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Recollect Board Game Review

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Play Matt: Harrow County Review

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Play Matt: The Cost Review

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22 Mar 2021 05:16 #321010 by Matt Thrower
At first, death takes the guise of a fairly heavy...

Death arrives in an unassuming beige box. There’s a picture of a filter mask on the front and a legend: The Cost. Inside, more beige, more masks and a mixture of four-player colours and four country colours. Punching the boards and tokens into the box, the only hint of what’s to come is the coffin icons at the bottom of each player board.

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22 Mar 2021 09:57 #321011 by MattFantastic
I've gotta check this one out. I'm so supremely into seeing games try to get at complex subjects while still being games. In board games, we see so much of it in historical war games, the illumination you can get from playing through a conflict, inhabiting the decision space, and ruminating on why choices were or weren't made. It's obviously not the same when you're sending chits off to die, but it is still something you're forced to think about and you typically come out of it with a bit more understanding of the realities of the conflict.

But we see so little of it on other subjects. Holding On is a great example of what sort of experiences we can have in board games but really aren't much yet. Train was a long time ago, and its brilliance didn't really spark the revolution in "art" games that I had hoped to see. Digital games have been all over it for a long time, tabletop RPGs (especially in the indie scene) are doing some amazing things, but board and card? Not so much. Lots of reasons why it may be harder, but it's possible and I long for more of it.

If you haven't yet, check out SHASN. I did a bit on it so I'm biased, but I adore how it deals with politics and the balance between idealogy and victory at all costs.

(Weird timing on this, I was just in a roundtable "more than a game" discussion as part of the Tabletop Mentor program a couple of days ago and Rory (Story Cubes, Holding On) and I were talking about this a bunch! Look out for Rory's Depressing Story Cubes Spring 2023 haha)
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22 Mar 2021 10:20 #321012 by jason10mm
This is a fascinating theme for a game. How easy is it to look past "the cost" and just see it as a stack of colored cubes or whatever? The game should force a player to make a verbal announcement of a dead worker or something to hammer home the impact in lives, lest it fall into the "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" pitfall.

I'm also curious as to the path to victory. Could you win with a safety program to make OSHA proud or conversely burn through workers like an iphone assembly factory but counteract it with a PR program or something? Are players forced to walk the same fine line each time or could you win with an extreme playstyle so long as no one counteracts it (kind of like hoarding military or blue monument cards in Seven Wonders, it only works if no one is stopping you)?

I have a feeling we will see more "socially conscious" games like this as designers learn to utilize games to promote agendas (though i suppose this has always been the case, does Monopoly and Life promote a specific agenda?) and incorporate more varied themes.
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22 Mar 2021 15:11 - 22 Mar 2021 15:11 #321031 by Matt Thrower

jason10mm wrote: This is a fascinating theme for a game. How easy is it to look past "the cost" and just see it as a stack of colored cubes or whatever? The game should force a player to make a verbal announcement of a dead worker or something to hammer home the impact in lives, lest it fall into the "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" pitfall.


It's not difficult to look past the theme if you don't want to see it. You put a meeple in a coffin and demand goes down: that's about it. I find it hard to see how any design could truly reach people who refused to be reached, unless - like Train - it's a one-play designed for shock value.

jason10mm wrote: I'm also curious as to the path to victory. Could you win with a safety program to make OSHA proud or conversely burn through workers like an iphone assembly factory but counteract it with a PR program or something?


Both routes to play are viable: you could absolutely win with a good safety record. But what the game does do is essentially force you to choose early. If you want to be "good", you will need to plan for it from the beginning and act accordingly. Likewise, as soon as you start racking up a body count, your safety costs increase so there's no way back onto the moral path. It is possible to start out safely and then become unsafe after a turn or two, but the inverse is not the case.
Last edit: 22 Mar 2021 15:11 by Matt Thrower.
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