Ring Side Report- Castaways Board game Review

Game: Castaways

Players: 1-4

Playtime(setup/play/clean-up): 120 minutes

Set Ending: Yes

TL;DR-An awesome game that REALY needs a new instruction manual 77.5%

How You Play: Players take the role of castaways on an island.  Each turn they assign two meeples to different activities such as finding food or wood, resting, taking camp actions, building, or exploring the island.  The players must build enough objects to be rescued as well as fully explore the island to get free.  The players must work together to succeed, but one player with the most impressive story will win the game at the end.

Theme: This game oozes theme.  Every action you take feels like something you need to do and are things that feel right.  The only problem is the mechanics of the win and that will be below but that’s as it detracts from the theme.  I felt invested in my survival on the island.  I was sad when the tidal wave washed away the goat.  I fought the rest of the group when they voted to eat the dog.  I was scared when a shark ate my leg.  This was awesome!  4.5/5
Mechanics: The general mechanics of this game is a “choose your own adventure book” meets a Euro worker placement game.  That’s it.  There are decks of cards much like Agricola that are semi-random but seeded with different cards for each play through.  There is a bit of a random mechanic for getting lost on explorations, but you can mitigate that through giving up story point.  I like how the mechanics work.  The one area that doesn’t make much sense is that someone can win.  I loved the co-op nature of the game right until the end.  As a strait co-op game, this game is an instant hit.  However, the end point comparison feel a bit tacked on.  Honestly, when we played we decided to drop it as it really only serves to divide the players.  4.5/5

Art/Components:  It has good art that’s only a little racist.  You can tell that this game came from “Not America” because some of the things on it might not pass modern American sensibilities.  That said, it looks like old school Robinson Crusoe art.  The board is good quality.  The game has lots of fairly well designed cards (see instructions for why their only fairly well designed) and cute components.  Nice, plastic meeples, but as a board gamer, I’m not sure why these are plastic.  It’s not bad.  However, I want some wood!  I do not like chance!  4.5/5

Instructions: Here is where I whine.  This game was made by a guy in Spain, translated to German, then translated to English.  And the majority of the instructions are ok.  They get their points across, but the set up part is HORRIBLE!  The instructions are really only one page of a 10+ page book, but it took my group of college educated friends over an hour of reading and rereading to understand what they were trying to get across.  Holy cow!  Maybe you can “Rain Man” these instructions out, but honestly, it’s a major turn off.   As a point of advice, there are 105 cards marked 1-105, but these cards come from every deck in the game.  Make the deck of numbered cards FIRST AND SET THEM ASISE FACE UP.  Take all the cards marked “0” and set them aside.  Those “0” cards you will shuffle and draw a pile of eight from to add a few random story seeds to your game.  THEN separate the number “0” cards into their proper decks based on the back of the cards and then mix these new decks to randomize the exploration cards.   There.  I just explained that first set up page better than the instructions! 2/5

Final Thoughts: All and all a pretty good game.  I enjoyed it, even after the rocky start.  I had lots of fun and still miss my goat and dog!  Give this one a try, but have someone experienced with set up be your teacher.  77.5%

The obvious comparison-Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island vs. Castaways-Ok this debate is best summarized by the phrase: American Style vs. Euro game.  Robinson Crusoe is a great game also, but it’s very American Style.  The island set up in Robinson Crusoe is completely determined by random tile draw.  It’s not a “bad” mechanic, but in the game I played, the random really screwed over the players.  Also in Robinson Crusoe, all events are resolved by custom dice.  Again, not “bad”, but if you hate that then you will not enjoy that game.  Also Robinson Crusoe is also a fully co-op game while Castaways is has a competitive difference at the end.  A final difference is difficulty.  Robinson Crusoe has PUNISHING difficulty, while Castaways was relatively easy.  That difference in difficulty can drive players away.  My wife wanted to play Castaways again, but based on my play of Robinson Crusoe, she will not even touch that game.  If you can only buy one, then maybe my collection is the best reference.  I own Castaways after one play, but don’t own Robinson Crusoe after one play through.  Food for thought.

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