When preparing to design Robinson Crusoe, I read many books of this genre. I say genre because there is a world of novels about castaways who must survive in the most dreadful situations. Daniel’s Defoe Robinson Crusoe is by far the most famous, and it gave the title to the board game, but Julius Verne’s Mysterious Island, Johann Wyss’ Swiss Family, or Arkady Fidler’s Robinson Island were as much inspiration as the Robinson Crusoe itself.
All these novels show the struggle, the human despair in the fight with brutal nature. And all of them praise the strength of human will and knowledge. But although very similar in general, they differ in themes and details, which allowed me to design many unique scenarios in the game.
You must know, there were no scenarios in the initial prototype. The whole game was about gathering wood, building the woodpile, and trying to fire it up at the right moment. That’s Robinson Crusoe story.
And then, there was this famous bathroom moment. I say famous because they often refer to showers and bathroom breaks when you read interviews with various creators. Not sure what science has to say about the phenomenon, but I must admit. When I was going to the bathroom, Robinson Crusoe was 1:1 adaptation of the novel. A few minutes later, I ran out of the bathroom, reached my desk, and started noting down like crazy. The game became a system to play the whole genre of adventure novels of the XIX century. Suddenly everything became possible, and the game became a tool to tell so many different stories!
In the base game of Robinson Crusoe, there are seven scenarios. The first one is the genre classic – gather wood, fire it up, and hope a nearby ship will spot you and rescue you. What are the others?
In Cursed Island, the mysterious fog covers the Island. You put white tokens on various spaces of the board, making the Island unavailable. Players are a team of an exorcist who must build crosses and push the dark forces from the Island. It’s a fun little scenario with a strong theme and little complexity.
Jenny Needs Help is one of the most legendary scenarios. One of the shipwrecks, Jenny, is stuck on the rock a few miles from the coast. You must build Raft and bring her to land before the tide grabs her! It’s a short scenario with a ton of tension because you have only a few rounds to save the girl! And when you save her, she… You will see. It’s legendary, trust me.
Volcano Island, AKA Indiana Jones one, is one of my personal favs. You are a band of treasure hunters on the Island, and the Volcano erupts! You must run! But you are treasure hunters, so you must run AND grab some treasures from various ruins and temples! It’s greed vs. reason; it’s one more treasure vs. we are going to die! It’s running to the coast, having hot lava one step behind you!
Cannibal Island is the hardest scenario to win. I myself entertained many players playing on YouTube in live stream format this scenario and dying miserably. This scenario tells the story of a cannibal city that we must conquer and destroy! There is a ton of fighting, a ton of building weapons, and a ton of wounds! Fun time. And you gonna die.
Family Robinson scenario is obviously an adaptation of another great novel of the genre – The Swiss Family Robinson. It is the longest one in the set, and in it, you are castaways who accepted the fact there is no rescue and live on the Island. There is farming; there are kids; there is a long and calm way of playing the game. Very different from crazy Volcano!
The last mission is King Kong. Guess what – you are a film crew. You hunt the beast. You die miserably.
I had notes for more. I wanted to adapt Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and really wanted to do his Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. Another one that was always tempting was Herbert G. Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau and Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness. The possibilities seem endless, and with the Book of Adventures expansion releasing next year, you will be able to play unique and fascinating stories for years!
NOTE: This article is part of the #BoardGamesThatTellStories week. Visit us every day for:
Tuesday – an article about all novels that inspired Robinson Crusoe,
Wednesday – a short story inspired by the book Legend,
Thursday – showcase of photos of prototype Witcher: adventure board game,
Friday – an interview with Przemysław Rymer, writer behind Dune: House Secrets!