Frostpunk: The Board Game: The Kotaku Review

Frostpunk: The Board Game: The Kotaku Review

I have saw again A lots of board games adaptations video games on This site, and for good reason: it’s the most intimate intersection of our board game and video game coverage. In almost every case, the key consideration has been how the board game feels compared to the original. What kind of concessions were made, how does it differ, does it match the video game in terms of mood, if not exact mechanics.

Frostpunk is different. It’s a massive board game that seeks, in almost every meaningful way, not to fit the video game to the table, but to bring it big, warts and all. It’s an ambitious undertaking if nothing else, but I’m also not sure if it’s worth all the effort.

And it’s an effort. When I first went to play the game I had at least 30 minutes to set it up when I started having sweats. I had spent half an hour painstakingly punching cards, reading the manual, and placing chips on the table and it looked like I had barely started. Did I do something wrong ? Was I just a very slow guy? After reading this Dicebreaker story titled “I spent an hour not setting up a board game and it made me question everything“It turns out not, luckily I’m fine, it’s the game that’s slow.

Photo: Luke Plunkett | Kotaku

Frostpunk is one of the most complex board games I’ve ever played, let alone put together (and that’s not just me talking, it has a 4.32/5 “weight” rating on BoardGameGeek, which is very high). There’s a seemingly endless array of tokens, several decks of cards that look alike but aren’t, and loads of different rules that bend and swing for each player. The most infuriating thing is that there are eight tables that you must follow.

Eight. Boards. That’s too many boards.

If you’re wondering why the board game version of a (relatively) simple city-builder must be so complicated, it’s because this edition of the game, for some reason, didn’t want to vaguely recreate the spirit of playing Frostpunk. He wants to recreate the whole thing, replacing table components with mouse clicks. Almost everything you can do in the video game, from politics to resource gathering to city-building quest expeditions, is here, and it works pretty much the same as it does on PC.

This is, in many ways, a staggering achievement. Once you’ve (eventually) mastered the game’s vast array of components, maps, and rules, it truly feels like playing Frostpunk, the nagging pressures and responsibilities of the digital wasteland seamlessly transplanted into the physical world. . Indeed, some of those pressures are even better here, as Frostpunk is a cooperative game, which means that you can be 2 to 4 of you (there is also a single player mode, but I didn’t play it) taking on different jobs in the city, working together while discussing every decision. If you thought social and political stuff was cool in video gaming, it’s great here since you’re basically acting out a lot of those debates in the flesh.

Yet in other ways it all seems a bit pointless? The board game cuts so close to the fabric of the video game that you sometimes wonder why you bother at all, since the video game does it all for you, without the arduous setup time or the constant consulting of the rules. Sure, it’s a more solitary experience, but there’s a time when that trade-off can be worth it, and for a lot of people, myself included, that time can come when you’re hours into a single game and you’re not even close to finishing it.

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Photo: Luke Plunkett | Kotaku

At least some of this setup is worth it. The game comes with a huge plastic recreation of The Generator, which not only looks amazing in the middle of the table, but also has real gameplay use, as players have to drop coal into it almost every turn while they play, an act that rivals the robotic mining of Deep Rock Galactic as one of the most satisfying physical actions in recent board game history.

And, in a very rare case for these reviews, I want to salute the game’s documentation. For some reason, most board game rules in 2023 still suck, but Frostpunk, despite the complexity and scale of the game, never let us down.

There’s a very specific type of person for this game. Someone who loves Frostpunk but feels lonely while playing, or someone who’s never played video games but is intrigued by density and politics offered here. Sadly I was neither of those people, I found its setup time and length too long, but as I said I can at least appreciate the effort of exhaustive design that has been devoted to the approach taken here, if nothing else.


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