Lost Ones Kickstarter Preview
Greenbrier Games‘ newest crowdfunding campaign for Lost Ones launched last Tuesday, October 13th and has already raised twice its original funding goal. Lost Ones is a standalone follow-up to Of Dreams & Shadows and immerses players in a familiar world but gives them new game mechanics and a brand new story to uncover. While there are ties to the previous game through the reappearance of old characters and mention of previous events, but is otherwise it’s own tale. What it will do for fans of the previous game and its expansion Of Dreams & Shadows: The Monster Within is provide a broader picture of the world, deeper lore, and additional context for what they’ve already experienced.
Players will take on the role of one of four young characters who’ve been kidnapped and taken to the Otherworld, the realm of the Fae, for reasons unknown. Their only desire is to find a way to return home. If they have hope of getting home, they’ll have to learn how to navigate the Otherworld and avoid becoming collateral damage in the war between warring factions of Fae.
But we knew all of that already from our interview with the game’s designer, Gordon Alford. Earlier this week, we received our demo copy to experience a demo section of Lost Ones for ourselves, and I must say that I’m throughly impressed.
Following a growing trend along with games like 7th Continent and Tainted Grail, Lost Ones is a game driven by exploration and discovery. However, unlike the other examples, Lost Ones is driven primarily by exploration and storytelling with a choose your own adventure approach, rather than a puzzle based metagame. The map itself is comprised of beautifully illustrated 60x60mm cards that are revealed one at a time as players explore adjacent locations. Each location will have its own Storybook entry that allows players to interact with each map tile to learn about the world, advance the plot, and choose from a set number of actions that result in new story options.
Every entry in the storybook ends with a series of story related choices that players can choose between. The available actions for each location uses a series of symbols that coincide with the ability cards that make up a player’s hand. In order to take a storybook action and explore deeper into a location, players will have to discard an ability card from their hand containing a symbol that matches the one in the storybook action. These symbols represent what the characters will be doing to use said action.
For example, a dialogue bubble icon tells the player that in order to choose that storybook action, players must discard an ability card with the same symbol on it in order to talk to an NPC and progress through the session.
Much of the game’s challenge is in learning when to spend an ability card. The total number of ability cards a player can have depends on the total number of people playing. A solo player has a max hand of seven cards. A group of two players has six, three has five, and four has four. With each additional player in your group, the hand size decreases by one, forcing you to rely on each other much more. If any player runs out of ability cards, then it’s game over for the entire group. If players are too aggressive in how they interact with the world, they’re likely to just exhaust themselves and fail altogether.
During a round, players have the opportunity to take three actions before the turn order moves on to the next player. These actions are:
- Explore: When a player explores a new area, they place a new map tile adjacent to their current location, move to the new map area, and read the introduction to the new storybook encounter.
- Move: move to an orthogonally adjacent map tile that has already been revealed.
- Perform a Storybook Action: While in any given location, players can spend a card from their hand (as described above) to execute the action. Players are then directed to resolution text at the back of the story book that gives them rewards, challenges, or clues accordingly.
- Activate a Boon Card: Boon cards are special rewards that can grant either active of passive bonuses to a character. As an action, players can spend one of their actions to activate one of these boon cards. However, they can only be activated once per moon phase so their use will need to be timed wisely.
In some instances, exploring a location will reveal the option for players to rest, granting them the ability to redraw ability cards. Although, nothing in Lost Ones comes free. Any time that players rest to redraw their ability cards, they must advance the Moon Clock. If the Moon Clock ever reaches the fifth space, too much time has passed and the lost ones will be lost forever.
Each phase of the Moon Clock brings new effects. The game begins in the first moon phase. When it reaches the second phase, The Nightmare moves one map tile toward the nearest character. In the third phase, The Nightmare moves two spaces closer instead of just one. Likewise, the fourth phase increases that movement to three. If the group has managed to evade danger long enough to stay alive to this point, entering the fifth moon phase is will trigger the end of the game and a player loss.
Many of the map tiles contain a variety of red icons in the bottom right corner that triggers additional effects when players move into those spaces. One of these is the dreaded Raven icon. The first time a Raven appears, The Nightmare gets added to the board. From that point on, any time a Raven icon appears, The Nightmare moves one space closer to the nearest player. If The Nightmare ever enters the same location as another player, they are snatched up, lost forever, and the game ends.
Other statuses such as Bane, Blizzard, Lava, and Underwater have effects that force players to discard ability cards from their hand. In the instance where a player moves into a space that has the Battle icon, they must reveal the top card of the foe deck and enter battle.
Combat works in much in the same way that storybook actions do. In order to defeat an enemy, players must spend ability cards with symbols that match those on the foe card. If players are unable to defeat the foe, the game is lost.
The artwork in Lost Ones is a range of magical colors and ethereal designs. The map tiles are whispy hues of purples and greens, like a fantastic fog of war, disorienting our heroes. The vibrant colors really help bring the Otherworld to life and make it feel like players have been swept away to a magical world. With each newly revealed tile comes new artwork to immerse players into the Otherworld.
Lost Ones is the type of game that proves you don’t have to have to have thirty different types of cards and a box full of minis as a stretch goal. Its simplistic nature is its greatest. Alford’s goal wasn’t to woo players into an overly complex game with a thousand pieces. Instead, he managed to create a magical storytelling game filled with dark whimsy and intrigue. Lost Ones accessible nature makes it an excellent game for the family to enjoy together.
If you’re interested in backing Lost Ones, its Kickstarter campaign is live now and runs until Monday November 2nd.