It’s the early 20th century. You have decided to sail back to the newly discovered seventh continent to attempt to lift the terrible curse that has struck you since your return from the previous expedition. The 7th Continent utilizes a novel card system to create a sprawling choose-your-own-adventure and exploration game.
Wait a minute, didn’t this game come out 3 years ago? Why are you reviewing it now? Thank you for raising your hand, and yes, that is an excellent question! Well, you may have heard through the rumblings of board game media that the spiritual successor to The 7th Continent, entitled The 7th Citadel is live on Kickstarter right now! We hope that this review can provide an extra air of confidence with your decision to either back that project, or not.
Please note, this is a spoiler-free review of The 7th Continent, however, we do show photos from the Voracious Goddess Curse (1st main curse) including it’s starting tile, the curse card, and other components that are used throughout gameplay. You will literally see these cards and components sometime between removing the shrinkwrap from your game and the very beginning of your first main session.
How to Play The 7th Continent
- Choose an action from your adventure card, adjacent exploration card, your hand, inventory, satchel or journal.
- Decide how many cards from the Action deck to draw (these cards feature stars and potential bonus stars) based off the difficulty of the action. You may use an item from your inventory to boost your chances of success.
- Reveal the action cards and count up the stars and bonus stars.
- Resolve the success or failure.
- Optionally, choose 1 drawn Action card to add to your hand.
- Discard the remaining Action cards to a Discard pile.
- Once the Action deck runs out, you continue on as usual, except, when resolving actions, you instead draw directly from the Discard pile. If you ever reveal a curse card from the discard pile, the curse consumes you and you “lose the game” (maybe… – more on this later)
That is pretty much the entire game, and yes, it really is as simple as it sounds.
The actions you can take vary from resting, moving, searching, hunting, exploring, crafting items, and much much more. You may even discover some secret actions that aren’t even listed in the rulebook or reference boards.
Along the way you will need to make some difficult choices, not only with how you manage your limited Action cards (which can be replenished by eating, resting, and other things), but whether you want to even do the action at all. An action you take, may have dire consequences that could impact you for the entire rest of the game.
Your goal is simple. Lift the curse, but you are given very little direction on how to do it besides some cryptic text and maybe an old hand drawn map, for example. It is up to you to figure it out.
My Experience With The 7th Continent
I don’t have any data to back up this claim, but I am fairly certain that I have played this game more than any other game in my collection.
This is in part because it is long and epic game (one of the 11 curses, took us nearly 30 hours to complete). It is also in part because (spoiler alert!) I love this game!
I have technically only completed 3 curses, so, my most played game, possibly ever, is still in many ways undiscovered.
All of my playthroughs came at the player count of 2, my wife and I, and we included all possible expansion content in each of our curses.
For reference, this expansion content includes:
The big box expansion What Goes Up Must Come Down which adds additional playable curses, exploration cards, items, and events.
The Flying Roots expansion which adds a mysterious flying root that shows up throughout your game.
The Facing the Elements expansion which adds weather effects.
The Comfort Creatures expansion which adds additional discoverable companions.
The Fear the Devours expansion which adds rockworms that can occasionally spring up from the ground.
The Path of Repentance micro-expansion which adds additional cards and a side-quest to the main game.
I also have all the extra curses that aren’t included in the base game or the big box expansion.
Each of these different expansions adds unique elements to deal with and all work to add variety and intrigue to the base experience.
Serious Poulp has recently released a retail edition of The 7th Continent made up of fewer cards and less goodies. While this edition acts a great entryway to the game with a smaller, more compact, streamlined experience and at a fraction of the cost, there are some things in my game that would not be in the retail edition (Kickstarter exclusives, for example).
Some of these items and expansion materials do appear to be available directly through Serious Poulp.
The 7th Continent Review Scores
If you’re curious how we come up with our grades and scores, you can learn more about that by reading our board game review guidelines.
