Review Author: Bryan Parke
Disclosure: The author of this review has purchased a copy of the game with his very own hobby pocket money!
Earth is dried out and dying, human civilisation along with it. Survivors eke out a living on the Salt Lands; plains left behind by a once great ocean. Whilst there are resources to be found dangers about on the flats; wicked sand storms and the Horde, terrifying Raiders borne on gas guzzling vehicles.
Rumours abound of a path out of the Salt Lands. The Survivors must chase down these rumours and find an escape route out of the flats before they are taken by the Horde.
Salt Lands is a game for 1 to 6 players which can be played in a variety of modes (Classic, Cooperative, Competitive, Solo) and with a variety of difficulty modes.
Each player represents a Survivor, each with their own set of special abilities. The game plays over a pre-determined number of rounds in which players take turns to traverse the hex based map, gathering resources, chasing rumours (victory tokens), and either fighting or avoiding raiders as the attempt to find their way out of the Salt Lands. Fighting Raiders is risky but successful combatants will acquire the gas guzzling vehicles for their own.
The Raiders and the Weather may impact the Survivor’s journey; these elements are controlled following behaviours laid down in the rules.
There’s a lot that’s great about Salt Lands
The game is very attractive visually. The art and playing pieces are great to look at, and the Raider playing tokens (small plastic cars, trucks and other vehicles) fit the post-apocalyptic aesthetic very well.
A number of the rule mechanics fit the theme of the game very well. In particular:
• The wind and sailing mechanics of the Land Yachts that the Survivors start the game with
• The Rumour mechanic; the possible destination the Survivors are searching for changes as more and more of the rumours are uncovered, leading eventually to the truth
• The turn limit, Raider activation and spawn mechanics. This leads to a sense of urgency on the part of the players before they are overrun by the Horde or simply run out of time
One of the aspects of Salt Lands I found particularly intriguing was the idea of different game modes:
• Classic: Players may cooperate to achieve a collaborative victory
• Cooperative: The Players are working together towards a group victory
• Competitive: The Players may strike against each other as it’s every Survivor for themselves
• Solo: The Raider and weather activation mechanics makes Salt Lands suitable for single Survivor play
Classic mode seems difficult for a single player to achieve (given the number of Rumour Tokens needed) so lends itself towards more cooperative play regardless. Solo mode is very enjoyable.
However life on the Salt Lands is never easy
There are a large number of rules, and different types of components (e.g. decks of cards), in addition to a bewildering set of symbols on the cards and tokens. This makes approaching Salt Lands as a novice quite an intimidating experience. Whilst each individual rule may not be overly complex, once you add them all together there’s a lot to take in, particularly when some rules (thinking of Land Sailing in particular) can become discarded once the Survivors progress to gas guzzling vehicles.
I love the setting of Salt Lands and have persevered with the rules to play the Solo mode; unfortunately the learning curve has put a number of my play group off from picking up the game again. To be fair, there is a tutorial mode which with hindsight we should have started with. Looking forwards with more rules familiarity under my belt I’ll tempt the Mad Max fans in the group to another visit to the Salt Lands; we’re all more experienced and savvy Survivors after all and there’s a good game just waiting to be found!