Full disclosure: A review copy of Creature Comforts was provided by Kids Table Board Gaming.
Kids Table Board Gaming has always been a fun, interesting spot in gaming for me. I backed Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants years ago, and always found their approach to gaming pretty up my alley. As they moved on and up, their games got more complex, more intense, and more interesting, and I’ve been here for it the whole way. Wreck Raiders was a lot of fun, too, so I’m excited to try Creature Comforts and see what I think! Last time I really got to see it before now was during the Kickstarter; I played it on TTS and kept increasing the size of my opponent’s pieces on her turn when she wasn’t paying attention. Good times. But let’s get into the game!
In Creature Comforts, winter is coming! Not like that. Just the regular winter. To prepare, you’ve decided to just shoot for the most comfortable home possible, which, goals. To do so, you’ll need to build Comforts and Improvements alike, which is easier said than done! Your family has four workers, and you can send them out to various locations to acquire resources, meet travelers, and shop for what you need. The challenge is that each location requires dice, and while you roll your two Family Dice before you place, the four Village Dice that all players share are only rolled once all workers are placed. Little bit of risk, little bit of reward. The various locations all have something to offer, should the dice shake out in your favor, though. Will you be able to collect all the trappings of home to make sure that you have the coziest winter possible?
Player Count Differences
I’ve tried Creature Comforts at a few different player counts, and I don’t have a particularly strong preference. The big reason why I would pick a lower player count is just that having additional players adds additional turns to the game, which can balloon the playtime pretty aggressively. Our first (Normal) game with two players took over an hour; I can imagine five players taking a while, even with simultaneous worker placement. That’s not really a complaint about the game (it was fun the whole time that we played, though a shorter first game would have been appreciated), but it does push me towards the lower end of the player count spectrum when we play. I think there’s some contention around Improvements and the Comforts cards with more players, but every card has at least one duplicate in both sets, so someone taking a card doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gone forever. If anything, more players means that those stacks are cycling faster, so you might get a card that works even better with your strategy (if nobody else takes it first). But that’s random markets, for you. I wouldn’t say Creature Comforts is worse with more players at all! It’s just longer.
- Accrue resources! You love resources. You need resources for all kinds of things, and there’s no resource cap to speak of, so, try to make sure you’re getting as many resources as possible. This isn’t particularly interesting strategy advice, but you know, it’s still worth saying. There are a lot of different ways to get them, so also keep an eye on what Comforts and Improvements you want to get building, so that you know what to focus on.
- When picking Comforts, be mindful of which resources are unavailable in the current (and future) seasons. The thing about resources, especially in Creature Comforts, is that they’re a little fickle. Each Season, certain resources won’t be available from the Fields. Travelers may bring the resources to cover the gaps, but you can’t necessarily rely on those. Making certain Comforts when the seasons align is a much easier option than trying to squeeze grain from the Spring, for instance. This doubly applies in the beginning; going for an early Bread play may seem like it makes sense based on your hand, but you can’t get Grain in the Spring, so you’re going to be waiting a while with at least one card in your hand that is very difficult to play.
- Swing for the fences, sure, but don’t make bets with your workers that will obviously fail. You (generally) only have access to six dice, so don’t go all-in on Fields where you won’t be able to use all of your dice, even if you roll well. I’d generally advise that you place at least one worker on a space that matches your Village Dice, since you can see them. Otherwise, you’re taking on a lot of risk that may not pay off. Sure, rolling four 1s is unlikely, but, it’s still possible, and if that’s not what you want, you should try to hedge your bets. If you prefer a more guaranteed hedging of your bets, you can always pick up a Bicycle improvement! That one lets you move a worker after the Village Dice are rolled, which can often bail you out.
