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Jess Newman
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Red November Review

In this review, I will take a detailed look at Red November, Fantasy Flight’s new cooperative game about gnomes on a sinking submarine who must survive the many perils of the ocean to live to swill grog another day.

Red November is an intriguing oddity among boardgames. It has a serious subject, yet takes itself lightly and injects humor into the situation. Does it make a good game?

Theme

The theme is pretty distinct. It’s a fantasy setting that doesn’t take itself seriously, similar to Aye, Dark Overlord or the upcoming Small World. The fact that gnomes are trying their darndest to survive does not preclude them from chugging grog to numb their pain or hug their lucky rubber ducky for dear, sweet life. This would be very original but for the fact that their gnomes are wholly based off of the Dragonlance/Warcraft archetypes of the bumbling genius who invents Rube Goldberg-esque devices which invariably self-destruct.

Theme gets a solid B

Components

The components are great, but not for the reason you think- the gnome pieces are of good quality, yes, and the art is characteristically good. The reason that Red November has exceptional components is that they all fit into one of the Fantasy Flight Silver Line boxes, which are nice and small. It’s easy to tote around, unlike most co-op games which are roughly the size of a hippopotamus with a glandular disorder. It’s unique among co-ops because you can take it in a backpack or purse or what have you, meaning you’ll have more opportunities to play it with more people. I usually take Silver Line games with me on vacation. This game is great in that regard.

A+ for components

Mechanics

Red November uses a time keeping system which is apparently identical to that of Thebes. I’ve never played Thebes, so I couldn’t tell you, but it’s pretty neat. The two main mechanics are the Thebes-like time management system and dice rolling, so it doesn’t establish much of an identity for itself apart from other games.

Turns take place based on who is ‘farthest back in time’ according to the rules, meaning closest to the 60 minute mark. That player takes actions, which take a number of minutes, moving their marker farther along the track until they pass another player, in which case play shifts to the player who is now furthest back in time. Time is spent for every action. Actions such as opening a door and moving into a room each take 1 ‘minute’. Other actions must be taken to repair the submarine, most of which take 1 minute along with additional time you spend to increase your chances of successfully completing the action. Your original value is 1. For each minute you spend on an action, you raise that value by 1. Items increase it further. After you have increased it to the desired level, you roll the 10-sided die. If you roll equal to or less than the value, you fix the problem. After your turn is over, you reveal a card from the pile, which initiates something going wrong somewhere else in the sub. This takes the form of a fire, a flood, an increase in pressure, decrease in oxygen, or dive in depth, or a number of timed events. These are all rather indistinct from each other, however.

Mechanics gets a C for a general lack of originality.

Gameplay

Red November is a mixed bag when it comes to gameplay. The dice rolling is a bit bland. The time keeping system is interesting, but can give a single player many turns in a row until their marker catches up with another, which can leave some players snoozing while waiting for their turn.

Despite claims by many Geeks that Red November is very difficult, I have defeated it every time easily. Even using 8 gnomes it was no problem to beat. It’s simply not as satisfying as games like Pandemic or Shadows Over Camelot which are much more challenging.
Gameplay gets a C for an unfortunate lack of tension.

Overall

Taken as a whole, Red November is a slightly disappointing game. It fails to create an identity for itself through innovative mechanics, and isn’t particularly difficult in comparison to most other Co-op games. I think that it would make a good gateway game to introduce people to the concept of cooperative gaming, because it is not very complicated or difficult. The downtime between turns is a problem in introducing it to non-gamers however, as many of them could become bored.

In my opinion the greatest asset of Red November is its portability, which is its most unique attribute when stacked up to other meatier co-op games. It’s a good game to play with non-gamers or as a filler.

Overall, Red November gets a C.

My copy of Red November is for trade, as well. If anyone is interested, please let me know.
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Sander Kouwenhoven
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Too bad you're not very enthousiastic about the game, however, it's a good thing tastes differ, otherwise there would be thousands of catan / carcassonne clones and not many of those niche games we all enjoy so much

About finding the game very easy: Did you use the rule that you discard an item after using it (a pump only grants a +3 once, not all the time you keep it...) We completely overlooked that rule the first few times we played and found it to be easy as well. I can tell you that opinion *did* change after we re-read the rules properly.

