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Subject: Intrigued, impressed and then disappointed rss

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Ole Steiness
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Now, I've had some good times playing Pandemic, another cooperative game, and as I am quite fascinated by modern subs and related stories (whether fictional or not), I was really intrigued when I stumbled across Red November here on BGG.

The reviews here on BGG as well as the rating suggested that this would be a great game to bring to my next board gaming night, so I ordered a copy online and received it a short time later.

I am not going to talk about rules in this review, as many others do, but since there seems to be a lot of hype surrounding this game, praising it sky high, I feel I must throw in my two cents as I DISAGREE with the people praising the game.

When I received the game, I was very impressed with the high production quality of the game, so that's a big thumb up from me.

But then we unwrapped the goodies, read the rules and started playing, and this is where my gaming group got so disappointed. We found the game to be a bit tedious, repetitive and too uneventful - in spite of all the event cards!

First off, as another reviewer said, there is no threats at all as the game starts, so the only thing you can do is move your gnomes around to pick up stuff, waiting for bad things to happen.

Secondly, there is no tension building up. Sure, rooms flood and fires start, but often those events won't build up and can be ignored entirely. Let me explain by an example: In one game we had fires start in two rooms in front of the sub and then flooding in the rooms next to these. We did not care to pump out the water from the flooded rooms as it kept the fires from spreading, and the fire only consumes oxygen when placed or intensified, so we could actually ignore the fires simply because we could easily keep the oxygen level high.... which leads me to the next point...

Thirdly, the game is easy to beat if you don't take chances (at least in our four-player games): As we've experienced a streak of bad rolls we just agreed to play it safe and use 9-10 minutes whenever we went fixing critical elements, thus ensuring us a success when repairing. Sure, that often triggered 2-4 of events, but they where easily dealt with in the same manner... That made the game easy and a bit boring in our eyes.

Lastly, people here tend to compare it to Pandemic and praise RN higher for various reasons. I must say I prefer Pandemic to RN, mainly because you have tension building up gradually in Pandemic - In RN, events are both more isolated and random, and you don't get to plan moves ahead... you simply react to whatever just happened - no strategy needed, and often you just need to do the same things over and over.

Our first few play sessions did not leave us hungry for more. We like cooperative games, but this one was - in spite of the sub theme - too shallow for our group.
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Steve Duff
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I agree that Pandemic is a far better game, but "easy" is not a word normally used to describe Red November.

With 90+ events you have to get through in a 4 player game, and 48 out of 56 event cards being bad, you should generally be feeling some tension, even if you take the cautious route.
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Mike Amos
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The feeling your describing is exactly I felt until I did several very careful, solo plays to get all the rules correct in my head. Make sure you are playing the fire and flood rules, especially the movement rules correctly. The rule book doesn't explain them terribly well.

I own both Pandemic and Red November, I see the similarities (both cooperative, in both your actions also cause the bad things to happen) but they have never felt similar when I play them. I'd be very careful about playing one game but thinking it ought to feel like the other.

When I look at your description of the game I do have one major question:
How do you do a 2:1 exchange of disasters for fixes 36 times and not have any crises in your game?
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Justus Pendleton
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I think you enumerate most of the game play failings that also struck us.

- No starting goals. Disorienting for new players. ("Okay...so what should I be doing?")

- Weird interactions between fire and flooding that allows players to ignore both.

- Few reasons that we could see not to spend 9-10 minutes on an action roll.

In one game we had 4 gnomes spread throughout the ship and two of them didn't move all game: they sat in the engine room and reactor (I think) and when it came back to them they spent another 10 minutes fixing things.

I've had similar experiences in Battlestar Galactica (where you just use Executive Orders on another player every time it comes around to you) but BSG has the whole meta-game and crises going on to help make up for that. Red November didn't, making it extremely boring when you get stuck in a loop like that.
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Jon
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This game was a bit disapointing for me, too. Fortunately, I didn't have very high hopes for it.

I think of Red November as 'Space Alert lite'; I would not really compare it to Pandemic.

I think our group played it once because the FLGS had a demo copy out. After that, I think we played 2-3 games of Space Alert instead.
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Dan Dolan
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After spending that 9 minutes repairing something di you ever have the events surround a gnome with fire and flood his room? the gnome who is supposed to go next? He's gonna die.

Then you only have 3 and bad things can crop up quickly. 3 fires push the OX levels up and You fail the roll to put one out to get thru to the OX room.

