Robinson Crusoe Board Game Review

Would it be easier to actually survive on a deserted island than win a punishing co-op game of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island? Find out in our review!

Published: January 21, 2022 11:00 AM /

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Robinson Crusoe Game Board

As soon as you stepped onto the deck of your ship and saw the darkening clouds over the horizon, you knew you were in trouble. Whipping winds, rain falling so hard it stings, cracks of lightning - these are the last moments you remember from the shipwreck. Now you're dashed out upon the beach of some unknown island, with nothing but your wits, some wreckage, a few surviving crew mates, and a few bananas to help you survive. Can you build up your defenses, find enough food to last the season, and make your way to safety? These are the challenges put to you in Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, a cooperative board game published by Portal Games.

A two player game of Robinson Crusoe
A two player game of Robinson Crusoe in progress.

How To Play Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a cooperative worker placement game for one to four players, designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek. To play Robinson Crusoe, players select one of seven different scenarios provided in the box and attempt to fulfill its requirements before any one character dies, or special mission failure criteria are met. Each player chooses a character, and collects their character card (which tracks their health as well as lists several special abilities that character possesses) and two pawns representing their character, and then they head off into adventure.

In typical worker placement game fashion, there's way more to accomplish on the island than they have pawns to assign. You could build useful tools to help you, you can build up your camp to help survive against the elements, you can raise your weapon skill to help you hunt down animals for food and pelts, explore the island, and more. One of the most innovative designs in this game is the idea of safe vs. risky actions. If you place two pawns on a work space, that task automatically succeeds (symbolizing the time and people power it takes to complete that task), but if you only place one pawn on a work space, you have to roll dice to see if you succeed, if you go on an "adventure," and if you are injured in the task. This balance of risk and reward is perfectly tied to the limited action space available to each player, and fits the tone and theme of the game quite snugly.

The explorer in Robinson Crusoe is ready to get out there and see what this land holds
The explorer in Robinson Crusoe is ready to get out there and see what this land holds

How Difficult Is Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island can be a truly difficult experience for players, earning its place as one of the more difficult to beat cooperative games alongside mainstay Pandemic. Though your characters have special abilities, using those abilities require the spending of rare inspiration points. And there's always something out to get you. At the start of each round after the first, players draw a card from the event deck and have to deal with its (usually dire) consequences. Then, that card is placed on a mini-track where -- if it's not assigned workers to help solve the problem -- it again hurts the players. At the end of each round, players have to eat (or they take damage), have suitable shelter against storms (or they take damage), and burn wood for a fire if it's cold out (or they take damage). As you can see, it's an air-tight race to keep yourselves well provisioned and work toward achieving the specific goal of your scenario.

What Kinds Of Scenarios Are In Robinson Crusoe?

In the latest edition of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, there are seven distinct scenarios for players to play through. These are not connected in any way, so you don't have to complete scenario three before moving on to scenario four. The first scenario is pretty straightforward: you've been shipwrecked and need to stockpile a ton of wood (and light it on fire) in one of the final three rounds of game, to create a bonfire that will be seen by passing ships to secure your rescue. But from there, the scenarios bloom in complexity and theme, from scenario about an island full of cannibals out to eat you, to a scenario called "Swiss Family Robinson" where you've accepted the fact that you're never leaving the island, and it's time to build a family and a sustainable life from there on out. The final scenario even sees players as members of a movie crew attempting to find footage of the famed King Kong!

Exploring the modular map of Robinson Crusoe
Exploring the modular map of Robinson Crusoe

What Are Our Final Thoughts On Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is not for the faint of heart. The rules are fairly complex when you're first diving in, but there's a stellar rulebook and online video tutorials to help you get a handle on the game. And once you understand the overall flow of Robinson Crusoe, the game moves along rather snappily. And while, as mentioned above, it's quite difficult, that difficulty is what makes this game so enthralling. You wouldn't this game to play any easier, because that's where a lot of the narrative shines through. And this game is perfectly wedded to its narrative and theme, making you truly feel like you're slogging it out on a deserted island, trying to scrape together enough food to survive another month.

Should I Buy Robinson Crusoe?

If you're a fan of cooperative games with a real challenge behind them, and you like complex but gratifying rulesets, you should absolutely check this out. But, if you're looking for a lighter, easier experience, you'd be better served with either a lighter worker placement game or a lighter cooperative experience.

The copy of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island used in the creation of this review was provided by the publisher.

Review Summary

Think you have what it takes to survive on a deserted island? Think again, as this punishing cooperative worker placement game puts you to the test (Review Policy)

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Giaco Furino joined the TechRaptor team as a Staff Writer in 2019 after searching for a dedicated place to write and talk about Tabletop Games. In 2020, he… More about Giaco