It’s the end of the world as we know it, but not really as we know it. With all of the games focusing on the apocalypse involving zombies or some other horrid creature invasion, Doom and Bloom’s SURVIVAL has come forth in a setting that’s a little more believable. In SURVIVAL! you are a survivor of a Super Flu pandemic that’s left the world in ruin, and while some may call you lucky, facing a world without convenience may not feel so lucky. A small group of survivors look to you to help establish a new community while keeping them fed and safe. You must scout out surrounding cities while searching for supplies, but you aren’t the only one out there. Raiders are waiting to take what is yours – even if that means your life.
Out of the Box
SURVIVAL! comes in a medium sized box with a group of survivors trudging through a park in an urban area pictured on the front. The box has some heft and is in no way flimsy. Inside of SURVIVAL!’s box you will find
- 1 game board
- 4 player boards
- 6 dice
- rule book
- 40 Attack cards
- 64 Event cards
- 32 Bonus cards
- 8 character cards
- 8 character pawns with stands
- 1 red drawstring bag
- 8 hexagon city tokens
- 24 circular destination tokens
- 20 acrylic stones
Kurt Miller, the artist, captured the gritty reality of a societal collapse. Artwork is featured on the box, character cards, and the game board itself. Joshua Cappel did the graphic design and is responsible for the resource icons that you’ll see across both cards and the game board.
How to Play
Once you’ve broken everything out, its time to set it up! Lay the board out in the middle of the table, and shuffle the Event, Attack, and Bonus decks separately and place them in their spaces on the side of the board. Place the hexagon city tokens and place them in the drawstring bag, and pile each destination token with its like cities. Each player takes a player board, then chooses a character, and places that character card in the space designated by the player board. Each player takes 5 of the acrylic stones, and places them on the resource track according to what their character starts with. Players then place their character pawns in Center City, and the game is ready to begin.
First, lets look at the assets you’ll be after in this game. Each player board features a green icon for Food, a blue icon for Fuel, and a red icon for Weaponry – these are called resources. Additionally, you’ll find orange rectangles which represent survivors, and black and yellow shields that represent Medkits. If at any time you see a circle with all three of the resources in it, it means that your reward/price can be any combination of these resources that add up to the number before the symbol.
There are various game modes, but for purposes of this review we are going to discuss the short game. The difference between the modes are mainly the number of assets you must acquire to win the game. For the short game, you must finish your last Event and have 6 of each resource (food, fuel, and weaponry), 7 survivors, and 2 medkits.
Each player will take turns drawing a hexagon city token from the draw bag. Each player will take the circular token that matches the city they drew and place it on the lower right circle space on their board in space 1. For games taking you to more than one city, you will continue to draw up to the desired number of cities for your game. Place tokens back in bag and hand it to the next player until everyone has their first destination.
All players roll all 6 dice, and whoever has the highest total goes first. Each turn, players will roll one die to determine the number of spaces they may move this turn. As you pass through spaces on the board, the only space that you’ll resolve is the one you land on. To resolve a location, you will draw an Event card, or an Attack card if you land on an orange space on the board. The Event card will instruct you on what to do, whether it is a die roll (with 5 dice), or a comparison of supplies with your fellow players. If you succeed at whatever your Event is, then you acquire the asset on your board space plus whatever your card says. If you Fail, then you’ll pay the consequences on the card.
There are a few situations in which you cannot choose to stay in a location. If you’ve had a successful Event in Center City, a Town, or a Hospital, you MUST move and other players cannot force you to stay. Also, let’s say you make it to your Final Destination and arrive with all of the required assets, but your final Event card leaves you short, you must move out of that location on your next turn.
If at any time you run into a Crossing space (yellow spaces with arrows pointing towards a passageway of sorts), you must end your movement there, even if you have additional spaces left. When you enter a Crossing, you must draw an Attack card. If you meet the requirements and succeed, you may then immediately cross the passage and place your pawn on any of the other Crossing spaces leading out of this passageway. If you do not and you fail, then you must proceed through the terrain as normal by rolling a die and moving one space at a time.
When you collect the rewards at a Hospital, you may not visit that same Hospital again until you’ve gone to a different Hospital. In regards to towns, you may only enter a town once, unless that town is also your Final Destination. You may visit towns that are not on your list, but only once per town.
There are a couple of extra benefits that players have access to at all times, as long as they have the required assets and resources. Your player board will indicate various things you may do with the things you collect, and when you can use them. For example, you may spend 2 Food to add 1 to a die roll result after a Search Event (2x per turn). You may spend a fuel to add 3 to your movement roll, and spend 1 weaponry to add 1 to a die result on an Attack. As you reach certain numbers of survivors in your party, you may gain bonus cards and an additional resource, but this only happens the first time you reach this number. If you have already collected the rewards for 5 survivors, gain one on a future turn, but then fail a Raider attack and drop back down to 5, you will not collect these again.
