Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 16, 2017
 
7th Continent First Impressions

Only 3 days to go on the 7th Continent Kickstarter rerun and I finally managed to actually play the game to confirm if it is really as good as evertybody says. Good news: It is! Furthermore it turns out to be one of those rare board games that are ideally played with your significant other, which is exactly what I have been looking for. A “game” of 7th continent can last 15 hours+, but there is a very fast “save” mechanic which allows you to play in a series of short sessions. That would be difficult to pull off with friends you don’t see every day, but works great for me and my wife.

“Saving” the 7th Continent is actually a strategic move by itself, because you don’t save the map you already explored. This represents time passing in the world while you sleep. If you were to backtrack after restoring the game, the basic geography remains the same, but you might get different events happening while exploring. In our first game we saved when we successfully left area I and reached area II, which involved removing the map of area I anyway, so the save didn’t change anything for us. Of course at home you could just decide to leave the game set up on the table instead of saving, if you have a dedicated game table.

*Spoiler alert*

Just like a YouTube gameplay video it is hardly possible to talk more about the game without revealing some of its contents, so don’t read on if you want to avoid spoilers!

We played the first “curse” of the 7th Continent, curses being basically scenarios that give your exploration a starting point and a win condition. The one recommended to start with is called Voracious Goddess. But don’t expect any major storyline connected to that. The 7th Continent is a survival/exploration game, the stories that happen are about what you decide to do and how that worked out, not some scripted storyline to follow.

The core mechanic of the game is that the tile you are on and the cards you already found give you various actions you can attempt. Each attempt consists of drawing a number of cards and counting the number of successes on these cards. Each action tells you how many cards to draw, and how many successes you need, but various rules and cards can modify those two numbers. If you succeed something positive happens, if you fail something negative happens. Often you are allowed to draw more cards if you want, which makes success easy. But the deck of cards also represents your life, so if you draw cards with reckless abandon you will run out of cards. And then you need to use the cards from the discard pile instead, and if you draw a curse you are dead and the game ends.

What you are supposed to do to survive is to find places where you can hunt and find food when you are getting low on cards. Food puts cards back from the discard pile into the action deck, which allows you to keep playing. It is all nicely balanced and doable. Some people do complain they die too often, but there are several solutions to that: Either you handle the loop of goin exploring and taking care of survival by hunting better. Or you change the rules, which is something that doesn’t come natural to board game enthusiasts. But really, the game already does have an official easy mode which starts you with card 777, which allows you to basically ignore your first death. It isn’t such a stretch to expand that to unlimited uses of that item and literally “cheat death”. Instead of “survive or die” the game then becomes one of minimizing the number of times you use the cheat item.

On the other hand I can also see the interest of starting over. The Voracious Goddess curse we are playing starts you off on a small island. As it gives you a rough map, we went more or less straight towards the way off the island. But it turned out that this way we missed an essential item and couldn’t use the submarine to get off the island. Instead we decided to use the costly alternative option of swimming, which ended us freezing on some beach. So our success on the starting island, area I, determined where exactly and under what initial conditions we get to tackle area II. If we restart and play area I again, we’d use a different strategy. Furthermore on the first exploration you end up doing things in which the success isn’t all that great, or not essential for progress. So the next time around you just skip the non-essential parts and thus get to the next area faster and with less of your cards used.

I really like the 7th Continent, and I am looking forward to playing this with my wife for a long time. If ever we find the survival part too harsh, we’ll just change the rules to a more casual version. The fun of this game really isn’t just about winning or losing.

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