This is a game that's appeared with no hype or fanfare. It's published by Cherry Picked Games and - confession time - we hadn't even heard of the game at Board's Eye View until we got a couple of requests from readers to show it off. We're so pleased it was drawn to our attention. Our only regret was that we hadn't discovered this cracking two-player co-operative game earlier in Coronavirus lockdown.
The premise of Far Away is that you are a pair of astronauts sent to explore a strange planet light years away. You have been sent by the Federation Alliance but don't be fooled by the name. The Federation in Star Trek seemed to spare no expense to equip their starships. In contrast, this Federation Alliance appears to spend no expense: they don't even equip their astronauts with radio communication equipment!
The two players alternate actions. They can talk and plan together when they share the same hex but they aren't allowed to talk or offer each other suggestions when their astronauts are in separate hexes. This isn't merely a symbolic representation of the cheapskate organisation that's rocketed you there, it's also a device to combat that bugbear of all co-operative games, alpha player syndrome. In Far Away, any domineering partner will have to keep their direction, advice and suggestions to themselves unless and until the two explorers are back together in the same hex. You'll need to get back together periodically, or to find some other way to communicate, because your loneliness will increase all the time you are separated. You track your explorer's loneliness and hunger, and if either of these ever exceed 4, then you die...
In Far Away, you'll take on a mission - for example, to construct particular buildings - and you'll have to find the resources to repair your ship. You'll therefore have to explore, which means setting off from your starting hex and revealing more hexes as you go. Every time you reveal a hex, you roll a custom six-sided die to determine what's at that location. It could be an Anomaly (a card that might give you a potential benefit), a resource or a wandering creature. The creatures you encounter during the game - either wandering or in their dens - are generated by custom dice rolls from the substantial zoological range supplied. And here's where Alexander Jerabek's clever design for Far Away comes into its own... you are given the characteristics and behaviour of each species and the expectation is that you'll take that information and, in effect, role play the creatures so that their behaviour is consistent with it. This is a game that turns the players into DIY xenobiologists. And you'll find the more you take this on board, the more immersive the game becomes. You'll find that sometimes the creatures you encounter logically target each other for attack and consumption. You can also tame creatures and press them into your service provided that isn't contrary to their instincts. When you do fight any of the creatures, combat is simple and straightforward but it will advance your hunger...
Tho' there are set missions, Far Away feels like a sandbox game where your main aim is survival. In that sense, it has some obvious similarities with Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island (Portal Games). Tho' there are potential spoilers in a couple of the Far Away missions, most can be replayed multiple times and they'll play out differently each time. And you can play the game too as a campaign, where successful completion of a mission will give you a bonus reward that you can take with you on your next mission.
There's a lot in the box so you'll need to keep all the components properly sorted to ease your set up. The iconography is clear and we liked the clean artwork by Jake Breish, including the outline sketches of each of the species you might potentially encounter. We just couldn't resist tho' substituting a couple of Lego astronaut minifigures for the flat tokens supplied in the game. In the 360º photo on Board's Eye View you can see the original astronaut tokens on the 'Crash Site' starting hex.
Cherry Picked Games is a small publisher and so this game may not have as broad a distribution as titles from some of the big companies. If that means you can't find Far Away at your local games store, you can click here to order the game direct from the publishers.