Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind, Ganz Schön Clever, Quacks of Quedlinburg) continues his amazing run with this co-operative game which sees players fleeing from the suddenly-erupting Mount Fuji towards the safety of a nearby village.
Players start at the foot of the mountain using one of seven map setups and four levels of difficulty. Each player also has five or six dice, a unique ability and may start the game with one or more one-use items. Can you say “replayability”?
The turn starts with players rolling their dice and then discussing where they plan to move that turn. The twist is that, in order to move to a given map space your dice have to “beat” both your neighbours’--otherwise, you stay in place and lose stamina. Lose too much stamina and you start losing the ability to re-roll, use items, or use your special power. Fail too often and the lava will creep up and consume you--game over.
After players move (or don’t), the lava advances, possibly twice if players trigger an extra eruption, and then players who’ve landed on spaces with items get to draw a random one. Then it’s back to the dice-rolling until everyone makes it back to the village or someone gets lava-ed.
Warsch clearly was thinking about how to avoid the “Pandemic Effect” that many co-operative games have whereby one player can effectively boss everyone else around because everyone has all the information (“You go to Tokyo and cure. She should build a centre in Paris and then share her black card with her…”). He solves this problem by having all the dice-rolling action happening behind individual screens, and forbidding players from making specific statements about their dice.
Winning even at the easiest levels requires players to pay attention not just to where they want to move but where their neighbours want to move. You want everyone to not only succeed but succeed as much as possible, because you lose stamina not only for failing but also for only marginally beating out your neighbours. This is not a light game, people; it’s a puzzler that requires vigilance and a good understanding of probabilities.
There are two-player rules, and a couple of people on BGG have even figured out how to play Fuji solitaire, though it loses something in the translation. The artwork is beautiful, and there are lots of different play options. So click here to order your copy, and comment below or click here to let us know if you’re enjoying Smorgasboard.