The 7th Continent

The 7th Continent

Last week The 7th Continent arrived and I can’t stop playing it.  I backed the game on Kickstarter last year where over 12000 backers pledged over £1 million for this adventure card game.

What’s it all about?  Does it live up to the hype?  And is there any possibility of getting the game if you missed the Kickstarter?

When I was a child I used to love reading Choose Your Own Adventure books.  Later on, the Fighting Fantasy series replaced these (they had more character development in them), but the idea was essentially the same.  Rather than reading about somebody else’s adventures, you were the hero of the story.

You would start reading a story then be presented with a choice: if you choose option A, you turn to one page, but if you choose option B, you turn to another page.  Each entry you turned to would provide you with a couple of paragraphs, which advanced the story in the direction you chose and then you would be faced with another choice.

It was a brilliant idea.  It combined quality writing, with an engaging, well-designed story in which you were able to make meaningful decisions to shape the outcome.  Those books were the precursor to computer adventure games.

In the intervening decades, there has been the odd attempt to recapture the sense of adventure and decision-making provided by these books.  Tales of the Arabian Nights had a decent go at it, but the encounters were always so random.

More recently, Above and Below and its sequel Near and Far did a good job of incorporating a Choose Your Own Adventure element into what was essentially a Euro.  Near and Far did a better job of creating an ongoing sense of story with its campaign, but the stories still felt a bit random.  You were still reading out of a big book at the end of the day, but it included a nice series of maps that you would progress through as the story developed.

RPGs attempt to provide this sense of Choose Your Own Adventure to a certain extent, but they often rely on the imagination and skill of the DM (Dungeon Master).  They can be great with an experienced group, but fall very flat with a lacklustre DM.

The 7th Continent provides that Choose Your Own Adventure feeling.

The 7th Continent provides that Choose Your Own Adventure feeling better than any game I’ve ever played.  It really helps that so much of it is visual.  It’s a card game essentially, but many of the cards are played on the table to form an ever-expanding map of the continent.

The big difference between The 7th Continent and a tile-laying game like Carcassonne for example, is that the landscape isn’t random.  You’re discovering an existing landscape that has been carefully crafted by the designers of the game.

The terrain cards are wonderfully illustrated and various icons indicate how you can interact with features on the card.  Eg. You might see an interesting statue and you can take an ‘Investigation’ action, which involves drawing a particular card.  Not a random card from a deck, but a specific, numbered card.

Terrain cards will also show you which direction you can explore in.  Exploration does consist of random events drawn from a deck, but the exploration decks (there are lots of them) are always appropriate to the area you are in.

Once the exploration action has been resolved, a specific, numbered terrain card is then placed in the direction you explored in.  It does a great job of combining variable exploration (there would potentially be several paths you could take North), with a well-designed, growing landscape (whatever route you take North, the terrain card to the North will always be the same).

Turns are fluid and there are always a host of actions you can take.  As previously mentioned, there are actions on the terrain tiles, but there are also item cards that provide actions.

For example, you might have a card that represents an idea for a raft.  You can take a ‘Craft’ action, depending on the resources available on your terrain card, to create this item (which goes on the table in front of you).  You can then use this item to help you whenever you take a ‘Swim’ action.

So each turn, you have a multitude of options available to you.  Many of these options involve you drawing cards that further the story in some way.  It’s not just a random sequence of events, it’s a well-written story.

You really feel like you’re on an adventure.

You really feel like you’re on an adventure, with lots of meaningful decisions to make and you can see the story unfold on the map of the continent in front of you as you explore.

I can’t go into too many details without spoiling some of the surprises, but one of the things it mentions in the rulebook is that some of the terrain cards have hidden numbers on them!  When you spot a hidden number, you get to replace the terrain card with a different one that will have some extra feature or action available to you.  It’s so satisfying!

The attention to detail throughout the game is superb and makes for such an engaging adventure.  One of my favourite aspects of the game is the system for taking actions.

Whenever you take an action, it requires effort.  This is represented by drawing cards off an Action deck.  These cards have stars on, which indicate successes.  You need a certain number of stars to successfully complete the action usually.

However, the Action cards themselves are actually ideas or item cards.  When you take an action, you acquire one of these cards.  The idea being that taking actions provides you with experience and increases your knowledge.

The Action deck also represents your energy levels though.  When you eat, you get to take Action cards from the discard pile and shuffle them back into the Action deck and if the Action deck ever runs out, you are in grave danger of dying (and losing the game).

The system is streamlined and thematically so strong.  I love it!

Overall, The 7th Continent is an excellent game and I highly recommend it if you like adventure games.  If you missed out on the original Kickstarter though, never fear, there is a new Kickstarter beginning on 26th September 2017.

The second Kickstarter will be for several expansions, but you will be able to obtain the base game as well.  As far as I am aware, the game is not available in retail, so aside from the secondary market, this is the only way to get the game.

Have you played any other games that do a good job of providing that Choose Your Own Adventure feeling?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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