Darington Press, the tabletop publishing company of Critical Role, has released their first game Uk’otoa. This unique ‘semi-coop’ board game puts players in the shoes of a number of sailing factions whose ship has come under attack by Uk’otoa, a monstrous leviathan that hunts the Lucidian Ocean. Uk’otoa will be familiar to those who watch Critical Role’s second campaign as the once patron to warlock Fjord. Just how much destruction will Uk’otoa get up to now that he’s free…
To set up the game players place the wheel token in the middle of the table and start building out their ship, ensuring each tile placed points to the last one put down. This is the shipwreck that you’ll be navigating around. The beautiful Uk’otoa mini will begin on the last tile placed. While the game recommends for your first time playing that you create a continuous circle spiraling out how you create your ship can be completely random. You could have a long 13 by 2 stretch of the ship with Ukotoa starting at one end, or have a series of gaps in the middle of your ship. This is just one level of randomness that will go into setting up this game.
Next up players place colored meeple around the board using enough colors for the number of players present. The participating color faction tiles should then be shuffled and placed between players around the game board. At this point, you have a random ship layout, with random meeple placement, and your factions assigned.
Players aren’t just in charge of a single faction, the way the faction tokens are arranged lets you know which team you’re a part of with the player next to you. If you have four players around the table, Player Two might have The Darington Brigade faction to their right along with Player One and to the left is the Revelry faction token and Player Three. In this instance Player Two and Player One will both control the Darington Brigade, and Player Two and Three will have the Revelry. You’ll be working to remove all of the meeples on the board that is not part of either of your factions. A game is won when either a single team is remaining, or if one player is left with both of their factions intact.
This unique idea of something not completely antagonistic, but not completely cooperative or team-based immediately throws spanners into any plan you have. While you might be on the same team as the player to your left you’ll also be trying to remove the other faction that’s under their control.
The player numbers can heavily influence the ways that the games can end up. In a three-player game, it’s only the one faction that you’re trying to take out so your goal is quite clear. In a four-player game, you can end up in a 2v2 situation where two factions have been removed solidifying the alliances across the table. The power dynamics can shift more wildly in a five-player game as everyone goes from standing equal, to it having the possibility of becoming a 3v2 war across the table.
Players start with two action cards and draw two more each turn. In each of those turns, the player can move Uk’otoa as a bonus starting action, draw, and then play another action card. To influence Uk’otoa you need to play one of the Advance Uk’otoa cards or Unleash a Tentacle. You can kill a meeple by either colliding Uk’otoa with it, or hitting it with a tentacle. If you play Run!, Push!, or Take Them Instead! Then you can pick one of your faction’s meeple and move them 4 spaces, push another meeple two spaced (provided they have space to be pushed to), or swap with an adjacent meeple. The artwork on all of these cards is also absolutely gorgeous, it makes me wish there were more than five different card types.
While playing a single action will spend it and advance to the next player's turn you can play doubles to then get another turn, or you can discard a pair or three random cards in order to get an additional draw. Getting to use saved-up cards for multiple actions can give you a real competitive edge, and burning cards hunting for something to win the game, or save you from a loss can add real tension.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot of fun and strategy to be had with this game, do you want to keep your partner in your best graces or force them to work with you? do you want to be creating those split lines early, or work to eliminate one player at a time? Do you sit back and watch things unfold or try to push players into positions? The way the tiles are laid out, your alliances across the table, and the placement of meeples can be unique across each playthrough. It keeps Uk'otoa a simple game while allowing for all kinds of surprises and upsets.
Get this game if:
- You like easy to learn fast-paced games
- You have a group of friends you’re ready to create alliances and destroy trust with
- You want a unique coop experience
- You enjoy whispering “Uk’otoa” as you knock out meeple
Avoid this game if:
- You prefer a game with less antagonism
- You want a more complicated game
The copy of Uk'otoa used in this review was provided by the publisher.