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Subject: Crisis - a really challenging worker placement rss

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Kai Saarto
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Axia is looking for brave investors. Can you and your competitors save the country from financial ruin? You can make big bucks or lose everything, so play it smart!

Disclaimer: This is a quick translation from my Finnish Board Game Blog. ( English is not my first language, so there is bound to be grammatical and other errors.

I got the Crisis by LudiCreations in the mail recently. Game takes place in neofuturistic world akin to Blade Runner. Instead of replicants the focus of Crisis is solely in economy. Axia has fallen on hard times: recession is so bad, the country is about to collapse. Analogy to modern Greece does not escape me.

Players are industrialists, to whom the crisis means an opportunity to make huge profits by buying cheaply companies that are just about to go bankrupt.

But wait! There's a twist. If you concentrate on maximizing your own profits and building your financial engine, Axia will very easily go bankrupt and the game ends with everyone losing. Players must co-operate to keep the Axia afloat.

Crisis is a worker-placement game with heavy focus on economy. At first it looked to be a rather heavy game: it has ton of stuff and a 20-page manual. There are seven different decks of cards at the table, loads of tiles, six types of wooden resource tokens, meeples. Board has information about turn order, victory points, each player's finances and bank loans AND the Axia's finances. If the Axia Financial Status ever goes to negative, it is Game Over. If you manage to keep Axia from bankrupt for seven rounds, whoever has the most points wins.

I tried a solo game for practice and to my surprise I got the hang of the gameplay really fast. Board is designed brilliantly, it practically tells what happens and in which order. There are help cards, but after couple of games I've had no need for them. Board has all the relevant information easily available for all the players. The rulebook is also written very clearly, but honestly: you don't need it after you have couple of games under you belt.

Like I said, the great gimmick in this game is its semi-cooperative nature. Concentrating on you own engine buildin will lead to catastrophe in just a couple of rounds. You can improve Axia's financial status by doing things like exporting goods, saving jobs (by buying business about to fold) and attracting tourists. Axia finances will suffer if players have to resort to loands of if they have to import resources from abroad.

Every Round there will be a new Victory Point Goal. If any player falls short of it, Axia Financial Status will go down the same amount. If you make more points than the goal, AFS will go up.

Keep your eyes on the road

Balancing the Axia's finances and your own bring a really unique feel to Crisis. Trying to make your engine working is also quite a puzzle.
Your Power Plant might require Minerals. Mine that produces said Minerals needs Energy and Chemicals to run. Well, Chemicals Plant needs Food and Energy. And the Farm that produces Food requires Energy. Good luck making it all work like a charm. You need to plant your Managers (worker placement part)really smart to get the missing resources from open market so that the domino effect that is your production will start.

If another player goes before you and claims THAT VERY SPOT you desperately needed, you are roaylly screwed. And so is everyone else, unless they can make a extra VPs to counter the ones you just lost by failing to get your engine working this round.

If this sounds harsh, it's because it is. In addition every Round starts with a new Event card, that will give unique challenges for the whole Round. For example, banks could stop giving out loans. Have fun if you had relied on getting help from there.

Crisis is HARD. In medium difficulty level you might lose on Round 3 if you try to play this like its a normal eurogame with engine building. Crisis is definitely no point salad.

When you survive the 3-4 first crucial Rounds and get your engine working even somewhat efficiently it is so rewarding. Once I had to keep selling bread abroad for 3 rounds just keep Axia barely from sinking. I could not even afford to pay the electricity bill of my bank (so I could make a bit of extra money). When I finally got my engine going and made enough points in last two rounds to win, I was jumping around with joy.

If you have ever played Grizzled, you know how despairing a game can be. Crisis is not as impossible to beat, but make no mistake, your fellow players are not the enemy, real threat is that Axia Financial Status meter that threatens to destroy you all, unless you pay attention. When, in the beginning of each round you turn over that Event-card you can see everyone on the table praying silently for it to be a lesser evil. Something that won't cripple you for the whole round.

Difficulty keeps me coming back

When you lose, you want to immediately try again and do better. There is no mechanism to help you catch up if fall behind. Especially on low player count the VP Goals are brutal. One lousy Round can lead to defeat.

My experience is still limited, but it seems to me that you need to focus on your core business. Get two resource producing plants and a business that utilizes those resources and converts them to points and money. Then get the best possible workers for those three business. That way you can maximize the profits. If the synergy between your companies is lacking, you are heading for a sound defeat.

A Flawed Masterpiece

It's a bit strange that in game that focuses on producing stuff, you can't trade it between the players. That would have been very handy in several games we played.

Production values in Crisis are good. Board is two-sided. One is more colorful and moody, other has more shades of gray in it, to make the actual game icons and important information to pop out better.

I got the "deluxe"-version that the majority of kickstarter backers have. Boring wooden cubes have been replaced with really nice looking ones. Cards are Dixit-size and have linen coating. They feel a bit thinner that I'd like. I think I'll sleeve mine just in case.

Special mention: worker tiles have two sides. One for both sexes. That's equality for you.

I have to admit that I like Crisis much more than I expected. Medium difficulty gives a really good challenge. I even enjoy the solo variant a lot. I think Crisis will be among my most played games this year (full-sized games)even with it being published this late in year. A really interesting and solid worker placement that challenges you.

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Pantelis Bouboulis
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It is great to see that you enjoyed the game so much. Thanks for the review!
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