Hey – it’s halfway through 2013. If you haven’t figured it out by now, we all survived the Mayan Apocalypse!
Well, except no such thing existed. It was a poor misinterpretation that sort of sunk into the cultural psyche. We all had a good laugh about it. Silly things, buying into those world-ending apocalypses…
In Tsunami!, it appears the jokes are over. We survived 2012. 2013? Ehh…maybe not so much.
In the game of Tsunami, the world is doomed. The exact cause of highly unstable tectonic activity is never explained, but all you need to know is all that moving and shaking has only one inevitable result: world-ending tidal waves. You have mere days to prepare. What is a normal person to do in such circumstances?
You wouldn’t know. You’re not a normal person. You’re an incredibly smart, talented – and wealthy – individual. You’re like Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Richie Rich, Daddy Warbucks, or, … hmm. You know, we never realized how few of the insanely rich characters out there are the good guys…
No bother, since you’re one such person. You certainly can help salvage at least some small part of civilization as one of the players in the game. Your fellow players are, shall we say, in the same boat.
Played out over 11-15 short rounds (called Days), players are trying to maximize salvaging what they can. Each player starts out with a teeny tiny Billionaire’s Yacht, and a mere 5 billion dollars, but that won’t take you as far as you think. Time is a factor, after all, and that drives up costs. Building a ship the size of an aircraft carrier in three days takes some serious cash.
Each round, a new Day is revealed. Some of the Days provide bonuses or restrictions for the round; some are simply entertaining flavor. Then, players take turns by choosing to either build a new ship, recruit people to save, purchase an aspect of cultural importance, or get more money.
Building more ships is a necessity to hold more of the people and items you’re looking to save. The larger the ship, the more cargo spaces it has, and the better odds it has of surviving the waves. Conversely, they also take longer to build and cost more. You will have to spend wisely.
Recruiting is the most common action players will take. Players choose from a pool of four available recruits. Recruits range from units that provide special abilities to those who provide bonus VP at the end of game, to general masses of common folk just looking for some salvation. Once you pick the one you want, players bid for it. Each player gets one – and only one – chance at bidding. At the end of one time around the table, the highest bidder pays and puts the recruit into one of their ships’ open cargo spaces. Like any good auction mechanic, the more players, the more fun this is. So, while the game is for 2-4 players, we recommend playing with at least three.
Alternatively, you have the action to simply buy one of six possible pieces of civilization. Most of these items take up two cargo spaces, but if they’re on your ship at the end of the game, they provide some substantial VP.
Lastly, you always have the option to roll to see if you can do some quick fundraising for a little extra cash. It’s usually not all that profitable, but sometimes it’s the only useful move you can take. And what kind of rich person wouldn’t take more money?
Rounds continue until The Tsunami hits. At this point, each player rolls a d10 for each of their ships to determine whether or not it survives. The ship (and some recruits) each have a number that boosts your odds. If that number plus the die roll is at least 10, that ship survived! If not, it joins the Atlantean Navy at the bottom of the ocean. Players then count up the VP from their saved Civilization items plus their recruit population, and the person who rescues the most will be forever enshrined in history as the one who saved humanity.
Although it may not be billed as such, Tsunami is not a Euro game by any means. There are a number of strategic options you can take throughout the game, such as gauging how much to bid on recruits, which ships to buy, and so on, but in the end, there is a fair amount of randomness to the game. Especially at the end.
Sure, you can mitigate a lot (all in rare cases) of the dice rolling odds, but in a lot of cases, no matter the degree of your planning, one unfortunate dice roll can ruin your chances at winning. That feeling of having the rug pulled out from under you didn’t initially sit well with our player group, who prefers to mitigate total luck scenarios. When we thought more about it, however, this is the same feeling as a player would have in something like Settlers of Catan. There, if you never roll the numbers you need, it’s that much harder to win. The same thing applies here.
What you get with Tsunami! is, at its heart, a decently thematic Gateway Game. Chance is a present factor, but it doesn’t have to make your actions meaningless either. Plus, like any good Gateway Game, it’s pretty short; it can be played in less than an hour.
There is a lot of flavor to Tsunami!, and if you’re looking to brave the rough waters of introducing new players to the hobby, having different Gateway Games help. Tsunami! could aid you in your quest. If you’re interested in being a bit of a hero, be sure to check out their Kickstarter. Considering the lateness of this preview, though, there’s also the chance that their campaign may already be over. In that case, you can also check out if they’ll be doing post-campaign orders at their website, Apocalypse Games.