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AuZtralia Review

AuZtralia Review

AuZtralia Review

Welcome to our review of Schilmil and Stronghold Games Auztralia. Here’s a statement I never thought I’d make while writing a game review. Have you ever wanted to play a game like Ticket to Ride, set in Australia with Cthulu? If the answer is yes, here’s a game for you!

Game Overview – AuZtralia

In Auztralia, players take on the role of civ planner. The game starts with the players needing to build a port and different types of farms to gain gold. They also need to create a railway network from their port through the outback of Australia. This network will also allow players to mine for coal and iron, which will enable a player to build more railway tracks. You are probably thinking – wait! This game is just a civilization-building game. Well, not quite. The gold you get from mining and farming lets you buy military units like infantry, armored cars, and artillery. The military will enable you to attack and defend against the Old Ones, including the great Cthulu, who start the game hidden but reveal themselves as the game progresses. The objective is to individually have the most Victory Points between all the players and the Old Ones. The Old Ones can win the game if you aren’t careful. It is an intriguing game that combines civilization game with fighting Cthulu.

Game Components

So our version was the Kickstarter version that Stronghold Games recently shipped to their backers. We got the core game and the AuZtralia Big box, which holds the core game, the Revenge of the Old Ones, and TaZmania, the two expansions. For this section of the review, we will talk about the components of the core game. The rest of this review focuses on the core game.

In this edition of the game, you get the following:

  • Four Sets of Player pieces – costing of a port, player cubes, farms, and railways
  • Four highly detailed Player boards with two sides (Eastern and Western)
  • a double-sided Game Board with Eastern/Western game variations
  • Military units (Infantry, Armored Cars, Airships, Artillery, and Armored trains)
  • Old one damage cubes
  • Old one tiles in three levels of difficulty
  • Resources items, Coal, Iron, Gold, and Phosphate
  • Five decks of cards, including Personality cards, Old One Cards, Revelation Cards, Solo Objectives, and Two-Player variants
  • Survey tiles are used solely in setup and allow for game variety.
  • Victory Point tokens
  • Sanity tokens
  • Combat marker and token

Overall all of these components are interesting to look at and to hold. The resources, for instance, are not simply square blocks but look like lumps of coal, iron ingots, and gold pieces. The tiles are all highly designed too. We especially liked the military units. 

One area we felt could be a bit better was the wooden discs representing the port and the three blank discs per color. These are designed to be super simple, which does serve their purpose. We prefer more design in these, but honestly, that’s just a tiny complaint.

The other stand-out area is the cards. They all have beautiful illustrations and are extremely clear to read. We like that the revelation cards use iconography to explain a player’s benefit and have it written out below. We find that super helpful. This detail would have been beneficial for the Old One Cards themselves, but we understand there isn’t space. Maybe a small player aid card for each player to help understand it. The instructions in the manual are good, but this would make things more straightforward as we play.

Game Setup

Setting up Auztralia is not super straightforward. We’re not saying it isn’t easy, but it does have a few steps that need to be taken to ensure a great game. 

The easiest part is shuffling the cards and creating the various decks you need. It’s nice that you only use half of the revelation cards in any game. That helps keep the game fresh. What also helps is the 20 survey tiles in the game. On the board, there are 13 spaces, each with a triangle on them. The players place 13 of the 20 tiles face down on each spot. Then one by one, they flip those times over. Each tile shows the hex space the tile is in and the six spaces surrounding it. It also shows what resources and if an enemy should be in the space. The corresponding hex on the board also identifies what level of the enemy the players place (1,2,3). Here’s the exciting part. The survey tiles can overlap each other. If a space has an enemy and is about to get another, the first enemy just gets upgraded to the next level. Once the players have placed everything on a single survey tile, they remove it from the board and move on to the following survey tile. These setup tiles keep the game fresh and exciting. This random placement of enemies and how they upgrade can make the game very difficult. We were unlucky we got Cthulu (of which there is only one), and it was in a fairly low-numbered space which meant it arrived on the board pretty early after the Old Ones started activating. I guess this is just down to the luck of the draw. 

Game Play

We love how varied the gameplay of Auztralia is. It started at first as a civilization-type builder, but once the Old Ones were active, we suddenly started having to fight them to protect our ports and farms. 

While it’s competitive, it’s also cooperative because multiple players can fight the same Old One to try and defeat it. The collaborative aspect is relatively light, but it’s nice to see in this type of game.

The way the game works is interesting as well. On a player’s turn, they take an action using the action cubes. The game has a ton of different actions you can take, but you have to manage them strategically. After you’ve done an action, you have to pay gold to repeat that action or spend a time unit to recover all your spent actions. This action management makes every decision something to ponder. 

It’s a typical civilization strategy game to start, but here’s the key. Once you reach time-space 22, the old ones become “a player” in their own right, and they activate, move, and blight farms and damage the military.

The movement and fighting system for the old ones is also really unique. The Old Ones cards show each of the enemy types down the middle, and when you pull the card, it shows how much damage you do to the enemy and how much they do to you.

One thing that we did find that was a bit odd was how when a player fights, they don’t put their units onto the board. Instead, they move them from their barracks (a space on their player board) to their Expeditionary Force spaces (also on their board). We understand that they do that because the board itself is already quite populated, but it did take away a bit from the fighting mentality of the game.

We liked how the designers thought about enemy movement and ties between which farm/port is closest. They created a whole mechanic around ties. To start, players would consult the current old one card’s number. This number corresponds to a compass printed on the board. The enemy moves towards the hex side with that number.

Overall Impressions

We got to be honest; Auztralia surprised us in a good way! We don’t play many civ-type games, but when we saw that it was Cthulu and was set in Australia (She-Hawk hails from Sydney!) We had to try it! It was a lot of fun, and we can’t wait to dive into the expansions. TaZmania is a whole new board with a bunch of updated rules. TaZmania was the game promoted on Kickstarter. 

The only area we think could be better is if the setup could be a bit more streamlined and the designers could improve the quality of the wooden player pieces. Again, they aren’t bad at all. We honestly prefer less abstract pieces and more design. (Like the port being a miniature port, for instance.) Not a complaint at all, just one of our desires.