theme.
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Dustin
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It's so weird to hear complaints about the mechanics. This game plays so smoothly and simple. I've even played it with my non gamer dad without issues.
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Matt Anness
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Well written review. I agree with some of your points but not all of them. Did you watch of of the Ricky Royal playthrough's? Some of my initial thoughts were the same (and I had easily won every game) then I watched the play through and realized I messed up many rules. It took make many plays to learn everything and now that I know all the rules I absolutely love this game. Flashpoint used to be my favourite co-op until I learned all the rules.

I'm not saying you are incorrectly playing the game, but it pains me to think maybe there is a rule or two you're not playing correctly and not getting the full experience. I also see you're from Canada! Do you happen to live in Ontario?
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Thomas Westrope
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glookose wrote:
I also wanted to like this. The theme sounds great.

Unfortunately I experienced all the issues people have been mentioning above.

There is a thematic beast hidden in the dark heart of that game that is lost and roaring and longing to get out into the open, but just can't quite find its way out, so it just thrashes around, frustrated and angry.

So much time and effort went into all those decks and all those events and text and so forth ... just to be ruined by insufficient mechanics.

The game is ridiculously luck based and there are huge thematic disconnects between game components and the effects that happen to or with or because of those components.

I do think it would be a herculean effort to make every knife or gunshot or gorilla attack or snowstorm or buried treasure or brick oven match up with the appropriate effect. As it is you have a lot of arbitrary feeling +1 this and -1 that that disconnect you and knock you out of the theme/atmosphere/ambiance of surviving on a desert island.

You have to do a LOT of mental work to try and justify and explain all the disjointed mechanics enough to try and cobble together a cohesive experience that gives any semblance of realism to the game. Too much work for me.

To me this is a template for some better game to come along with seamless mechanics and a fantastic rulebook - but still using all the incredible depth of the different decks.
I don't want to Houserule RC into something playable ... I want someone to come along and take its bones and wrap it in a real live body and hit it with 100,000 jolts of electricity and get it up and breathing and moving around ...

In its current form it has a crap-ton of wasted theme and is just frustrating and irritating to play.

I really do appreciate the amount of time and effort the designer went into to try and make this have a huge depth of thematic experience, I just feel like he is trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and wish the mechanics and rules could match up to the theme.


If I planted an apple tree and it grew pears, I'd laugh and eat the pears. Thankfully I like pears.
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Nick Bolton
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kanyewest_tml wrote:
Well written review. I agree with some of your points but not all of them. Did you watch of of the Ricky Royal playthrough's? Some of my initial thoughts were the same (and I had easily won every game) then I watched the play through and realized I messed up many rules. It took make many plays to learn everything and now that I know all the rules I absolutely love this game. Flashpoint used to be my favourite co-op until I learned all the rules.

I'm not saying you are incorrectly playing the game, but it pains me to think maybe there is a rule or two you're not playing correctly and not getting the full experience. I also see you're from Canada! Do you happen to live in Ontario?


Yes - winning 6 out of 7 games suggests not playing correctly, especially as these were your first games.

A well thought out and well written reveiw, which was enjoyable to read. You give good reasons to back up all your points. I don't disagree with them, but personally find some of them less problematic and still enjoy the game.
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Dan Likos
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A very nice read, thanks.

I have played this game 22 times now, 13 or so being Castaways.

This game has hit my table 4 times now (each time I manage multiple plays over a few days) and I tend to relearn Castaways before trying a new scenario.

Perhaps your review finally points out some of those nagging little feelings in the back of my head that I have had after a week long session of a few games.

Currently, I am playing Robinson Crusoe and remain interested, interested enough as to come peruse the forums looking for answers as to why I can't beat Volcano Island (0/3 today) and I found and read this review.

My biggest beef, I think, with the game is that the 4 characters aren't diversified enough. In all honesty the cook is just as good at building the shelter as the carpenter... this bothers me. I find that without determination tokens (which I usually spend (save) to prevent wounds during morale phase, all the characters are the same.

Maybe this is what I'm doing wrong, but my win percentage is actually pretty high (except on volcano angry)

I'm drunk and rambling.

