When I look at Outpost: Siberia, I have memories of watching John Carpenter’s The Thing. You’re stuck in a frozen outpost, being terrorized by monsters. What’s not to love? Well unless you are actually there I guess.
Outpost: Siberia is a cooperative card game designed by veteran game designers Jonathan Gilmour (Wasteland Express Delivery Service) and Daryl Andrews (Sagrada). With these two designers behind Outpost: Siberia, I had high expectations for this one. Did it live up? Let’s find out.
Outpost: Siberia is a cooperative, hand management game for 2-5 players that takes about 30 minutes to play. The game plays best with 6 players (seriously).
The gameplay in Outpost: Siberia has had some minor updates since its debut at Gen Con 2017, so we’ll start with the basics and then tell you the changes.
Each player in Outpost: Siberia gets a unique character to control and 12 events (some good, some bad) are shuffled into the Expedition deck (with the monsters). The rest of the cards form the player deck.
On a player’s turn they take the following actions:
Draw 2 cards from the Outpost Deck, place one in the shared supply as an item and keep the other in your hand for its combat power. Then you may attack threats (monsters) by playing cards from your hand using their combat power as damage. Once a threat has enough combat power to defeat it, you can use an item from the supply to actually kill it.
Finally, a player must draw an Expedition Card. If it’s an event, you must first pay a food/water or suffer a damage. Then resolve its effect (good or bad). If it’s a monster, it’s placed into play and does its damage to a character.
Then the next player takes their turn. After all players have gone, a new round begins. Players win when they have gone through the entire Expedition deck. They lose if any character dies or 6 monsters are in play anytime.
The alternative rules have players removing 6 monsters from the outpost deck at the start of the game (and giving one to each player as a starting hand). Players also draw 3 cards at the start of their turn, discarding the 3rd card.
Outpost: Siberia seemed to have all the makings of a game I’d love. It has great art, multi-use cards, and has an engaging theme. Yet, that still couldn’t save this game from being one of the worst games I’ve played in a while. To be honest, I have no idea if it was even fully play-tested. This was a surprise to me considering the designers attached to it.
First, I’ve played this game over a dozen times and never even come close to winning. The game is BRUTALLY hard, bordering on unfair. This is especially noticeable at the lower player counts. There is absolutely nothing in Outpost: Siberia to deal with player scaling. So much so, I’m not even sure it’s possible to win this game with two players. Every time a monster comes out, a player takes damage. Unless you are supremely lucky with your first aid kits, two players can only take a max of 7 damage before one dies. If you want to have a chance to win, you need to play at the max of 6 players. Yes, the player count only goes to 5, but there are 6 characters in the box, so grab them all.
I have even tried to “stack the deck”, so to speak by only included all positive event cards. I still only made it about 2/3rds of the way through the expedition deck before I lost. The problem with event cards is that everyone requires a food/water or the player takes damage, and spending that resource is not optional. So even if the “good event” sucks, the players still have to pay up. So combine the damage from events, with automatic damage from monsters, and players will really struggle to stay alive.
I could probably live with the brutal nature of the game play if the game were actually fun. Unfortunately, it’s not. There really aren’t any choices to make in the game other than what cards to keep. And that’s not really a hard choice. Put the first aid kit in the supply (those are gold), keep the high combat power cards. Then play those cards onto a monster. Players don’t even start with a hand of cards, so it’s not like you even need to decide what cards to play where. Usually you’ll have one card in your hand, which you just dump on the current monster you’re working on.
Finally, the other reason that makes me think this game wasn’t fully play-tested happens when you compare two characters: Ice Climber Anani and Arctic Explorer Bryan. Anani has 3 health and lets you discard two cards to cancel a threat’s (monster) effect for the round. What does Bryan do? Discard any 1 card to treat it as a flare. A flare will let you cancel any threat’s effect for the round. I can’t see any difference between these powers other than wording and yet Anani’s costs one card more and she has one less health!
Outpost: Siberia is just not a good game and I can’t recommend it to anyone. Even if you love incredibly difficult, cooperative games, you need to steer clear of this one. At the low player counts, I’m not even sure Outpost: Siberia is mathematically winnable. While Publisher IDW Games did release an alternative rules update, anyone buying the game at a store will never know they got a potentially broken game. Plus, while the new rules may make Outpost: Siberia theoretically winnable now, it doesn’t really make it any more fun.
Final Score: 1.5 Stars – Good art and a great theme can’t save this game from being a disaster.
• Punishing difficulty
• Unbalanced game play
• Minimal choices to make