Thomas Wells
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I’ve had an interesting time with Robinson Crusoe. Before I purchased it, I read extensively about it and saw much of the feedback about the game being difficult. Difficulty doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind a game presents me with a challenge—Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite games, and while some people might dispute that Eldritch Horror is a difficult game, I lose that one all the time as well and still have a great time.

I think that part of why I’ve stopped playing Robinson Crusoe is that while it’s a well-designed game with tons of choices, a difficulty level that is not unfair, and really great art and components—I do not find it to be particularly elegant.

While I am not the greatest analytical mind, I do have organizational skill. Upon opening the box, my first thought was like there’s a lot of pieces in here which was then followed by ooh yeah this will be a great opportunity for some Plano boxes. I organized everything into baggies and boxes, which reduced the setup time down to roughly 5-7 minutes. I don’t mind long setup, so that’s not really a factor for me when I’m talking elegance.

Another caveat: I think board games have it more difficult than other mediums when it comes to immersion. Even games with insane production values struggle to rise above the “moving pieces around on cardboard” limitation that’s inherent with most games. However, that being said, games can really conjure feelings of paranoia, cooperation, competitiveness, anger—the whole spectrum is there. I was really excited about RC because I wanted to experience a struggle to survive, or at least some of the feelings that might go along with that struggle. The way Eldritch Horror is a mad scramble to hold back the tides of darkness in a completely loony way, but on a desert island where I’m having to make a boat out of coconut husks.

Instead, my experience with Robinson Crusoe has almost entirely been one of gaming rather than survival. It held my attention initially because of the sheer volume of STUFF the game throws at you, and all the different mechanics and play options, but ultimately I felt that I was making decisions based around the rules of the game, rather than ones that immersed me in the fun of living out a island survival experience I dreamed about as a kid reading Treasure Island and the eponymous source material for this game.

I’m good at rules. Good at following them, and good at remembering them. Usually, I can play a game competently with the rulebook at my side in the first game, and after that, I don’t usually need it anymore. With Robinson Crusoe, I had to constantly be referencing the sheet that covers the order of play, and I was also repeatedly missing small rules, the timing of events, and potential actions simply because there was so much to take in at all times. And, while I thought this might be relieved by having more people playing, in the games I played, it just extended playtime to the point where we got so frustrated that we usually ended the game before we inevitably lost.

I think the greatest and clearest example of what I feel to be the inelegance of the game was present in the beginner scenario. I’d be so mentally exhausted going over all of my decisions that by the time I’d realize that I probably need to be building a fire or I’m going to lose I was seconds from losing anyway.

As a simulation of survival, maybe Robinson Crusoe is far more accurate than other games. But I didn’t have much fun with that simulation. It was more work than fun. So, I’m trading the game back in. I don’t much enjoy games that are exercises in bookkeeping, and this game has helped me flesh out and understand why that is.


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Michael Korson
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I 100% agree with you about the rules. I'm constantly looking at either the reference sheet or the rule book - which has this tiny type that makes it so difficult to find what you are looking for quickly. It would have been helpful if they used larger font and had better organization. Or even provided an index or something. . .
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Marcel Stipetic
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I feel your pain! After playing the game a dozen times, and continually having to refer to the rule book to look something up or clarify another thing, I lost interest. I get the impression that, at some point, there was an elegant game underneath the hood. But somewhere along the many iterations a bunch of unneeded gimmicks were thrown into the engine in an attempt to make it purr. Instead, it just clogged up the gears. I found it so overly fiddly. And I don't mind fiddliness; some of Phil Eklund's games are my favorite, but this one was fiddly in an infuriating way even when I survived the scenario.

It's unfortunate, because it's obvious there's a really good game in there somewhere.
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hmm... I'm kind of disagreeing with your opinion here.
I'd really like to hear more specific examples. You say that "the greatest and clearest example of what I feel to be the inelegance of the game was present in the beginner scenario" - but I fail to see the example here. What happened?

