It's a rough -- very rough -- life on board the experimental gnomish submarine BFGS Red November. Fires are breaking out everywhere, flooding keeps happening, the reactor is overheating, hull pressure is going critical, hatches keep seizing up, the missiles may be launching -- and hey, is that a Kraken outside the sub? It'll take all the players working together to survive -- and they still might not -- in Red November, a board game from Fantasy Flight Games.

The players in Red November represent sailors on the doomed sub, and time is both their salvation and enemy. The players win if they make it to the end of the time track without the sub getting destroyed. However, as they spend their time (moving and performing actions), events keep happening -- and those events are quite bad.

During a player's turn they can move (typically 1 minute to open a hatch and move into another room on the sub), then perform an action to slow down a disaster, such as putting out a fire or fixing the oxygen pumps. (Players can also get items or grog, both of which can be helpful.) A player spends 1-10 minutes on their action (possibly discarding item cards for a bonus), then rolls a 10-sided die. If they roll less than or equal to the time (plus item) spent on the action, the disaster is averted (for the time being); if they roll higher, they failed and lost the time. A player then makes a faint check (if they drank grog) to see if they fall unconscious. Then the events happen.

As a player allocates their time, a Time Keeper counter moves forward on the time track running on the edge of the board. When the player is done with actions, their counter moves forward to the Time Keeper -- and each time their counter passes an event spot, an event card gets played. A fire may break out in a random room, advancing the Asphyxiation Track Marker; a random room may flood; the Pressure Track or Heat Track may advance; a room may flood, or a Timed Destruction Event may start. If the Asphyxiation, Pressure, or Heat tracks reach the end, the crew is killed. If a Timed Event isn't fixed in time, the crew is killed. Also, fires, flooded rooms, and blocked hatches may make it tough-to-impossible for the crew to reach the rooms to fix the problems. Other events can block hatches or force discards. And if a flood or fire break out in a room where a character fainted, that character dies! The benign "Respite" card is the only one that doesn't cause problems for the players.

Red November is a fine combination of strategy and luck. Players will have to make some sort of plan to keep the ship intact long enough to win (usually spreading out to reach the different rooms), but the different disasters (and failues to fix them) will keep every player on their toes. While the scenario sounds grim, there's a frantic goofiness to the artwork and cards. And this revised edition of Red November has a much bigger board than the original version, making it far easier to keep track of where everyone (and every disaster) is. Red November is a great example of a cooperative game that's always challenging for the players, no matter how often they play. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stop the missile launch again...

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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