Thanks for taking the time to write this review!
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Rob Derrick
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There are a couple of errors in the following description of game play, and I wonder, if indeed these are the "rules" you played by, that this might be the cause of your problems with the game.
zarajess wrote:
Red November Review
Mechanics
... player takes actions, which take a number of minutes, moving their marker farther along the track until they pass another player,

No, this is not the case. A player can actually use as many minutes as they wish. Indeed, on a player's first turn, they could use their entire 60 minutes simply running around the ship. This would be a Really Bad Idea, though.

Also, on your turn, you don't take actions, you take A Single Action per turn. So, you can run around as much as you wish, but taking A Single Action triggers the end of a gnome's turn.
zarajess wrote:

... in which case play shifts to the player who is now furthest back in time. Time is spent for every action. Actions such as opening a door and moving into a room each take 1 ‘minute’.

Opening the door takes 1 minute, moving into the room is free (unless there is low-water in the room).
zarajess wrote:

Other actions must be taken to repair the submarine, most of which take 1 minute along with additional time you spend to increase your chances of successfully completing the action. Your original value is 1.

This isn't wrong, but it seems misleading. The base value is in fact zero. The die target is based on items used plus time taken.
zarajess wrote:

After your turn is over, you reveal a card from the pile,

This is the most problematic of the errors. You don't reveal "a" card at the end of your turn. You reveal one card for every Red star that you pass as your marker "catches up" to the ghost marker. That is 18 Red Stars per player per game (for an 8-player game), which is ~8*18 cards per game that have to be endured in order to win the game (the lucky charm can obviate a few of these). That is 144 events for the entire game!

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Greg
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robmderrick wrote:
based on items used plus time taken.
zarajess wrote:

After your turn is over, you reveal a card from the pile,

This is the most problematic of the errors. You don't reveal "a" card at the end of your turn. You reveal one card for every Red star that you pass as your marker "catches up" to the ghost marker. That are 18 Red Stars per player per game (for an 8-player game), which is ~8*18 cards per game that have to be endured in order to win the game (the lucky charm can obviate a few of these). That is 144 events for the entire game!



I don't know, I might try this alternate rule. this way, we can just the gnomes run around the ship for 60 minutes and only draw 8 cards in an 8-gnome game. On top of surviving their not so desperate situation, the gnomes get a good workout.

This review is why I wish there was a way to give negative thumbs (yes, I know it would be abused). I submit though that the author should retract the review until he has had a chance to play the game correctly. Although he brings up some valid point WRT relatively mundane dice rolling mechanics, he is completely wrong about the lack of tension. This can be a very intense game, and it's a shame that the reviewer missed out on that due to a rule error.
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zarajess wrote:

Despite claims by many Geeks that Red November is very difficult, I have defeated it every time easily. Even using 8 gnomes it was no problem to beat.


You've defeated the game every time with no problems (even with 8 gnomes)? I suspect you may not be playing the rules correctly.
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Steven Barcelo
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I'm also surprised by the "lack of originality" in the mechanics comment. While my experience in gaming is not incredibly vast, I have never played a game with a similar time mechanic, and so far I find it pretty interesting.

edit: for clarity

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Jess Newman
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robmderrick wrote:
There are a couple of errors in the following description of game play, and I wonder, if indeed these are the "rules" you played by, that this might be the cause of your problems with the game.

Thank you for the time you took to point out my errors. I did in fact play the game as you have written, but I was unable to phrase them correctly in my attempt to give a short overview of the rules. The aim of the review is also not to explain all the rules to a gamer, but to give a taste of how it plays, and I think that I have succeeded, although I will edit in an attempt to give exact veracity.

sbarcelo wrote:
I'm also surprised by the "lack of originality" in the mechanics comment. While my experience in gaming is not incredibly vast, I have never played a game with a similar time mechanic, and so far I find it pretty interesting.

edit: for clarity

By "lack of originality" I meant the "roll the d10" mechanic. There's very little there. As for the time mechanic, I think it's neat. It is, however, borrowed from Thebes, which Faidutti credits in the rulebook. I don't have a problem with this, but it's not his invention, so I can't give him full credit and in my opinion this mechanic can't save the game on its own.
 
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