Artwork & Graphic Design: 7/10
- The graphic design implements the success system extremely well, and, in general, works to ease the game’s learning curve.
- The artwork is fitting for an adventure game of this nature, which is much more based in reality versus fantasy.
- There are many small details that needed to be emphasized within the artwork itself, including hidden numbers, plants, birds, footprints, and more. These are done extremely well and can be easily differentiated from similar items, despite their small scale.
- The artwork overall is just serviceable and doesn’t do anything to wow you.
- The graphic design, while working quite well to enhance the streamlined action system, utilize a massive number of icons and this makes it feel overwhelming at times.
Complexity & Teachability: 9/10
- The game is very easy to teach because the rules are simple and a majority of the game’s intricacies are discovered over time.
- The ratio of game to complexity is phenomenally high.
- The teachability and lack of initial complexity often is forgotten during the mid-game, as you begin to forget simple rules and exceptions things that weren’t quite taught to you or emphasized to you in the beginning of the game.
- The action system is incredibly simple and accomplishes a lot with very little. The threat you feel as your life begins to dwindle. The constant push and pull between trying to survive and trying to explore just a little bit more. Incredible.
- The choose your-own-adventure aspects feel both nostalgic and fresh at the same time.
- Micro-puzzles, secret numbers, and other goodies also gives it a feel of an elaborate escape room.
- Every decision you make not only feels important but IS important. Just when you think you’ve grown accustom to an action and it’s potential outcomes, there is something there to surprise you. So you think that one minor thing you saw hours ago meant nothing at all? I wouldn’t go letting your guard down just yet…
- Manages to capture the essence of a role-playing video game in the vein of Bethesda Games (A.K.A Microsoft’s Newest 7.5 Billion Dollar Baby).
- The XP system in this game is extremely satisfying. You gain XP and then you can use it to buy Advanced Skill Cards to add to your action deck. This allows you to a) survive longer with additional cards in your deck and b) have some awesome new tools at your disposal.
- XP gain is rare so you’ll be excited when you get a chance to get some. It is also rare to get the chance to spend the XP, but the juice is worth the squeeze as they say.
- Since the same cards used to control your action success also account for your life remaining, the decision of how many cards to take always feels critical.
- There is also a difficult balance between holding equipment in your hand/inventory versus letting things go to the discard pile, where they will hopefully be reshuffled back into the action deck. If you hoard too many items, you will find yourself with a very slim action deck, even when you are doing a great job of hunting/fishing to replenish your life.
- The journal allows you to hold a wealth of knowledge, special skills, clues, maps, and more. Looking at it will make you feel like you have truly the mastered the continent (even though you haven’t – see next point).
- Survival in this game is extremely difficult. Let me rephrase that. You are going to die. Sometimes, the risk of death is too much, to the point where it makes you feel like you can’t even really enjoy all the exploration you want to do.
- I would be at fault if I didn’t mention that this game is entirely language dependent and it is ONLY available in English, French, and German.
- Despite having a clear loss state defined in the rulebook, there are alternate rules to handle your losses depending on your tastes, where to begin with this information is very much a shot in the dark, especially without the help of others who have played previously. It is a very uncomfortable feeling that something so important as the win/loss state is not so concrete, and worst of all, when the recommended way to play the game is better at deterring players from playing instead of wanting them to come back for more. The best way to handle it is to honestly look at the alternate options right away, and not just those in the rulebook, those on Board Game Geek forums, and you might even have to make up your own house rule on how you will handle if the suggested alternatives don’t fit your needs.
- The characters, while they do have a unique set of action cards that are usable by them and only them, the base character abilities are either a little too specific or a little too similar to make it feel really different when switching between characters. This is especially true if you can’t or don’t want to take advantage of a player specific card that you see from the action deck.
Game Length: 6/10
- The recommended session of the game is 60-90 minutes. This feels perfect to satiate your want to play the game and keeping you eagerly awaiting future sessions. The session time also plays an important part in gameplay, because saving/resting allows the respawn of animals and other things that will likely aide in your survival.
