Posted in Board Games

Game-A-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 1: Above and Below

Game-A-Day Fortnight is back!

Suz and I have two weeks off so, just like last year, we plan to play a different board game each day and share our thoughts. We hope you see something intriguing and maybe get inspired to try out a new game 🙂 Enjoy!

First up is Above & Below, where you’re all building a new village in a grassy field, while also exploring the dangerous and resource-rich caverns below. And you explore by looking up passages in a spiral-bound book of encounters, adding some light story to the game.

We enjoyed this game. Lovely art, a variety of actions, the combination of building a village and exploring the caverns. It was all very nice. This is also not a cutthroat game. Suz once bought a building I was looking to get, but that’s it. You also can’t really tell who’s winning till the end, which is a big plus in our book.

In Above & Below, 2-4 players will be competing to make the most well-developed village in this gorgeous game. The artwork really stands out with cute unique characters to populate the cool cavern outposts and sunny grassy buildings of your growing village.

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Each turn you can send villagers to:

  • Explore the cavern network below
  • Build a new building above or in a cleared out cavern below
  • Harvest goods from your village buildings and outposts
  • Labour, basically putting your villagers to work for coin
  • Train new villagers, paying coins to have them join your village

Building Above

Building is great, because you can customise your village. Buildings might produce goods, or maybe some healing potions. Perhaps they’re just straight up victory points. Or maybe they make villagers or certain goods worth victory points.

Some just have beds.

Which is actually awesome.

Your villagers are constantly getting exhausted and injured, so beds are great for getting them back on their feet and working for the good of the village.

So, building buildings is great. But you’ll need a builder. Say yours is exhausted. No worries. Just train a new one. Hmm, not enough coins. Okay, send someone to labour for coins. Your last villager is your only trainer… and labouring will exhaust her, so she won’t be able to train the new builder. Hmm, you could sell items to the other players for coins. But that helps them, too. Can you stand to wait a turn?

Decisions, decisions.

Good decisions, though. Nothing too brain-burning.

And once you’ve got a few interesting buildings or skilled villagers, you’ll be able to work toward some slightly longer-term goals, like more expensive buildings, or sending a strong party into the caves for a better chance at succeeding.

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Exploring Below

Some villagers can build, some can train. Everyone can explore!

Sooner or later you’ll want to delve into the caverns.

Another player flips to the passage you rolled on your cavern card and reads out some evocative description of the challenge you face, and how you may overcome it.

Pick an option like “Stand and Fight” or “Run and Hide”, each with a threshold you have to beat for success. Your chances of success depend on which villagers, and how many, you sent exploring. Roll a die per villager. If you succeed, you get some resources, maybe coins, maybe even reputation (which earns victory points). We haven’t seen it yet, but certain successes even let you recruit secret villagers!

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This is all fantastic stuff!

So much so that it feels lacking when there’s no text describing your victory.

You’ve got beautiful art, an atmospheric description of your exploration, then you win and are on the edge of your seat as the other player reads out …5 coins, and a mushroom… Yay?

I mean, it’s obvious why you got those when you selected “Keep Exploring” but it doesn’t feel as awesome as everything leading up to that. It’s not so bad, though, as you now have a sweet empty cavern where you can build an interesting outpost.

Exploration, coupled with managing the interesting building powers, recruiting more skilled new villagers, and deciding what actions to spend your few precious unexhausted villagers on is a great combination, and one with some variety.

In our first game, I had lots of outposts in my caverns, and a building that meant my basic goods were basically double points. Suz had no outposts, but she managed to get her hands on a building that meant all her empty caverns earned her points!

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At the end of our first game, we tied at 48 points each!

So, we compared coins. I had 4. Suz had 5. She won 🙂

A close game is a good game!

And what we like about this is that you’re not bogged down by scoring as you go. It’s not easy to tell if you’re leading or trailing before you reach the very end. So you can instead focus on whatever you’re interested in to build up your own little village.

Suz and I both had a great time playing.

We’re definitely keen to keep exploring Above and Below.

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Author:

I live in Canberra, Australia. I love games and stories.

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