I know exactly what you mean when you talk about immersion and feeling the "game" rather than the things that happen in the game. I get that with many games - also with Robinson Crusoe. But I never found the rules to be overly fiddly and I wonder what rules you can't remember, even though you seem comfortable with that in other games. 90% of the rules in RC are intuitive and thematically explainable so I only rarely have to refer back to the rulebook again. (The unfulfilled demand rule is still the one that gives me the most headache) Apart from that I think the game flows pretty well and rarely exceeds the expected playtime.

What I'm saying is: I need more examples
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Daniel
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tbrofromspace wrote:
I had to constantly be referencing the sheet that covers the order of play, and I was also repeatedly missing small rules, the timing of events, and potential actions simply because there was so much to take in at all times.


I am actually a bit surprised about you constantly referencing the order of play. In my opinion, the board visualizes the order of play quite well. You have the game phases in the top left corner and all actions are acted out from left to right as depicted on the lower part of the board.
So I'm just a bit curious which phases/actions were non-intuitive for you?
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Thomas Wells
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To answer both of these questions, it's not that the order of play is inexplicable to me, or that the rules are badly written. I think it's just a matter of the game itself exceeding my RAM. Many times I'd forget to do an action just because of the sheer volume of actions available to me (for instance, stopping some of the cards that would appear from the event deck, mainly because I'd forget about them in favor of other things).

Maybe the volume of choices available creates a clever simulation for some people, and the whole idea is that you're supposed to be overwhelmed by all the stuff, but I just found it to be a bookkeeping exercise rather than an adventure.

Weather was a phase where I was constantly having to walk myself through the order of things and how stuff worked (as a phase example)
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Chris
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Lorenthia is gone, The Shadow Deep has swallowed it whole.
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I just don't exhaust myself looking over all the possible moves. There is way too much for that. I do what fits the moment, and look back afterward to see what I could have done better. You are going to lose a few times before you win any scenario. I prefer to just get my losses out of the way before agonizing over every move.

It's like trying to track names in ASOIAF epic novels. If you agonize over every name you're not going to stick it out to finish. Just roll with it. This is the most common complaint I see with those books and I feel like it's the perfect metaphor for this game.

Too bad you're shelving it. It's one of my favorites, but I can see how people get really frustrated with it. Ignacy's games can be a bit gamey like that too, but he's still one of my favorite designers.
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Thomas Wells
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I think that's a valid approach. I'm a fan of his games as well. I had a great time with Imperial Settlers.
 
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Chris
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Lorenthia is gone, The Shadow Deep has swallowed it whole.
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Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space. Space monkey! Ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing!
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tbrofromspace wrote:
I think that's a valid approach. I'm a fan of his games as well. I had a great time with Imperial Settlers.


Did you play the solo campaign? I am loving that game. I want to try 51st state but I don't think the solo would be as good from what I've seen.
 
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Thomas Wells
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ogoctopus wrote:
tbrofromspace wrote:
I think that's a valid approach. I'm a fan of his games as well. I had a great time with Imperial Settlers.


Did you play the solo campaign? I am loving that game. I want to try 51st state but I don't think the solo would be as good from what I've seen.


I'd stick with Imperial Settlers. The solo campaign is engaging for long enough, plus they seem pretty committed to additional expansions, so you'll have content for a while to come if you're into that kind of thing.
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Daniel Nedeljkovic
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Completely agree about the rulebook, although we didn't have that much problem with it.

I'll have to disagree about the number of options being overwhelming - yes, there are more choices than in your typical co-op, but not enough to be overwhelming. I might not be the merit here cause I like heavy games with a lot of choices, but one guy in my group who dislikes heavy games with lot's of choices, likes Robinson and doesn't find it mentally taxing. We made typical mistakes of forgetting to do stuff that we do in other games (I think all coops are subject to that to a certain extent) but not as much as to usually forget something. To each their own, I suppose.

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