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Subject: 21 Days review by Latte's and Literature rss

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Latte's and Literature

Noord Brabant
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There you are, face down in the sand of some unknown beach. The Esperanza, or rather what’s left of it after a vicious storm took it to Hell and back, washes up on the shore plank by splintered plank. 24 hours ago you were on your way to an exotic destination and now everything is far from fine and you can see by the looks on the faces of the small group of the shipwreck’s survivors, they feel the same way. If you are going to survive this ordeal you will need to take action. A crude raft is put together with debris from the Esperanza and straws are drawn. Four members of this rag tag party will take the raft and face the challenges of the ocean in search of help. Whether it’s for posterity, or simply to keep you from losing your mind, you commit to writing down all that transpires on the water in a diary. A diary of only 21 days, which is found by some surfer dude on the beach in the not too distant future.

In a nutshell, this is the situation the players of 21 days find themselves in and I think Erik Winkelman did a brilliant job on the game’s design. It’s the first time I’ve seen a mockumentary come to life through a board game. Only this time you get to determine the outcome. You’ll be confronted with a hefty dose of unpredictability because many of the choices you make are still subject to a roll of the dice. Even your points of life are determined by rolling the dice. But this is just what makes 21 Days stand out from the crowd and what makes it unique in the cooperative genre. Even if there is a golden combo of characters in 21 Days, which so many other cooperative games seem to have, you still don’t know if they will still be around when the endgame comes along no matter how hard you try to keep them alive. This makes this game all the more challenging, exciting and strangely enough…more realistic.

Then there’s the artwork of the game by Eric Kenter, which I can describe with just one word. PHENOMENAL! This was clearly a labor of love. Every pen stroke, shadow, and facial expression breathes life into each character. The details on the board are fantastic. Just about 90% of the material you need is on, or underneath, the board, and yet it doesn’t become cluttered….at all. The illustrator has really done a great job of paying attention to each and every detail in this game. Each arm of the octopus (yes, I did just mention an octopus) looks unique. Every plank of the raft has its own knots and cracks. Even the ocean itself is a work of art and, let’s face it, he could have gone with a simple blue background with a little bit of foam thrown in for good measure, and the game still would have looked good, but instead he dotted all of his i’s and crossed all of his t’s, and so the game looks exceptional.

21 Days is a pretty choppy ride and super intense as the days progress, but the mechanics of the game are as smooth as an Isaac Hayes record. After a hopefully uneventful morning, each character chooses a chore for the day and carries it out to the best of their ability (that is, unless the octopus attacks) and, even though you’re stuck on a raft of maybe 3 square meters, there’s plenty of stuff to do. You can fish, find messages in a bottle, shoot flares, try to score more hope tokens and there’s even a location that changes throughout the game, which introduces turtles and dolphins. Of course this wouldn’t be a game of survival if there weren’t plenty of threats to go around. A swarm of jellyfish, a shiver of sharks, and a pesky octopus that seems to have it in for you, are some of the dangers you will come across. On top of that, your raft isn’t nearly as stable as you’d hoped it would be and threatens to fall apart soon after you hit the water.

The raft is another strong and original element of the game. It provides no guaranteed safe spots. Planks can float away, sharks may attack on either side of this not so sturdy vessel, the octopus can grab whomever it wants with his nasty tentacles and, no matter on which side of the raft you position yourself, one unpredictable little wave and you will find yourself in the middle of a swarm of jellyfish.
21 Days can be one tough cookie to finish, let alone with more than one survivor. Although you can increase the difficulty of the game, you will probably find even the basic level can be quite a challenge. However, when you do finish the game, given the variety in not only the difficulty levels, but also the characters, the solo variant, the rolling of the dice and the extra cards for the journal, 21 Days provides the players a ton of replayability.

This review may strike some of you as very enthusiastic, maybe even overly so. In full disclosure, I have become involved with the project at a later stage and have done some of the re-writing on the rules and will be responsible for a few other tasks that are part of the administrative process once the boxes start rolling off the conveyor belts. However, I wouldn’t have been involved with the game’s production at all if I hadn’t felt this enthusiastic about the game. With so many dungeon crawling clones, pasted on themes and expansions upon expansions on the market, 21 Days truly is a breath of fresh air and deserves a spot on everybody’s board game shelf.

Ronald Rijnart
Owner of Latte’s and Literature

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Maxim Y
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Agree with the final words about majority of games at KS. Backed at first just for the theme. And then fot the art, it is very distinct and has its own spirit. So, waiting for the box to come and try the game myself.
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