Good night.
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Dan Likos
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Dunyazad wrote:
I may try to make a rope out of some grass, but the stick that I was using as a lever breaks and I suddenly don’t have as many weapons. Wait, what was I doing with a lever while making rope out of grass? And I thought my only weapon was a knife? The actions and results aren’t quite connected enough, so it’s very easy to get pulled out of the story and just look at outcomes


A funny disconnect I have had while playing is in killing the boa, and getting the "goat" discovery token.

Why did that boa have a goat? If it was in his gut, pretty sure I'm not gonna eat that...

mmmmmmmmmm....predigested goat.
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Alvin
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I agree, winning 6 out of 7 of the first games then hitting a brick wall on the last scenario (arguably one of the most straight forward engine building and less luck based ones) implies you may have had some rules wrong. Which is really common, since the rule book is terrible as you mentioned. I can get very high scores (per BGG) in other appropriately complex games like Terra Mystica in my first plays, but I still consistently lost handily in RC until several plays.

I suggest, along with the others, in seeking a video playthrough to make sure rules are proper. It might significantly increase enjoyment. Maybe you thought you had to always roll the dice when exploring or something? Hence why you might have sudden difficulty with the heavy invention based scenarios (maybe the invention rules were the only rules actually played properly).

There's been games I've hated in the past where I misunderstood the rules, then found to appreciate after getting a better grasp with a fresh replay. Maybe it's the case for RC!
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Adam Kazimierczak
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Most of the very positive reviews and comments on this game site playing it solo first, or sometimes exclusively solo. I can see it being a tough and satisfying, albeit fiddly, solo game. But as a game to sit down with a group on a game night and play, this is a failure for me.

Even flavor text from Tolkien himself can't make swingy die rolls and game ending card draws into an epic experience.
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Zoe M
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uwalvin wrote:
I agree, winning 6 out of 7 of the first games then hitting a brick wall on the last scenario (arguably one of the most straight forward engine building and less luck based ones) implies you may have had some rules wrong.


I'd be interested in hearing which six of the starting inventions you think you can get rid of while still winning the game
 
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Matt Smith
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kaziam wrote:
Most of the very positive reviews and comments on this game site playing it solo first, or sometimes exclusively solo. I can see it being a tough and satisfying, albeit fiddly, solo game. But as a game to sit down with a group on a game night and play, this is a failure for me.

Even flavor text from Tolkien himself can't make swingy die rolls and game ending card draws into an epic experience.

Any game with dice or cards can come down to a final dice roll or card draw that will either result in a win or a loss. But that doesn't mean the game is "swingy" or luck filled. It's the accumulated effect of all of your decisions, dice rolls and card draws up to that point that leads to a win or a loss. It's human nature to blame the last event in a series of events for the ultimate success or failure, when in reality it had no more effect on the outcome than any other single event.

The difficulty in RC is tuned to be farily high. With consistently bad player decisions (i.e. poor strategy), even the best series of random events won't result in a win. Conversely, a tragic series of random events can make even the most seasoned players lose. However, my experience has been that a sound strategy combined with an average good/bad luck factor results in wins more often than not.

Unfortunately, the most common occurence is players messing up one or two key rules, which results in the difficulty swinging too far to one side or the other. You have to get all of the rules right to have the difficulty fall into the proper range. And with the poor rulebook, that's hard to do without at least one player making a significant investment in really learning the game. This leads to people coming onto the Geek and saying the game is "too easy", "too hard", "too swingy", "too luck based", when in reality it's a finely balanced but fragile engine, that can get thrown out of whack by messing up one key rule.
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Jon W
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mvettemagred wrote:
And with the poor rulebook, that's hard to do without at least one player making a significant investment in really learning the game. This leads to people coming onto the Geek and saying the game is "too easy", "too hard", "too swingy", "too luck based", when in reality it's a finely balanced but fragile engine, that can get thrown out of whack by messing up one key rule.

I agree to an extent, but really, not too many people are griping. Look at the average rating and comments. I'm actually surprised there aren't more complaints. I'm an experienced gamer, comfortable with wargames and long rulebooks, and I think this game's "user interface" (including the rules) is a mess.