I've played this game quite a bit and I find it an interesting story even when the gnomes survive. Bad things can crop up at bad times.

I'll play it as a filler. I like it's feel.

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Brian McCormick
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I've had similar experiences where the game ends up being boring and anti-climactic.

However, there have been several sessions of Red November when - for some unforseen reason - everything just clicks. The card draws are balanced and tense. Fires actually block progress, water slows you down, and it's not simply a matter of opening a hatch to solve your problems. The "in 15 minutes you will automatically die" events happen too randomly, but when you have them cropping up regularly, it keeps you on your toes and adds to the tension. In these instances the game seems to "click" and then it's a blast to play.

So, if I'm going to level any complaint against Red November, it is that the game is inconsistent. It is every bit as good as Pandemic, Space Alert, etc., and in some situations it's an even better pick than those games. Yet, that's only the case when all the mechanics "click" together.

Also, are you bothered by the lack of things to do once the game starts? A house rule fixed that: mess s**t up. Draw and resolve x number of event cards, or place a random "auto kill" event marker at the 20 and 40 minute marks. Add two random fires. Make three rooms flooded at low water. Whatever. Create some problems for your little sub before the game begins. You'll probably find the game far more challenging and entertaining this way.
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Vincent White
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This one was meh for me too......However I did play it with a group of 4 while drinking. We were tossing down the beers and shouting at each other when things didn't get go well. Then everyone was suspicious of me when I had the aqualung. They were accusing me of wanting to abandon them, and I would have if the sub hadn't been destroyed. Anyways the rest of the night I was accused of being a scumbag and a traitor even though I never got a chance to leave the sub.
We had a good time.

That being said, I traded the game away. I don't miss it at all.
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Don Eskridge
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Have you tried 1) removing the respite cards from the deck, and 2) playing three cards before the game begins? If the game is too easy/boring right now, upping the challenge will make it impossible for you to spend 9-10 minutes on every problem. For me, these changes always makes for an exciting, challenging game.
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There is an offical variant listed in the rulebook, that can allow you to be a bit more ruthless.

I see the beginning as you know bad stuff is going to happen, so take the time while you can to fortify yourself.

How many games did you play? The one time we beat this, it was a four player game. But when you play at max, or even five or six, its a different story.


Quote:

In one game we had fires start in two rooms in front of the sub and then flooding in the rooms next to these.


Which rooms exactly? Because there are two key areas in the front of the sub. Sometimes its easy to ignore certain rooms, and let the fires build up and the flooded rooms keep them at bay. but when its a room you need to get to...

As for strategy, i guess there isn't a lot...but having people stay in certain areas, who working to find the best way to tradeoff....

I've enjoyed the game. Just wish it had a bigger board.
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F H
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I'm astounded that you think the game too easy. Even if you leave rooms at at low flood level, that hinders you. Doors still get blocked and you could drown easily with that going on.

Maybe I'll have to try that technique...
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Bwian, just
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steiness wrote:
First off, as another reviewer said, there is no threats at all as the game starts, so the only thing you can do is move your gnomes around to pick up stuff, waiting for bad things to happen.

Well, true, but that's just the first turn of the game. You can either go through it quickly (my preference), or use some artificial (house rule) system to speed up the beginning.

steiness wrote:
Thirdly, the game is easy to beat if you don't take chances (at least in our four-player games): As we've experienced a streak of bad rolls we just agreed to play it safe and use 9-10 minutes whenever we went fixing critical elements, thus ensuring us a success when repairing. Sure, that often triggered 2-4 of events, but they where easily dealt with in the same manner... That made the game easy and a bit boring in our eyes.

I've played this in conservative groups, where we don't take less than 100% chances unless forced to, and haven't found the game to be a cakewalk. I doubt my win percentage is even 50% with that strategy. Yes, there are slow periods, where you feel like you're on top of things--that just sets you up for the string of 4 Reactor cards in a row. Right after the Reactor room catches on fire...

steiness wrote:
Lastly, people here tend to compare it to Pandemic and praise RN higher for various reasons. I must say I prefer Pandemic to RN, mainly because you have tension building up gradually in Pandemic - In RN, events are both more isolated and random, and you don't get to plan moves ahead... you simply react to whatever just happened - no strategy needed, and often you just need to do the same things over and over.

