Ravine Review – Sticks, Stones, and Silly Names
One of the greatest things about gaming as a hobby is that we (as gamers) often find ourselves surprised by what we come across.
Not that long ago, my friend Rich and I were sat down to lunch when we started discussing the idea for a game. That game would be a survival game, based around the concept of being stranded and having to work together to collaboratively make it through a set number of nights whilst fending off the elements, animals, and growing sense of futility at the situation. We thought it was a great idea, and immediately wanted to play a game like it.
Much to our enjoyment, that game exists. We found a copy and have played it a few times. Today we are going to take a closer look as it is absolutely awesome to play. That game, dear reader, is Ravine.
What is Ravine? How does Ravine Play
Ravine is a cooperative survival party game designed by Mathew Sisson, with artwork by Mathew Sisson, and published by Stellar Factory. Mathew Sisson was one of the designers on the (also highly enjoyable and meta) Spaceteam, which was also published by Stellar Factory.
Ravine takes around 20 minutes to play, and is for 3-6 players.
In the game, you play the part of a survivor of a plane crash between Denver and Beijing. You are giving your ticket with your identity stated on it. What is more, as a character, you have a unique ability that can be used once during the game. You also start with three health, on beautiful wooden tokens, and a randomised number of additional health to a maximum of six hearts.
The game starts with night, and at night (for want of a better term) stuff goes wrong. It may be heavily raining, or wolves might attack, or hail stones, or simply an owl hooting as you contemplate the futility of your situation. Either way, something bad usually happens.
Then the game begins in full. During the day, you can openly trade items between players and go in any order. You pledge health to go foraging, with the number of health you have being the number of useful items (or not so useful items) you can pick up. This includes raw resources, hallucinatory mushrooms (more on that in a bit), or simple food for health. You can built huts and spears and baskets. You can build fires – all of which can make your life easier or make it easier to survive the night.
Then, night comes again. You have to survive the event and, if you have only one health remaining, you take a Madness card. Madness cards, which can also be acquired through certain items like hallucinatory mushrooms, are a brilliant addition to the game and are what make the game meta. They add in whole new dynamics, but more on that in a bit.
The rescue card is within the last four Night cards, so depending on the mode in which you play (easy, medium, or hard) that could be anywhere from card 5 to card 16. The number of Night cards scales with the difficulty level.
In the forests you either survive, or you die. Those are the only two options – and I am somewhat ashamed to say, dear reader, that (having played a few times), we have never won a game of Ravine. That being said, it is really enjoyable.
What is it like playing Ravine?
Oh wow. Where to begin with a game like Ravine?
You know, in a world where party games are really booming and blooming it is fantastic to see games like Ravine out there. Ravine clearly helps define one corner of the cooperative party game genre, and I have to admit that I find it hugely enjoyable. What is more, it is also an incredibly funny game that had us laughing our socks off.
At its core, Ravine is a survival game. It isn’t easy, and there is no doubt about it that there is a lot of luck wrapped up in the game. As such, Ravine is as much about luck mitigation through the management of resources as it is about actually surviving a plane crash in a forest. You have to manage your health precisely, and keep in mind that at any moment it may just disappear.
What this leads to is a collective team building experience. We found ourselves, on several occasions, buffing one player up to go and find us health as a whole, or judging when it would be best to put health on the line to find precious resources through foraging. We found ourselves having to gamble that, when you gather resources you spend your health, so hoping we found things that were truly useful. Sometimes, you put your last health on the line, so you can hope for more health. Around 40% of the time it paid off.
In its own right, it is a good game because of that. It is a good game because it forces you to think about the chances and really hope for the best. A single card can make or break a scenario, and that can be really exciting.
Then, there are the Madness cards, and this is where the game really shines.
For those who have played Spaceteam, you will be aware of how meta the game can get. You’re frantically shouting at each other to pass objects around the table, desperately trying to build a spaceship. That interaction that happens above the table adds a whole new dynamic and chaos to the game, turning it from a simple strategy game to something beautifully filled with pandemonium.
The Madness cards, similar to the fantastical chaos from Spaceteam, helps raise Ravine above the table.
So, what are the Madness cards? In Ravine, Madness cards add new conditions to the game. Unlike with the Night cards however, these are strictly personal to you, and they are constantly in play. What they do is add a new layer of meta to the game, and force you, as a player, to abide to specific conditions.
“Like what?” I hear you ask.
Well, the first and only madness card drawn in our first game was Pyromaniac. What it meant was that one player (me in this case) would steal all the wood and fibres I could get my hands on from other players. I would then burn all of it at once to create one giant fire that would burn for two days instead of one. Unfortunately, rain put it out the following night.
It sounds pretty basic, but it created a new level to the game, and from that moment we didn’t try to avoid drawing the cards. We had players calling themselves “Captain Cranberry”, we had players mimicking other players, we had players throwing their cards around the table, and we had players refer to everything as “Fluxlooser Inducer”.
I’ll tell you what, that may not sound that funny, but the first time someone calls a chanterelle mushroom a “Fluxlooser Inducer” around the table, you too will find yourselves revelling in the absurdity.
All-in-all, due to the amount of luck in the game, there is no doubt that Ravine will split audiences. There is a lot of luck and that isn’t always to everyone’s taste. That being said, if you don’t take it too seriously and you go with the story that is being told in front of you, the tale woven by Night, Foraging, and Madness, you will have a good time.
TL;DR – The Good, The Bad, and The Fluxlooser Inducer
Like all games we can break Ravine down to elements we believe are good, bad, and neutral points.
- The quality of the game is fantastic. We haven’t covered this in the review, but the tokens are wooden and the cards are of good stock. It is a well made game. Coincidentally, the artwork is also great.
- The concept is simple and fun. You have to survive a (slightly randomised) number of nights. You need to do so together.
- Ravine is a difficult game. It is a game where winning is not easy, but it is a game where losing can be just as much fun.
- The Madness cards add whole new dimension to Ravine, helping elevate the game play above the table. These cards also help stop min/maxing and help you get lost in the experience of playing the game.
- There could be more items that you could craft and more items available. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but it could help take the game beyond what it is.
- The amount of luck may put some players off, although the story you can end up telling around the game can counteract this. There are elements of push-your-luck, which some players may not like, but we enjoyed it.
- We can’t think of any negative points.
Conclusion: Ravine Review
In a world where party games are becoming more and more popular, I am really glad a game like Ravine exists. We have had a fantastic series of games playing Ravine and we have enjoyed every single one of them.
Ravine is a game that has a little bit of everything. Teamwork? Check. Simple strategy? Check. Push your luck? Check. Humour?
Well, there are so many humourous games out there now that rely on being rude or mocking others to be funny. Ravine uses the unexpected, and that is a welcoming change.
So, yes. All-in-all, Ravine is a game we are very happy to recommend.
So, what do you think? Have you played Ravine? Do you think it is the kind of game you would enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.
Other Party Games We Recommend:
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong