Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 5 March 2019

You have the insanity... of a manatee!:- Comanauts

Game: Comanauts

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Jerry Hawthorne

Year: 2019

Comanauts is a 2-4 player cooperative dice game and the second of Jerry Hawthorne's Adventure Book games. Comanauts is a highly story driven game where you play as a group of bizarre characters entering the psyche of Dr Strobal; A respected scientist who has gone into a coma. While in the coma, elements of past trauma have manifested into physical beings attempting to tear the Dr's mind apart and it's up to you to deduce which of the trauma's is causing the problem and then hunt them down and stop them.

Comanauts works via a dice bag, on your turn you will draw 5 dice from the bag and then use those dice to perform actions. A basic melee attack for example would have you roll a red die and compare the result to the target's defence. If your opponent is a little stronger you may need to combine 2 dice at once to get a result of 2-12 instead of 1-6. There are 4 main dice colours that you will be using along with purple dice that can be used as a wild card. On top of this white dice give you re-rolls, the clear blue dice summons the inner child which... usually... helps you (but also brings Dr Strobal closer to death). Finally the black die cause bad things to happen, whether that's causing enemies to attack, reviving dead enemies or simply making you draw a new life card for Dr Strobal bringing him closer to flatlining! There are also a black dice with red pips which acts the same as a black die, but only if your character is suspicious in the particular zone of the Dr's psyche you are currently in.
Dr Strobal's mind is split into 11 different areas, each representing a different period in his life, but also a different dramatic style. These are all done extremely well, even the style of the writing changes so the noir section starts talking about legs going from here to new mexico, while the western section is 95% more likely to use the words 'rootin tootin'. Each area consists of 1 page of story and then 2 main sections before the final boss fight with the trauma that can be found there. Not only is each area stylistically different but the activities you perform there vary too, some areas might have you interviewing passes by, others might involve sneaking into a facility, while some are a plain old fight.

It's your job to find the current problem trauma out of 5 possible candidates, along the way you can perform additional tasks to gain clues. Clues will then give you a short vision that hints to the issues that Strobal is dealing with. These can help you transfer to the correct world but you do need a bit of deduction. Trying to tell the difference between anger, pride and selfishness can be hard when you only have one clue! Once you are in the right world at the end of the 4th page you should find (hopefully) the main villain. Defeat them and you will win the game.

Comanauts has a lot of wonderful ideas, for what it's worth I loved the varying activities between different areas and the way they played to tropes. Where it fell short for me was partially on length, completing one area takes a good amount of time, extremely painful if you find out it wasn't the right one. But mostly on gameplay. Drawing 5 dice out of a bag at random can mean that you simply can't do much on your turn. If you need to end a fight and don't draw any green or red dice then you barely get to act. Even worse drawing black dice not only boosts the enemies but directly takes from you. Even when you do get the dice you want you still need to roll them, do games really need to add randomness on top of randomness like this?

The pages themselves while they had great set-pieces, are hard to navigate. It takes some time to understand how the book wants to be read and making a mistake can make things happen in completely the wrong order. While this didn't cause any problems for us it did make for a strange story at times. I also had some disappointment in the lack of miniatures, I painted a copy of Stuffed Fables for a friend and it was an absolute joy to do, the change to cardboard standees might have allowed for more enemy types, but given that they often didn't feel that different to fight it actually makes the game take longer as you struggle to find the right standee and slot it into a base. Overall Comanauts is a bit of a swing and a miss. It has some really great ideas but the gameplay needs a revision and ultimately if the game doesn't play well then you aren't going to enjoy it enough, if you are happy with a game with a large amount of dice luck and a huge focus on story then Comanauts may be for you.


Comanauts was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £67.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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