A Quick Stop Before Kokomo.

Key Largo is one of those games that catch my eye at the FLGS one day, and I pass by whenever I go in.  It has a bright, colorful box with fun artwork.  For some reason I was never able to buckle down and buy it.  It is only $40, but not having heard much about it, I always shyed away.  Well now my list of “need” games is dwindling down, and I finally picked up Key Largo.  I wish I had bought it sooner.
There are many games that catch my eye with great box art, but I am often let down once the lid has been lifted.  Key Largo keeps its art consitant throughout the product.  The theme of this game is that all the players are running diving corporations in the year 1899.  The players hire divers to search shipwrecks, and this is where the great art really comes in.  Instead of a generic diver token to play, each of the two dozen divers has a completely different personality.  They are full of so much personality, it is bursting out of their diving helmets.  Take a look at the pictures, and see for yourself.

The rest of the components are not as remarkable, but are very nicely done.  The board is a birds eye view of the island.  It can be a little dizzying with all that is going on, but once you adjust it is a blast to scoot your wooden schooners from shipwreck to shipwreck.  The wrecks are decks of cards around the board that you draw from to get treasure or fight a monster.  There are several tools you can purchase to help you in these expeditions.  Hoses let you dive deeper (more risk, but much more reward!), tridents help you survive encounters with the monsters, and weights let you search for more loot.  All of these pieces are made on high quality cardboard.  The one piece that disappoints me is the first player marker.  It is a diving helmet token with rather flat colors, that does not stand up to the full bodied texture of all the other color in the game.  I think a compass with as much color as the rest of the pieces would have been more fitting.

Gameplay is reminiscent of games like Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy.  There is not much player interaction without optional rules, and each player has a deck of the same five actions.  Two actions are chosen a turn, and they represent the morning and afternoon.  Players can search only one wreck a day, so the rest of the time is split up going to the tavern, buying equipment, or selling treasure.  If you’re short on cash and goods, you can always take the tourists on a dolphin tour!

I think Key Largo is going to become one of my top recommendations for a gateway game.  It is simple to play and teach, has no violence, and the paper money will remind the new gamers of the comforts of Monopoly.  There is a ten day turn limit, so they game is over quickly.  Unfortunately set up is a little tedious, so for your impatient gamers try to have it ready before they sit down.  When I brought this game out for the first time in mixed company it seemed like a risk, but everyone had a great time.  Some experienced gamers may feel they would not want to play this often, so in the end I’ll give it four out of five doubloons.

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