Ever watch Survivor or Bear Grylls and wonder whether you’d survive the wilds? Here’s your opportunity to try, from a high-level management point of view. We review the Robinson Crusoe: Adventure On The Cursed Island board game.
The main feature of the board is the large map area in the center, though at the beginning of the game there’s only one tile, the beach on which the players have stranded. To the right is a collection of Inventions, depicted by cards. More on this later. An overarching objective is chosen, defining what the players need to accomplish to win and how many turns they have to do so.
The adventure begins
As Robinson Crusoe: Adventure On The Cursed Island is a completely cooperative game, players have a combined turn. Each turn denotes a day on the island. This begins by drawing a card from the Event deck. All event cards have an immediate effect, followed by something that may go wrong if it’s not dealt with. The variety here is impressive, from animals attacking the camp to storms raging. Some good, most bad. This card is placed at the bottom of the board. If the card from the previous turn is still there, the follow-up triggers and the card is put aside. If 4 cards collect in this side pile, the players lose.
Now we come to the main part of the turn. Each player has two tokens, one denoting the job they perform in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Players can play them in the same action or split them between two. Players can combine their efforts by each placing one token on the same job, then using their other tokens for independent work. The possible actions range from exploring the island to add tiles to the board, scavenging for resources according to what’s printed on the tiles, going hunting to provide food, building structures to protect against attackers and the elements, creating one of the Inventions to provide bonuses later in the game, or dealing with whatever tragedy is about to befall the camp.
Once everyone has placed their markers, often with lengthy discussions on the best way to spend the available resources, the actions execute. If there are two tokens on an action it will succeed. If there’s only one token, the player must roll the dice associated with that action. These have different odds of succeeding, but will most likely trigger an Adventure. An explorer can get lost, a scavenger can be attacked or get caught in a storm. These are big decks of cards with lots of variabilities. The cards expand on the narrative of the game and are often shuffled into the event deck, so the Adventure on this turn will most likely have an effect on a future turn.
At the end of the day, players roll a set of dice deciding the weather for that night. This may have an effect on the current standing of the camp, and as the game progresses the weather goes from sunny to a little unpleasant to full winter storms. If players are not adequately prepared they won’t make it out alive.
There is a small saving grace. When players achieve something, when the cards are being particularly harsh, or sometimes through blind luck, the game pays out Determination tokens. These tokens can be used to activate the unique abilities of each character. These abilities aren’t used very often, but when they are used it can make the difference between surviving or packing up.
Components: 3/5: The art style of the board is very impressive and draws you in, though we often found that the plastic and wood pieces were bland or even confusing. A little modification and personalizing can go a long way here and the internet is full of resources regarding the “modding” of this game.
Gameplay: 4/5: Group decision-making is the name of the game here. Players spend most of their time discussing the best course of action and it creates a feeling of camaraderie.
Complexity vs Depth: 3/5: The game can be a little tricky to explain. There’s quite a few system in place and players can’t really begin playing until they understand most of it. After a turn or two, it all solidifies into a great engine.
Theme: 4/5: The feeling of isolation and the need to fend for yourself is portrayed well. The systems within the game do a good job of abstracting the actions and events they represent.
Overall: 3/5: Robinson Crusoe: Adventure On The Cursed Island is not for everyone. It’s a bit of a beast to set up and there’s a good half hour of explaining, but once it’s running players become invested quickly. As cards are added to the event deck and begin surfacing again, it creates a deep and unique narrative. Actions have consequences, events from earlier in the game pay off to spectacular effect. Recommended for players that enjoy a good cooperative experience.
All board games reviewed are available through Fanaticus.