Uk’otoa hungers and there is no escape. Fans of Critical Role will know the name and whisper Uk’otoa (Uk’otoa Uk’otoa Uk’otoa) in the dark corners of forbidden places, and now the mysterious evil patron is searching for new victims.
Not content with being synonymous with Dungeons & Dragons, the team behind Critical Role are reaching out their twisting, grasping, covetous tentacles to the wider world of tabletop board games. Uk’otoa marks the first publication from their games division, Darrington Press, and it is a sea-faring encounter where sailors of different factions compete to be the last one standing when a leviathan attacks.
I’m a big Critical Role fan, so was excited to receive a review copy of the game from the folks at the Darrington Press.
What is Uk’otoa?
Uk’otoa is a quick tactical game of semi-cooperative card play for 3 to 6 players, where factions of sailors vie to be the last one standing. Set on a ship, players watch as Uk’otoa’s foreboding toothy maw ravages the deck, moving ever-closer to the desperate sailors whose only chance for prolonged survival is to feed their enemies to the insatiable leviathan. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling game where tactics and chance go hand-in-hand.
In the box you’ll find:
- 26 ship deck hexes
- 25 terrified sailor meeples
- 5 faction tokens
- 60 movement/action cards
- 1 Uk’otoa miniature
- 1 Rule book / how to play guide
The deck hexes fit together really well and when built create the shape of your ship. At the start of each game players take it in turns to lay their hex tile with the arrow pointing to the previously played tile. Uk’otoa is then placed on the last tile played.
The 60 movement/action cards are broken down into three types: Advance Uk’otoa, Push, or Run. On each card there is also a value, 1-3, which indicates how far you advance, run or push on your turn.
The terrified sailor meeples come in 5 colors, representing the 5 factions in the game.The sculpt design for the meeples are just joyful; they look like a cross between Crash Dummies and Lemmings about to explode (“Oh no!”).
The final piece of the game is the Uk’otoa mini and this comes unpainted. Disappointing perhaps for some, but for me it represents a great opportunity to add my own flourish to the game. I can already imagine the expressions on my friends faces when the day-glow neon pink and green leviathan engulfs their terrified meeples.
This game follows an intriguing and original style of play that I personally haven’t seen before. Each player is on two different 2-player teams. You and the person to your left are on a team trying to protect the color you share between you (hence there are only five factions when up to six players can play). You and the person on your right are also on a different team, trying to protect the color you share with them. It sounds confusing, but it soon becomes clear when you begin to play.
So on your turn you are directly affecting what happens to the players on either side of you. You can use this to either work with or against them, deciding on your levels of tactical skill and deviousness.
The player who was most recently aboard a ship or boat goes first.
Turns are made up of 4 phases:
Advance Phase. You may choose to move Uk’otoa one space around the deck. Any sailor on the tile which Uk’otoa moves onto is eaten and eliminated.
Draw Phase. You draw 2 cards from the deck, keeping them secret from the other players.
Action Phase. This is where you play your cards; they will usually end in Uk’otoa eliminating meeples, or you running away from the monster.
Discard Phase. If you have more than 5 cards in your hand, you must discard as many cards of your choice until you only have 5 left.
The game ends as soon as there is either only a single color of meeple left on the deck—the two players that share control of this meeple are the victors—or there are only two colors of meeple remaining on the ship and they are both controlled by the same player—that player wins the game.
Why You Should Play Uk’otoa
It’s really fun. Here’s a video of the cast of Critical Role playing it and they certainly seem to enjoy it (well, they would, wouldn’t they!). Critters will love the attention to detail included in this box—it’s a really great sign of things to come from the new publisher—there’s Captain Tusktooth, memorable NPCs from both campaigns, and of course the eponymous Uk’otoa.
For a quick co-op game, Uk’otoa has a surprising level of strategy involved. When you get your head around the competitive/co-operative elements, it’s really satisfying to see the monstrous leviathan engulfing your foes, knowing that all you have to do is outlive them to win.
There are elements of this game which can get a bit predictable, and if you don’t get decent meeple placement from the start you may find your sailors doomed before you begin. However, by the second or third game you’ll soon have the hang of it and be ready to feed your foes to an insatiable sea monster. It’s also odd to play a game where you want to be the last one standing, not because that means you’ll survive, but just for the privilege of being the last one consumed by Uk’otoa.
The game is fast. It says 30-45 minutes to play, but once you know what you’re doing it will be much faster, and you’ll be keen to play three of four times in a row to really test out your tactics.
Overall, I really liked this game, as did the rest of my gaming group, who are not all Critical Role fans like myself. It even comes with its own sea shanty written by the cast of Critical Role; what’s not to like about that!