- Remember that players still take turns in player order; if you are going after a Comfort that a player who precedes you in turn order wants, you’re not going to get it. This one’s kind of a given, but going after it will often just leave you out in the cold. If you don’t think you’re going to get it, it might be worth just trying to draw two more from the deck. Plus, if a particular Comfort becomes obviously necessary to your strategy (say, you play some Comforts that both rely on a third Comfort for extra points), one of your opponents may try to swipe it to block you. It happens.
- You can’t particularly rely on any Traveler benefits popping up, but you can make sure you do your best to leverage the one that currently exists. The deck of Travelers is pretty large, so, any particular Traveler may not come up during the game (15 Travelers, 8 rounds?). Each Traveler has a pretty useful power, though, so make sure you’re at least trying to find places where their abilities may be useful. Their resources? Those may be less helpful, but that’s just the situational nature of these folks passing through.
- At higher player counts, buying Glades improvements will earn you residual passive resources pretty frequently, which is good. At lower player counts, it may not be worth the investment. It’s definitely up to you, though; in one game, a player saw I needed grain in an off-season, so they built a Glade that let me get it … as long as they also gained one every time. Tough, but I was in a resource bind. But with more players, usually, someone wants one of the resources your Glade is providing. With fewer players, they might decide that it’s not worth messing with (or you might find that the return on your investment isn’t there).
- Lesson Learned tokens are pretty good, but that’s largely because the price of getting one is similarly steep. It’s nice to have a way to modify dice values, but functionally, the game is giving you a pittance for wasting a worker you might have otherwise been able to use. The Lesson Learned tokens are handy to have, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going for them as a matter of practice. The Almanac Improvement functions as a permanent Lesson Learned, so, that’s actually pretty good to have around.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The Worm token looks really goofy. I love it. It’s mostly the eyes, I think? It just looks horrified by what’s about to happen. Every time I look at it I laugh a bit. It’s like looking at a piece that was designed to be deeply uncomfortable. He feels it. I feel it. It’s an experience.
- This really is a good-looking game. Shawna J.C. Tenney did incredible work, and there’s a lot of detail! There are multiple cards that change, season to season, there are many distinct illustrations on the Comforts, Travelers, and Improvements, and everything looks more than just well-done; it looks cozy. The game is intentionally designed to be pleasant and inviting, to be consistent with the theme, and I think Shawna did an excellent job delivering on that.
- The theme is also really nice and pleasant. On the same subject, the theme is particularly nice. I, too, kind of just want to zone out and relax during the winter. Unfortunately, to survive, I require money that only a full-time job can provide, so I must work regardless of what season it is. The idea of spending the year prepping for an extremely comfortable winter is endearing, though, so I’m a fan. The gameplay also really plays into the theme; everything that you’re doing is working towards that theme, since you’re either crafting comforts, improving the Glades, collecting resources, or building improvements to try and make sure that you’re as comfortable as possible as time runs out. It’s a smart end-to-end design, and I appreciate that the gameplay and theme are nicely in step with each other.
- There’s some really great integration between the board and some of the elements on the board. I like that the backs (and fronts) of the Valley cards line up with the board, for instance. It’s a simple way to make the whole thing feel more cohesive.
- The push-your-luck element of worker placement is really neat! I haven’t seen anything like this before. You’re essentially betting on what dice values will come up by placing your workers on spots that will activate, should those dice be the right ones. I think that’s a cool feature! It also means that this is largely non-blocking worker placement, which I appreciate. I’m not a big fan of worker placement, genre-wise, since I hate blocking other players and hate getting blocked. Adding a bit of a hint (you roll your Family Dice before placing workers and roll the Village Dice after) makes the game more interesting, since that partial information can inform a lot (and give you some decent odds).
- Even then, there are usually enough dice rolled that you can get most of what you want, if not all of it. Six dice offer a lot of possibilities, and the board is somewhat forgiving, as most spaces tolerate at least one value for a particular action. I’m rarely completely messed up by a die roll, which I appreciate, and even if you miss out on using a worker, you get an incredibly useful token that lets you treat a die as though it were 1 lower or 1 higher next time. It’s a decent fix.
