Review of Crusoe Crew Part II: Final Thoughts

After feeling lackluster about a solo play from Part I of the review, what do we think now that we’ve played it with more people?


One of the things we were worried about, happened: the binding isn’t great.

After a single play, one of the pages fell out of one of the books!  It’s not a deal-breaker: you can still play the game.  It’s just sort of frustrating.


After reading through the rules again with a big group, I understand the icons on the edges of the panels a little better now.  Sometimes, to make sure you have “solved” a puzzle, the Icon on one panel corresponds to the Icon on the “solved” panel.  So, that made more sense after playing some more.   The down arrow in the picture below is an example of that … the “K” .. is something else!


What didn’t make sense it why the instructions didn’t include just a few more Icons? For example, in the instructions below, the rules say:

…If a player sees a panel with their character’s initials in the corner of the panel …

So, there are at least 4 things wrong with these instructions!

  1. Why not show the 4 initials?  They are actually very stylized in the game, and don’t “quite” just look like initials (see picture above with the “K”).  This is an opportunity to just show 4 Icons in the instructions.  When I go looking for Icons in the Instructions, my eye would catch those 4 Icons, and I would know what they are.  Instead, I am scratching my head.
  2. They say “initials”, but they are really more “stylized” Icons, so it wouldn’t catch me the first time (or second) that they are initials … I would just think they were some random Icon!
  3. Where are the Icons?  It should say “in the upper right corner”!
  4. What are my initials?  I know each character is playing a different character, but the name is NOT actually on the front cover!.  It’s on the back, but kinda tiny.  As we played, I don’t think any of us ever “knew” our characters name.  I feel like it should have been more “prevalent”: In bold on the cover?  On each page at the bottom?  Something to emphasize or more!  Or maybe just the Icon on the bottom of each page?  The Icon that we don’t know???
If you look VEEERY closely, you can see your name on the upper left back of the book!


Holy cow was the scoring complicated!  There were several math majors/minors, engineers, computer scientists at our table and we had to re-read the scoring a few times to get it!  And it’s a tiny font!


I like that the scoring tries to adjust for age, number of players, etc.  At the end of the day, though, I think this game just probably just be played for “fun” and just compare how many gems you got for last time.


Okay, this is where the game shines: multiple players!  When we played, we all interacted, made decisions together, congratulated each other when we solved puzzles, and had fun!   This is really the best part of the game, exploring as a team, being excited by finding stuff.  It really worked well for that.  We felt like we were exploring an island and solving puzzles.  And the time flew by! It was a blast!

The map!



One of Sarah’s favorite things about this game: there was almost no set-up: you pulled out the books and the maps and you started.  That’s it!   A few minutes the first time to read the instructions, but then it’s just “jump right in” after that!


Even though the books are “smallish” (not giant tomes), we still don’t feel like we saw too much.  I was worried, because the books weren’t huge, that the replayability would be diminished.  Nope!   After playing through for an hour, there was still a TON of stuff to see!



My group really had fun!  We lost track of time for that 1 hour, playing and having fun! Everyone said they would play it again!   The cons (lackluster binding, small margins, wonky Icons, weird scoring) brought the group’s rating of this down, but we all ended up between 6 and 7 (on the BoardGameGeek rating).  I think in the end, it gets about a 6.8.


Review of Crusoe Crew Part I: Unboxing and First Impressions

The Crusoe Crew!

The Crusoe Crew was a Kickstarter from Van Ryder games  back in late 2018 (Nov. 12 2018 to Dec. 3).  It just delivered this last Friday (April 19th, 2019) when it was supposed to deliver in March 2019.  A month late?  That’s great by Kickstarter standards!

The Crusoe Crew is a cooperative adventure game for 1-4 players.  It’s a story telling game!  Each player takes one of 4 roles and works through an adventure together.  Let’s take a look at it!



Spoiler Alert if you are Junkerman or the Chamberlin family!  I got three copies of the game!

  1. For me
  2. For Junkerman, who’s an English teacher and finds games like this great for his classroom
  3. For the Chamberlins: A family of 4 who loves games!

I had a good experience with Van Ryder’s previous work and wanted to share the love.

What’s going on with the box?


The box has one of the magnetic clasps and a little ribbon that you use to “pull” stuff out of the box.  It’s very nice quality.   The back of the box shows 4 players reading the 4 books together in unison: that’s the nature of this game!

Notice the 7+: this is perhaps aimed at younger players.

What’s in the Box?

4 Books, a Map/Instructions and the box itself!

The game’s main components are the books.   There is a map, which underscores the explorative nature of the game, which has has the instructions on the back.

Instructions on the other side of the map

The instructions are a little sparse, (and the font a little small for my taste), but I got going pretty quickly.

