Friday, October 28, 2011

Red November

Red November is a cooperative board game for 1-8 players by Fantasy Flight Games. It plays in about 60 minutes, but can be significantly less if you have a group who knows how to play the game. That door swings both ways, though and new players should expect to add an additional 20-30 minutes for learning the rules.

Before I even begin, Red November is as frustrating as it is hilarious. I know several people who despise it because it never feels like you’re gaining any ground, but that’s what makes it so much fun for me. When you’ve got a bunch of drunk gnomes trying to keep a submarine together, things are bound to go wrong.

Components: My experience with the game was with the smaller, first edition. It is my understanding that the revised edition has a more streamlined rulebook, a larger board and new item cards. That being said, the first edition was just fine for me and my friends and had components that lived up to the Fantasy Flight Games pedigree.

Rules: Red November’s rules were a little hinky to grasp at first. The revised rulebook is laid out a bit better and streamlines many of the mechanics, but I’d still be aware that your first go through might take a little more time than the recommended 60 minutes play time.

Gameplay: The premise behind Red November is that your crew of gnomish sailors is racing against the clock to keep their sub together while they desperately try and surface so that they can be rescued. In this case, the mechanics fit the theme very well. The Red November is a hunk of junk that makes the Millenium Falcon look like a ship of the line. Using a time track along the perimeter of the board, each play has the option of committing themselves to as many actions as they please. Each action takes you a certain number of steps along the time track – which itself is dotted with various events and mishaps. As you progress along the track, you’ll be forced to decide whether or not you want to keep fixing things and moving around or stop and wait for the events you’ve accumulated so far to resolve. Often times, this leads to getting all the way across the sub to put out a fire only to have the chamber you left start flooding. As more players are added to the chaos, things can go very badly very quickly. Teamwork is key – unless of course one of your mates decides to jump ship and leave the rest to sink to the bottom of the sea…

Overall: It seems like a lot of gamers aren’t too fond of Red November, but as a portable co-op game with a fair amount of depth it truly shines. Even the new revised edition can be thrown in a backpack and set up on the fly and the game is always good for a laugh. Players almost always start panicking after the first turn and the games deft mix of tension and humor is unique for a game of it’s stature.

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