Thank you for checking review #41 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.
An Overview of Outpost: Siberia
Outpost: Siberia is a game designed by Daryl Andrews and Jonathan Gilmour and was published by IDW Games. The box states that it can play 2-6 players and has a 30-45 minute play time.
Description from the BGG Page:
Welcome to Outpost 1, the first science observatory located in the isolated frozen tundra of Siberia! You and your team have been investigating anomalous activities the region, and recently things have shifted for the worse. The coming storm is said to be the “storm-of-the-century”; it may last a month or more. Strange howls and buzzing fill the long nights, and yesterday a crew-member went AWOL… or worse. The call for evacuation was made, but it came too late. The long winter storm has set in. There’s no hope of getting help until it clears. Now your crew’s only hope is to use what little resources you have to survive the long winter cold (and whatever’s out there in it). Use your rations wisely, and you may see the sun again.
Outpost: Siberia is a fully cooperative, survival game that plays with a single deck of cards. Using an inventive dual-facing system, a single card in Outpost can be anything from life-saving supplies to cataclysmic catastrophes. By enduring relentless weather and defeating untamable beasts, players are rewarded with the much-needed tools and food to continually resupply their resources.
Outpost: Siberia keeps the tension high, as players will need to collect their wits and ration their supplies in order to make through the perpetual perils that lie ahead!
Setup and gameplay for 2 Players
There are no differences in setup based upon the number of players. Each person selects a character and places the health token on their left-most spot on the health track. Sort out the Good Events, Bad Events, and Threat cards and shuffle each of them. Pull out a mix of good and bad event cards (this is how you can adjust difficulty – a greater proportion of good events will make it easier, more bad will raise the challenge) to add 12 total into the Threat cards to form the Expedition deck. Shuffle that deck, set it aside. Shuffle the remaining event cards and those form the Outpost deck.
On a turn players will draw two cards from the Outpost deck, placing one into their hand and the other into a central supply area. The only aspect of the cards used when drawn in this phase are the yellow text at the bottom (Food, Water, Flares, Ice Axes, Flamethrowers, First Aid Kits). The number (range of 1-3) is essentially an attack value, which only applies to those kept in your hand.
Next you can use attack enemies by placing cards from your hand beneath an enemy you’ve encountered. Once the sum of cards is equal to, or greater than, its printed health you can defeat the enemy in the next part of your turn.
After that you can play cards for their effect, such as First Aid Kits to heal 1 health on a character, Flares to ignore the effect of an enemy at the end of the round, and the Ice Axes and Flamethrowers to defeat enemies.
Then you have to endure an Expedition Card, which is flipping over the next card on that deck. Good and Bad events have a printed cost of either 1 Food or 1 Water which must be played from a hand or the supply. If that cost can’t be paid, one character must lose a health. Then the effect of the card is resolved. If a Threat is revealed it deals 1 damage immediately to either the current player or a character who has not taken a turn this round. Defeated enemies and event cards that are completed go into the Outpost discard pile.
Finally, you exhuast the character by rotating it 90 degrees and select the next character to continue play for the round.
At the end of a round, the enemies with active effects will trigger. Note that some enemies merely sit there once they’ve entered play.
The game ends when either the Expedition deck is depleted (players must still survive the effect of the final card). Should a character fall to 0 health, the game results in a loss for all players.
Updated setup/play rules, per Survival Guide posted by the publisher:
Randomly remove 6 threats from the Threat deck and set them aside.
As the final step of setup, deal each player a random card from those set-aside threats to serve as their starting hand. Place the remaining threat cards in the box.
Draw 3 cards instead of 2 from the Outpost deck. Place 1 in your hand, 1 in the supply, discard 1.
Card actions from the supply and attack cards can be done in any order, not just attack first, then abilities.
My favorite thing in this game, and what really drew my interest from the start, would be the multi-use cards. I love the creativity a designer needs to have in order to create cards that serve multiple purposes. And every card in here has at least three uses: the effect as an event/threat, the CV value for attack, and the item itself. Depending on where you encounter/place the card, you will have a specific use for the card. The cards you defeat get added to your discards, making stronger cards appear in the Outpost deck. It is a really good use of a simple set of cards.
I’ve come to appreciate the art on the cards. A few of them are more horror-flavored than I usually prefer but are fitting because of the theme. The threats appear to be bad news, as well they should. Even the backs of the cards are colorful and help you to differentiate which direction the deck goes to help you draw the right ones.
Using the updated rule set takes this from an okay game and makes it a reasonably fun and enjoyable experience. You feel like you have a little more control. You have a starting item in your hand so you can contribute more things early in the game. The items get reshuffled more often. The deck is smaller. Those are all really excellent changes. If you’re going to play this game, those are the rules you need to be using from the first play. If you get to the point where you can win more often with those, then try playing with the original rules to increase the difficulty.
