Disclosure: a review copy of the new survival tokens and the new People of the Sun survival tokens has been provided to me by Board Game Hell.
I – The Blurb
I love Kingdom Death: Monster. It’s a horrific game and a terrific experience. But for the solo gamer, it can also be a very difficult and taxing one to keep track of. And anything that eases the gamer into the game and reduces the fiddliness of having to track 4 survivors, their stats, gear, points, and which actions they have available and used, is welcome.
That is why I was pleased to stumble upon and purchase Board Game Hell’s survival tokens, as there is nothing in the game to keep track of which survival actions are available to you, who used it, and when they refresh in the round structure; the player will have to either remember it, track it by writing it on their character’s sheet, and/or keep the innovation deck nearby to regularly check what the action does.
As such, the initial survival tokens were a blessing, but an imperfect one: their shape, their disposition, and the lack of information regarding what the survival action entailed, made them very useful, but you still had to refer to the rulebook and the innovation cards to find out what they did. Which, for the Dash/Dodge/Surge/Encourage combo, isn’t too hard to remember, but Endure/Embolden/Overcharge, now these are another story.
The new and refined survival tokens are a much welcome addition to the line, in that they now clearly state what the token does on one side, and, lo and behold! state their name and the moment the token is refreshed on the other side! Such an improvement won’t go unnoticed during one’s game, and solo, it becomes that much easier to play a showdown, especially one with all 4 actions available and long and tactical turns against, say, an antelope. A mad steed running around will have you use Dash like crazy, especially if it’s Diabolical, and it becomes that much easier to remember who’s been trying to reach the creature, who’s trying to run away from its path of destruction, and so, whose action’s been refreshed to let them run for their life.
II – Components
The new tokens are the same size (25×25 mm) and thickness (2 mm)as the previous ones, which makes them eminently durable and chunky without making their footprint a problem. They’re a pleasure to manipulate, and can easily be stored in the official 1.5 insert, for which they are the perfect size and thickness. I managed to store both my (previous) Nemesis and Ivory sets of regular plus PotSun tokens. But I’ll need to remove one of these if I want to store the New Survival token sets. Still, being able to store them in the box is handy and appreciated.
Now it should be stated that they are sent in a very protective manner and will not suffer from shipping. They are a bit difficult to take out of the ziplock bag the first time, and that is because of the card that is inserted there, which prevents them for moving in the bag, contains a lovely “THANK YOU.”, and has a coupon for you to send back to the creator in order to get a replacement piece, should you have a quality issue. I do not think the ziplock bag is a correct way to store your tokens, but it certainly is a very efficient way to ship them, and it can be reused, which makes this a low-waste product, something which is rare and should be stressed.
III – Art
The colours are mostly the same as the ones used for the previous token sets, albeit maybe a bit more vibrant in the case of Dash and Encourage. They’re easy to tell apart on their available side as the colours are quite different from another. The action’s name is big enough to easily be identifiable, and the icons in the center, while not very large, are also unique enough to be memorable and help identify the token. They are the same as on the previous token iterations, and use, in the case of Dash and Surge, the icons from the game itself.
I enjoy the stylistic choice of having the text being closer to the center than to the edge, and the fact that the icon is on top of it and the text in the background, doesn’t hinder the legibility while making the tokens look stylish and modern.
On the upper side of each token’s active face is a discrete black arrow, which does serve a functional purpose, as it is an indication that you should flip the token on this end when using the survival action.
The reverse side, though, is really the biggest improvement of the new tokens. Where previously there was but a cross on an empty background, there is now artwork and text to remind you which action the token is used for and, more importantly, when to flip it back to its available side
The stylish aspect of words being closer to the center is kept, and a nice touch is that all the splatters are different, and not repeated from one token to the next.
The use of shades of white and grey is reminiscent of exhausted actions in video games and make the exhausted tokens stand out among a character’s survival actions, which naturally makes an efficient reminder to flip them when your eyes hover over them, which makes it a sound choice both on a stylistic and cognitive level.
IV – Compatibility with other products from Board Game Hell
Now the main drawback of these tokens is that they aren’t compatible with the survival action grids, since these will require you to tilt your token 45° clockwise, which means that you won’t be able to read what it does as easily and will make flipping it harder, in part because they will get in the way of one another. Something that worked alright with the previous ones since they were designed with that in mind, but doesn’t with this new product.
