List Price: $19.95
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(Worth 1,599 Funagain Points!)
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Adrift at sea in a Victorian lifeboat with your secret love, worst enemy, and a few other shady characters. What could go wrong?
Each game turn represents one day where players can row towards shore or squabble about supplies and treasures salvaged from their ship in this hilarious game that takes less than an hour to play. This new edition has full color art from original artist Stephen K. Ratter on high quality cards.
Battlestations is a tremendous game, mixing space combat with a role-playing element, to become one of the best games I've ever played. I've remained interested in Gorilla Games, the publisher, as they have continued to support the game with expansion after expansion. Lifeboat (Gorilla Games, 2007 - Jeff Siadek) is an older game that Jeff had designed back in 2001, republished with a few minor rules changes, but certainly different than Battlestations.
Lifeboat will likely be confused with the Z-man game Lifeboats, since both have the same theme and have treachery as a focal point. However, Lifeboat has a very different feel as players take the roles of a beleaguered survivor on a lifeboat - with a very interested fate in one or two of the other players. It works great with six, almost as well with five, and barely with four and is an extreme example of a game in which the players collectively determine who wins. I call it "Diplomacy in an hour."
Each player is randomly given one of the six characters in the boat, each with a different size (ranging from "3" to "8"), value (from "4" to "9"), and special ability. The characters are the Lady Lauren, Sir Stephen, Captain, First Mate, Frenchy, and the Kid; and a matching card for each is placed in a row in that order on the table, showing where people are sitting in the boat. A deck of Provision cards is placed near the Lady Lauren on the far left - the bow of the boat, with one card dealt to each player. The Navigation deck of cards is also shuffled and placed at the Aft of the boat, next to the Kid. Players each secretly draw one "hate" card and one "love" card. The love card shows which other player they want to survive (if they love themselves they are a Narcissist and get double points for surviving); and the hate card shows which player they want to die (if they hate themselves they are a Psychopath and want everyone on the boat to die except for the one they love). The first turn is then ready to begin.
To start off each turn, the player whose character is next to the Provision deck is named the Quartermaster and draws Provision cards equal to the number of players. They choose one, pass to the next player in the boat, until everyone has taken a card. Provision cards include:
Starting with the Quartermaster, each player then takes one action. They have the following choices:
At the end of a round, the player closest to the Navigation deck chooses one of the cards in the Row deck to play, putting the rest on the bottom of the Navigation deck. If there are no cards in the Row deck, the top Navigation card is flipped over. This card indicates who falls overboard (a character who falls overboard loses all of their face up cards and takes one wound). The card also points out who gets thirsty. Sometimes the card will show a fight symbol or a row symbol, which means anyone who did those actions was thirsty. Someone can get thirsty three times if their name is on the card, and they rowed and fought and both symbols appear. Players may discard a water card to avoid one thirst but otherwise take one wound for each.
If a player takes wounds equal to their size, they are unconscious (which means they die if they fall overboard). If they take one more wound, they die. They take no more actions for the remainder of the game. Several Navigation cards show a seagull. If four of these are revealed, then the boat is rescued; and players score. Each player scores points equal to their value, and points if their love one survived and their hated one died. Players also score points for their valuables they are carrying (even if they died and managed to stay in the boat). The player with the highest score is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
If you are looking for a backstabbing negotiation game that only takes an hour and a deck of cards, Lifeboat is a good choice. While not as refined as some other games in the genre, it is one of the more heavily-themed ones; and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It does require five or six players to get the full effect, but the shorter time frame makes it more enjoyable and allows players to get into a fun sort of mean-spiritedness that might grate after a longer period. And being the Psychopath is likely joyless in life but amazingly content as you watch the sharks eat your opponents. You can have the jewels and money; I just want to stay alive.
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