Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island

ROBINSON CRUSOE:
ADVENTURE ON THE CURSED ISLAND

by Portal Games

Published in 2012

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a cooperative adventure game where the players try to survive on a mysterious and dangerous island, while simultaneously struggling to complete a certain objective.
Robinson Crusoe himself isn't a part of the game, and the characters are usually not alone on the island - there may be up to four of them. Still, the very survival is perhaps the greatest challenge that this game has to offer.

As for the game mechanics, RC:AotCI (phew, what an acronym) uses a curious mix of worker placement, dice rolling and resource management, topped up with a very innovative story system where the players' decisions may affect the events of the future game rounds. This is a simple mechanic, yet it works quite well and it gives the game a nice touch of additional strategic depth.


The game board depicts the island, which is slowly revealed as the characters explore it, but it also has spaces for many of the cards and decks that are used in the game. And as a worker placement -game, the board also has many spaces that are there to remind the players about the different actions that they can (or must) take during the course of the game.

So the game is about shipwreck survivors, and their first priority is to ensure their survival in a dangerous environment: A shelter must by built, enough food must be acquired, and some wood would defnitely come in handy too... When all this is down, the survivors may also start building other items that will make their lives a bit easier. But the beach doesn't offer much resources - the survivors need to explore the island if they are to build more complicated items.
And let's not forget that this is a Cursed Island! If the weather is calm, them something else will probably go wrong... And the island may even have some dark secrets that the survivors have to deal with.

The game comes with 6 scenarios, each of which have their own special rules and a different objective. There are four characters to choose from. This time the situation is as follows:

Two people and a dog have survived a shipwreck, and managed to swim to the relative safety of the Cursed Island. A Carpenter, and a Cook.
The ship went down fast, and the only things that the two survivors saved from the ship are a flask of rum, a hammer and some nails.


But there is a third survivor! A woman called Jenny is trapped on a lonely rock out in the ocean. She is way too far to be rescued without a raft.

The objective is to first build a raft, which can be used to rescue Jenny and bring her to the island, then upgrade the raft into a real lifeboat that can carry the three survivors back home...

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS:

1st day:

The survivors find themselves on a beach. It's just the two of them, and a dog... Jenny is out there, but she won't survive for very many days on her own.

Some fish and wood are gathered from the immediate surroundings.

A wrecked lifeboat is spotted. It's stuck in between some rocks a few miles away.

The Cook sets out to take a look... maybe there is something usable to salvage.







The Carpenter begins to build a shelter. He doesn't have much wood to work with, but his knowledge in economical construction allows him to build a decent shelter.
He uses about half of the nails he had grabbed from the Ship.

After the shelter is done, the Carpenter decides to use the rest of the day to explore deeper into the island.

He heads east with the Dog, and finds a nice lake in the middle of some hills. This looks like a good place for a camp...
However, upon exploring the area, he stumbles upon some slippery rocks and twists his ankle. Nothing too serious, but still - it hurts!

As the night falls, the Cook returns from her salvage mission, bringing with her as much wood as she can carry.

The Carpenter arrives with the Dog, and with another pet as well; a small wild animal seems to be following him.
The survivors decide to keep the animal nearby - after all, it is food...

In the darkness of the night, the camp is moved to the shore of the newfound lake. The weather is good and the survivors have a relatively comfortable night.


2nd day:

Heavy clouds cover the sky... It's going to rain.

The survivors quickly gather some wood and the Carpenter begins to build a roof for the Shelter.




A fish is caught from the lake, and the Cook also heads back to the beach to fish more.
She also explores southwards. The Dog comes with her.

The Carpenter stays in the camp and finishes the roof - it's not much, but it should be able to take the rain.
He then takes some more precautions to prepare the camp against harsh conditions. He uses up all the wood they had gathered, but now the survivors should be able to get a good night's sleep.


Meanwhile at the beach, the Cook manages to catch more fish.

She also finds something else from the sand: A spanish gold coin! It's very beautiful and she takes it with her.



After fishing, the Cook explores the area south from the camp. She comes across small mountains, and a valley where an ancient cemetary is hidden. The place is somehow very foreboding, and the Cook returns from her journey in a considerably worse mood than before...

