It is 1888. Sherlock Holmes and a clandestine fraternity of intrepid Victorian heroes succeeded in vanquishing the Old Ones and driving them from Europe and America. Intrepid prospectors set out to discover new lands and resources and land on what was soon to be called Australia.
But untold riches in coal, iron, and gold were not all that awaited them on this new continent…
AuZtralia has an interesting mix of classic Eurogame elements like worker placement and resource management and Ameritrash (which isn’t necessarily as derogatory as it sounds) elements like some luck based card drawing for combat mechanics and a heavy theme.
Each of your turns requires you to place a cube on your player board to indicate which of the actions represented on it you are taking that turn. Each action has a time cost, and time is the most precious resource in AuZtralia – as it is in real life! There is a literal countdown clock on the edge of board, the end of which signals end game scoring.
All players, whether playing solo or with the maximum of four, are competing against the Old Ones, who also get a VP score, for ultimate victory. And if you’re playing with two or more players (in a mode other than Full Cooperative), you are also competing against one another for ultimate victory.
The twist is that you will likely have to cooperate regardless of the game mode to ensure the Old Ones don’t win! Their score is determined by the number of remaining Old One tiles on the board, so it behooves you all to work together and thin their numbers as much as possible.
The time tracker is a particularly well designed mechanic of the game. The colored disc on the lowest number (furthest back) is the active player who is able to take their turn – which will, of course, move them forward on the track.
When the lowest numbered space on the track holds multiple discs, the topmost disc is the active player. So in some cases you may have to wait a few…maybe even several minutes between some of your turns. But at the same time, that is usually followed up with two consecutive turns so it evens out a bit.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on AuZtralia
The components in AuZtralia are top notch. Every cardboard component has beautifully rendered art on on both sides, and they are far from flimsy. The cards have a linen finish; something some gamers dislike, but I find that the texture is not only tactilely pleasing, but makes the cards easier to shuffle and draw.
The gold, coal, and phosphate resource bits have irregular angles and different finishes, while the iron bars are, appropriately enough, rectangular. Beats the heck out of yet another game overflowing with nothing but cubes of various colors!
This is where the Euro/Ameritrash mashup really shines. All of the resources on the board are limited and determined randomly each game during the setup, so competition for them is high. And once you’ve collected them, you’ve got to spend them wisely to defeat the various Old Ones and claim the continent in the name of humanity.
The only element of luck in the game arises during combat and the movement of the Old Ones on their turn. The cards determine which revealed Old Ones move, which military units deal them damage, which military units take damage from them, and when players lose a Sanity token.
The luck of the draw can certainly determine whether you best the beast or need to mount a strategic retreat!
AuZtralia is beautiful, from the massive, double-sided board to the small 1 3/8 inch tiles (which are also double-sided, by the way!). The Personality, Revelation, and Objective cards also feature eye-pleasing art on their faces.
There’s not much that isn’t pretty. A few of the components are your standard fair wooden cubes and discs, but everything else received a lot of art attention.
I love it when a game gives me lots of play options. AuZtralia features at least five different ways to play:
- Standard Play Mode
- Solo Mode
- Two Player Variant Mode
- Full Co-Op Mode
- And a reverse side to the map with different features
If you toss in different difficulties and start mixing and matching, you’ve got lots of replayability – with or without friends!
No familiarity with Cthulhu lore is necessary to have a grand ole time, either. I had next to none and love this game. Plus, the rulebook offers descriptions and a little lore for each of your Old One adversaries if you’re curious. Who knows? Maybe this’ll springboard you into even more Lovecraftian goodness!
I’ve played this game at various difficulties and with a number of different players, and I gotta tell you that it rocks them all. Heck, I even think the set-up for the game is fun – even if it is a little long in the tooth.
Solo mode flies by in an easy 30-40 minutes, and while playing with a full table of four does take 2 or more hours, it is enjoyable.
I asked my gaming group what they thought, and they had a hard time coming up with something negative. And I game with some fairly critical folks (they wouldn’t mind me saying that…I hope)! The closest thing they came up with was the gap between some of their turns, but they also totally dig the time mechanic in general, so it was a consequence they were willing to endure for the sake of flavor.
Australia: Fun Down Under
Martin Wallace, SchilMil Games, and Stronghold Games knocked it out of the park with this Kickstarted tabletop gem. Nothing feels out of place, overlooked, tacked on, or un- or underdeveloped.
This definitely receives the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness. There is a whole lot to love about this Euro/Ameritrash mashup. You can snag a copy for around $50 on Amazon right now – money well spent.
The Old Ones cannot regain a foothold. Not in Australia. Not anywhere. Do your part to make sure Holmes’ efforts are not wasted. Take it to the Old Ones Down Under today!