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Hostage Negotiator Review

February 2nd, 2018 by

Hostage 001I have played some intense games in my time. I have even played some frustrating ones. The ones I normally find the most intense and frustrating are solitaire card games or puzzle games. Hostage Negotiator simply beats them all in both respects. Also I always wanted to be cool like Kevin Spacey. Ok maybe not so much now.

It’s not gonna take Sherlock Holmes to know what role you are going to be taking in this solitaire, dice-rolling, deck building game from Van Ryder Games. In its simplest form your job is to rescue as many hostage meeple as possible, while also trying to get their abductor to give up or at the very least not escape.

Each of the three abductors comes with their own slightly different rules, from the number of hostages to varying threat levels and more abductors and scenarios are available with expansion packs. On top of this you also have the abductors demands to ascertain and resolve as well as the dreaded red deck of terror. The fact you only use 10 of the 21 red terror cards means that you are never quite sure what you are going to get and in what order.

To deal with the abductors you use a range of Conversation cards all with different conversation point values ranging from 0 points (free cards) to 9 points. You start with the free cards in your hand and you can use them face up for possibly good rewards, face down for guaranteed awards or save them for the next hand. Use the cards, score points, buy higher value cards, score more points – deckbuilding 101.

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How well the conversation goes is all based on up to five little cubes of pain and despair….sorry I mean dice. Each card has three possible outcomes, one for two success symbols, one for one success and a final outcome for no successful rolls. These outcomes get considerably worse as you move down the list. Higher value cards have bigger rewards but much more dire consequences for failing.

And fail you will. And a hell of a lot of times. Solitaire games are meant to be frustratingly hard otherwise what’s the point? You might as well give yourself a game of noughts and crosses if they wasn’t. Sometimes however, Hostage Negotiator is just kick-sand-in-your-face mean. A good example of this is how the threat level operates; not only does it determine how close you are to rescuing hostages or them being shot but it also determines how many dice you can roll. If you close to rescuing a hostage the threat level is low and you have three dice to roll but on the killing end of the spectrum you only get a single die to roll. When things get hard in Hostage negotiator they get real hard and become almost impossible to pull back around.

It sounds, and looks, complicated but the rules are super easy to follow and the rulebook has a handy reference guide on the back. Deckbuilding fans will feel right at home. You simply play conversation cards, roll dice to determine the level of success, spend any points to buy more cards, flip over and deal with the next terror card. Actually knowing the pattern of which phase you are in, like all games, takes time.

With the dice all have three blank (unsuccessful) sides, two successful sides and a single “turn two cards into a success” side, there is a hell of a lot of luck involved in every round. It will often feel that the game somehow knows what you are up to and stick two fingers up at you. You will work all round reducing the threat level only for the terror card to raise it back up, You’ll free a hostage only for your next roll resulting in two being shot. You will swear those dice are weighted sometimes and an intense hatred of them will wash over you.

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Even though Hostage Negotiator can be amazingly frustrating most of the time, it can be amazingly rewarding when you are finally successful, often resulting in you double and triple checking to make sure you have actually won. I would heartedly recommend this for single players looking for something different, challenging with lots of scope for replayability and expansion

Midlife Gamer Rating: 7.5/10     Year of Release: 2015
Designer: AJ Porfirio    Manufacturer: Van Ryder Games
RRP:  £24.99

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer reviewed Hostage Negotiator over the course of  eight days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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