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Subject: Red November Vs. Pandemic rss

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Thomas Taylor
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Greetings friends, Romans, Geek Countrymen, lend me your meeples. I’m going to review RN and then compare it to how I feel about Pandemic.



I present to you, Red November. A cooperative game for 3-8 players that is a big game in a small box, an Evil Thebes, if you will.



Yes, I said 8 players. The biggest problem I have had with Pandemic is the fact that it plays 4 only. There are usually more people wanting to play pandemic than slots open to play it. Having a similar game that plays 8 is great. I have played once with 7, and there was a little downtime, but it wasn’t too bad. We all enjoyed it. (And died horribly)

Red November is a theme packed fun little game that is an absolute steal at less than $20.

Essentially, you are Russian gnomes aboard a gnomish submarine, which is going haywire (it is gnomish) and attempting to survive just one hour until rescue arrives. Chaos ensues.

This game comes in a silver line small box (same as Condottiere, Citadels, etc) and it is absolutely jam packed with stuffs. A small tri folded board, 8 gnomes, a decent number of mini cards, lots of item chits and some assorted chits that signify bad things going on in the ship.

For those of you who constantly whine about boxes with lots of air, this is the game for you. I can say after punching, there is not a spare centimeter of free space in this box, no matter how you arrange it.

The game play revolves around a Thebes time system, where each player can run around the ship, and perform one action per turn. When you take this action, generally to fix the things that have gone wrong on the ship, you have to decide how long you want to take to fix the problem. For each minute you devote to fixing the problem, you can add one to your D10 die modifier. You then roll the dice, and you have to roll equal to or less than the number you chose, plus modifiers. There are item chits that can help you out with specific problems. Such as, fire extinguishers for putting out fires, stuff like that. So, let’s say you use a fire extinguisher (+3) and decide to use 4 minutes of time to put out the fire. You then need to roll a 7 or less on a D10. Most fix-it actions are resolved in this way, you pressing your luck on the D10 and hoping things go well. I've seen people roll on a 4 and make it, and I personally have rolled a 10 on a 9 multiple times.

So, this kind of resolution is random, yes. Also, after you take your actions, you then have to resolve 1 event card for each starred location on the board that you pass in the time you took. (Stars are every 3 spaces or so) Most events are bad, with the ones marked "nothing happens" come as a welcome respite.

Some events just start fires, others cause floods, others cause timed events that you must resolve before a certain time or you instantly lose.

You can draw tiles as mentioned previously which will give you some small benefits and help you out with specific problems. One of these items available to you is "Grog", which looks more like Vodka. I suspect this is an attempt at PC-ness. Vodka allows you a +3 to fixing any problem, and will allow you to enter a burning room. (Otherwise only possible with a fire extinguisher) The downside to the vodka is that you get drunk, and for every turn you complete while inebriated, you have to pass a Faint Check. If you fail, your gnome passes out and you lose 10m of time and cause 10m of bad stuff to happen immediately. Pretty cool mechanic.



Red November manages to capture the "Walking the Razors Edge" feeling that a good game that is trying to crush you should achieve. Things happen randomly, but you are all given the chance to deal with the problems at hand a little more readily than some games of this type. Also, positively, this game doesn’t crush you outright, and all of my plays have all had that ray of hope that some other games deny you in this genre.

My absolute favorite mechanic in the game is that a gnome with an aqualung item can exit the ship and attempt to escape, leaving the other crew to die on the submarine, but you may only do this in the last 10 “minutes” of the game. If you do this, and the gnomes fail, then you win the game. If you do this and the gnomes succeed, then you lose, and everyone else wins. And you’re a big gnomish doo-doo-head.

I give Red November an 8 out of 10. This game oozes theme, fun and lots of tense card draws and dice rolling. If you’re taking price into account I would say RN would be a 9. This game really packs a large box-game into a tiny box and a tiny price.

Pros:
Very fun
Great Theme
Cheap
Eensy Box
Plays 8
Fun Fun Fun

Cons:
Needs a couple extra item/time cheat sheets. My copy only had 2. Kind of ridiculous for an 8p game. Then again I'm not sure they would fit..
Box is utterly overstuffed with bits.
Probably a little random for some people


As promised, a comparative look at Red November and Pandemic

Theme –
Gnomes Doomed to die on a Submarine vs A major outbreak of disease around the world. Both are sufficiently awesome. I will say RN makes a better use of its theme, and is very amusing.
Advantage – Draw

Gameplay
Pandemic is an exercise in stemming the tide of cubes around the world. Unfortunately this can lead to one action being the right action and invariably anytime I play Pandemic, 1-2 people at the table wind up ordering the other players at the table around in an effort to fix things. This is how real life works, you need one person in charge to achieve the overall goal, however this isn’t very fun for those people who are pushed around for an entire game. Also, mathematically Pandemic is just brutal, and you can lose the game outright on turn 2. If the shuffles don’t go your way, this game will kill you, regardless of what you do to stop it.