- The length of time the game takes to “complete” is not for everyone. Curses range anywhere from a couple of hours to 20+ hours and if you don’t want to commit to playing long campaigns, you will have a difficult time enjoying this one.
- Perhaps even more important than the game length, is the length of time in between play sessions. It’s one of those games that if you stop playing it during the middle of a curse, you will slowly lose motivation to come back to it. So much of the game is learning about the environment, discovering hints about your curse, and how to beat it. If enough time goes by between sessions, you will inevitably forget some details and feel somewhat disconnected from that particular adventure.
- If you play strictly by the proposed rules in the rulebook, the length of this game can be absolutely demoralizing. You could die, literally 20 hours into the curse, AND have to start over from SCRATCH! Granted, as mentioned previously, there are “alternative” methods to handle this, but it’s still genuinely unpleasant that you either have to choose to play in a way other than the way the designer intended or you have to spend those hours playing again. The kicker is that if you play with an alternate loss state, that juicy survival tension and push-your-luck element feels a bit truncated. In the end, I can’t recommend the proposed death means restarting method. There are just too many good games out there to spend time completely replaying such a lengthy campaign because of some bad card draws or even a mistake you can take ownership of. Sorry for the rant here.
- Cards are fairly good quality and they need to be, because you will shuffle, and I mean a lot. It should be noted that they shuffle extremely well for square shaped cards (so long as you orient them properly).
- The storage box, card separators and game-saving components are good quality and make the setup/teardown super easy.
- The box is quite large, heavHopefully they will look into further localization down the line as this game is a my and just generally awkward-shaped. I don’t know that they could have done much about that since there are such a massive number of cards in this game and they don’t really waste any space in the box.
- The miniatures are just OK quality, they are super small (which again, is necessary for scale) and while they are nice to have, they lack details, add very little to the game, and don’t really make the game look more attractive.
- When there are this many cards, there are bound to be misprints and errata. In most games, it’s an easy fix. Unfortunately, almost all of these will go completely unnoticed unless it is game-breaking OR if you have the errata card PDF printed and scan over it every time you select a new adventure card (no thanks). Plus the errata needs to expose you to spoilers to even be useful.
Replayability & Scalability: 7/10
- The curses are completely replayable and it is likely you will have a very unique experience each time you play the same curse because there are multiple outcomes to many events and the open-world allows you to find multiple ways to reach landmark locations. They did an excellent job making it a campaign-style game that can be played over and over again if one so chooses.
- They have rules that allow players to be added in or drop out relatively seamlessly. Such a nice and important inclusion that makes playing it at the recommended player counts possible… Although…
- The game is REALLY just a 1-2 player game. It has co-operative rules for up to 4 but the time commitment and the lack of definitive turn-order rules would make this a rough go at 4. Even at 2, we often have issues deciding who will be active player for this turn and why, I can only imagine the struggles at 4.
- The rulebook is only 23 pages, which I think is incredibly short considering the verbose nature of this game.
- The rulebook is well broken down and includes plenty of images and examples.
- Steps you through the gameplay nicely and allows you to more-or-less learn as you go.
- The paper quality of the rulebook is great, it has texture and an earthy tone that makes it feel like an old explorer’s manual. It’s a small thing, but I appreciate it.
- There is a handy chart that tells you the “odds” of success given any number of likely to occur scenarios, this is a nice reference to have, but…
- I personally am mixed on whether that chart is a positive thing (although I can still appreciate it’s inclusion). For me, the chart makes the whole action-system feel more mechanical and mathematical. Not to mention it’s a bit less handy being in the middle of the rulebook as opposed to the back page, where you can keep the rulebook closed and still reference it.
- There are some nuances that are just not mentioned in the rulebook. It is hard to knock them for this because it is a game of discovery and they can’t go too much in depth to every little rule, at risk of spoiling the fun. But you will inevitably have some questions as you play, you will reference the rulebook, and you will find zilch about it. Luckily The 7th Continent website has a bunch of FAQ, guides, videos, and other resources that can help you along, and all with spoiler tags to boot.