The night comes, and the rain begins to fall - but the shelter stays dry, thanks to the new roof.
The survivors have enough fish to eat, and the Cook uses one of her special recipes to actually make the food taste refreshing and invigorating.

In the middle of the night the survivors wake up and realize that a storm is passing right over the island!
The roof stays intact, but the near-horizontal rain is still making the night less than dry...


3rd day:

In the morning, everything feels strange... The survivors gather wood and fish, but somehow everything seems so difficult.
The gold coin in the Cook's pocket feels heavy! As if the coin was cursed, and now the curse is all over the survivors, and all of their efforts are doomed to fail.
But maybe it's just a feeling...

The survivors drink the rum that they had taken with them from the Ship. It makes them feel stronger.


The survivors then proceed to build items.

The Cook builds a shovel from some of the scrap she had found from the beach, while the Carpenter builds a little something that can be used as a weapon...






The survivors then leave the camp.

The Carpenter takes the Dog and heads southeast to look for something that could be used to braid a rope.

The Cook tries to gather more wood from the nearby mountains.
While collecting wood from a particularly dense thicket, a spider drops onto the Cook's shoulder and bites her!
She can only hope that the little thing wasn't too venomous...

While exploring the south shore of the island, the Carpenter comes across remains of masts and spars of some very old ship. He finds a small amount of usable lumber, as well as some ropes!
This is very good, as the ropes are essential in building the raft.

The sun sets, and the survivors return to their camp. They decide that it's time to slay the animal that had been following the Carpenter since the very first day. The survivors eat well, and some warm skins are also harvested from the little critter.

During the night, storm hits the camp again.

Also, both of the survivors feel a little sick. They determine that some of the fruits they ate during the day must have actually been poisonous...





4th day:

When the fourth day dawns, the survivors realize that they really need to take action and try to save Jenny - she has been alone for three days on that little rock.
Fortunately now they have rope to build a raft.

The survivors begin to build the raft together. It takes time, as well as most of the wood that the survivors had gathered, but they do succeed in building a raft that seems sturdy enough to support three people.
It's getting too dark to go out to the ocean now, but the survivors decide that the first thing tomorrow will be an attempt to rescue Jenny.


Before calling it a day, the Carpenter uses some of the ropes that were left over to build a snare.
This trap is of his own design - he knows that it will work.




However, the survivors are hungry now... They spent the whole day at the camp, and now they are running out of fish.
The Carpenter feels weak from hunger.


5th day:

When the survivors wake up at morning, they learn that the small river nearby had flooded: Their camp is a mess.


The Cook also finds out that the spider bite in her neck is badly swollen.

It doesn't seem life-threatening, but the Cook feels very sick. She must be careful not to exert herself too much today...





The survivors decide that the Carpenter sets out to rescue Jenny, while the Cook stays behind and tries to dig a moat or something to clear the water out of the camp. At least she does have a shovel to dig with, so this shouldn't be too exhausting...

The Carpenter comes back later, and he has Jenny with him! Both Jenny, and the Carpenter are in a very bad shape - apparently the rescue mission didn't go quite as planned.

But there is no time to rest. The raft needs to be upgraded into a proper lifeboat, and the Carpenter still has some strength left in him. He takes the Dog, and heads north to expolore a new part of the island in hopes of finding something useful.

The Carpenter stumbles upon a forest, where he finds remains of a wrecked hot air balloon.
What a stroke of luck! The skins from the balloon can be used to build sails for the lifeboat!
Also, the Carpenter gathers some wood from the area.



The survivors - now three of them - get in their shelter for the night.
The food is very scarce, and Jenny and the Carpenter are very weak... The hunger, as well as the overall fatigue is taking its toll, and the survivors are praying for an easy night.

But the night is not easy, as a new threat appears: In the dead of night, some hungry animals attack the camp!
The survivors manage to fight the beasts off, but it is clear that they do not flee far... They will probably show themselves again during the next night.


6th day:


In the morning, the survivors notice that a small part of the nearby forest is on fire!

