The 7th Continent

The 7th Continent, by Serious Poulp, is, in my mind, quite possibly the single most innovative and original tabletop game to be published in the first two decades of the 21st century. It's a cooperative-play mix of exploration, wilderness survival, choose-your-own-path, and pulp-era adventure unlike anything previously seen in the tabletop gaming world. The entire game is made up of 8x8cm cards - somewhere in the neighborhood of 1900 of them, including all of the expansion content. (Yes, mine are all sleeved!) The cards are used for building up the map of the continent, tracking character state, and everything else in the game except for one aspect: it has 8 dice which are used for keeping track of how "durable" items are (items get discarded when their durability drops, via use or damage, to zero). Its truly innovative turnless action/event system is elegant and plays smoothly, and keeps the players engaged in the game rather than distracting them with a wide range of disparate mechanics.

A Brief History

Initially crowdfunded in Oct. 2015 with an impressive 12k backers, and published in the summer of 2017, it was an immediate hit. Unfortunately, it was a Kickstarter-only release, with no retail distribution, which left many thousands of people wanting the game but unable to get a copy. Gloomhaven, released at around the same time, was available in retail and ended up winning almost every industry/fan award that year, despite being the "lesser" of the two games. Overshadowed by the concurrent release of Gloomhaven, 7C never really got the recognition is truly deserved. Even so, a second Kickstarter campaign for the game in Oct. 2017, including a second edition and new expansions, drew in an incredible 43k backers. (Sidebar: the 2nd edition simply errata'd a handful of cards and didn't merit a new rulebook because the 1st edition's rulebook was essentially flawless.) The designers told backers during the 2nd crowdfunding campaign that that would be the final chance to get 7C, and that they would turn their efforts to other designs after that. After the 2nd Kickstarter, the designers recanted, by popular demand, and announced a "classic edition" to be available via their own online shop. That edition includes "most of the gameplay components (but not the Kickstarter exclusive items like minis or the Swamp of Madness curse)" (that's a quote from the designers).

Gratuitous Praise

As a backer of both crowdfunding campaigns, i am exceedingly pleased with the quality and depth of the game. A single "mission" (called a "Curse" in 7C) can take anywhere from a couple hours (for the tutorial mission) to 30+ hours, and the game includes an easy-to-use save/load feature to support players who can't leave the game set up for that long. (The save/load system is also used within the game to advance certain story elements.) Its turnless structure is well-suited to playing in short bursts of 5-10 minutes, if desired, and it does not use dice for generating randomness. Its card system integrates randomness into the game in a completely unique way which is difficult to summarize but trivial to understand once it's been demonstrated. It is outstanding as a solo game (indeed, many players report that player interaction is somewhat lacking in multi-player games, so it may be a better solo game than group game).

There are only a couple aspects of this game which annoy me:

  1. The "trollish" nature of the designers. They love to set up the player with interesting-looking opportunities ("Here's something shiny! Go touch it!"), only to slap them down and punish them for doing so. This happens often enough in the game that it severely dampens the drive to explore and may well lead the player(s) to skip over something they need to do to progress the current mission.
  2. It can be quite aimless and grindy at times, often leaving the player with absolutely no idea what they're supposed to be doing or in which direction they should be heading.