Off to Australia with a Little Lovecraft Horror in AuZtralia
Set out across the Australian outback to build and mine in between fighting off Lovecraftian monsters in AuZtralia.
Many horror games involve a certain level of fear right from the start. The same can be said for AuZtralia in some respects, yet it introduces a unique premise with railroads and farms. Building routes and collecting resources takes center stage! Well, just before the monsters appear. I dug out this neglected game box, eager to play again!
I may never spell Australia correctly again. Ha ha! The goal is to explore and make the most of the outback. Early on, this comes from laying railroad tracks, mining, and other economic activities. Yet as time wears on, Cthulhu’s minions begin to awaken. They must be defeated by different units and experts. There’s danger down under!
Random Survey Tiles
Most of the setup process involves surveying the area with a variety of randomized tiles. These provide the basis for starting resources and facedown enemy tiles.
Each play varies significantly based on these tiles. Certain hexes might contain a plethora of resources. Other times, Old Ones run rampant in the wilderness.
Although the hex information is easy to see, I somehow always miss how tile #11 requires a level 2 Old One tile!
I fixed that little mistake before beginning. As an example, though, tile #18 also gained 3 gold from this survey tile.
Fighting Lean and Mean
Every play also features a solo objective, which helps guide decisions and gameplay. I drew a pretty excellent one with Lean and Mean. The fewer people, the better. Like solo!
People come in the form of various experts and helpers. Each provides a unique bonus or benefit.
I gathered up my starting sanity tokens, too. These act as a timer in battles. It’s not easy to face these monsters over and over again! It’s a simple but clever mechanic.
Lastly, do you notice my amateur photography snafu here? That’s my finger in the bottom left. Brilliant. Ha!
Examining the Outback
There it was. Glorious Australia, fully mapped out and surveyed. And still with the wrong Old One tile on hex #11.
But ignore that! I chose a cozy spot on the coastline for my port. This put me in range of coal and steel to expand my railroad into the areas where gold flowed plentifully.
The starting spot is very important. The available port spots wrap all the way around from east to west.
With so many possible combinations with the survey tiles, every setup will look different! Also note that I rotated the Old One tiles to make it easy to see the tile numbers.
Not only are there multiple experts to hire, but troops may be recruited. An important strategy is to have a lot of diversity during attacks. Cthulhu can be tricky. And evil!
My personal favorite is the airship. What a view that must be, especially with some fearsome monsters about!
This might not be the best representation of the massive deck, since it contains a wide assortment of individuals.
Lord Blackstock looked particularly helpful. Gold is the main resource, often used to recruit new troops. I knew just where that would go… Ordering up my airship. Ha ha!
The Best Revelation
Early on, it was just me building up my forces across Australia. However, all that activity didn’t go unnoticed.
At the appointed time, the Old Ones began to stir. It all started with a revelation card. This deck gets progressively worse and worse, although everything is randomized.
Cthulhu thought he had the upper hand. Or tentacle? Wing? He was confident when he had the chance to reveal the Old One on hex #2. So I flipped it over with dread…
Merely a lone kangaroo! These tiles are awesome because they always pop up at the best times. Nothing there!
Despite my early success and victory over some of the monsters, things began to take a turn. Actually, it happened right when Agent Davies joined my team.
Maybe I made a bad move when I took my chances with a few high-level Old One tiles. But it was fine!
Until a powerful loyalist flew across the outback to take out my port. It was a pitiful showing since I wasn’t at all prepared to engage with a dangerous enemy. Yikes.
However, can anyone convince me that Agent Davies doesn’t resemble a loyalist?! I see what happened here.
Calling the Zombies
As night fell and my lighting changed dramatically, it was a perfect time to take out a StoryWorld card! Zombies and I don’t really get along, although this guy is an exception.
Is he dangerous? Or is he just desperately seeking his lost drumsticks? I like to think it’s the latter situation.
The zombies in the game are also pretty tame. Not exactly a friendly group, but also not the shambling horrors that typically give me nightmares. What lovely hats! Ha ha!
This little interlude gave me a chance to reset the map and try again. Agent Davies would not get to my port again!
The Good Davies Twin
Luck dictated otherwise when Agent Davis showed up. Ha! This time, however, he was more useful. And not evil.
These brave souls were the only ones I used over the course of play. I stayed within the requirements for the Lean and Mean solo objective, too. Very, very nice!
My greatest choice was hiring Zhu Xiang. I mentioned how much I love those airships, and she was right there to support that fascination. An armored airship? Yes, indeed.
In this way, my lone airship fought valiantly and took more damage than it normally could have.
Play Number: 2 and 3
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Difficult Difficulty Level on the Eastern Map
Required Play Space: 38″ x 32″
Setup Time: 10 Minutes
Play Time: 25-45 Minutes per Play
Outcome: 0-0 and 51-30 (1 Win and 1 Loss)
I didn’t bother to count Cthulhu’s points when my port fell… That was a clear loss! Yet with persistence and that trusty airship, I pulled off a very impressive victory. A temple even fell, which was far from an easy feat!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- There are several difficulty levels and variants, as well as a western map to add even greater challenges.
- Setup involves a lot of randomization so that the map feels unique, as do the revelation cards when Cthulhu rises.
- Time passes with set values for each action, thereby allowing for a little control over when activities occur.
- The artwork is excellent, particularly since it’s not too gruesome nor frightening for the horror genre.
- Attack cards are a fun and suspenseful way to resolve combat, rather than having to roll dice constantly.
- Gameplay starts off as a race to build a railway network and collect resources before any enemies come into play.
– Cons (Negatives)
- The time to complete setup can feel a little lengthy for what the experience offers, particularly for early losses.
- Certain strategies seem very dominant so that there are clear paths forward, often identical from play to play.
- Although the components are quite nice, they’re a little large for the hexes so some areas get very cluttered.
- Luck and randomness play important roles to the point that different setups can be a little unbalanced.
Continue the Conversation
What do you think about the mechanics of AuZtralia? Is the setup variability enjoyable, or possibly unbalanced? I actually really enjoyed this experience! Cthulhu and zombies are some of my least favorite elements, yet I like the unique way they’re incorporated here. I’ll have to see what else is lying in wait for me in the outback!