It’s been awhile since I got a new “Now Rolling” to the site but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been playing some good games. Here is one that I wanted to get some play time in before its successor (sequel?) gets delivered. It is time to find new country land to build a town, whether it is above the ground or below it!
Above and Below tells the story of people leaving their homeland from barbarian attacks. You find new land to settle on to try and make a new, prosperous town. But there are also places to explore underground to help you further expand and go on a little adventure.
The game works like a light-worker placement title. You start with three workers and you tasks them with actions. The available actions are building new buildings, recruiting new people, harvesting goods, getting money, and going on an adventure! At the end of the day, you recover your workers if you have enough beds for them and continue with the next day/turn.
While this is how a turn works, there is obviously a lot more to it since it is not in the light category of board games. You need to plan what your goals will be because simply taking actions will net you very little points. Not every thing will give you points which adds the strategy angle to this game instead of just doing things for fun.
This is where some issues may arise, are you playing the game for fun or victory? I say this because a lot of my enjoyment comes from the exploring/adventure part. But this is not a calculable action to take to ensure victory. You don’t know where you are going and what the possible rewards may be. One adventure could have you deciding to steal silverware or fix a robot and another one could have you deciding whether to hide from spiders or save someone trapped in its webbing. You don’t know what you will get (unless you get the fishing one, c’mon, you are getting fish!) so it adds an element of randomness.
This game could potentially be won by people who never explore because the other way has an easier laid out path for them. It isn’t wrong for them to never explore but it would take out the fun for me. And I hope I am not sitting to their left because then I’d never to get to read the stories!
I think I was supposed to talk about what I loved in the game before what I had issues with Above and Below. But it is pretty evident by now what I love about the game and it’s not just the adventures. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until they put out a bad looking game but Red Raven Games’ are just gorgeous. There is no getting around that and it is a definite plus when deciding on games. But it shouldn’t be the sole factor.
While it is not the first to use story-telling (I don’t know if Arabian Nights was either), I do like that angle. And there is always just a little more you want to do with your actions but you won’t have enough time to do it all. So the game leaves me wanting more but in a good way. More like, it leaves me wanting to play more to try different strategies. This is a good sign in my book.
I am a fan of this game because it is pretty and a medium-weight (light to play, heavy to win?) game that touches on worker placement and feels different than others with its story element and deciding who sleeps in a bed or not. Somebody has got to sleep on the floor eventually, won’t be this game for me.
Publisher: Red Raven Games
Genre: Worker Placement/Town Building/Story Telling
Player Count: 2-4
Duration: 90+ minutes