One play: CRISIS

Crisis(NOTE: Crisis successfully funded on Kickstarter on August 31. It will be released in October 2016)

It’s not every day you get the opportunity to sit down with an almost retail ready prototype of a game you’re looking forward to and have it explained by the publisher. So when LudiCreations invited me to a test play of CRISIS at the UK Games Expo I jumped at the chance.

Crisis (Sorry, I can’t stick with the all-caps) is a sci-fi-themed worker placement and engine building game set in a dystopian future. But if I tell you the game’s two designers are employees of the Greek government and that the game’s most unique feature is its crumbling economy and (probable) financial crash, I’m sure you can guess the true source of its inspiration.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to conclude our play, as some of the players had to leave before the end, but I saw enough to know this is a game I’m desperately wanting to play more so I can give it a proper review before its release (hint hint!). And enough to give you a brief rundown of why I’m keen to see more.

Worker placement…

Crisis at ExpoTaking up to five players and running two to three hours, this is a solid medium weight euro. The actions themselves won’t surprise too many people, borrowing from standard worker placement tropes, but the integration of theme, lovely art and components, plus a unique scoring/financial disaster track make it an intriguing prospect overall.

The majority of actions see you claiming companies; grabbing workers and resources to make the companies work; and then selling off the resources you’ve manufactured (hence the engine building element of the game). And of course you can also manipulate turn order, grab some cash via loans, grab easy victory points etc.

This works by placing workers individually in turn order and most spaces only have room for one worker, forcing you into tricky decisions: do I take the company I want, only to find I have no worker to man it? Or take a worker who may stand idle as the company I wanted has been snatched away?

…with some neat twists…

Crisis boardIn each of the seven rounds in Crisis the players face a victory point challenge, which rises as the game goes on. If the majority of players beat it the economy will stay sound; but if the aggregate is a miss, the economy starts to crash.

For example, in a three player game, if the first round victory point target was seven and the players finished the round on 4 (-3), 7 and 9 (+2) points respectively, the economic state would fall by one point.

At the start of each round the players draw a hindrance card, which can totally negate certain worker placement spots or reduce the potency of others (amongst other effects). As the economy falters, from green to amber to red, these will get more devastating. And yes, you guessed it – players failing to hit their victory point targets is what causes this.

This twist is made all the more delicious in how you both buy and sell with your workers. Various spaces allow you to claim a mix of victory points and/or cash; so you can deliberately ignore the economy (victory points) by being selfish and greedy. What you’re betting on is that the short-term cash influx will give you a big enough competitive edge to win big later – but you do so at the expense of your nation (and, of course, fellow players).

…and a cunning end-game condition

Crisis CompanyWhat we unfortunately didn’t get to see was how this affects the end game. The game should last seven turns – but it’s very easy to totally tank the economy before then and end the game early. But this doesn’t necessarily stop someone winning.

A player can win the game despite the economy collapsing, as long as they’re ahead of the required victory point curve when it all goes to tits. And how the economy is at the end of the game also affects loans and cash on hand: if the economy crashes, you get no victory points from leftover cash – but you also don’t have to play off your loans. If you keep the economy afloat to the end, the opposite is true on both counts.

And I haven’t really touched on the companies in detail. Once bought your workers can operate them to make resources, but companies can be operated by multiple workers to produce more goods and sometimes even victory points. It’s pretty easy to grab a company in most rounds, and possibly a couple of workers, so you can really get some combos going if you plan your moves well.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Watch this space for more details when I manage to get my hands on a review copy…

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