We all know how devastating an oil spill can be to our environment. Polluting the oceans and endangering countless creatures. Now imagine the immense pressure of being tasked with the clean up and containment of such a disaster, working as fast as you can to save as much as possible. The Spill puts you at the epicentre of this disaster. Focussed around Deepwell 4, the oil rig dice tower that has suffered a catastrophic blow out. Now 2-4 players will take up the roll of a different specialist, each with their own unique ability and try to clean up the destruction caused by Deepwell 4. But be warned, this is not going to be easy!
Spill The Beans
Firstly, this game is co-operative, and players will need to be in constant discussion with each other about how best to complete their move. At the start of the game players will either randomly select a specialist or choose one depending on how you want to play. (We always did random). You will then select a win condition card; these all vary in difficulty. There is also a game difficulty setting, which will affect actions when you get a spill out (not good!). But the fact you have so much flexibility you can apply to your game is great, tweaking it for different groups or player abilities is always welcome. The game always has the same set of lose conditions. If you encounter one of these at the start of your turn and don’t remedy it, the game is over. In the first few initial rounds you do get a feeling of “this is going to be easy” but don’t let that fool you. The game has a nasty habit of quickly escalating and will throw you into a pressure cooker of tough decisions! Having to decide which creature to save on your turn can really play on your emotions.
The focal point of the game is the oil rig dice tower. This works really well, at the start of a player turn you drop a number of the black oil dice into the top of the tower (this is shown on the situation board). The dice will then fall into 1 of 4 quadrants on the main board. Each quadrant is split into 6 sections which represent a number from the dice. These will then be placed on the respective space. Each numbered space is 3 deep, and if these fill up you will get a spill out. Get more than 6 spill outs on a turn and don’t rectify it on that go then the game is over! An oil die can also cover a sea animal (there are 6 different kinds in the game) and if this happens, they become contaminated, but like before if you don’t rectify this by the end of your turn that animal will go to sick bay. Get each of the 6 species in sick bay or 3 of one kind and the game ends. But how can we help I hear you cry? Well, after each player has dropped in the oil dice you get to spend action points to complete certain tasks on your move. Each player will get 4 AP to use on different tasks, these are:
- Move 1 or 2 spaces for 1 AP
- Remove 1 oil die from a space and place back in bag for 1 AP
- Remove an oil die from the game and place it on the situation board for 3AP
- Rescue a healthy animal for 1AP
- Rescue a contaminated animal for 2AP
Players also have the choice to gain up to 2 extra AP but this will result in the next player having to place extra oil dice into the tower on their next turn. Removing oil and rescuing animals will allow you to fill up spaces on the situation board and when you reach certain points you can unlock resource cards that will help your cause with 1-time effects. Remember the spill outs I mentioned? The situation board also has a spill out track, so every time a spill out occurs this track increases and changes the number of dice that have to be played each turn. And if that wasn’t enough to contend with, placed inside the oil bag are 4 weather dice that will also hinder your progress and face you with additional challenges on your turn. So as you can see this game can soon snow ball and get out of control, especially if the oil falls into sections that are already full. Every decision will count and every wrong one will punish you. Do you do a temporary clean up to relieve some short term pressure? Or make a sacrifice for the greater good? But everything will be left to chance as you never know where the oil will spill out next.
The game will require a small amount of assembly before you play. The dice tower will need to be constructed and it does have some stickers that need applying. There are instructions on how to do this and all goes together relatively easily. The game board looks great, and all of the icons are printed clearly. The use of the black dice to represent the oil look good and to use a dice tower oil rig was an inspired choice, replicating how oil would spill out and spread ties in great with the whole theme. All in all, the components both look and feel great.
Does It Clean Up
The Spill is enjoyable, but you will lose more than you win (we are yet to get a win) even on the easiest win conditions the game is challenging. This may put some people off, but it does allow you to rethink strategies for future games. But ultimately, it’s how the dice fall that will often determine how successful you are. This element of luck and lack of control may not be for everyone but keeping true to the games theme, how much control would you have in a real-life situation?
Its highly thematic and the decisions your faced with turn by turn really do reflect well throughout the game. It really gets the players talking about what would be the best option to take, its certainly not a light-hearted game and does get you on the edge of your seat when the dice spill out onto the game board. The game really hits the sweet spot at 4 players, as you always have 4 specialists out each game. I generally play at 3, so you all must decide the action and movement of the spare specialist. And if you are playing with 2, you each control 2 each which works a little better than with 3 players.
The game does offer a high amount of replayability, there are a number of win condition cards with varying difficulty to choose from, and with a choice of 8 specialists each with their own abilities there are plenty of ways to mix the game up. Andy Kim and Smirk & Dagger games have done a great job with this, so if you enjoy co-op games with high interaction whilst making some tricky decisions, then The Spill is defiantly worth a try.