by Sean J.
Sometimes games just call to me. The theme, the art, the mechanics; something just grabs hold of my attention and I feel compelled to add it to my collection.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island by Ignacy Trzewiczek captivated me as soon as I heard about it. A really difficult, Euro-style, worker placement, cooperative game…really, what’s not interesting about that? I was also drawn in by the theme. Being trapped on a cursed island having to, not only fight the elements, but find enough food to survive and complete tasks to fulfill the scenario you’re facing.
Well, after picking up Robinson Crusoe, unpacking the beautiful box and cracking open the dense rule book I realized that the helpless feeling of being stranded on a desert island would be well conveyed in this game.
Now I’m not going to lie, before I was even able to get this gem to the table it took several readings of the rules and several youtube tutorials. Once you start to get a grasp of the rules they all make sense and flow together thematically. There are just a lot of rules to get through.
I’ve played the intro scenario (one of six included in the game) twice. We’ve been shipwrecked at the end of summer and we need to build a shelter, hunt for food and survive the harsh winter weather coming our way. Those tasks alone are tough enough, but we also have to discover fire and collect enough wood to build a signal flame large enough to grab the attention of a passing ship.
In Robinson Crusoe there is never enough time to do all the things you need to do to both accomplish your goals and keep everyone safe and healthy. Some rounds you’re going to have to take a hit for the team.
Most cooperative games suffer from Alpha Player Syndrome. The most experienced player will make the decisions for the rest of the group and it can feel like you’re just sitting and watching. There is some potential for that in Crusoe, but that really shouldn’t occur too often. During the action phase the players will plan their day. Working together they’ll decide if it makes more sense to explore more areas of the island, build the shelter, hunt for food and so on. With so many necessary tasks to accomplish it’s up to the group to decide how their time will be best spent.
Storytelling is a big aspect of your adventure. Each round you’ll deal with Event cards that have an immediate effect and a lingering threat. When you go off on your own to build, scavenge or explore you’ll roll the dice to see if you have an adventure along the way. You might stumble across a cabin and have to decide to go in or not. Will there be a useful tool waiting inside or a trap? This immersive element of the game is central to the experience.
So far I’ve really enjoyed this game. Well worth the investment of time and money. I’m looking forward to exploring the other adventures and Z-Man has already uploaded a new scenario on their site, so there’s high replay potential. Is this game for everyone? No, it does take patience to get into and you have to be looking for a tight, tense cooperative. I think if you’re a fan of Euro-style worker placement games this might be a perfect fit for your collection.