Wilson? WIIIIIILSO-O-O-O-O-ON?…never a stupid football with a bloody hand-print on it when you need one to ask it to play a board game with you. This island of mine appeared to be barren, fruitless…steak & kidney pie-less…I felt it was time to look for an alternative habitat. There must be other islands in close proximity…a short stretch of water…maybe even a ship to rescue me?!
Link to the compulsary 21 Days blah blah
Nearly 21 days on board this accursed-plank-of-wood-poor-excuse for a raft, not a sole for company…except the other two survivors…oh, and a dog called Scruffs. What rot! My dog is called Jellybean and would have been eaten by sharks long ago. How I regret leaving my Island on this raft instead of taking that Luxury yacht, moored in the local harbour. And I discover Wilson was sporting a cunning disguise. He is a volleyball not a football…sneaky begger! (Thanks to https://twitter.com/Wayback_J for spotting the deception and bringing it to my attention)
21Days…a co-operative survival game playable by one man and his dog
What’s All the Fuss About?
21 Days, A new game of survival from designer Erik Winkelman.
This is actually a co-op survival game but unlike the usual game approach for the soloist, this has a built in mechanism to actually aid solo play. Introducing Scruffs. An AI pooch. A character with special abilities. Not a Bot, nor a Wotnot as such, but an interesting variant to make the game play a little differently than the Co-op version, nonetheless.
There will, I have no doubt, be numerous reviews and what’s in the boxes and how to play blahdiblahs out there so I shall steer clear of this.
So what is 21 Days to the soloist? We, the Tom hanks stand-in castaways, control three randomly chosen characters and a game/paw-shaped card driven AI, that keeps us company and, if trained and fed well enough, undertakes special tasks to help us out trying to stay alive for 21 days. In that limited time we need to feed ourselves (let’s hope we have a taste for sushi), keep the sharks at bay, fight off tactical attacks from an octopus and…above all, get the bloody recue boat to see, hear and notice us
Immersion or subversion?
The very attractive artwork in conjunction with some cleaver little set gameplays make for a particularly full experience. It really does feel tense on board the raft. So few resources, so many tasks needed to be completed, so many nasties out there to get us. We invest so much in our characters that if they get cast away…well it is mortifying. The logbook timer is a constant reminder we have soooooo little time but this is a double edged sword…yet something else out there to ‘get us’. This log book also throws as many unpredictable events at us as is humanly, nay, logbookably possible.
It is an interesting concept, mechanic wise, this survival lark. You see, health at sea is tracked by custom stickered dice keeping tabs on the health of our heroes, the raft is in multiple sections that can drift away at any moment,
plunging us into the frothy waters. Here sharks peruse us, octopussssessseesss shoot forth their prying tentacles to drag us from the safety of the raft into the deep blue. For a small game there is a lot going on, many difficult decisions for us as we decide who goes where to do what (The worker placement element).
The log book, a card deck, acts like a timer for the game and mercilessly throws innumerable obstacles in our path. Survival suddenly becomes a very real thing. For a light game, there are a large number of difficult, challenging decisions to make and lasting until the 21st day is still no guarantee we get rescued.
Wood Chits and cardboard Bits:
All the components feel well made from sturdy game-board to well printed and cut out tokens, to the wooden dice. ‘Stickers on wooden dice…bleeeeaaaaahhh!!!’ I hear a small portion of the audience spit under their breath…
…now, for me, the dice look really decent. The sticker illustrations are well presented and give a custom feel to the cubes feeling more like survivors than pipped dice…and as they only get rolled once at the start of the game, I don’t see how this could have any impact on the game …but we are all welcome to our pet hates. HOWEVER, if you have pet hates, you may not want to use the Scruffs variant…and, just on an aside, let us all hope Scruffs is not a chewer.
Jellybean, my own version of Scruffs, chewed a hole in the plasterboard (drywall) so imagine if you doze off one evening on the raft, only to wake next morning to find Scruffs has turned all but one plank of the raft into kindling.
The shark dice is a nice touch.
A die within a die which will make your heroes die…infact each small element of the game pulls together to smell of fish…no, I mean, makes you believe you teally are cast adrift in the expansive ocean.
The rule book is an item to behold, matching all the other components but there are a few…shall we say, grey areas…as you might expect adrify in a stormy sea. An amendment/rule update/faq affair has already been set up here https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/224119/21-days/videos/all
Meeples and Standees:
Game design: Erik Winkelman
Art: Eric Kenter
Music: Maarten Vandamme
As a co-op we would imagine this to be instantly suitable to solo play…we control all protagonists in play…but that is not necessarily the case. This is playable as a solo version of the coop game but the Scruffs variant really adds a nice layer on top of the game (I’d say adds another layer of depth but that would put us below sea level and there are jelly fish, octopus legs and toothy-grinned sharks to contend with below the waves)
Me, Myself and I:
To be perfectly honest I thought this was going to be a game that merely ‘looked nice’, even though it was coop (so I could play it solo)
…but I never anticipated the tension and complicated decisions that I would have to make during the game and, as the Scruffs character, coming with its own special set of action cards to assist the humans, a pleasant difference has been added to the gameplay to make it have a noticeably different experience to that of merely playing the coop game as one player. It played out as a particularly challenging scenario for me, the soloist and lead to some pretty hefty discussions between myself…despite not having a football totem.
Sadly Scruff copped an unfortunate one when repeated shark attacks did for him
Yay or Nay?
I say yay! The art, components, solitaire variant, overall game mechanics and quality of components make it a seriously decent play. This is one of those games that comes with its own original sound track, something I always approve of…And although I do focus on solo play, No2 daughter (who demands, from this point onwards, to be refered to as “Holly The Best person In The World”) started off extremely reluctant to play but less than quarter of the way in to our co-op game (but still letting her use Scruffs) became hugely invested in her character and we both experienced highs and lows as the tide ebbed and flowed, throwing its worst at us. Sadly the ship sailed without us but what an advernture we had. Yes, excellent as a solo venture, but equally enjoyable as family fun co-op using the Solo Scruffs expansion!
This, the first Cooperatively solitaire game to hit BSoMT gets a rafty 1d8 die roll of (7)
A small big game that has a lot of depth and entertainment value to it. I would recommend it for most circumstances but, perhaps not for passing the time on lengthy sea voyages…this just might tempt fate too much.
This is a straightforward pleasant game that looks good and plays well. It is well suited to solitaire play using all characters, as many co-op games do, but the Scruffs solo mechanic adds an extra dimension to the game. this is well worth a play and actually offers up far deeper, challenging survival decisions that face value would have you believe.
Something for the weekend, Sir?
- Erik’s unboxing video
- Kite Expansion
- weather Expansion
- Tajs Seelen’s youtube runthrough of the game
Link to the Scruffs solo variant -One Man and His Dog