Above and Below Game
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- Build a village and explore the caverns below
- Manage your villagers, each with a unique identity
- Read from a book of encounters, building an amazing and memorable story each time you play
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Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. In the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they've been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers.
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So far, we have only played this with two players, and it works terrifically (which is not always the case with 4 player games). It is not as directly competitive as most two player games, since it is hard to get a good handle on who is ahead in VP during game play. We've also had fun with reading the scenarios to each other, adopting funny voices and occasionally making up our own flavor text to go along with the outcome if nothing more than a reward/penalty was outlined. Players ends up using varying strategies to get ahead, and there's also a bit of luck introduced through dice rolling and the randomness that workers and buildings may appear..
Gameplay is broken up into several rounds. During each round, players take turns using their workers to complete various tasks: build, teach/recruit, explore, harvest, or labor. Once all players have either exhausted their available workforce (or taken a pass at continuing), the round ends. At the end of the round, the players and game play area go through maintenance (refreshing worker and building pools, refreshing workers based on available beds, using any ciders and potions, gaining income from the advancement track, etc). The round marker advances, the Player 1 card rotates to a new player, and then the next round begins.
Here is a break down of your possible actions during a turn:
Teach/Recruit: workers with the feather icon are considered teachers, and are able to recruit other workers (from an available pool) into your workforce. You may use one teacher to recruit per turn and each recruit will also cost you money. New recruits are then added to your workforce for use in future rounds (though you can build structures that give you the ability to put them into use during the current round).
Build: you may use one of your builder workers per turn to build a new structure, which is chosen from a pool of displayed cards. Buildings have associated costs, but they can earn you goods for harvesting, VP, or ongoing bonuses during gameplay (extra beds for your workers, the ability to re-roll dice, etc).
Labor: you may use one worker per turn to do general labor. This earns you an additional coin and, if you are the first person to labor during a round, a cider token that can help restore exhausted workers.
Harvest: you may use one or more workers to harvest available goods from your established buildings above or below ground. Not all buildings produce goods. These goods can then be used in your advancement track (gaining you additional coins at the end of each round, as well as additional VP at the end of the game), can be put up for sale for the other players to purchase, or remain in limbo until you decide how to use them.
Explore: you may send two or more workers per turn to explore the caves underground. You are given a scenario card and roll a dice to determine which encounter your workers will play through. Another player then reads you the scenario out loud and gives you options as to how to proceed. You choose how you want to respond (do you try to steal from the old woman, or try to help her?Stay at the inn or keep exploring? Run from danger or stand and fight?) and then roll a dice for each worker to determine your level of success. The successes that your workers earn determine your overall success level (or failure) for the encounter, and any prizes (coins, goods, etc) or penalties are awarded. You may also experience an increase or decrease in your reputation based on what you chose to do. So, while it may be beneficial to steal from someone in terms of rewards, you will likely lose reputation by doing so.
Once workers have been used for a task, they move to the Exhausted area of your game board. There is also an Exertion option where workers who are exploring can exert themselves to gain an additional success for their expedition, though this means it will take more time for them to rejoin the active workforce. Exhausted and Exerted workers can recuperate using an empty bed to regain one level of stamina (so, exhausted moves to ready, and exerted moves to exhausted). You can only use one worker per bed you have at the end of each round. In addition, cider may also be used to move Exhausted workers to the Ready position, and potions can be used to move Exerted workers to Exhausted.
At the end of the game, points are tallied by counting up your total number of buildings, the value of the goods on your advancement track, your reputation, and VP's/bonuses. The player with the most points overall wins.
I really can't say enough positive things about this game. I'm looking forward to trying this out with more people, though I honestly can't see it losing anything by using three or four players instead of two.
For those who are incredibly competitive (even without trying to be) or play with someone who is incredibly competitive, this game takes the edge off. Because of the 5-6 different ways of achieving victory points, you never have a really clear idea throughout the game of who is "winning" the game. Which makes it much more light-hearted and much less cut-throat. Sometimes--especially during the encounters, you are actually rooting for the other players to get nifty outcomes--even if it would give them an advantage.
Seriously, this is my new favorite game, it is a combination of all of my favorite kinds of games!
Role Play: A little Role Play /choose your own adventure booklet/ to keep exploring fun and random!
Positive Interaction with others: Trade with other players. Read the adventures for other players makes you more involved in their part of the game. Both players trying to have a positive experience instead of trying to make the other person have a negative experience.
Strategy: A little strategy to decide how you best want to run your little village. Should I go exploring? or harvest? or train someone? the choices!
Turn Based: You might take the card I want, but another great one is going to come right after it!
Time: The game lasts about an hour with 2 people. Just enough rounds to amass some goodies, not so many that it is tiresome.
Analyzing Moves: You won't spend 5 hours trying to decide your next move. There's no nail biting really.
Resources: Surprisingly harder to get than anticipated, but not critical to normal gameplay. (this isn't Agricola! Your villagers aren't going to starve!)
Risk Taking: The dice rolling is a fun element to the explorations.
Luck: Rewards from adventuring and taking risks. New cards that pop up that you can purchase!
Replayability: Gameplay is going to be different every time you play! You could get done with this game, and want to play again that night because it doesn't last forever (1 hourish) and it doesn't tax all of your mental resources to exhaustion!
Other reviews: I've read from others that there is a definite routine winning strategy, and from my experience tonight, I would suggest that there really isn't. You can't always do the exact same strategy and expect to get the same result each game, there are waaaay too many variables to accept a "this is how you win" strategy.
Only wish: The game comes with quite a few villagers, but I wish you could have even more of them to randomly choose from! (I would totally buy a future expansion pack!)
Most recent customer reviews
My family has played this game so many times that the same stories are coming up again and...Read more