Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de

Hellapagos

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Author:
Laurence & Philippe Gamelin

Publisher:
Gigamic


2017

No. of Players:
3-12

EVALUATION

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G@mebox publisher Frank Schulte-Kulkmann writes about the game:

Welcome to Gilligan's Island!

Well, something like this will have been the first thought of the up to 12 players who ended up marooned on a tropical island. Sandy beaches, sunny sky and . nothing else! The ship is wrecked between some riffs, there is not much food and water to be found, the jungle is full of nasty animals and a hurricane is looming at the horizon. Not the best perspectives indeed, and so the players need to build a raft and get off the island before the storm arrives.

Each player begins the game with a hand of 4 random cards drawn from the deck of wreck cards, the last items which the players were able to salvage before leaving the ship. A bit of water and food good be salvaged as well, but it will only last to feed everybody for the first round. So, the players will have to start looking for water and food for everybody.

[SPIEL]

During his turn, a player can perform one action from a limited choice of possible actions. He can gather water (the amount depending on this turn's rain card), he can go fishing (drawing a wooden marble from a gunny sack, showing 1 to 3 fishes), he can swim out to the shipwreck to draw an additional wreck card, or he can actually try to build a part of the raft. This is done in exactly the same fashion as going fishing (drawing a marble from the sack), but this time the player may draw a number of marbles from the sack, and he has to announce how many marbles he wants to draw before starting. The number of fish on the marble is not important, but instead its colour. There are 5 normal wooden marbles and a black one in the sack, and for each normal marble drawn the raft building marker is advanced for one step. However, the black marble shows that the player who went too deep into the jungle to gather wood and was bitten by an animal. This makes him loose all raft building progress but one single step, and in addition the player will have to miss his next turn. Whenever six steps of raft building have been completed, the raft will be able to carry one more person, and so a lot of raft building is required to build a raft big enough to carry all players.

To be more correct, it would be more precise to say that the raft needs to carry all remaining players. Sooner or later, there will not be enough food or water to support all remaining players at the end of the round, and at that point the full impact of Hellapagos becomes visible, because the players then will have to vote players out of the game until the food is sufficient to sustain the remaining players.

We playtested the game with up to 8 additional players, and it quickly became visible that this phase of voting can lead to some hilarious situations. Some players will try to gang up on others to vote them out, only to turn against their former allies in a later phase of the game. However, very important here also are the wreck cards, since these show a large variety of items which the players may use to influence the situation. So, food cards may be used to prevent the actual voting, but a player also may keep food cards on his hand, saving them for the case that he is voted out by the other players. In this case the player can remain in the game by playing a food card, so some selfishness is necessary to survive. As indicated, there are other useful items like a gun which may be used to remove another player (but which needs a bullet to work), or a baseball bat which a player may use to double his vote. On the other hand there are also items which can be used for the benefit of everybody, like a fishing rod which allows its owner to draw two marbles while fishing.

It is this voting phase which makes Hellapagos a very unusual communication game. Even though the voting mechanism may sound to be rather simple, just the possession of certain wreck cards may be used by the players to gain leverage in the discussion who should be voted out, and so the vote will be all but random. Instead, there will be discussions who actually may be helpful for the group if the rest of the players wants to get off the island.

Depending on the groups' efficiency when foraging food and wood for raftbuilding, the group gradually will get smaller, needing less space on the raft but leaving less player turns for actions. It is especially difficult that the group needs a full ration of food and water to leave the island, and so the players have to decide how long they will keep their wreckage cards for themselves, or whether the time has come when the group might benefit from playing a card.

One situation was especially memorable, and that was short before the game's end when I was one of the last three group members. The other two voted me out, but I could use a Vodoo-puppet card to bring my wife Nicole back in the game. This put the vote to a standoff, but since I was current starting player I had the tiebreaker's decision, and so the table turned against the two who initially wanted to remove me from the game. After two votes those two players were out, and Nicole and I actually had enough food to leave the island before the hurricane!

This is only an example of the many interesting situations which may happen in this rather unusual communication game. Of course it can be debated whether the general setting actually is suitable for a game, but ever since Tributes of Panem - The Hunger Games such a setting actually seems to be part of modern mainstream. So, here we have a game which takes the players onto a short and brutal trip to Hellapagos-Island, and if you are fond of such communication games you have found a real treat. Just the right thing for Halloween!


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