I agree with you to a point, but it's why I prefer Red November. Pandemic is all strategy, to the point where you might as well play solitaire: there is a learning period where taking input from multiple people is useful, but after that you might as well have the most experienced player tell everyone what they're going to do. As a learning player, it's easy to just drop back and go along for the ride, losing tension because you have little input into the process. The randomness in Red November breaks up the "wise man" tendency of Pandemic; the traitor element in the late game keeps people emotionally involved even if they are leaning on advice from other players early in the game.

I guess I've just found Red November to work quite well for me, especially as an introductory cooperative game. The first turn is pretty formulaic: just what is needed to explain the sometimes-unintuitive time track. You spend most of the game working together, allowing you to offer advice freely, but still being wrong often enough (risk management only goes so far) to keep everyone on their toes. And, if you get to the last 10 minutes (which is far from a given), a final frenzy of repairing or fleeing the sinking ship. Sometimes both...
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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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Bwian wrote:

I agree with you to a point, but it's why I prefer Red November. Pandemic is all strategy, to the point where you might as well play solitaire: there is a learning period where taking input from multiple people is useful, but after that you might as well have the most experienced player tell everyone what they're going to do. As a learning player, it's easy to just drop back and go along for the ride, losing tension because you have little input into the process. The randomness in Red November breaks up the "wise man" tendency of Pandemic; the traitor element in the late game keeps people emotionally involved even if they are leaning on advice from other players early in the game.

I guess I've just found Red November to work quite well for me, especially as an introductory cooperative game. The first turn is pretty formulaic: just what is needed to explain the sometimes-unintuitive time track. You spend most of the game working together, allowing you to offer advice freely, but still being wrong often enough (risk management only goes so far) to keep everyone on their toes. And, if you get to the last 10 minutes (which is far from a given), a final frenzy of repairing or fleeing the sinking ship. Sometimes both...


Agreed, I find it harder in Pandemic to avoid the "here's what you should do" tendency, especially with new players. I see new players "go along for the ride," and submit to the more experienced player's opinions, very often with Pandemic.
Red November is more conducive to helping a new player see what their different options are, but having their choice be completely up to them. I've had great success teaching Red November to even non-gamers.
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Bwian, just
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JonPrud wrote:
I think of Red November as 'Space Alert lite'; I would not really compare it to Pandemic.

I think our group played it once because the FLGS had a demo copy out. After that, I think we played 2-3 games of Space Alert instead.

The comparison hadn't occurred to me for some reason, but you're right: Space Alert lite isn't a bad way of putting it. I don't really have a critical mass of Space Alert players, though, and some of my regular group don't really... react well under time pressure. ninja So I still play both games in about equal measure.
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Bart Vandermeulen
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Hmmm, I find it a bit strange that so many think this is an easy game.
Granted, I haven't played it that often, but the times it did, chaos was just piling up. I actually feel few fires can be ignored as there's good chance they're in a room that often needs fixing or in room #5, where you'll need to pass through a lot.

Same thing with floods although they're easier to counter.
But even low water can hinder as they slow you down (-> events come faster).

Maybe I just had some 'luck' that our games were tough, or maybe we're not as good at it, but I don't think I've won half the games I've played.
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Ole Steiness
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I'm pretty sure we got the rules right (even though they are not clearly written, as you point out, Mike).

We did have the crises unfold (missile launch, reactor heat-up, etc.), but they did not pose any big problems for us. Maybe it was because we never got to meet the Kraken goo in our sessions.

BTW, thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions (and the tip). I do agree that you can work around the issue about no problems during the first round, and I am pretty sure we will up the difficulty by doing that if we're going to play it again.
 
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jostein pettersen
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steiness wrote:
In one game we had fires start in two rooms in front of the sub and then flooding in the rooms next to these. We did not care to pump out the water from the flooded rooms as it kept the fires from spreading, and the fire only consumes oxygen when placed or intensified, so we could actually ignore the fires simply because we could easily keep the oxygen level high...


During our previous play, we decided on a simple and quick fix for this 'problem': Fires may also start in rooms with low water. We often see this in submarine movies. Water is flooding in, while a fire is burning somewhere else in the room. This small adjustment increases the tension and difficulty of the game.
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steiness wrote:
First off, as another reviewer said, there is no threats at all as the game starts, so the only thing you can do is move your gnomes around to pick up stuff, waiting for bad things to happen.


