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!
- For me
- For Junkerman, who’s an English teacher and finds games like this great for his classroom
- 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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.