Above and Below is a new game for Nerdz Garage. Once it was on the table, it stayed. We are fans of “choose your own adventure,” and this has a unique take, and it is four games in one. There is board advancement, strategy, engine building, dice rolling role-playing, and choose your own adventure stories!
The premise of Above and Below is that your village was forced to flee and relocate. After finding a suitable location on which you can rebuild, you discover a vast network of caves underneath filled with mystery. We’ll get to the caves and the mystery in a moment. First, you’ve got to acquire beds for your villagers. Beds are essential because your workers must rest when exhausted to continue the next turn. Now that the villagers have a place to rest their heads, you can to put down roots and rebuild your new village. Now is the time to gather resources and explore Above and Below.
Most of the game is going to be spent making decisions, where you may need to sacrifice workers for the next round to get what you need this round.
Above and Below is played over seven rounds. (We thought that was too sort and played an extra round, but that did feel too long.) During a round, players will take turns using their villagers to complete one of five actions; Harvest, Build, Train, Labor, and Explore. These actions are made until you have no other steps to take, and then the play is passed to the next player. To explore Below, a player must have at least two workers. Then the player must draw a cave card. They will then roll the dice and go the encounter storybook to the corresponding adventure. The player to the left will read the complete encounter, and then you decide to play it safe or take a risk for a chance at a bigger reward. If you win, you gain the resources, and if you lose, the cave card goes back to the bottom of the pile.
Choose your own adventure is the expropriation of the caves. This requires at least two of your villagers to do a mission, but the rewards can be significant. When you explore, the person to your right is going to read to you a randomly chosen (via dice roll) selection in the storybook.
The stories are developed and adorable.
At the end of each story, the player is presented with two or more choices–each choice has a difficulty rating to it, and a combination of dice rolls and how good your villagers are at exploring will determine if you’re successful. In every exploration challenge, you roll a die for each villager you send on the expedition, and they will contribute success or not based on the dice symbols marked along the top of their token. Most of the exploration challenges top out at seven or eight victories, and minimal success is usually set at the level of two or three. If you have five decent explorers, you can send out after your building or harvesting, then you’ll quickly fulfill every challenge sent your way. You can all but guarantee a reward, and often secure the best compensation you can get. This is where the economy and trading come in.
Say you met an old cave cat in the below. He asks you for two mushrooms in exchange for a gem. For some players, that would be a very foolish exchange. For you, it might be worthwhile to gain the resource for the advancement track that has end game value. The encounter storybook is extensive. * We did have one encounter we had experienced before and made a “house rule” to move to the next battle if that occurred.
These adventures may give you the resources you need to build or train new villagers. You could play it safe and not go below because there are plenty of ways to get more resources and without the risk. We tried both strategies, and for us, our favorite part was the adventures below and the more expanded stories.
At the bottom of the board is the income and advancement track where you are collecting resources that at the end of the game are multiplied for the more different resources you collect. These can be harvested from the growing, but towards the end, it is more valuable to grow the collections for multiple points.
Strategic experiences filled with tough decisions!
Bits and Bobs
The artwork has vibrant colors and whimsical cartoony charters. The player boards are simple to follow and consistent throughout the game. It is effortless to teach and easy to learn.
It is an engine-building game, and like most, it starts out slow, and the shifts to high by the end of the game.
Overall the game is beautiful and intriguing. Both are what attract the Nerdz to a game and keep it on the table. There is variety in the encounters, allowing for a new experience each game.
The gameplay is straight forward but has a depth of strategy that will appeal to seasoned gamers. Nerdz Garage highly recommends this game to anyone who enjoys the excitement of choosing your adventure or who enjoys the careful management of resources.
Nerdz Garage is choosing this adventure!
Game: Above and Below
Designer: Ryan Laukat
Published: Red Raven Games
Playtime: 1 Hour- 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Mechanisms: Card Drafting, Deck, Bag, and Pool Building, Dice Rolling, Set Collection, Storytelling
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