The ship is going down but the passengers want a first class view in the award winning, fast playing, abstract strategy game, Deckchairs on the Titanic!
*Pattern Moving * Take That* Spatial * Abstract Strategy * Programmed movement * Open Information *Thematic
“Near…..far……wherever you are…….” It’s like Celine Dion knew Silver Birch Games were working on this project. And whilst I’m not floating on a tabletop with Rose (or even bobbing about in the freeeeeeezing drink with Jack), I nevertheless find myself in exactly the opposite place to where I want to be whenever finishing a round in Deckchairs on the Titanic!
So what is Deckchairs on the Titanic? It’s an abstract strategy game based on the premise that there’s always merit in focussing on something small whilst the world goes mad around you. Like fiddling whilst Rome burns, your ship might be sinking but by golly you’re going to give the passengers a front row seat to the disaster!
Not only that but it is a double aaward winning abstract strategy game which nabbed the 2022 UK Games Expo Best Abstract Game People’s Choice Award Winner and 2022 UK Games Expo Best Abstract Game Judges Award Winner!
Disaster on the horizon!
In the game, you’re playing deckchair attendants trying to bag the best spots on deck for the tip-generous first class passengers. But beware for there’s more than just cheeky towel reserving to contend with. As the ship rocks from one direction to another, the deckchairs roll, and the iceberg comes dangerously close to smashing your strategy to smithereens!
Setting up the ship!
First job is to take the main deck board that matches the number of players – this is important as it dictates how many actions are taken in each round – together with the score tracker board and the board where the movement cards will be placed. Lay all 3 in the centre of the table with the main deck in the middle. There will be an alternative board for each player count and this is going to be used to set up the deck.
Then give each player their own set of deck chairs (6/4/3 in a 2/3/4 player game), scoring token and attendants in a matching colour. The Iceberg goes in the centre of the main board on the dedicated slot.
Using the unused board as a reference, place everybody’s deck chairs on the related coloured squares on the main deck board as shown on that second board. This should mean that the deckchairs are all over the shop (ship?!). One attendant per player goes on the action track.
The pound sign meeple goes on the score tracker aft board (rear) and the tip cards are placed to one side (these are given to any player who makes their way round to 25 points and needs to keep going!).
Place the no-movement card on the first slot on the bow deck board (front) with another randomly selected card on the next slot. The remainder of the deck is shuffled and placed on the third slot– each card represents a round so you can play a few or the whole lot.
Now you should have a complete ship and be ready to rock and roll!
Each round has 3 or 4 actions depending on player count. And each turn, you have a choice of 3 actions:
- Shift one of your deckchairs one space in any orthogonal (but not diagonal) direction to an empty square (or one with your attendant already on it);
- Move the iceberg in any direction until it hits deckchairs (in which case it shifts them all along in that same direction – note that attendants aren’t affected and will stop the iceberg entering that square. The edge of the board also stops all movement in its tracks); or
- Place your attendant on a slot to “reserve” it (meaning that the deckchair and that attendant cannot be moved for the rest of the round).
When all players have completed their actions, it’s time for everything on the ship to slip! In the first round, nothing moves as the no-movement card is in play. But on subsequent rounds, everything on deck moves one space in whichever direction is shown on the face up card. Everything except chairs reserved by an attendant, that is!
And if your chair slides into your coloured square – ding ding! £2 (points) for you! If you occupy another player’s square then you still get £1! And if you occupy the centre square, you’ll get a whopping £4 tip!
Everything stays where it is ready for the next round save for the attendants on board who get returned to the players, and those on the action tracker move back to the top. The movement card is discarded, the already flipped one moves across, and another gets flipped over ready for the round after next!
Whoever has the biggest tip haul by the end of the last round is the winner!
Once the game is underway, Deckchairs on the Titanic plays incredibly quickly. I think our first game lasted less time than it took to set the game up (although there was a bit of sticker action which delayed matters). Being able to decide how many rounds is a neat trick in terms of increasing the game’s length and versatility, and the theme works well in terms of linking the movement to what you’re doing on board. The size of the boards has also given the designers an opportunity to add a lot of nautical illustrations – packing out the deck with all sorts of little details.
The clever part in Deckchairs is the open information aspect of the game. Knowing in which direction all the pieces are going to move at the end of the current round and the next round means you can try to plan ahead. The attendant is also more than just a strategic side piece; with smart placement, you can derail all sorts of shifts that play out at the end of the round.
Plans rarely works perfectly, however, and that knowledge sort of fools you into thinking you have some control. Because of course where your opponents choose to move and block has a direct impact on your strategy.
But if you can manoeuvre yourself into a position that’s at least in the right sort of area on deck by the end of the round, you’re going to have a better chance of a profitable play. Seeing your pieces move in and out of the spaces you were targeting is a frustratingly fun experience that is the core of what keeps Deckchairs on the Titanic more than just an abstract game of area control.
As players are limited to 4 actions each round, it can be quite hard to recover from the effects if you do find yourself at completely the wrong end of the deck. I suffered a few two player games where all of my moves in given rounds were effectively pointless because I was too far from anything useful to score. By contrast, my opponent raced ahead on the score tracker with some pretty perfect placement and the scoring gap between us jumped up. Having said that, woeful differentials are going to be more to do with my poor planning and spatial skills than anything else!
Having played Deckchairs at all player counts now, it definitely shines brighter at 3/4 for us. And that is unusual around our table where we normally prefer the “this time it’s personal” two player approach to strategy games. Here, however, the extra chaos on the main deck made it fun as everyone got stuck in bashing chairs with the iceberg and sneaking attendants onto squares to scupper others’ plans. Two player mode works – the scaling through the use of additional actions and deckchairs works to keep the board tight in terms of spacing. But having 3 or 4 minds to contend with when tactically tussling on the Titanic definitely increased the challenge and the fun factor at our table!
If you like fast playing abstract strategy games, then Deckchairs on the Titanic has now been released by Silver Birch Games and is available to order.
Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.