Above & Below – A Review

Above & Below is an adventure game designed by Ryan Laukat and published by Red Raven Games. This game has a very strong place in my heart. It is always a blast to play with any group with which I game. The rules, while in depth, aren’t too difficult to learn and become even more understandable as you play the game. So let’s break down this game a bit

The premise of the game is simple, you’ve set out to build a new community and seek to use both the plains above and the caverns below. You have seven turns to build the best community and ultimately score the most points. The buildings you build, materials you gather, and reputation you gain all play into your final score; making strategy a major thing. However, there’s no one strategy to win the game!

At the start of the game, you have 3 citizens and a few coins. There are buildings to choose from, caverns to explore, workers to hire, and the ability to earn money. You use your citizens icons to take any of the aforementioned actions. Once you’ve used all your citizens, play passes to the next player, but don’t get comfortable, because you may get to be the narrator for the cavern exploration option, should a player aim to clear out a cavern and build an outpost underground!

Which brings me to the story aspect of this game. There is a rather large story-book included with the game and each story has a unique number, upwards of 200 different story segments to read. The segment is chosen by rolling a die and matching the number on the die to the cavern cards story numbers. During the telling of the story, you are given a few options with numbered outcomes. Choose your option and roll the dice for your workers, declaring the roll for each worker as you go. Should you roll the correct number of lanterns and succeed at the task, you might get a reward in the form of goods, coins, or even reputation; or you may receive another story to read. Once your story segment is completed, you either keep or discard the cavern on a success or failure, respectively. Once you have a cavern, you can then build an underground outpost for even more points or goods!

With the game overview out of the way, let’s talk quality. Specifically, component quality and art! This game is gorgeous, the artwork is fantastic, even for the weirder looking creatures. Also, the artwork is consistent. That consistency and overall beauty is amplified by the high quality card stock, thick cardboard tokens, and coated pages of the spiral-bound rulebook. Red Raven Games really did well with the components themselves. It makes the game even more desirable to play.

Overall, Above & Below is an excellent addition to any gaming group. The story-driven game-play and the light strategy needed, make it a game that will cause you to think, but also have a blast while doing it. Everyone I’ve introduced this game to has loved it. At $49.99 MSRP, it is priced really well for the amount of replay-ability and components you get. So grab your copy and develop your community Above & Below!

Cadenhead’s ratings:

  • Game-play: 5 stars
  • Quality: 5 Stars
  • Price: 5 Stars
  • Value: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 5 Stars

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