In Ravine, there’s a card that commands you to ignore your fellow players – together survivors of a plane crash surviving in the wilderness – unless they constantly address you as Captain Cranberries. It’s a funny gag. At least, it is the first time.
Ravine is a party game that leans very much on the ‘party’ side of that phrase. Its portrayal of harrowing against-the-odds endurance is as minimalist as its clean presentation, with players spending their limited health to forage through a deck of cards in search of resources and food to recover spent hearts, holding out for their eventual rescue – or the more likely prospect of death.
Even as you inevitably succumb, there are plenty of small touches to appreciate: the simple risk-reward way of balancing health and scavenging; the wry descriptions of the bugs, animals and plant life you’ll chow down on to stay alive; the basic but effective crafting system that grants some protection from the night cards drawn between rounds; the extremely silly ‘madness’ effects applied when at death’s door (hug a player until you recover, sing every sentence, shout out your biggest fear repeatedly until someone says your full name, etc.).
The swish look, lighthearted tone and fast pace mean that it’s relatively easy at first to overlook the fact that what you’re basically doing is drawing cards at random and seeing what happens. Once you’ve seen what there is to see during the course of a handful of games, the jokes quickly start to wear thin and the lack of control over your fate – not to mention the common occurrence of player elimination – can begin to frustrate.
Ravine will go down a storm with the right crowd at the right time. We’d be lying if we said early rounds didn’t leave us all laughing at our misfortune and willing to immediately play again. Once we’d had our fill, though, the hunger for something more substantial quickly returned.
PLAY IT? – MAYBE
Designer: Mathew Sisson
Artist: Mathew Sisson
Time: 20 minutes
This review originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.