Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game Review: Red November

Red November is a cooperative multi player board game in which the gnomish attack submarine Red November is succumbing to multiple disasters. The gnomes on the sub have to run around putting out fires, pumping flooded compartments, fixing malfunctioning on-board systems, collecting supplies and drinking grog. And a kraken is looming close and ready to attack the sub. If the gnomes can stay alive and keep the sub from getting destroyed for 60 minutes of game time, they win.

We played this game today (our third or fourth time) with some friends (their first time). We unfortunately (or fortunately) ran out of real time to play, so we declared ourselves victors by the fact that no gnomes had died and no major disasters were pending.

The game itself is fun. The premise is very creative and well-thought out. Many potential disasters are brewing: air is running out, heat is on the rise, pressure is building up, fires are breaking out, water is leaking in, inebriated gnomes are passing out. Players work together to avert these disasters using random tools they have/get. Cooperating always brings fun discussion and problem solving into the game.

The border of the board is a time track with sixty spaces. Each player has a time-keeper on the track and as he or she moves around and fixes things the keeper advances. Along the way are red stars denoting disaster events and red spots indicate when gnomes get to draw from the supply pool without going to the supply room. Disaster events are determined by a deck of cards, where things like fires breaking out or the missiles preparing to launch. The interior of the board is a map of the sub, where the players' gnomes move around into the different rooms to fix things.

Unfortunately, the rules aren't written very well. We still have to refer to them constantly, even on the fourth playing. Some related ideas are not written anywhere near each other, e. g. in the set up the players put the Kraken disaster card to the side; there is no mention of what to do with it until almost the end of the rules, where the players are told that once the disaster deck runs out, shuffle the discard pile and put the Kraken card into the discard pile, viola a new disaster deck. Some mention of this in the set up rules would be convenient. I found some FAQs during my search for links, so I will add them to our game box.

Overall, I'd say it is a very good game. The premise is fun; the disasters are interesting and cause good problem-solving and cooperation; the materials are well-constructed and fun to play with. We'll bring the game with us to San Francisco in a couple of weeks. It'll be fun to play with Angie's brother and the in-laws! We can re-read the rules on the flight out.

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