14 June 2022
You’ll feel a little lost
In the fantasy narrative adventure Lost Ones, players find themselves seemingly the only survivors of battle, stranded in the unknown lands. Armed with two storybooks and a stack of map tiles, they need to find a way for their characters to escape the dream lands before it is too late. They will need to explore each tile, uncovering its secrets while fighting monsters and facing other challenges to survive.
As a cooperative experience, Lost Ones is merciless. Your game ends if you run out of time, if you get stuck on the tiles and are unable to escape, if you die in a monster fight, run out of your action cards (which also act as your‘ health bar’) or perish at the hands of the game’s Big Bad the Nightmare. Luckily, there are also different ways to win – various tiles and challenges – which encourage multiple playthroughs of the game.
Most of the game will be spent exploring its tiles, which when assembled combine into a gorgeous map filled with different dream-like landscapes, settlements and magical creatures. The tile placement remains unchanged each game, so on the subsequent tries players can skip encounters and places irrelevant to their main task, instead heading to previously undiscovered tiles. For this reason, it may be worth playing several games in a row with the same group of people, until one of the winning conditions is discovered.
Action cards are the game’s main way to interact with the story. Each person starts with a certain number of cards, all containing various symbols representing actions they can take, like talk, fight or search. When moving onto a new tile, players will have a choice to interact with the location by discarding ability cards with matching symbols. However, they must be mindful of when they decide to use ability cards as they represent the character’s life and do not refill at the end of a turn. The more cards you spend, the more limited your choices become later in the round. If you run out or are unable to defend yourself in a fight – the game ends.
The first instinct is to interact with every tile in the game to make sure nothing is missed but you will soon learn that this won’t get you far in the game at all. And if you don’t run out of action cards, your distrust in the game will grow with each encounter. The dream lands are full of dangers and even the most innocent looking cute wild horse can turn into a demon, which tries to drown you in a nearby lake. Tiles can also lead to a foe encounter (which you will fight with ability cards), defeating which offers you no rewards beyond walking away with your life. Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you may get a Boon card and or clue to progress through the story. However, mostly it feels like you are spending lots of precious ability cards and getting very little in return.
In this lies the biggest dilemma of Lost Ones. On one hand, the game wants players to explore its map, learn its lore and make decisions that will make each play feel unique. At the same time, it punishes players who use its only element – ability cards – that allows them to interact and engage with the game. Without using ability cards, the whole game consists of turning one tile after another and reading its descriptions. The gameplay doesn’t feel just hard, but frustrating. You want to explore the world but Lost Ones just doesn’t let you do it.
PLAY IT? NO
In a narrative driven game, you want to explore the world, make decisions and shape your own journey. Yet Lost Ones makes it so hard for players to engage with its story, it is easy to lose the will to keep trying.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED T.I.M.E. STORIES
If you mastered the puzzles and stories of the past as part of T.I.M.E. agency, then perhaps you could crack the tough barrier behind which the story of Lost Ones is hiding.
Designer: Gordon Alford
Publisher: Greenbrier Games
Time: 45-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 40 Ability cards
- 20 Bane cards
- 32 Boon cards
- 12 Foe cards
- 3 Hero cards
- 1 Moon card
- 128 Map tiles
- 1 Storybook
- 48 Tokens
- 6 Standees
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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