Dale Yu: First Impressions of Robin (Flatlined Games)

Robin

  • Designer: Frederic Moyersoen
  • Publisher: Flatlined Games
  • Ages: 8+
  • Players: 2-6
  • Time: ~30 mins
  • Times played: 1, with preview copy provided by Flatlined Games

[Note: Normally, I prefer to play a game at least three times prior to writing it for the blog. However, given the time pressure coming up to SPIEL ’14, I have written up my thoughts on a number of games based on only one or two plays in order to cover as many new games as possible prior to the show. I fully admit that it is often not possible to see the full breadth of a design in a single play, and thus I shall not give a rating to any game at this stage with such a few number of plays…]

robin1

Frederic Moyersoen has had a number of different game designs that have done well in the market: Saboteur, Nicht zu Fassen, Van Helsing and Nuns on the Run. This most recent design goes in a different route from previous games, and with an interesting back story. Apparently, this game was initially designed to show how social security works, initially released as “Porto Seguro”. It has since been rethemed with a more familiar Robin Hood angle by Flatlined Games.

 

In this game, players act as one of Robin Hood’s merry men. Their goal is to finish 7 missions of any type (there are 6 different missions in the game) in order to become Robin’s next right-hand-man – though the rules really don’t give any hint as what has happened to Little John!

 

The board depicts Sherwood Forest with the deep forest on the left and Nottingham on the right. There are 7 spaces on the board – as you get closer to Nottingham, the riskier it is for the Merry Men! Each space has a value for the number of Mission cards that you get to draw from that space as well as a value for the number of cards you take/give to the community (i.e. social security fund). Each space also has a face up Mission token randomly placed on it. Players are dealt a starting hand of 4 cards. Additionally, the community pile is started with 10 cards from the deck.

 

close up of the board

close up of the board

On you turn, you first draw mission cards – again, the number of cards you draw is determined by which space your meeple is in. You will draw anywhere from 0 to 5 cards. Then, again referring to the board, you will give (max 2) or take (max 1) cards from the community pile. The closer you are to Nottingham, the more cards you GIVE to the pile. When all the math is done, you will add a total of 1 to 3 cards to your hand.

 

Then, you must either exchange a card or take a special action. Taking a special action is simply playing one of the 7 special Mission cards that allow you to steal a card from someone, exchange Mission tokens or meeples or even swap your whole hand with someone else.

 

If you do not have one of these cards or choose not to play one, then you must exchange a card. You place a Mission card from your hand face up on the table. Then, each other player secretly and simultaneously choose and reveal a card they wish to trade for yours – though they may choose not to offer a card. All cards are revealed, and as long as there is one offer, the active player MUST choose one of the offered cards.

 

If a trade occurs, the two players first must apply the movement arrows on the exchanged cards. Each mission card has between one to three sets of arrows at the bottom, pointing either right or left. These groups of arrows must then be used to move meeples forward or backwards on the board – though any particular meeple can only be moved once per Mission card. You must use all the arrows on the card if possible. If you move a meeple right into Nottingham, it is magically transported back to the left edge of the board. Once both trading players have moved meeples, the turn is over.

 

examples of the mission cards

examples of the mission cards

If there is not a trade (i.e. no one else wanted the card), the active player applies the arrows on the card and then simply takes the card back into his hand, and his turn ends.

 

At the end of any player’s turn, if you have 7 Mission cards of the same type, he wins the game. You may count the Mission token on the space where your meeple ends the turn as a card of that type. Note that it is possible to win on someone else’s turn – if you are able to trade for the 7th card… If two players get 7 cards of a type on a turn, the active player wins the game.

 

My thoughts on the game –

 

Overall, it’s a nice little design with some interesting tactical plays. There is a bit of strategy in figuring out where you want the pieces to move. The further right you are, the higher your income is (i.e. the more cards you add to your hand overall) – though you also contribute more to the community fund.

 

It helps to mentally keep track of who is collecting what sort of card. You can always see the top card of the community pile – and if you know what folks are collecting, it helps you move people to the space where they are forced to take a card they don’t want OR to not allow them to take a card they do want.

 

The special mission cards are a mixed bag. They are each only used once, so at least their effects aren’t overwhelming – but in our game, they seemed useful mostly near the end of the game. i.e. it doesn’t really make sense to swap two Mission tokens on the board unless you specifically need one to get to 7. Others seem unfairly targeted – i.e. one card lets you look the any other player’s hand and one lets you draw a card at random from another player’s hand. Each of these actions is only in the game once – but it is still somewhat arbitrary if you are the player who is disadvantaged from being targeted from them. In the end, these cards didn’t really affect our first game of Robin, but I will be interested to see if they positively affect the game in future plays.

 

The game moves quickly, and it is engaging as you are involved in a possible trade each turn. Again, it helps to remember which types of cards people are collecting – there are plenty of times when you want to be involved in a trade. Especially on the turn just before yours so that you can manipulate the meeples (usually your own) to get to the space you want to be on…

 

The components are of good quality. The cards have a nice smooth finish to them and they held up well to vigorous shuffling.  Unlike many other card games though, it is worth noting that the cards in Robin are made out of plastic (instead of coated paper).  They will likely be super durable, but they are a bit slippery.  They feel nice in your hands, but I might caution you to make two draw piles out of the cards because there is almost no way that the full deck will stay in one neat pile because of the slick finish to the cards.  It remains to be seen whether multiple plays will put enough hand grease on the cards to keep them from being so slippery!

They are a little wider than traditional playing cards, but they are indexed in the top left corner so that you do not have to fan them out too wide to see how many of a particular type you have.   Unfortunately, for the times that you need to look at the arrows, this information is only on the bottom quarter of the card, and there is no easy way to do this when you’re holding a hand of 15 cards.   The box is a nice compact size (7.5” x 5.5” x 2”) with a wrap around sleeve and magnetic closure.

 

Though I’m not sure if I’ll get a chance to play it again prior to Essen, Robin will certainly get more play after the fair. Our first game left me with thoughts of how to better manipulate the meeples and how to be involved in more and better trades. Robin also does fit a niche in the game collection as I do not have any other games based on the Social Security system… Snarkily, I will admit that the social security analogy falls through in one respect. If the community pile ever runs out, you are supposed to re-seed it with 5 new cards from the deck. I’m not sure would/could be a similar bailout if and when our own Social Security fund ever runs dry! But, let’s face it, most games are not truly representative reflections of their real life theme!

 

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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