- I also really enjoy the seasonal changes. For one, there are some resources that aren’t available in every season, which is fun, and the Valley cards update with the seasons, as well, which I appreciate. Also, at the end of each season, players junk at least one Comfort and one Improvement, which does a really nice job of making sure the market doesn’t get stale. My general issue with random markets is that not every game takes care to make sure that stuff nobody wants eventually gets filtered out, and it does, here, which I’m a fan of.
- I really like that the solo mode plays the same, but you get fun titles at the end of the game. Everyone loves fun titles, and the titles essentially replace one of those scoring grids that you see in other solo games. I find the scoring grids a bit boring, even if they give out fun titles, just because they’re essentially a high score list. Here, it’s a bit more modular, with some quick questions designed to, yes, check your progress on certain tasks, but I think it works pretty well. I also appreciate how little work is required to play the solo mode; just remove a few Improvements and Travelers (ones that deal specifically with multiplayer interaction) and you’re good to go.
- The distinction between Goods and non-Goods could be a bit clearer. I think a few people I’ve played with think that Coins and Stories count as Goods since they’re consumable resource types that can be spent for Comforts and other tasks, which can be confusing.
- Nine different types of resources is a lot. Counting Lesson Learned tokens, since they can also be exchanged for resources under some circumstances, the game has nine distinct resource types, which was more than I expected.
- The game is, for lack of a better word, very large. Combining space to store all the resources, display various cards and player boards and such, the game is a big game, in terms of table space. Not bad; more impressive than anything else.
- This is mostly a nitpick, hence the Meh, but I usually see the # symbol associated with spaces where the specific number does matter, not where it doesn’t. I think that it’s because, generally, on spaces without the # symbol, there are printed numbers to indicate which dice need to be used for which effect, and the brown circle with a * already is used to mean “any Good”, so they went with the # symbol to mean “any number”. It’s still confusing, for me, but it seems like a reasonably easy thing to learn and internalize.
- The long game is a bit longer than I feel like playing, but the short game is a perfectly reasonable length, for me. I understand why the game treats the long game as the standard game (you use every Valley card, in that mode), but with five players, this is going to be a doozy of a game. I’m suspicious of it taking 45 minutes, but maybe they play much faster than I do? No idea. Either way, I’ve found the short game is much more my speed.
- For teaching, it would be nice if the various locations were labeled with their names, to make them easier to reference. I still get the Meadow and the Forest confused if the cards are face-up, but most of the rulebook references locations by name, and those names aren’t replicated on the board anywhere. It would be nice if they had little signs to make the game easier to learn / remember (or some visual indication of what the place’s name was).
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun playing Creature Comforts! I think it’s definitely a game that deserves a bit of focus, when playing, because there’s a lot going on, but one of the highlights of its design is that there’s always a way to do a bunch without the game getting away from you. Part of that is a non-blocking worker placement system, where sending your workers to various locations doesn’t preclude other players from doing the same thing. I really like that! It doesn’t exactly encourage cooperation (since players can still take things you want before you get to them at certain spots), but it makes for a real-time placement phase and speeds the game up. Both good things, in my opinion, since the game can be an investment. The thing I like best about the worker placement is that you ultimately are allocated six dice to use on your turn, but you get to see two of them before you place your workers, so you have a hint of what options you’ll have available to you. This allows you to plan, but not completely. Too many dice would lead to analysis paralysis from some players, and too few dice would make the worker placement feel arbitrary. Here, it’s optimistic. I like that a lot. The art and the theme further serve to highlight some rock-solid gameplay, so Creature Comforts is firing on a lot of cylinders, for me. This might be the way to get some of my friends excited about worker placement games, or more interested in the genre. I’m intrigued. But if you’re a fan of KTBG’s array of titles, you’re looking for an interesting spin on worker placement, or you just want to settle in with a cozy game before, during, or after a long winter, I’d recommend checking out Creature Comforts! I think it’s great.
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