Finding your way home may be one hell of a nightmare!
•Publisher: Greenbrier Games
•Designer: Gordon Alford
•Artists: Matt Forsyth / Paperhead / Steven Preisman
•Sweet Spot: 3-4
•Mechanics: Co-Op / Choose Your Own Adventure / Tile Laying / Hand Management / Storytelling
With a whimsical explosion of interactive storytelling, Lost Ones immerses you in an unfamiliar world of color and magic, where every tense and meaningful decision you make will unfurl your fate before you. Captured and desperate to return to your reality, you are immediately tasked with exploring this untamed realm for a way to escape. Time is of the essence though, as you are stalked by the unrelenting Nightmare. Choose wisely with what and whom you interact! In this dreamscape of endless turmoil and wonder, the choices made will determine whether you find your way or find yourselves forever the Lost Ones!
Brooks: You just HAD to open that creepy, underground door, didn’t you, Kitty?! You couldn’t help yourself!
Kitty: But, the pretty vampire lady made it sound harmless!
Lizzy: Yeah… if by pretty you mean pretty shady, and if by harmless you mean completely untrustworthy!
Brooks: Yeah, she was suss from the get-go and you know it. But then again… I thought those talking trees were up to no good, but that turned out okay. And that is the beauty of Lost Ones. The story of your group’s harrowing escape will twist and branch out into the unknown: who you trust, where you step, what you eat, and how you fight are just a few of the concepts that determine your fate.
Lizzy: Exactly! From the second that BoardGameGirlJess brought it to our attention, we were immediately intrigued. With an understanding that it is a somewhat consumable game, we were extremely interested in the combination of that aspect, mixed with storytelling, plus a timer-esque hand of cards, as well as it being a co-op adventure. This mash-up of our favorite mechanics led to raucously fun experiences with a barrage of tense “should I or shouldn’t I” moments.
Kitty: If you’re familiar with Tales of Arabian Nights or Betrayal at House on the Hill, most of these mechanics will be familiar to you. Exploration and story interaction is key, and similar to Gloomhaven, your hand of cards can be exhausted, each card also being your means of unlocking interactions and progressing the story. This helps make the game not be consumable in one fell swoop since it’s impossible to do everything without emptying your hand, losing everyone the game. You may also rest to refill your hand, but that will advance the moon clock… which upon reaching the track’s end will cause you to lose. Oh, and triggering a fight and discovering you don’t have the proper cards for battle… lose! Get caught by the nightmare: lose. Yeah… it’s not a walk in the park!
Lizzy: No, it’s not! And that challenge is what drives the story and maintains the tension. Your goal is to find one of the various mystical doorway trees scattered across the land, as well as the keys to unlock it. Some tiles trigger automatic interactions such as fights, nightmares, lava, ice, or fae rings. The effects of these vary and rewards are intrinsically tied to the peril in which you may encounter while weaving your troupe’s tale of escape.
Brooks: The lore of the world in which you find yourself at the start of the game is a quilt made up of a variety of magic, fantasy, and mythology references. This blends together in a wonderfully, dizzying, dreamlike display of creativity. Ancient warring factions, fairy tale legends, Slavic folklore, and mythological fables are some of the ingredients in this story-time stew!
Kitty: Yes! I had a hard time not falling in with Titania or the vampires! With the world provided being so vast and beautifully tempting, it was hard to not want to run amok. Luckily the restraints of the mechanics help guide you to your goal so you avoid freely making a mess of things and dying early (which, trust, can still happen!) Spreading out somewhat at the start, then focusing on a common goal is the key to success.
Lizzy: Beautifully tempting is right! And that applies to the artwork as well. The tiles and card art contain a fantastic splash of color and detail. Tiles have intricate features on them relating to the story attached to each one. And the storybook is awash in watercolor backdrops relating to each scene depicted. Also, the cards are linen finish, but we do hope the thickness is increased for the player cards in the final product. For us, diversity and representation is always a paramount topic when reviewing and buying games. As of the playtest copy that we have, the female to male ratio is 50/50 which is wonderful. We would definitely like to see additional characters added in the final product that represent different races though.
Brooks: For sure! The world provided is expansive, so doubling the cast of characters would be an easy feat. We would love to see other races represented, as well as some androgynous characters possibly. We found Will to be the easiest to replace, seeing as he was a basic, Frodo Baggins-looking white guy with a weaker player-power. We feel the amazing artists involved with Lost Ones could come up with some awesomely diverse player-character alternatives. Like we always say: we all want to see ourselves represented in our passions!
Kitty: Yes, please! Also, Lost Ones seems like a very easily expandable game! Any addition of alternative tiles or replaceable regions would skyrocket the re-playability value, steering it out of semi-consumable territory. It’s also great that it can be played solo, providing a low-maintenance, relaxing, story-telling experience. As a group, we feel 3-4 players is the sweet spot, and the fact that each player can use their own cards to help another player, leads to a wealth of player interaction.
Lizzy: As for remote play, it was a breeze. Even with only one copy, the experience was seamless. All cards are public and shared, and all tiles are numbered, as well as having all interactions numbered or labeled otherwise. Brooksby is our designated reader for most games, and was for this as well, causing both sides to be equally engaged. Lost Ones provides a beautifully written tale to weave together with your friends. Embody your characters and make thoughtful decisions, working together to create a fully engrossing experience. Oh, and don’t be wooed by every pretty vampire or fairy queen you meet!
Kitty: I feel personally attacked! Although that sense of wonder around every corner and questioning your trust in everyone you encounter is the best part. You’ll find yourselves exploring your own creativity as much as you explore the lands of Lost Ones.
Brooks: Lost Ones will light your imagination on fire. Find your way out. Trust no one… or everyone. Take chances… or play it safe. Embrace the magic. Get Lost!
Kitty: 8/10 ~ Lizzy: 8.5/10 ~ Brooks: 8/10
Lost ~ Dermot Kennedy
Out of the Woods ~ Taylor Swift
Running Wild ~ Billy Raffoul
Find Someone ~ A R I Z O N A
Lost in Space ~ Emmit Fenn
Missing You ~ Ingrid Michaelson
Goodbye So Many Times ~ Nightmare and the Cat
The Search for Cherry Red ~ The Kills
In the Woods Somewhere ~ Hozier
Leave What’s Lost Behind ~ Colony House
Lose You Again ~ WALK THE MOON/BRAVES
Find ~ Shallou/Kasbo/Cody Lovaas
Magic ~ Wrabel
Lost ~ Blake Rose
You Had Your Soul With You ~ The National
Lost in Translation ~ Reece
Nightmare ~ Lillian Hepler
Sight of You ~ Arctic Lake
Lost Without You ~ Freya Ridings
Find You ~ Nick Jonas
Lost That Easy ~ Cold War Kids
Hide ~ Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Missing You ~ NIGHT TRAVELER
This is not a paid review! We just love highlighting awesome games and designers!