Red November allows for the individuals to run around and attempt to contribute, without any one play being the RIGHT move at any given time, generally. Also, the Thebes time point system allows people to take smaller preparatory moves before they tackle the larger problems. In all my plays of RN most of the players have been engaged at all times and can make their own decisions. Also, the large deck of varied cards makes the possibility of drawing the same problem repeatedly and losing the game outright early very unlikely. You do roll a D10 a lot, but you get to decide how much chance you want to take. (or none at all) Bad stuff happens, and you deal with it.

Advantage - Red November

Size & Price

Pandemic is a nice not too big box, and is reasonably affordable $35-ish.

RN is a tiny box (I sort of wish this was a large box game) with a tiny price. Easily available for less than $20

Advantage – Red November

Fun

Pandemic is fun, but I think the best word for how that game makes you feel is oppressed. The game hates you and wants you dead. (Which is kind of cool, yet frustrating.)

RN is a hoot. You laugh, you cry, you die. Every turn is a tough decision. Both games are fun, but RN is much more whee fun.

Advantage – Red November

Luck

Pandemic – You are at the mercy of the card shuffles. The mechanic for this is ingenious, and other than the staggering amount of card luck, there is no other luck to manage.

RN – You roll the dice a lot, you draw lots of random cards. The card deck is significantly larger and you are presented with a wide array of options of bad things that happen to you.

Advantage -Pandemic – Less luck here, but I believe this detracts from the fun a bit. For me.

Overall – I think you’ve figured it out by now, I far prefer RN to Pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, Pandemic is good, its just not as good as RN. If you like cooperative games, you should get both.


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Tim Deagan
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Austin
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Great review!!

I think your comparisons with Pandemic are spot on. It's really easy to image Red November shipping in a box the same size, getting a Pandemic's (or more) worth of game for this price in this easy to carry around a box is amazing.

I've traveled with Pandemic in carry on luggage before and had it eat up more space than the clothes I was taking. Red November is one of those games you can always decide to go ahead and bring along 'just in case.'

Unless the choice was strictly money, I'd definitely consider Pandemic and Red November to be an AND not an OR decision.
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Freakin' Ed
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Great review and comparison, Thomas. I played Pandemic only twice but I felt the theme was a little dry, and your observation about one or two players "taking charge" and kind of directing the game I also found to be the case. I did enjoy playing Pandemic but the more I read about this game, the more I want to get my hands on it.
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Steve Severino
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Nice review Thomas; thanks for sharing your views.

The theme of Red November (combined with neat gnome bits and lower price) seals the deal for me. I've booted Pandemic from my wishlist and replaced it with this game.
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myles
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Glad I never ordered Pandemic, and gladder still I preordered this! I love gnomes anyway. I'm glad to hear the FF is removing some of the bulk from their packaging. I hope it's a continuing trend.
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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I can't comment fully on the comparisons, as I haven't played RN yet, but I've never paid more than about $23 for Pandemic from Boards & Bits, and I've also never experienced the "someone taking over the game" phenomenon that so many speak of regarding Pandemic. Sometimes when my wife and I are teaching new players, we "coach" things for the first turn or two, but from that point on everyone can easily pick it up and contribute fully.

Vodka helps you fix problems now, does it?
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Thomas Taylor
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Grudunza wrote:


Vodka helps you fix problems now, does it?


Works for Russians.
 
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Anthony DuLac
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I liked both but we never, ever have won at Pandemic and that includes games with all kinds of players, experienced with Pandemic or not-so-experienced - that gets old after a while.

I just acquired Red November and I think it's going to be loads of fun. Based on my quick rules read-through, I suspect you're right about which game is more enjoyable in the long run and as a game, overall. I also prefer Shadows Over Camelot to Pandemic.
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Tim Harrison
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wytefang wrote:
I liked both but we never, ever have won at Pandemic and that includes games with all kinds of players, experienced with Pandemic or not-so-experienced - that gets old after a while.


It's not that hard, especially with only 4 Epidemic cards.
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John Richard
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Tygo wrote:
RN is a hoot. You laugh, you cry, you die.


I think you should get a job in the marketing department at FFG. Priceless!

Fantastic review, and I agree completely! Terrific game, and one of the best values for your money that's out there right now.
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Thomas Taylor
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IndianaJohn wrote:
Tygo wrote:
RN is a hoot. You laugh, you cry, you die.


I think you should get a job in the marketing department at FFG. Priceless!

Fantastic review, and I agree completely! Terrific game, and one of the best values for your money that's out there right now.


I have 10+ years in the marketing industry, 5 of it working on games, so if anyone is hiring, please feel free to geekmail me.
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Peter Gousis
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Not to throw cold water on this review, but I disagree on many points. The biggest one being that although I wanted to like this game for many of the reasons you listed (lots of players, small box, cool bits, fun theme) I just found it boring and random. I only played it twice, but didn't find it that challenging. I think the biggest difference with Pandemic is that you can increase the difficulty level. This game just seemed to drag for me and seemed way too easy. Adding things like hitting other players with a wrench and not giving any good reason to do this action doesn't seem like a way to add anything to the game for me.
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Sven A
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Quote:
One of these items available to you is "Grog", which looks more like Vodka. I suspect this is an attempt at PC-ness.