I haven't played enough RC to form a solid opinion yet, but it's making me work a lot harder than I should have to, and much of that work is doing uninteresting things (manipulating game state rather than making decisions). At this point, I'm more sanguine about it than the OP, but most of his points seem reasonable.

I also think it's completely possible to win 6 of 7 initial games (I'm 2 of 3 at this point), if you play slowly and carefully.
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S. R.
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This is a fantastic review!
Thank you for that. We need more sensible negative reviews, to help newcomers find out whether the game is for them or not.
Even if I agree with some of your arguments, but not with your consequences (most here know that I love this game to bits).

There was mentioning of a rulebook that tackled scenarios separately, and separate cards also. Thankfully, the German publisher provides that in the rulebook for the German edition. In it, we have at least half a page, if not more, dedicated to every scenario of the base game, and in a separate part we tackle all problematic cards (not all of them, though), all Character skills and all Discovery tokens.
I think the possibility to include these things and all the answers we had up to the point where the game was published has made a huge difference on the German market, regarding this game. I'm not sure if it is well in the second printing or already in it's third, but the game is flying off the shelves. And, compared to the huge amount of questions here, we had only very few threads in the designers forum and here...

This is not to pat myself on the back (well, maybe a little - I kinda need that a bit, right now), but more to say that you are right - a better rulebook might make all the difference.


Regarding theme - I see this game not as one that creates an immersive story in which you dive into during the game. Rather, for me it creates "story in hindsight". Meaning that something happens to my character, and afterwards I fit it into the ongoing narrative up to that point. And after the game, a narrative exists as to what happened.
I don't feel like experiencing the narrative during play, I feel like I have "written a story"...
...or, rather, sat next to a story being written, which I could influence at certain points...

But then, I might not be the best person to talk about theme with. For me, theme is important regarding the game itself, but whenever I play a game (whatever it is), I "immerse" myself fully in its mechanical aspect. In consciously playing, the game (for me) needn't have theme nor design, albeit both help to connect the different aspects of the mechanism. Sounds weird, maybe, but that is how I play games.


Regarding the aspect of chance - I was always one who said the game would be around 80% luck, and most people disagreed.
However, it is not the 80% of luck that counts. As has been said above (by mvettemagred, I think), the different aspects of chance interlock and interweave to create a tapestry of chances which the players can grab and use as best they can, to secure a win. And if you know what you are doing, most scenarios have a good chance (and, in my opinion, a fair one, regarding coops) of winning. To put it directly, ALL coops come down to the one die roll, the one card draw, etc. However, it might not be the very last one, which is why it doesn't fell as much random as it does here.
But back to the 80% luck, and why it doesn't count as much. Sure, the 80% luck determine how the game develops. This is akin to very, VERY shifty and shaky ground. And the 20% is how you react to it, how you prioritize, what you make of it.
Sometimes, there is nothing you CAN do (as with your example of scenario #6). Sometimes, it is really all depending on what you will draw when (like it usually is in scenario #5). And sometimes, it doesn't really matter, unless you are extraordinarily unlucky (like in scenario #2).
The thing is, this game is NOT about creating a strategy. That doesn't help. It's about having a strategy, and using tactics to apply as much of said strategy as possible, and finding out if, this time, you will make it DESPITE the cards being stacked against you.

It helps to know what you are up against. That's what I usually find. Knowing that nearly everything is bad, that there is 1 good card in every Adventure deck and the Event deck, and that is it, helps expecting the worst. Of course, some cards are worse in some situations than in others, and some CAN be helpful, where in other situations they are just not.

Well, I guess, what I am saying is:
It all depends of who you are, what you want when you play games, what you expect from a game, and how you play it, and with whom. People are collections of so many different variables that it is impossible to create something that clicks with everyone, every time.
On the other hand, 10 games of at least a certain amount of fun sound to me like you got at least some kind of value out of the game you purchased. When you look at the time you spent having fun, and what you paid for it. Of course, compared to other games, that might be less than what they provide. Still, it is not a loss for you, I'd say...

Whatever you do, keep on having fun gaming. That's what it's all about.
Oh, and revisit the family - they might have a few surprises in store, yet.
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