Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

In this cooperative board game, the players each take the role of a survivor stranded on an unexplored island. As you explore your surroundings, build up shelter, gather food and craft tools, hunger starts to set in and the weather turns bad. Will you achieve the scenario’s end goals, be they signalling a rescue ship or capturing a giant ape, or will the plucky survivors starve or be killed by the beasts of the jungle?

I love cooperative board games because playing them often feels like an even more social experience than when you’re playing against each other. The focus shifts from the game mechanics to the story and your collective imagination (in a way, what I’m saying is that I like table top roleplaying games :p). I think Robinson Crusoë does a great job of finding that middle ground between board game and storytelling, which means that there is something to like for everyone.

In Robinson Crusoë, the players are faced with a variety of threats, from gnawing hunger and fickle weather to various random events generated by drawing from a deck full of menaces. Playing safe is a guaranteed way to lose the game, so you are forced to take painful risks. But you know that few poor rolls can set you back a long way, so you’re constantly agonising (and discussing with each other) over whether or not to take those chances.

A chance-based game can sometimes feel random or unfair, but I’ve never felt that way playing Robinson Crusoë. That is not to say that the game does not get you to the edge of your seat – by some miracle of game design, every time I’ve played, winning or losing has come down to the final roll of the final turn of the game. That’s tension at its finest!

I’m treading the line of the speculative genre by reviewing Robinson Crusoë, because especially some of the simpler scenarios in the game are based in the titular, more or less grounded survival situation. But part of what makes this game great is that there is a variety scenarios: from simple shipwreck survival to Indiana Jones and King Kong spoofs – some even going as far as introducing time travel!

I haven’t played them all, but so far each scenario has been great, and the fact that there is constantly something new feels like a great excuse to meet up again and get in another game!

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