You can always prepare for the coming storm. Granted, mostly done in the form of raiding the locker room.

steiness wrote:
Secondly, there is no tension building up. Sure, rooms flood and fires start, but often those events won't build up and can be ignored entirely. Let me explain by an example: In one game we had fires start in two rooms in front of the sub and then flooding in the rooms next to these. We did not care to pump out the water from the flooded rooms as it kept the fires from spreading, and the fire only consumes oxygen when placed or intensified, so we could actually ignore the fires simply because we could easily keep the oxygen level high.... which leads me to the next point...
Agreed, but you can only ignore fires and floods to a certain point.

As another poster mentioned, a gnome who was safe now needs to worry s high flood or fire without a safe escape route. Things can spiral out of control very quickly.

steiness wrote:
Thirdly, the game is easy to beat if you don't take chances (at least in our four-player games): As we've experienced a streak of bad rolls we just agreed to play it safe and use 9-10 minutes whenever we went fixing critical elements, thus ensuring us a success when repairing. Sure, that often triggered 2-4 of events, but they where easily dealt with in the same manner... That made the game easy and a bit boring in our eyes.
Problem is, sometimes spending the guaranteed 9 minutes does cause jeers as a 10 gets rolled. Othertimes, if you spend too much time on one thing, such as putting out a fire, that means the same gnome won't have time tackle some disaster like the engine room, or get the heat track down, of which there'd be a good chance it will go to fatal levels.

steiness wrote:
Lastly, people here tend to compare it to Pandemic and praise RN higher for various reasons. I must say I prefer Pandemic to RN, mainly because you have tension building up gradually in Pandemic - In RN, events are both more isolated and random, and you don't get to plan moves ahead... you simply react to whatever just happened - no strategy needed, and often you just need to do the same things over and over.

Our first few play sessions did not leave us hungry for more. We like cooperative games, but this one was - in spite of the sub theme - too shallow for our group.
various reactions within my groups. The ones that prefer heavier games tend to show more disdain towards Pandemic. To them, it's just a big puzzle game for up to 4p. They really would've appreciated some traitor element or competitive element from an opposing player/team instead of just the game, of which the cards and events can be card counted. RN definitely can feel the same way.
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Mike Malley
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For those who don't like how there's no threat at the beginning, why not just start the game with the kraken attacking?
 
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Either way, this game is rife with self expandability options.
 
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I don't think the rules are badly written at all. In fact every eventuality is covered in them. They are, however, arranged in a (at least for me) very non intuitive fashion. It took me a long time (compared to other games) to noodle out all the rules.

It is a game where the game plays you to some extent which I usually hate, but Red Nov is so different to any other game I have played.

The game rests heavily on its theme and if you don't care about your gnomes getting killed then the whole game just comes down to random events.

Me, I love those little guys! Gotta keep 'em safe from Bad Things Happening.
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Björn Fink
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Easy? sorry but i think you played something wrong...in our games there are always too many doors blocked...and fire breaks out in important rooms and so on...when i read the postings here i think we played a completely different game!

For example only the rule that you only can enter a room on fire with a fire ex or when you drank some grog causes so many problems...what do you do in your games when no one has a fire ex or stuck in a room with blocked doors on the other side of the ship?...
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Mark Ogilvie
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collapsing wave wrote:
I don't think the rules are badly written at all. In fact every eventuality is covered in them. They are, however, arranged in a (at least for me) very non intuitive fashion. It took me a long time (compared to other games) to noodle out all the rules.


Having bought this and Pandemic on the same day, it's kind of inevitable for me to draw comparisons. Going from the wonderful, concise, and organized rulebook of Pandemic to the wordy, cryptic pamphlet that comes packed with Red November is absolutely jarring. Frankly, after having played through a game of RN, I dismissed its rulebook as a piece of garbage.

It does indeed elaborately explain everything that can happen in the game, but it does this so elaborately and in such an unintuitive fashion that we almost packed the game back in its box before the game even got started, which would have been quite a shame seeing as how the game itself is fun and does some very interesting things with its time mechanic.
 
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Sean Smith
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Well I feel the same way as the original poster. I really wanted to like this game. I was looking for an alternative to Pandemic and I chose this over Space Alert because this game seemed like it scaled better as far as players to me. I've played it twice and I just can't get into it. I think it's just the fact that the same few events happen over and over relentlessly.(Oh no another fire in room 2.) Pandemic has peaks and valleys and that makes each high and low much more intense. I've yet to try it with more than four but I just can't see that changing anything.
 
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steiness wrote:
but this one was - in spite of the sub theme - too shallow for our group.



Perhaps you were in way over your heads???? shake



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