Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
 Hide
17 Posts

Outdoor Survival» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Wow, bad. But still, I kind of enjoy it... rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
John Garrison
United States
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Outdoor Survival
Jim Dunnagan - Avalon Hill
1-4 players, 30 minutes, ages 10+





Avalon Hill's best seller of all time?

Yup, you read that right. I'm giving 2 stars to the top selling game of Avalon Hill, the venerable folio and wargaming company that's been around longer than some of our fathers. That's because no one bought the game for the game, but for its awesome mounted hex-grid wilderness map board. I'm sure many people have had some epic Dungeons & Dragons campaigns tromping around these wilds. Just check it:




This thing still sells like hotcakes, and finding a copy on eBay for around $15 or so shouldn't be too difficult. They made literally tons of them.

This is going to be a rather short article, because the actual game Outdoor Survival is pretty bad. You might be able to turn it into something playable though, as there are a few interesting ideas at play here.

Essentially, players start at one of the numbered cabin locations and need to work their way off of the board without "failing to survive". (The game hilariously uses various euphemisms to avoid saying someone has perished.) On your turn you roll a die to determine whether you can travel as intended, or if you get confused and turned around in some way. In either case, you can then move a certain number of movement points, with various types of difficult terrain costing more points to enter. At the end of this day of hiking, you must meet both food and water requirements or reduce your food/water scales appropriately. Sometimes reducing your food or water scale will cause you to lose life points, and as you lose life points your maximum allowed movement points per day are reduced to represent your fatigue and low energy. Finally, there is a chance for some sort of random event to occur at the end of your turn, such as finding a honey comb which restores a food point, falling off a cliff and becoming wounded, and so on.



Great idea in principle. Really needed more playtesting though.

Sounds okay so far, right? Well, unfortunately pretty much every part of it is broken. First of all, chances are good that you won't be allowed to head off in the direction you want, or even if you do you won't be able to pass through the terrain types you want. Very frequently, you'll even be forced to travel in a completely unhelpful direction.

Even if you are able to travel where you want to though, finding food and water is always quite a chore. Thankfully you can go quite a while before starvation starts to be a serious problem, but water is almost always a top concern. As you may have noticed from the map, not that many spaces on the board have rivers or ponds on them. "Well," you might say, "that's perfectly realistic. Besides, the yellow card below showing the water index track makes it seem you can go nearly a week without water before it becomes a huge problem."
Aside from moving on the map, tracking your water, food, and life levels are all there really is to the game.



Yeah, well, no. The most difficult part of the game is the fact that losing any life points will immediately reduce the number of movement points you get per turn. Even though you don't die until you've lost 15 life points, the game is pretty much over if you lose just 3. At that point, you only get 4 movement points a turn, which is too few to move more than one space per turn if you're moving through river or mountains. While mountains can be passed easily enough, or at least you can use a path to cut through them, avoiding rivers is pretty much impossible because you'll desperately need to stay near them for the water.

So how a game usually goes is that you head out for the nearest water source, and most likely will attempt to follow a river as far as you can towards the escape goal (the edge of the board). But at some point you'll need to make a break for it, at which point you can only hope to find your way over or around the mountains, swamps, and other obstacles quickly enough to reach safety before dehydration reduces your movement to 1 or even 0. Then you just sit there for a few turns, desperately hoping that some random event will provide some nourishment or healing so you can keep going. But more than likely, even if that happens it will provide far too little too late, and you'll "fail to survive".



Some of the random events possible in Scenario #1.

There is so much lost potential here, it's rather sad. In the basic game, there is a 1 in 3 chance that you get to roll on the random event table. Even if something happens, it's categorized as a "natural hazard" or an "animal/insect" event, or a "personal" encounter, which is a bizarre way to label a catch-all "other" category. You really need to role-play a bit here to imagine what is occurring, which isn't bad but they could have easily added a ton of fun to the game by providing a booklet of descriptive events instead of a bland table. For instance: "Natural Hazards, remain stationary 2 turns." Well, maybe that means there's a flash-flood on the river I'm at and I'm stranded on a sand bar for a few days. Or maybe "animal/insect, lose 1 life level" means I wandered into a fire ant colony, or got bit by a nasty rabbit. I guess it's kind of fun thinking up such things, but then it's me that's being entertaining, not the game.

There are multiple scenarios and various optional rules, but these generally just make the game longer, shorter, or more or less difficult and don't really add much gameplay. For instance, in scenario #1 you start in the center of the map, must reach the edge, have about a 1-in-3 chance of going in a wrong direction each day, and you must end your turn in a water/food space to meet those needs. Scenario #2 is basically the same game, except you start on one edge of the board and must make your way across the whole expanse, yet your chances of going astray are less and you only need to pass over a water/food hex sometime during the turn to meet those needs.

