Red November is a board game published by Fantasy Flight Games where players take on the role of Gnomes on a submarine who have one hour to keep their steel casket away from the dangers of fire, flooding, suffocation, missiles, overheating and, obviously, a kraken, as they wait for help to arrive.
Gameplay is relatively simple: as your Gnome, you perform actions which take an allotment of time – opening a door and moving into another room, for example, is one minute, where something more complicated like rushing into a room engulfed by flame with nothing but a fire extinguisher and prayer may take considerably longer – all in an effort to remain afloat. Events pop up with unfortunate regularity as Gnomes scuttle about, events which are often negative in consequence (the aforementioned suffocation and kraken), which traditionally lead to Gnomes getting drunk on grog, passing out, and finding themselves at the bottom of a three mile trench.
Red November is a healthy mix of luck and strategy, and great to play with a group of friends as a “filler” in-between more lengthy games. Players are forced to plan accordingly, rolling dice to try and accomplish life-saving tasks while deciding what dangers to focus on and how much time to allot in their efforts (too much time spent fixing a leak may see four fires spring up, where too little time might lead to failure and flood). In these moments, November is at its best, when oxygen is low, one Gnome frantically working to open a barricaded door, another panicking in the boiler room without a tool box, and a third having just opened the latch to the outside where he/she will swim to safety, leaving their fellow mates to die horribly.
This luck can be a double-edged sword, however, as games are wildly inconsistent. Some days aboard the submarine are relatively quiet where others are roller coasters of pain, items drawn not remotely matching the task at hand with dice being equally disruptive and obstinate. I prefer planning which leads to victory, a sound strategy always being worth more than a failed roll in my mind, though I do understand moments in life exist where chance will keep that missile from hitting or cause it to veer wonderfully south, and there’s nothing any of us, as Gnomes, can do about it.
Recommended for 1-8 players who like grog, absurdity, and drowning.