One of the coolest parts of this game is that the players determine player order every round. You get to, as a group, choose who starts. That person can choose who goes next. This is not only helpful with being able to adapt to what is out there, but makes you plan for those threats better. The damage can only be assigned to the active player or someone who hasn’t gone yet that round. Meaning those who are close to death shouldn’t be going late in the round. It also means the 2-health character is likely to be first every round (and with their ability, you want that anyway).
There is a little bit of asymmetry in here because the characters all have a different ability. Some of them are really generic, such as discard any card from your hand to count it as a water. Those are important. Even the one to count as a Flare can be really handy in the right situation. I like having each player feel unique in what they can contribute to the group.
Said characters also have an issue: health. Four health isn’t a lot in this game. One character in the game has just two health. In a game with more players, she’d be awesome to choose. In a two-player game, there are essentially two characters who are not optimal to select because of their lowered health. You need all you can get.
Playing the game without the updated rules doesn’t feel very fun or balanced unless you have a high player count. I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but two doesn’t seem like the ideal. It won’t be a great experience unless you love being miserable or like the idea of failing 99 times in order to succeed on the 100th attempt. Thinning the expedition deck, starting with a card in hand, and cycling the Outpost deck are all things that definitely make the game more enjoyable. So why weren’t those identified prior to the release and added to the game in the first place?
I understand: six players is the max number who can play so there are six characters. Adding more characters would likely increase the cost to produce the game. But I like variety, and four of the characters have essentially the same ability. No one likes being the last to choose a character and being “stuck with” a character because it is the last one left. Adding 2-3 more characters would have been a nice touch and added replay. More character combinations to try out against the game.
From a thematic perspective, it is baffling that the tiny threats are the ones that are the most harmful. They have low health, but they are the ones constantly interfering if you don’t kill them. The larger threats, such as the massive Yeti, look really scary but don’t actually do anything after they come into play. Yes, they sit there. On the table. Doing nothing. It was the thing that disappointed the initial play group, and it is the thing that still makes little sense. Yes, it’d be even harder if you needed to drop that 13 CV on the Yeti in a hurry. But at least it’d feel right to have it be a big threat while in play. I get that those are the ones that will add the 2 and 3 CV cards into your Outpost deck. But sometimes it isn’t worth dropping 6-8 damage plus using an item to kill them. Not when there is no penalty for letting them just hang out on the table.
This game is a tough one to gauge. My initial play of the game was with the full range of 6 players and, while I think we forgot once or twice to pay food/water on the event cards, we never completely felt like things were out of hand. It was a reckless decision in the final round to just bull forward “we can heal later” approach that led to our loss when victory was there on the board. Literally. We walked away talking about some of the head-scratchers in the game, such as the idle Yeti, Mammoth, and Tiger who just sit there. Not doing a thing. The consensus was also that it wouldn’t be nearly as easy with fewer players.
I finally pulled this back out and tried it as a 2-player experience. And boy, I got crushed in that first game. I think it might have taken longer to set up and refresh myself on the rules than it took to play. But in the interest of being a reviewer, I reset and tried it again. And found that, in spite of some of its flaws, there is still an interesting and challenging game here. So I am glad I didn’t write it off after my second play. I nearly did after the first play. There is definitely value in trying a game multiple times, and this game is a case where it benefits from repeated exposure.
The rules found in the tin are hard. Almost impossibly hard for a 2-player experience. I dig a challenging cooperative game. Albion’s Legacy is my jam, and I still haven’t won in that one. Yet it feels like there is a lot less under the player’s control in this one. You’re at the mercy of the card draw, and a really bad stretch of cards out of either deck and completely wreck things. The benefit this game has, though, is time. It is a shorter game, and setup/teardown are really quick. It is a small box on the shelf and has a small footprint on the table most of the time. There are player powers (some better than others) that are scaled with the health. The difficulty of the deck and be tweaked, both with the ratio of event cards and with the new removal of threat cards. All of these things work in the favor of the game.
I had every intention of being scathing in my review of this one, yet repeated plays combined with the adjusted rules and consideration for time/price have swayed me over to the slightly-positive side. This game won’t be for everyone. It’ll frustrate you to no end, especially since the adjusted rule page also gives tips and one is to play at the max player count. Which makes sense, your group can suffer more damage before death hits and the threats revealed will trigger their abilities less often.
I don’t know that I would recommend this for those who only would play with two. But if you like playing cooperative games and want one that can play a good range of players in a reasonable amount of time, this isn’t a poor choice. So long as you don’t mind losing. Because lose you will. By now you’ll know, from the review, if the cons in this game are enough to turn you off. If that is you, then you should probably pass or borrow a copy and try it out. But if you’re still thinking this game sounds fun or interesting, it is definitely worth the pricepoint for this experience.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.