The good part is that, since the information is written directly on the token, you don’t need the mat anymore to know what it does or when to flip it back. It’s easy to have the tokens sitting above the gear grid and to flip them using the grid as a sort of pressure point against which to push and flip the token. It may not look as good without the black background, but I still find it very handy, and I’m less likely to damage the tablecloth with my nails when flipping the token.
V – Relevance during play
There are a lot of things to keep track of for a player during a KD:M showdown, and who used their survival actions shouldn’t be one of them. Unfortunately, the survivor sheets I use do not have an easy way to track who did what in that regard, and to be honest, even if they did, I already have enough writing and erasing to do without that (I love calling KD:M the best roll and write on the market).
As such, I wish the game would come with survival action tokens, but it doesn’t, and in my opinion, this is the next best thing to it. I once said that the previous Survival tokens should have been included with the official copy of the game. Well, I was wrong. The new ones should.
Their use of the game’s iconography, though not a necessity, is welcome The colour-scheme they use makes them relevant in regard to the numbered survivor cards, and other products of the Board Game Hell’s line. I like that they avoid the red/green/blue/yellow/white/black common trap.
It’s easy to teach to a new player to use them, and will prevent the game owner to have to remind them what they do all the time, or that they’re available, since, on each side, they have instructions as to what they do or when to flip them. As such, they are a relevant addition for a group.
For the solo gamer, while it may seem that the tokens require more upkeep from the player, it should be noted that it is actually the opposite. Rather than having to either remember which survivor used which action – something that can be overwhelming when you’re triggering multiple story events during a turn or resolving AI cards, due for instance to triggering traps and moods – or having to write it down and erase it, you just have to flip a token back and forth, which can easily be remember by skimming over your survivor grids at the beginning of the monster’s turn and noticing white tokens. I did observee that not having to dedicate cognitive energy to remembering or writing things freed up some of my brains to better focus on strategy and positioning, something which matters a lot against higher level quarries.
They do slightly add to set-up time, which is already a bit long in my opinion, especially if you have to redo your gear grids all the time (hint: you should find a way not to), but not that much, in my opinion, if you manage to store them so that you have a complete set of what’s available for each survivor immediately ready. It can even help remember which actions are available without having to check the innovation deck or the settlement sheet, something which actually saves time when you can’t afford having two tables or leaving the game on the table the whole night.
It was confusing at first to flip them on their upper end, and I was flipping them on the side and then had to rotate them 180°. While I thought it was a negative, I now can see how much more convenient the choice made is, and how it makes them more useful and quicker to use. I still get a little confused when I’m handling them outside of a game (while writing this review for instance), but I wouldn’t have it any other way during gamplay. Having them sit above the grid, grab and flip them, prevents my clumsy self from grabbing them from the left, destroying my gear grid with my sleeve, and pushing the other tokens on the left and right of the one I’m picking at the same time.
VI – Price and availability
Now these tokens don’t come cheap. At $50 (approx.) the hunt bundle (so 4 of each of the basic 5 survival tokens) you’re looking at the price of a complete, mid to big game, for 20 tokens, an expense many players won’t be able to justify.
Then again, a vast majority of players can’t justify spending $400 on a single game box, no matter the replay-value or dollar per hour they get from it.
The New Survival Tokens are no doubt a luxury item, but so is the whole KD:M line and most of what revolves around it. As such, if you’re not afraid to pull the trigger for a $25 miniature that comes with a single promo gear card that doesn’t even instruct you how to use it, you’re probably the right target for these tokens, and if you don’t have an easy way to track survival actions already, these are a fantastic addition to your game and one of the first things I would recommend for the solo player to help tracking things in a the game (along with new survivor sheets).
– Extremely durable, thick material, high quality, well packaged.
– Teach you at a glance what each action does and when it’s available again, improve the gamplay.
– Chunky, yet easy to store in the official 1.5 insert.
– Stylish, respects the game’s colour patterns and overall aesthetics.
– Slightly adds to the set-up and teardown time.
– Entry price is higher than what the average gamer can afford.
– Not compatible with the survival action mats that can be combined with the player grids.
– There is a typo on the Overcharge token for the People of the Sun campaign in the first printing. It will go unnoticed by most users, though, and Board Game Hell has promised to provide replacements to their customers.
As a conclusion: Le Comboteur Fou loves the New Survival Tokens and rates them
A great improvement over a very useful product.
Kingdom Death: Monster belongs to Kingdom Death. These tokens are not licensed by Kingdom Death. The header image was provided by Board Game Hell.