The Storm of the Century is blowing through Siberia. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for you’re in Outpost 1, the first science station in the frozen wasteland. Now your team is stuck there for at least a month and there are strange noises mixed in with the howling winds. Something’s not right and it looks like you’ve got more to worry about than just making sure you have enough food and water to last until the storm blows over.
Outpost Siberia is a cooperative game played with a single deck of cards. 5 of these cards are the characters play as, while the rest of the deck is made up of multifunction cards that represent equipment, events, threats, and combat values.
After choosing characters, players create an Expedition deck using all the games creatures and a varying amount of Good Events and Bad events depending on the difficulty level they wish to play. This deck is placed with the blue half of the card back turned up. The unused Good and Bad Event cards are shuffled to create and Outpost pile and are placed with the orange half of the card back turned up.
Each round players will decide what order to take their turns in, then each player takes the following actions during their turn:
- Draw Outpost Cards (mandatory): Draw two cards from the Outpost deck. Keep one to use for its Combat Value and place the other to a public supply as an Equipment Card
- Combat a Threat (optional): Play as many cards from your hand to a Threat on the table.
- Use Equipment Cards (optional): Any amount of Equipment Cards may be played from the public supply. Weapons can be used to finish off Threats who’s health has been reduced to zero using Combat Value cards (the Threat and all cards attached to it are discarded). First Aid Kits can be used to restore health.
- Reveal an Expedition card (mandatory): Draw an Expedition card and resolve it
- If the card is a Threat then a single player who hasn’t been exhausted yet must take the amount of damage shown.
- If the card is a Good or Bad Event the players must pay the required Food or Water requirement from the supply and resolve the card text and discard it. If the players don’t have the proper payment, one player must take 1 point of damage.
- Exhaust Character (mandatory): Turn the current player’s Character Card sideways to show their turn has been taken.
Once each player has taken their turn the Round ends and any active Threats that have an ability that resolves at the end of the Round does so. All Characters are refreshed and the players choose their play order and start again. The players win the game if they can survive until the Expedition Deck runs out. They lose if any player dies.
Outpost Siberia comes in a small metal tin with an insert that makes sure the health counters and deck of cards stay put when the game is stored. The cards are all of a quality paper stock and are wonderfully illustrated with a survival horror look and feel. As stated above, the Expedition Cards are multifunction to keep the number of cards in the game down, and the graphic design makes each card clear and easy to understand no matter what its current use is in game. Even the cards backs feature a blue and orange side so it’s clear to see which deck your drawing from as the game progresses.
At first Outpost Siberia, with its metal tin and a small deck of cards, looks like it might just be another light filler to keep on your shelf. It isn’t until reading the rules, and actually digging into the game, that you realize it’s a brutally hard cooperative game with plenty of planning, choices, and strategy to be had. Every action taken can mean life or death as pretty much every turn players are brought to the brink of death only to be saved by clever card play. There’s even a slight deckbuilding mechanic in there as every card discarded will eventually come back in the players’ draw pile as Combat Value or Equipement Cards. This means that specific resolution of Threats becomes important in the long run of play. You’ll need every advantage at your disposal to make sure that not only Threats are taken care of, but that you also have enough food and water to resolve events that pop up.
The game is tough even on its easiest setting, though not unbeatable. The more it’s played the more you start to figure out the ins and outs of the game, though the struggle to survive is still real. It’s truly impressive how much is packed into such a relatively small deck of cards. At $20 you’ll certainly be getting a lot of bang for your buck. IDW Games certainly impresses with Outpost Siberia, a game that pretty much came out of nowhere with little fanfare.
A copy of Outpost Siberia was provided free for this review.