Ravine Card Game Review (Stellar Factory)

8

In Ravine, you will die and you will be resurrected. You will craft a spear and you will go mad with power. You will find a squirrel (good) and a moose (bad). Ravine is a cooperative crafting and strategy game in which you and your fellow survivors have crash landed in a mysterious and deadly location, and you must survive until help comes. Developed by the same company as Spaceteam, Ravine somehow evokes the feel of an old school adventure game, while also being random, arbitrary, and fun in all the ways that I usually hate. And, of course, there's also the madness mechanic -- a mechanic that can lead to some wildly unpredictable situations.

Ravine Card Game Details

Players: 3 to 6

Ages: 10+

Game Time: 10 Minutes

Genre: Cooperative / Crafting

How Do You Play Ravine?

Ravine is very simple. Every player gets a random character, some of which have permanent abilities, and others of which have one shot abilities. These abilities are not balanced. Players get three hit points automatically and then roll their tokens for the next three. They then begin their stay on the island.

Ravine has two phases: day phase and night phase.

During day phase, you can choose to rest or forage. If you forage, you have to spend your HP to do so. Each HP draws one "forage" card. Forage cards can be anything, from going a little crazy (pulling a madness card) to getting some food (healing hit points). It can also be dangerous (take away hit points).

If you rest, you don't get injured. You also don't get healed. You just rest.

Once everyone has foraged, people can decide to distribute and eat food items, which will heal them. Players can also craft items such as spears (protects against wild life), shelter (protects against weather), baskets (lets you forage more), and so forth. Once that's done, there is the night phase.

During the night phase, you turn over an event card and everything goes terribly and everything is awful.

In a good way.

Journey Into the Madness

Madness cards feature heavily in Ravine, as you can go mad if you get too injured, or if you end up eating the wrong thing. Madness cards can be anything from "dancing till you're healed next" to "copying the other person's speech." I hated Madness mechanics in Mountains of Madness, but they are extremely enjoyable in Ravine... even though the effects themselves are similar.

In Ravine, you're struck with madness effects at random and players know that you are struck by something. There's very little for you to actually do (such as choose to forage or craft), so the madness is really just an interesting side mechanic that you play out for the entertainment of others rather than to their frustration.

In Mountains of Madness, the Madness acts to directly oppose other characters. Madness makes you do things like shout out numbers arbitrarily when people are trying to figure out how much of something you have. People get angry and frustrated at you even though you're just playing the game. It feels bad.

Ravine doesn't feel that way at all. In fact, Ravine as a whole kind of strikes the perfect balance between chaos and organization: it has just enough structure that you always know what you're doing, while having enough give that the results are often interesting and unpredictable. And that's not to say it's a perfect game: it really is quite random and arbitrary, and the balance oscillates wildly between "very hard" to "very easy" depending entirely on luck. But it's an interesting game to play.

There's also an expansion to the ravine, which can be used to play up to nine players. In the expansion, spirits are added, who want to sabotage the other players. This also brings with it interesting new items and night time events.

Ravine has variable difficulty, as you can increase the difficulty by adding on to the number of events that you need to survive. But more importantly, it keeps going. Even if you're killed, they can still resurrect you, or you might take over another player in their madness. You can play with as few as a couple people or as many as nine. It's just a very solid, small game -- and one with a lot of replay value.

Ravine Board Game Review
  • PRO: An adventure-style crafting game that forces you to cooperate with your friends.
  • PRO: Easy to understand, with flexible difficulties and an optional (more challenging) expansion.
  • CON: Extremely random and silly, which can cut down on some of the strategic mechanics.