Bonus cards are collected throughout the game through Hospitals, Towns, and miscellaneous Event cards. You use these cards to avoid dealing with attacks, gain extra assets, turns, and so much more. Think of Bonus cards as the extra skills you’re hiding up your sleeves. Other players don’t know what Bonus cards you carry until you play them, and they could be devastating to another player’s plans.
You may spend one of each of top 3 assets (Food, Fuel, and Weaponry) for some extra actions as well. You may spend these assets to “Go The Extra Mile” and roll all 6 dice instead of 5 on an Attack or Event roll, or you may spend these to make another player forfeit their movement on their turn. Keep in mind that if they’ve met conditions on their last turn that would prevent them from staying put, you cannot force this. You may also trade anything with any player during the game, except for Survivors.
Once you’ve made it to your first destination and scouted it out (a success on an Event card), you must make your way to your other cities (if going to more than one city in a game), or to Center City. Once you arrive at Center City, resolve an Attack card, gather its resources, and draw your Final Destination token, just as you did with your city tokens. Now, you must make it to this city with the required assets and resources and end the game after drawing a final Event card at that location with those assets. If you are the first player to do so, you win the game!
The game also comes complete with instructions on how to play a game in teams. There are different asset requirements, and the assets are pooled (including Bonus cards), but each player must reach their own Final Destination to win.
Determination – The Key to SURVIVAL!
I found this game to be very intriguing when I first read about it on Kickstarter, and having been a long time fan of Doom and Bloom, I was anxious to see its launch. When we got the game to the table, I found it to be quick to learn. There looks like there is a lot of detail to this game, but once you get the basics, it is really a matter of just moving and reading the cards, as they tell you clearly what to do to resolve each turn. Our youngest player was 15, and picked up the rules quickly and without issues.
I like zombies just as much as the next person, but unless they’re being presented in a new way, I find that they’re starting to lose their appeal for me as far as the only cause for an apocalypse. I’m appreciating that more board games are coming forth where survival is dependent on other factors, like SURVIVAL’s global SuperFlu. And more, that the game is focused on the after-party and not just the cause.
In SURVIVAL!, you may find yourself in what looks like a terrifying position where you may have 0 assets. The downfall to this is you cannot use your resources you help you with Events, but there are many Events that say you may gain (X resource) if no other player has less of that particular resource than you. These Events can stall the players with more resources, but I feel that it brings balance to the game. In a real survival situation, you’re not always going to find what you need. Alternatively, you’ll lose these things due to your party’s needs or worse, Raider attacks. While it is possible to avoid Raider attacks while exploring the board, you’ll always deal with at least one when you return to Center City.
I like the artwork, as it feels gritty and rough. At the same time, I like the simplicity of the cards you’ll draw throughout the game, as it keeps the focus on the board and on your resource management. With an element of luck with the die rolls and the ability for your opponents to halt you in your efforts, this brings a great challenge to those that’d claim to be great at resource management games, like myself. I had moments where I was at a tremendous advantage, and then struggling to gain anything, all in the same game!
There is definitely an element of strategy to this game, but is countered by the random cards you will draw and the luck of the dice. In this sense, its always good to plan ahead, but always have a backup plan – you may not always get the chance to succeed. You also don’t know what Bonus cards your opponents are holding. You may play 3 Bonus cards to get ahead, but if someone drops a card to cancel your cards’ effects, you’ve wasted those cards.
The game is said to take approximately 15 minutes per player (according to the chart inside the rulebook), but even after getting the gameplay down, we found it to be closer to 20-25 minutes per player. That being said, you can anticipate a 4 player competitive game to last close to 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Because of the player-to-player interaction, I didn’t feel that there was a lot of down time, and it didn’t really feel like the game lasted that long. With 2 players, we found the game ended around 40 minutes, so it is a decent time for those looking for an in-depth game that doesn’t take hours. It was longer than I expected, but time flies by.
The Kickstarter is still active at the time of this review posting, and hopefully this will give those on the fence about the game the push they need to make a decision. In the funding’s FAQ they include suggestions for how to play a solo game, and to make the game playable with up to 8 players! They’re past a stretch goal to include miniatures to use for the characters, so you could play complete with more realistic figures. Overall I think that SURVIVAL! is a great game for those looking for a game of struggle and resource management and would make a great addition to nearly anyone’s game collection.
Thanks to Doom and Bloom for providing a copy of SURVIVAL! for review!
The Kickstarter for SURVIVAL ends on Wednesday, May 14th.
- feeling of true struggle throughout the game
- balance at every stage in the game
- implements a lot of use of strategy and future planning
- decent player-to-player interaction, not a lot of down time
- game play longer than expected
- not for those who dislike luck-of-the-dice games
- planning doesn’t always have expected results due to the various Events and Attacks