Hello, and welcome to the Raxxon Crisis Management Unit! You are here because the spread of this new virus has been rumored to be linked to one of Raxxon Pharmaceutical’s newest drugs. Although these allegations are far from true, we want to be present to help in any way possible.
Your job is to be on the ground, sifting through the population. Evacuate those who are healthy, and quarantine those who are infected. If other means of controlling or containing the infected become necessary, don’t hesitate to act quickly. Oh, and make sure you bring back any new information you find straight to Raxxon. We will relay that information to the proper authorities, of course.
Good luck, and remember, Raxxon Pharmaceuticals has procedures and tests in place for all new drugs, ensuring they are safe and reliable for all of our customers. We are committed to the health and safety of all. Any allegations claiming our drugs have caused this outbreak are unfounded and outrageous!
In “Raxxon”, a cooperative 1-4 player game by J. Arthur Ellis, published by Plaid Hat Games, players take on the roles of members of a Crisis Management / Containment Unit, sent to the forefront of a zombie outbreak to clean up the mess obviously made by Raxxon Pharmaceuticals. Raxxon is a very “Umbrella” like corporation (for those of you Resident Evil fans), that seems to be involved in shady experimental drugs that have some pretty severe side effects with monumental consequences to the population.
“Raxxon” is the third game put out by Plaid Hat Games featuring the fictional “Raxxon Pharmaceuticals” company, the other games being “Dead of Winter” and “Specter Ops”. The games make up a sort of story line that I really enjoy. Specter Ops involves spies trying to infiltrate Raxxon’s warehouse and hunters sent out by Raxxon to eliminate the threat. Dead of Winter takes place after the outbreak has spread worldwide, and characters work together to try and survive in a zombie filled world.
This game, “Raxxon”, takes place in between the other two games. The outbreak has just happened and measures are still being taken to contain the virus and save the population, or in the least, Raxxon’s reputation. Think of “Dead of Winter” as “The Walking Dead” and “Raxxon” as “Fear the Walking Dead”. We now get to experience how everything went down when the outbreak started.
Players each take on the role of a particular character in the Containment team. Cards representing people (infected or healthy) are placed out in a grid face down. Then in a fashion very similar to the childhood game “Memory”, players flip the cards over one at a time and use their special actions to try and quarantine sick people while evacuating healthy people.
Different actions include making cards swap positions, targeted airstrikes of infected people, and evacuations of healthy people. Healthy people can only be evacuated if an entire row of the grid is made up of healthy people, so players are trying to use their actions to switch cards around, or eliminate infected people to save the healthy ones.
Of course there are consequences that can happen if you flip over too many infected cards, or if you use the same actions over and over again. Also, there is a deck of cards that players need to draw from with narratives on them that give them choices to make that can affect the game now, or possibly affect the game later on.
If players are able to work together and save all of the healthy people, then they win. You need to be careful though, throughout the game, if you allow Raxxon to have too much power by lying for them or covering up their mistakes, or giving them too much information, the corporation may just take over control during this time of chaos, and players lose the game.
Lets look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the game:
Quality: Like all Plaid Hat Games material, this game has high quality components and great art.
Theme: I like the theme for this game. Who doesn’t love zombie games? I love the Raxxon trilogy of games, and look forward to more in the future. This game even includes two brand new characters for Dead of Winter, and all of the characters in this game are from Dead of Winter. I like the consistency.
Cooperative: Cooperative games are always fun! If you don’t have a cooperative game in your collection yet, you are really missing out.
Unique Mechanics: The grid / memory style of this game is really interesting. I like trying to move cards around and line up healthy people in order to evacuate them.
Length: Game play is consistently around 45 minutes.
Gameflow: When players put out the grid of cards, the largest it can get to is 4X4, unless other cards get added. This makes rounds pretty short, and sometimes you only want to take a turn or two before you drop out of the round because the consequence of taking more turns can be worse than the help you can provide. I feel like game flow is stifled by this, and the neat card flipping/switching mechanic isn’t able to live up to its full potential.
Raxxon Cards: There is a deck of cards in this game that players draw from as a consequence after they take certain actions. The cards have narratives on them that players read out loud and then are forced to make a choice. One choice usually gives them a consequence now, and the other gives no consequence now, but the possibility of a larger consequence later. This is very much like the Crossroads Cards in “Dead of Winter”. One interesting difference though, is that each of these cards has a part 1 and a part 2. If you get both parts in the same game, the consequences can be really bad. I was really excited about this at first, because the Crossroads cards add a lot to the theme of Dead of Winter and are really fun to read, but unfortunately the narratives in “Raxxon” aren’t as interesting. A lot of cards are repeated, making them slightly boring, and the likelihood of getting part 1 and part 2 of the same card seems to be fairly low. After a few games, instead of reading the narratives, we just started reading the choices at the end. Sadly, these cards seem like an after thought, and that they were put together in a rush.
Number of players: Please give us a 5th player?
I like a lot about this game, especially the theme and the interesting mechanics. Unfortunately, I feel like now I understand the saying: “Maybe you don’t like ME as much as the IDEA of me?” That is how I feel about this game. I like the idea of Raxxon more than the actual game.
Like I mentioned previously, the game feels stifled by the small sample size of cards each round, and players quickly becoming disengaged by needing to drop out. Each character has a lot of actions, but players aren’t able to use many at a time. I feel that if more cards came out at a time, leading to longer rounds, and a larger playing field, the game would flow much better and be more successful. Adding this to the lackluster of the Raxxon cards, this game falls flat when standing next to Specter Ops and Dead of Winter.
If you enjoy Dead of Winter and Specter Ops and like the Raxxon theme, this game is a nice add to your collection. It even includes two brand new Dead of Winter characters! If you are looking for a cooperative game to add to your collection, and are unfamiliar with cooperative games, this game is easy to learn, and has fun unique mechanics. Unfortunately I am still feeling unimpressed with this game as a whole. Maybe my expectations were too high? Before this, I was yet to play a Plaid Hat Games release that I didn’t absolutely love. I will definitely bring this game out every once and a while as an easy warm up, but it could benefit from a few changes.