Setup & Teardown: 9/10
- The save-game rules and components make this game a breeze to setup and teardown between sessions. It takes 5 minutes or less almost every time.
- Initial storage of the game is a real headache, especially with all the expansions. So much sorting by numbers and sliding cards into their numerically ordered spots. It is also super critical that you do it correctly, because if you don’t, it could completely throw you off during your session.
- After the curse is finished (depending on the length of the curse), you will have a stack of cards the size of your arm to put away and it can take quite a while. This is a great time to talk to your partner about their thoughts on the curse. If you are playing alone, you can talk to yourself if you’d like, it’ll even make sense thematically, depending on what traumas you experienced during your adventure.
- The theme is perfect. They could have gone many ways with this, but they kept it simple and honest. You are a cursed explorer, exploring and attempting to lift the curse. It’s that simple. Bravo.
- Nearly everything you do in the game feels thematic. It’s weird. Weird things happen to you but you don’t find them weird at all because the weirdness makes sense with the theme. Does that make sense?
- They have a custom soundtrack that adds to the ambiance of the game.
- There are very minor bits here and there that let’s you sneak a peak at the machine behind the curtain. It’s usually not enough to derail your thematic commitment to the game but it could, if you really harp on those bits.
- This is not a huge deal, but you will be exhaustively sick of the soundtrack after playing through a few of the curses. I’ve spent many a subconscious minutes humming the main theme Anyone who finds the game interesting,over and over again in my head.
Vision & Execution: 10/10
- This was an unbelievably ambitious game, to the point that when I heard about it, I thought “Thats not possible! And even if they did pull it off, it would have to be clunky and un-intuitive to even work!” When I finally let my guard down and bought into what they were selling, my expectations were higher than any other game I had ever played. Yet, they managed to not only meet those expectations, but surprise me, time and time again.
Final Thoughts of The 7th Continent Review
The final number of my scoring was actually surprisingly low. I expected it to be in the high 80s but looking at the game critically did reveal that there are some flaws, both minor and major. Bear in mind that my grading system is no cakewalk (An 81 is actually extremely high, I promise!). So what do I actually think of the game?
I’ll cut to the chase, I’ve played nearly 1000 games since I’ve entered the hobby and I can say, with zero hesitation, and without any doubt at all, this is my #1 game of all time. There is no other board game experience like it and I believe this game will have a permanent home in my collection, even after I (eventually) have completed all the curses. It holds a special place in my heart as it has provided so many quality and memorable hours for my wife and I. There have been loads of decisive moments throughout our playthroughs, moments that I am confident we will remember, for as long as our functioning brains will allow. A game that can do that, deserves the title of, My #1 Game of All Time.
However, if there was ever a game that I could say “it’s AMAZING, but it’s not for everyone,” this is it. I have met people who love the game nearly as much as I do, others that loathe it, and those that can only seem to muster up a mild “appreciation” for the game. You’ll obviously need to decide for yourself whether the game is for you. Me personally, I can give this game my absolute highest recommendation to any of the following:
Solo gamers, hybrid video/board gamers, those that like adventure, exploration, and escape rooms, and perhaps most of all, to couples or those that consistently play with the same partner.
If you found this review of The 7th Continent to be interesting, you can get a copy of the game and some of the expansions directly at the Serious Poulp Shop. If you want to skip ahead and dive right into the their new game, The 7th Citadel, please check out the Kickstarter which will remain live until the 9th of October, 2020. Again The 7th Citadel is the spiritual successor to The 7th Continent and will feature many of the same mechanisms, exploration, and choose-your-own adventure aspects as The 7th Continent.
Disclaimer: This copy of The 7th Continent was generously provided as a gift to myself, from myself, and the thoughts provided in this review are completely my own.