You probably want to make a copy of the instructions, or print out another copy (the Van Ryder web site has more) so you can mark it up and note things (days, inventory, rubies, etc).

The map!


Backside of the books describes each character in more depth

To play the game, 1-4 players each take of the booklets and assume the role of that character!  The players then read the books “together!”


In my first play, I played a solo game (yes, this game adheres to Saunders’ Law) and played the Grey Guy.  Each character has a special ability.  The Grey Guy is strong and can kick down/smash some things.  Other characters are taller, can climb, and solve puzzles.    This special ability gives each player an advantage and allows them different options in the game.


The game works by each player looking at their storybooks in tandem.  They all “basically” see the same frame on the same caption: note the numbers in the upper left of each picture.  So, players all turn (generally) to the same number and “see something”.  There are typically numbers on the picture which give you options: do you go to 55 or 77?  The players decide together and all turn to that caption.

What makes this different is that each player sees something “slightly” different. The Grey character is strong, so he might something that can be smashed, so he might see a different number hidden in the picture (43 is hidden in a wall).  That means he can do something the other characters can’t!  So, you decide as a team, do you want to do there? Does just one person go there?

You move through the story, picking up items and rubies.  You try to get the best score picking up as many gems as you can.


Solo Play Thoughts


This game reminded me a lot of Robit Riddle: I reviewed it about a year ago here and here.  It’s a story telling game which is much more text based.  It’s aimed at a younger audience.  The main difference was Crusoe Crew had more puzzles and much less reading: Crusoe Crew is a graphic novel!

I had the same problem with  Robit Riddle that I had with Crusoe Crew: I don’t think it works well with 1 player.   I am just flipping through pages by myself, just going through the motions.  I am looking forward to trying this with a group, because I think it will work much better!  Which is where Robit Riddle shined.

Inner Margins

I have a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Books.  My group just recently moved to D&D 5th Edition, but I was reminded of an issue that D&D 3.5 had that  Pathfinder fixed.

Top: Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Bottom: D&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook.

Look closely at the inner margins on the two books: Pathfinder has plenty of space, but the D&D 3.5 book has text smashed into the inner margins, so it’s hard to read!

Pathfinder: plenty of space to read!
D&D 3.5: text on inner edges is hard to read!

Unfortunately, Crusoe Crew has the same problem: it’s kind of hard to look at the pictures who are smashed into the inner margins of the book:

Hard to look at part close to spine!

It wasn’t a deal breaker by any means: I could see stuff I wanted, but I had to “force” the book open a little.  I am very worried this will cause the spine to crack and pages to fall out.  I am worried for the longevity of the books because to see things (“wait, is that caption 46?”) you have to kind of jam open the book.

The game still works, it’s just worrisome.  It’s also a little annoying and a surprising problem.

Thoughts For Now


So, this game has really great art.   Except for the margin issues, it’s easy to read the text in the book.  I wish the instructions had a little more info (What are those Icons in the picture above?  Nothing in the directions tells you that!  I supposed more plays will help me figure them out, but why have Icons if you explain them NO WHERE??), but in general it’s easy to jump right in.

I admit I am a little disappointed in a few aspects (margins, quality of binding, solo play, lacking instructions), but the art is really great and does really bring you into the game.  This game feels like Robit Riddle: I think it will shine at 2-4 players.  Stay Tuned for more plays.

New Cooperative Kickstarters, April 2019

There seems to be a flurry of interesting cooperative board and card games on  Kickstarter this Month!

1. Venom Assault Expansion: Villains and Valor

Venom Assault is a cooperative Deckbuilder set in the world of something legally distinct, but highly reminiscent of GI Joe!  Venom Assault made my 2017 list of Top 10 Cooperative Games (well, Honorable Mention, if only because it wasn’t clear if the release was late late 2016 or early 2017, depending on when you got your Kickstarter).

Now up on Kickstarter is an expansion: Villains and Valor!  Check it out here:

You can get the expansion and/or the original game!   The expansion adds the new idea of medals, for adding something else to be working towards on your turn!  Check it out!

2. Endangered

This dice driven cooperative game has the players working together to save a species from extinction!  The art by Beth Sobel and Ben Flores looks fantastic.  It looks a little different than most cooperative games (not just a Pandemic reskin), so check it out here!

At the time of this writing, the game is very close to being funded!  Don’t let this “Endangered” game fall away!

3. Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time

This cooperative game is blowing up right now! See here!   I am not 100% sold on it, but it might be worth getting simply because there are so many stretch goals unlocked!  And there’s a lot of buzz, so I admit to being a pawn to Kickstarter hype and have backed it myself!   Check it out here and see if it’s something you are interested in!