This first impression was based on a demo of the first few rounds at the UK games expo. Since then, I've played a full game! So, take this as a 1.4th Impression. Give or take. Both plays were based on prototype copies of the game. Crisis is currently up on Kickstarter and will be until August 30th: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ludicreations/crisis?re...
A nation is in Crisis! Faced with the longest running recession in recent history, and a political system on the brink of collapse, the Economic Union of neighbouring countries has agreed to step in and help, but only if the country is able to reach a series of punishing economic targets. Greece!? Who said Greece!? This has nothing to do with Greece (I mean, apart from the designers). This is Axia.
You, fine player, will be an industrialist of this once great nation! Will you help lift your country out of depression, and make some money on the side too? There are businesses to invest in, workers to employ, demand for goods from across the sea to fulfil! But operating in this climate of instability has its dangers and its challenges.
Each round, all players will have a target number of victory points to achieve by the end of that round, with the country’s economy responding according to the net position of all players; even if you reach the target, any stragglers will drag the economy down for everyone. This results in worse events triggering each round and, if the economy ever hits rock bottom, the game ends and everyone’s money will be worthless, offering the intriguing possibility of allowing the economy to fail intentionally to render your opponent's high money strategy wasted. If you still have the most victory points when this happens, you'll still win the game!
Fundamentally, Crisis is a game of worker placement and resource management, but it sets itself apart with this semi-cooperative element and the target you’ll be chasing throughout the game. Being told you need to gain at least 2 VPs in round 1 really makes you re-evaluate how you approach this kind of game! Yet it never pigeon holes you into certain behaviour. By taking a hit in the opening round, I was able to invest in my infrastructure and be comfortably above target and in the lead, with money in the kitty, at the end of round 3. Just like in a real business! (I think Creaking Shelves must still be in round 1… just you wait, Dice Tower!)
In comparison, my second playthrough saw all of us struggling and had I gained one fewer point in the mid game, the economy would have crashed and I would have come second. As it was, the economy survived and my engine was able to carry me to victory over the following rounds.
The industries available to you lend themselves to nice combos if you can set it up, with one output providing input to other factories on later turns, although our demo was tragically cut short before I could put mine to the test. I also love the fact that this game has a point to make too, highlighting the challenges faced by the weaker economies of the (real) EU. It provides a nice twist in terms of gameplay, raises some knowing smiles, but gives you something more to think about after you play.
There are a ridiculous number of action spaces available to you and while you still have competition, the board is covered in a bewildering amount of stuff, preventing the artwork from coming through and making the board feel more like one giant interface. But the mechanics still drive the feel of the world. I do have concerns over the randomness of the events and how to deal with a runaway leader once a player has a powerful engine going. At the end of 3 turns in the first game I felt I was in a strong position to accelerate away; this was only the halfway point of the game! Unfortunately that demo ended too soon to see long term effects come into play. In my other game, I did notice some odd factories that just mathematically weren't as good as others, but this was an earlier prototype.
Crisis is extremely interesting and well worth checking out! It features fantastic components (custom wooden resources!), variable gameplay (from the industries and workers that are available each round) and a valuable message regarding the EU economic crisis. Successfully powering up your industry was great fun and I can see great scope there. My second game was also completely different to the first, really highlighting the challenges you might end up facing. I was forced to continuously buy factories even though I couldn't run them just to keep my VPs up and stop the economy tanking! A game that can create situations like this is absolutely worth a look!
This article was originally published on my blog, www.creakingshelves.com. Check it out for my latest review and design articles!