In today's history, it's considered that we only have six continents due to Europe and Asia being combined into a single landmass. But what if there was a 7th continent that you could explore as you wished, fraught with danger and traps, that forces you to lean on your survival skills to make your way across its terrain as you seek to banish the curse that plagues you? What if you were the hero of this story, making each decision with care and calculated precision as you make your way across the strange land you've managed to discover ...
The 7th Continent is a brand new game, recently released (and as of this publishing, crushingly funded) on Kickstarter by Serious Poulp. Inspired by the adventure books where "you are the hero," The 7th Continent is a cooperative (or solo!) exploration and survival board game where you build the board piece by piece using the numbered terrain cards. After the Kickstarter was announced, Serious Poulp reached out to us and sent out their Alpha set of the game to preview, which included some of the cards and the "tutorial" island to get a feel for the game.
The 7th Continent is a tabletop gaming experience different than any you've encountered before, and in a a good way! The mechanics of the game create an experience that (in the full version) will offer an expansive number of hours of play, and when you combine that with the ability to "save" and "load" your game, playing a really long session without having to leave everything on the table won't be an issue.[caption id="attachment_59827" align="aligncenter" width="495"] The Terrain cards make up the game board, and are numbered to be flipped as you move (see edge numbers), but you must flip "Random Event" Cards before you can move to a new one, making movement a tricky task![/caption]
The Alpha set that was sent out to us contained 3 characters and one of the curses that will be in the final version of the game, as well as a limited number of the terrain and various other cards. While significantly smaller than the full game itself, my first solo playthrough was still a lengthy affair as I worked my way through the rules and explored the small but surprisingly challenging tutorial island that made up the preview copy.
On the topic of the rules, they are a bit confusing if you just read them to get an understanding of the game. Fortunately, the developer is working actively with the previewers and community to improve and hone them for the final version of the game. What I found that worked great for learning them, was going over them briefly, and then jumping into the game. Once you actually start laying down and flipping cards, the unique way that the game plays really starts to make sense, and you'll start breezing through your playthrough![caption id="attachment_59824" align="aligncenter" width="495"] Some numbered Terrain cards actually have more than one card, making what can happen different each time![/caption]
The 7th Continent is played completely through cards—whether that's movement, crafting, exploring, clearing ailments, and more. The only dice that you'll use determine the current durability of your crafted items; otherwise, everything is controlled by the terrain, action, and event decks. Instead of rolling, players will draw at least the minimum number of cards indicated by the action they are taking and in order to succeed, they must meet or exceed the number of achievement stars listed next to the draw number. This creates an interesting mechanic when you factor in the idea that your action deck is your "life force," and you must discard all but one of the cards you draw at the end of your turn. Drawing more means you're more likely to succeed, but also thins your pool of cards, decreasing your chances of survival.
One of the great things about the game is that there isn't just one way to succeed, or achieve the "win state," and you can fail in your adventure. Ideally, the adventurer(s) will banish the curse cards they chose (you can choose more than one to make it more difficult) at the beginning of the game from the action deck discard pile, to end the game. The 7th Continent isn't without danger, however! Should you have the ill fate of drawing a curse card (as I did on my first playthrough) after drawing from the discard pile for an action cost or for suffering a "state" (Note: When you run out of your main deck, you shuffle the discard pile and play from it), the game will end as well! The fact that you can have the chance to accidentally draw the very card you seek to banish at any given time creates a sense of impending doom at all times, as each time you are forced to draw from the discard, you never know if it could be your last time.[caption id="attachment_59826" align="aligncenter" width="495"] On the left: State Cards || On the Right: Character Card, and Experience Point Card[/caption]
In terms of pacing, The 7th Continent isn't a slow game, but the first couple of turns did take some time for me, and the person I played with for one of the games took some time to get accustomed to how to play. Obviously, this is to be expected with a new game, and once we had the systems down as to how they worked, we made our way through the tutorial at a good pace. One of the cool things about the Alpha copy that was sent our way was that of the 50-60ish terrain cards that came with it, there were a number of ways to actually complete the tutorial island and make your way to the 7th Continent.[caption id="attachment_59825" align="aligncenter" width="495"] Leaving by submarine was actually a way off the island, but it was a challenge to figure out how![/caption]
The fact that the game is played completely through decks of cards creates a sense of unpredictability, and each game you play will be a bit different even if you do the exact same thing every single time, creating a game experience that is sure to offer hundreds if not thousands of hours of gameplay in the much-expanded final version. While the rules could use a bit of work, and the developer is actively working with the community to help clarify certain points, the rest of the game is an enjoyable experience that anyone who loves a hands-on "choose your own adventure" will love.
Author's Note: It took me a bit longer to get through this preview than I would have liked, and I'd like to apologize to the developer for not releasing until the very end of the Kickstarter.