Optionally, if things are still too hard you can use any cabin/settlement space as a source of both food and water, and you can even rest there for as many turns as you need to recover. (Clearly, this is only a reasonable rule if you are playing multiplayer and are racing to be the first to reach safety, otherwise there'd be no consequence for just healing full up.)



And yet, I still enjoy it...

All in all, there is very little for the player to do here other than roll dice and do what the charts tell you to do. Sure, you (usually) get to choose your direction of travel and plan a route, but there is almost always a clearly optimal route to try and the dice could wreck the most perfect plan very easily. There is an optional rule I almost always use where you are allowed to choose the category of random encounter you can roll for, which helps. It isn't terribly realistic, but at least I can see what encounter options are available in each category and choose whichever one might give me something I desperately need at the moment. It isn't much agency, but...well...yeah, it isn't much.

Nevertheless, I enjoy this game for some bizarre reason. I have never won it, not even once. So I don't exactly pull it out often. But it still has a very classic, pleasant feel to it, and with some heavy home-ruling it could be a very clever little game. It's a real shame they didn't playtest it more.

There's little reason to hang on to a copy though, if you happen to come by one. This is a classic that can be interesting to try out at least once, but thereafter you'll likely never want to see it again. I've given it two stars out of five because it does go a bit beyond being simply a published game, with some good mechanics and useful ideas. But there is simply too little substance here, and it's poorly balanced, and just not all that fun. I enjoy playing it, but my enjoyment is more out of a strange sense of curiosity than real fun.

So should you even give it a try? Well, you could do what I did: Buy a copy off of eBay, give it a go, then sell it right back!



See more at SoloTabletop.com


18 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Albert Hernandez
United States
Greenville
SC
flag msg tools
The show on solitaire boardgaming.
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The game is so bad it's good.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Rob
United States
Tampa
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree, the ease with which you can be reduced to single hex movement makes the game nearly unwinable.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Garrison
United States
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Robrob wrote:
I agree, the ease with which you can be reduced to single hex movement makes the game nearly unwinable.


Yeah, it's like those Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own-adventure games. Once you start to take damage, the downward spiral essentially guarantees failure. Makes me wonder why the health/damage system even exists.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
T. Dauphin
Canada
Belleville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar

Sorry, have to disagree.
Ever try to survive in the wilderness with NOTHING?
This is what the game is trying to simulate.
Ever been lost in the wilderness?
One of the most common problems people have trying to find their way out of the wilderness is that they walk in circles. Rescue personnel who find lost people regularly find them only a short distance from their starting point-after days of walking.

This game, like most other map games, suffers from the all-seeing, God-like perspective given the players. Sure it's obvious which direction you should go when you can clearly see the entire field of terrain, but given the perspective of one walking through the woods or desert and the 'right' direction quickly becomes a good guess.
Frequently people who find themselves lost in the wilderness do not have much knowledge at all of the surrounding terrain and don't know which direction to go to find (drinkable) water.
So when the game makes it hard for you to go in the direction you want it's because that's the reality of being lost. When it's hard to acquire your food and water needs, that's because in reality, it is.

I agree there is definitely room for more story, here, but like the OP, we had a great time making up our own stories about what killed someone.
Aside from it's reflection of the reality of survival, how interesting a game would it be if survival were easy? If you survived often the game would become boring and you would grow tired of it. It has to be hard to keep you coming back.

I've played this one many times and we found the most interesting scenario was #2. We did on a number of occasions succeed in crossing the entire board--frequently ending with a desperate dash across the desert. But even when we didn't succeed, we had a great time laughing at everyone's failed attempts and where they ended up dying.

Beer and pretzels game, for sure, but take it for what it is and you realize how much fun it is--as the OP observed.

15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice work.

Quote:
Avalon Hill's best seller of all time?


Back in those days Avalon Hill games were sold in all different kinds of retail establishments. This included toy stores (of course) but also department stores and specialty shops...

SHOPPER #1 -- Christmas is coming. Uncle Vic enjoys hunting and stuff like that. This game looks nice with a sturdy bookcase package and quality components. He might think it is a fun idea.

SHOPPER #2 -- Oh, that box does look nice. Get another one for Aunt Ethel who loves the hiking trail and bird watching.

Two more units sold.

Thankfully, purchases like this helped to subsidize the production of those Avalon Hill wargames I bought in my high school and college years.
11 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph Youren
United States
Lincoln City
OR
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Never play the "Lost" scenario. shake Never. Never ever. No.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
fractaloon wrote:
The game is so bad it's good.


"Outdoor Survival sucks" is such an old and busted meme on BGG. People play Scenario #1, Lost, and never progress to any of the others. In Scenario #1, you are specifically a person without survival skills lost in the wilderness. Of course you're going to wander randomly and die, that's what unskilled people do.