The Carpenter hurries to extinquish the fire before it spreads to the camp. He digs a firebreak with the shovel to stop the fire from spreading.


The Carpenter spends the rest of the day organizing the camp.

The Cook tries to build a knife from some sharp stones found from the mountains, but she only manages to hurt herself...
She then explores towards northeast. There she finds a river and a good amount of fruits that she carries back to the camp.
The snare has also caught a small animal, so the survivors probably don't need to starve this night.

Jenny rests and sleeps. She almost died out at the ocean, and she is still very weak.


Everyone gets to eat enough food, and the Cook even manages to make the Carpenter feel a little better with her special recipes.


Hungry animals are seen circling the camp, but they do not attack.


7th day:

Time is running out. The survivors know that they can't survive for much longer. The Carpenter explains that they still need a knife to build the lifeboat, as well as a lot more wood and some skins...
Time to start gathering these supplies!

The Carpenter begins with the knife. He works fast and comes up with a sturdy knife, but cuts himself in the process.

The Cook and the Carpenter then go out in the forest to gather wood.

They are very successful, the Carpenter even manages to find some additional wood that the recent stormwinds seem to have gathered in one place...
Upon returning to the camp, the survivors determine that they almost have enough supplies for the lifeboat...

Almost.

The 7th night comes, and the survivors eat. The snare has successfully caught something again, but there is still very little food for three people.



During the night, hungry animals attack the camp again. The survivors fight back with the Carpenter's knife, but they are simply too weak to survive the night. The trio of castaways never see the 8th morning, and the Cursed Island has once again claimed the lives of those who have had the misfortune of setting their foot on its soil.


CONCLUSION:

Still no success with this scenario. I have never been able to complete this one - in fact I only have completed the first two of the six scenarios. Yes, the game is difficult, or at least it seems so to me.
This game was a fairly typical one, in which my confidence slowly but surely fades away along with the health of my characters!
That's how it usually goes in RC:AotCI: There is a good start, but then everything starts to go wrong and either I run out of time, or then one of my survivors just die. This is a ruthless game, but so well designed that I always feel like the game did give me a chance - I just happened to make some wrong choices and blew my chance.

The game has a lot going on, and some interesting elements didn't even appear in this run: For example, usually the characters also hunt to get food and skins, but this time I felt like I didn't have the time for that...
The game also features a "mystery card" -deck. These cards are rarely drawn, but they have some of the most intriguing events and encounters that the survivors can come by.

By the way, I always play with modified solo rules. The rulebook instructs to use one normal character, the Dog and Friday (from the actual Robinson Crusoe -story). Friday is a special character with simplified rules, but for some reason I don't like to use him... I rather go with two characters and the Dog. Works fine that way.

The artwork is very simple, except for the island tiles, which are actually pretty beautiful. Other pictures are somewhat crude black-and-white illustrations. Of course one could say that they look like something that the shipwreck survivors themselves could have drawn with a piece of charcoal or something - so they kinda work in a Robinson Crusoe -game.
Most of the cards in the game only have text on them.

RATING:  9 /10

SOLO RATING: 9 /10

Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island is a challenging and innovative strategy game with a high replayability. Good for anyone who generally enjoys playing cooperative board games.
Works very well in solo as well as in small groups.

4 comments:

  1. manage to stubble upon your blog by chance. I am also a fan of solo board games. Just like to take the opportunity to say , your blog is great ! Keep it up , look forward to the next entry. Perhaps , mice and mystics , suburbia ? ;)

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  2. Greetings from USA.
    I have been wanting to try this game for some time and I really enjoyed your review! Solo gaming is somewhat new to me but I love it. I liked your intro about how board games compare to video games, I have a love for both but lately I've been into board games more. I have been playing Memoir '44 lately. Please keep blogging and playing, I could read your site for hours!
    - Skipp

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words :) I really appreciate.
      Have a nice rest of the summer!
      - Jani

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  3. Very nice reviews, I am also solo player, so your blog is very helpful. For me it is unfortunately, very hard to read, due to very low contrast between font and dark background, maybe you consider changes? Greetings from Poland!

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