Today I bring you this lovely choose-your-own adventure type game called Above and Below.
Your last village was ransacked by barbarians. You barely had time to pick up the baby and your favorite fishing pole before they started the burning and pillaging. You wandered over a cruel desert, braved frozen peaks, and even paddled a log across a rough sea, kicking at the sharks whenever they got too close, the baby strapped tightly to your back.
Then you found it! The perfect place to make your new home. But as soon as you had the first hut built, you discovered a vast network of caverns underground, brimming with shiny treasures, rare resources, and untold adventure. How could you limit your new village to the surface? You immediately start organizing expeditions and building houses underground as well as on the surface.
With any luck, you’ll build a village even stronger than your last– strong enough, even, to turn away the barbarians the next time they come knocking.
That blurb is straight from the game. It’s a nice set up to a very story driven game. In Above and Below, players compete to gain the most points by developing their village both above… and below… ground.
Each player gets a board representing the area their village occupies. There is a central market which players can purchase buildings from to construct either above ground or down in the caverns/caves. In order to access caves to build in, players must send villagers to go exploring.
When a player goes exploring, they take the top card of the exploration deck and roll a die to determine which adventure they are going on. Another player will then take the adventure guide and read aloud the adventure, and then give the adventuring player a few different options to choose from. The different options will generally have an ‘explore’ value like ‘explore 3, explore 6’ or perhaps just one value. If the player chooses an option with an explore value, they must roll a die for each character they sent exploring and compare the result with the amount of lanterns received. Each lantern is an explore value, and if the player meets or exceeds an explore vlue for that adventure choice, they gain the result. The result can be a gain or loss in reputation, item loots, money, or even new characters.
All the characters can be used to send on explorations, but only certain characters (denoted by a quill or hammer) can be used to recruit more people into the village or build new buildings. Make sure you don’t overpopulate though, because at the end of each round, all the villagers will need to rest, and you can only rest a number of villagers equal to the amount of beds there are in the village. You can use cider barrels to get around this, but those are usually in short supply.
While you can’t sabotage or attack other player’s villages, you can deny them certain buildings by paying to refresh building rows or buying buildings before others get a chance to.
My Thoughts: I really enjoy this game, and it’s a nice change of pace when you just want a chill board gaming session where you can go on unique adventures and share some laughs. I have found that whoever gains and exploits one or more key or star buildings will usually run away with a victory, so be sure to not ignore those buildings in your strategy. It’s quite straightforward to understand and learn, and the different actions you can take are always the same and easy to understand (similar to the Blood Rage action system). If you enjoy choose-your-own adventure type stories, a laid back game experience, and the village/city building category of games – you should seriously consider picking this one up. I give this one an 8.5/10.
- Rating: 7.6
- Playtime: 90 min
- Complexity: 2.55/5
- Mechanisms: Storytelling, Card Drafting, Action Point Allowance, Dice Rolling, Set Collection
- Category: Adventure, Book, City Building, Exploration
- MSRP: $50