Nobody ever bothers to try the other scenarios. There is even one with a fugitive and a pursuer (Dr. Richard Kimble, anyone?) but hell why even bother? Just agree with everyone that the game sucks and post your hilariously bad review.
4 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Irving
United States
Salinas
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
As for its Top AH Seller status--apparently a lot were sold at National Park gift shops to unsuspecting tourists. Also many were used by DM's in early D&D campaigns (Using this board was suggested in the DM Manual.)

Also the story of how it was created is humorous: James Dunnigan was in the AH offices betting he could create a wargame on any suggested topic. AH VP Tom Shaw said, "Get lost!" and this is the result.



Seriously, Dunnigan and Shaw made friendly wager with Shaw publishing the game if Dunnigan won. (No word on what Dunnigan would have had to do if he lost.) and Shaw did suggest getting lost in the woods as a topic.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I bet Bear Grylls couldn't beat the game. Amen Pete
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
T. Dauphin
Canada
Belleville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar

rri1 wrote:
As for its Top AH Seller status--apparently a lot were sold at National Park gift shops to unsuspecting tourists. Also many were used by DM's in early D&D campaigns (Using this board was suggested in the DM Manual.)

Also the story of how it was created is humorous: James Dunnigan was in the AH offices betting he could create a wargame on any suggested topic. AH VP Tom Shaw said, "Get lost!" and this is the result.



Seriously, Dunnigan and Shaw made friendly wager with Shaw publishing the game if Dunnigan won. (No word on what Dunnigan would have had to do if he lost.) and Shaw did suggest getting lost in the woods as a topic.


Yea, there seem to be a few variations of this rumour going around. The one that I heard was that Shaw was bet he couldn't design a game in 30 minutes, and came up with Kriegspiel.
I guess if there's an AH game you want to kick around, you can just attach an appropriate form of this rumour to it.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Garrison
United States
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jumbit wrote:
Just agree with everyone that the game sucks and post your hilariously bad review.


I tried the other scenarios. Just because I disagree with you is no reason to be offensive.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael McKibbin
United States
Clemmons
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sherron wrote:
I bet Bear Grylls couldn't beat the game. Amen Pete


I've heard there's a special optional rule where Bear Grylls gets to stay in a luxury hotel every night which fully replenishes his food and water
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph Moore
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
there's only one thing to say about this game...it sucked and was a waste of resources that could have been utilized for a WARGAME... which is what we wanted and expected from AH. Dunnigan liked to pull this BS from time to time, just as when one of my first S&T subscription games was wasted on "Scrimmage" yuk
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
T. Dauphin
Canada
Belleville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar

Yeah, I know. It sucks to be a wargamer with no other interests.shake
This does seem to be the most common objection to both of these games.
Too bad the unhappy wargamers didn't pass them on to their more (hmm, let's see...) cosmopolitan brothers and sisters.

Grief is a difficult thing, I know. And dealing with the betrayal and emptiness caused by the traumatic experience you describe needs some careful treatment.
You do seem to be stuck at the first stage, Shock and Denial. Is it time, maybe, to seek out some counselling to help you past that.

Ultimately, we want all our wargaming brethren and sistren ( ) to be healthy and happy and functioning participants in the hobby. So, something needs to be done to help you move on to Acceptance and Hope.
Both are attainable, reasonable goals...

May the Dice be with you.



 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph Moore
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for commiserating with me about my school age rancor. (I'm now 67, but I still get a kick out of rankling people who cleave to ancient games.)

I think that I'm comfortably past the need for the treatment that you suggest. When I feel the need to deal with the anxieties that you correctly identify, "Redbreast" pure pot still Irish Whiskey does the trick.

You might consider trying this therapy yourself. Having traveled through Eastern Ontario frequently during my working days I understand how depressing it must be to have to live there. (only kidding - you actually had a decent arena in Belleville, I played in an old-timers hockey tournament there about ten years ago)

Cheers

Etobicoke Joe

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
T. Dauphin
Canada
Belleville
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
Gunner Joe wrote:
Thanks for commiserating with me about my school age rancor. (I'm now 67, but I still get a kick out of rankling people who cleave to ancient games.)

I think that I'm comfortably past the need for the treatment that you suggest. When I feel the need to deal with the anxieties that you correctly identify, "Redbreast" pure pot still Irish Whiskey does the trick.

You might consider trying this therapy yourself. Having traveled through Eastern Ontario frequently during my working days I understand how depressing it must be to have to live there. (only kidding - you actually had a decent arena in Belleville, I played in an old-timers hockey tournament there about ten years ago)

Cheers

Etobicoke Joe



Yeah, not far off about Eastern Ontario. The upside is that with the region being somewhat depressed, gas prices are a little lower.

But, maybe this is a case of "ye doth protest too much" and you're just hoping I'll reach out secretly and offer to play a game of Scrimmage--which I see, just happens to (still) be in your collection.
Oops, sorry, I did just say that "out loud", didn't I? devil

Don't worry, I wouldn't tell anyone if we actually played it.


 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.