In Sweden we call it "grogg" when you mix vodka with something, ie water or soda, to make it a little less... rewarding. It's an old expression and I guess even the russians have had that idea from time to time.
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Anders Gabrielsson
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More on grog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grog

From what I hear, most Russians drink their vodka straight and in large amounts. Maybe Russian gnomes mix theirs with something, at least when they're working on a submarine.
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Max Pips
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Russian gnomes are an inventive lot. Grog is vodka mixed with ...

vodka.
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Giles Pritchard
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Aussies use the term Grog for all sorts of booze, perhaps these Ruskie Gnomes were taught some lingo by Prime Minister Holt?????

Cheers,

Giles.
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Davido
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Played 3 games this week:
1) learning game-4 players, made it half way through
2) same 4 + 2 newcomers. Died nearly instantly
3) same 6 players-halfway home again

This is fun, but it seems to take about an hour-e.g. Too Long For What It Is (TLFWII)-it's more than filler, but by no means a meaty game. Also, the options appear to be scripted-e.g. use what you got to deal w/ what is happening. I don't see any real decision making even when you have say an extinguisher and a crowbar, the best choice appears obvious. Also, other than getting the aqualung and diving gun together to kill the Kraken, I don't see any need to trade/share goods. For the time it takes to trade, you might as well do something yourself. And by the time Krack shows up, you're pretty much up against it anyways.

So while I'll play this, I think other coops (e.g. Pandemic, Lord of the Rings, Shadows over Camelot, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (US)) all offer more in the way of decision making and cooperative play.
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Joe Niezelski
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MonkeyGoose wrote:
I only played it twice, but didn't find it that challenging. I think the biggest difference with Pandemic is that you can increase the difficulty level.


Add or remove "Respite" cards to modify the difficulty level in Red November.
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Steve Duff
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DuckAndCower wrote:
Add or remove "Respite" cards to modify the difficulty level in Red November.


Right. Just fire up that printing press in the basement, folks. Or go buy a second copy to raid for extra Respite cards.

I've yet to see anyone find the game too easy.
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Mike Betzel
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davido wrote:
Also, the options appear to be scripted-e.g. use what you got to deal w/ what is happening. I don't see any real decision making even when you have say an extinguisher and a crowbar, the best choice appears obvious.


True, your actions will mostly be determined by the items you have. The main decision is how much time to spend on any given action. Is that extra minute or two added to your die roll worth the event card you'll draw if you spend the time? Or do you spend time running across the ship to work on a more dire issue or deal with something closer to you? Those are the interesting decisions and will vary based on the situation at hand.

I haven't played much yet, but so far my main complaint is that the game feels very flat overall... there aren't many highs or lows. For every thing you fix there are probably 2 or 3 things going wrong. You are just trying to keep afloat rather than making any significant amount of progress. Shadows over Camelot and Pandemic have peaks and valleys: you'll be doing good for awhile, things get dire, you get in under control a bit and so on. Red November is always bad all of the time. The timed events do help add some tension but how much varies based on the sub's condition.
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Matt Dodor
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davido wrote:

This is fun, but it seems to take about an hour-e.g. Too Long For What It Is (TLFWII)-it's more than filler, but by no means a meaty game.


Thank you sir!

Seriously this game took way too long to play when compared to Pandemic. I think the concept of downtime hasn't been stated enough for RN either. If you take a long time to fix something critical, or pass out, you're going to be sitting there for quite a while just watching the game.
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brian
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How well does this game scale? I assume with more people, you can work on resolving more problems. But you are also triggering more bad events on the clock.

What's the feel with more or less players? I think we found Pandemic to be more difficult with more players. How does RN fare?

I also noticed this is for 3-8 players while Pandemic is 2-4 (with some designer endorsed variants with 1 and 5). Can RN be modified to handle 2 players or even 1? If at 3 or 4 players, would you recommend Pandemic over RN?
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Thomas Taylor
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Yes, it scales very well. (Except for some increased downtime with more people.) Each player causes more events, so more people = more help = equal amount of bad stuff.

It definitely doesn't have the 4 player ramped up difficulty problem of Pandemic.

RN worked great with 4, I'd definitely play RN over P with 4, personally. With 3, I'd say its a toss up and I'd just play whatever would work best for the group's dynamic.
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Darin Rebertus
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This week, I played Red November for the second time. We had seven players. At the 90 minute mark, me and another player decided to play Race for the Galaxy between our Red November turns. We finished about 2/3 of our 2 player game before one of our Red November turns came up. I guess I thought that the game had some humor value, but humor value rarely lasts more than one play for me.
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FiddlersGreen wrote:
This week, I played Red November for the second time. We had seven players. At the 90 minute mark, me and another player decided to play Race for the Galaxy between our Red November turns. We finished about 2/3 of our 2 player game before one of our Red November turns came up. I guess I thought that the game had some humor value, but humor value rarely lasts more than one play for me.
Ouch, that is pretty damning from my point of view. I hate games with long downtime.
 
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