Australia

Finnish review of Australia.

Australia is a potential victim for too high expectations. After all, Kramer and Kiesling are responsible for the mask trilogy (Tikal, Java, Mexica) and Australia seems to fit with that group.

However, that’s not the case. Australia is clearly a lighter game (even lighter than Mexica), aimed at the family market. The game even has action points, kind of, there’s just merely two of them each turn. While the danger of analysis paralysis still lingers, Australia is light and very tactical.

Rangers and planes

Players control a bunch a rangers who travel around Australia to do projects. The theme is almost silly. Australia is divided into a bunch of areas and there are camp sites for the rangers on the borders. Each area has two projects: one just is, the other has a random number.

The projects are completed by placing rangers around the area. The nature conservation project is ready, when all camps around an area have at least one ranger. Industrial project is ready, when the camps have exactly as many rangers as the number tile in that area says. The numbers are hidden, until someone visits the area, so there’s a bit of randomness.

Players place rangers by flying in an area and then playing a card with correct colour. Each card allows the placement of one to four rangers. Cards with less rangers award dollars, which give points and allow special moves. Players have two actions each turn, typically used for flying and playing a card. Players can also take back rangers, there’s a fairly limited supply.

Chaos and bad art

Australia is a very tactical game. Each turn you try to come up with the move that will bring you most points (and perhaps hinder your opponents). No long-term strategies needed! This will cause boredom and waiting with slow players, but usually finding the best (or at least a good) move is fairly simple.

Of course the amount of players has a lot to do with it. I will never again play this with five players. Too much waiting, too little control. With three, the game is much better. Four is in between. Those who don’t mind chaos and highly tactical games will enjoy the five player game, but that’s not for everybody.

The game looks pretty bad, I don’t like the art. The ranger figures are decent and the little airplanes are probably in my personal top ten for charming game components, but the art doesn’t please me at all, it’s a bit shoddy I think. However, everything works quite well, so the game is definitely playable.

Overview

Australia is fun, particularly with three players. I like the small tactical puzzles the game offers, but then again, I like many other games as well. There’s little in Australia to make it better than the other games. I wouldn’t call Australia a dud, just a game that doesn’t tickle my interests. I prefer my games a bit more strategic. For those who enjoy highly tactical games, I say Australia should make you happy.

The English rules have some issues. While the other language versions instruct you to place ranger card decks face down, the English rules have it face up. I recommend playing it the right way, though I’m not sure if it’ll make such a big difference in the end.

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2 thoughts on “Australia”

  1. I’m a little confused, Mikko. You complain a bit about the chaotic nature of Australia, and then you recommend playing with the draw decks face down? Why do you think the game is better with blind draws? It certainly doesn’t add much downtime to the game at all to let the players see what they’re choosing.
    I think the game is MUCH better with the decks face up. I also always play with the windmill variant, as it adds a nice new dimension to the game with little added complexity. Australia isn’t the most exciting game to come down the pike, but I think it’s a very solid design that plays well with a variety of gamers. The American periodical Games Magazine, which focuses on more casual gamers, chose it as its Game of the Year and I think it was a pretty good choice.

  2. Two different things here, I think. Face-down draw decks are fine, because they make the game slightly faster — less thinking about in the drawing face. I don’t mind the luck element there. That’s not bad chaos.
    The bad chaos is more related to downtime, really: there’s not much to do during someone else’s turn, since all you can do is to wish someone doesn’t blow your clever next move. If they do (and that’s likely), you’ll have to start from scratch on your turn. That’s something that’s fine with two, ok with three, just about tolerable with four and horrid with five.
    I agree about the windmill, but then you should make sure everybody gets that it can be a good source of points.
    Australia is nice, but I haven’t felt the need to play it much. That’s always the final, heaviest criteria for me.

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