CO2: Second Chance

Time to save the world one board game at a time…

1-4 players
120 minutes
Stronghold Games

Note: We were gifted this game for an unbiased review

It’s the 1970s and worldwide there is an unprecedented demand for energy. Fossil fuel power plants spring up everywhere to meet the demand and the pollution levels increase. 50 years later and not enough has been done to combat these rising pollution levels. Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere increased from 350 ppm (parts per million) to 400ppm. In this game, players have a second chance to save the planet by investing in enough clean energy to meet the global energy demands. CO2 Second Chance is a cooperative game intent on saving the world! I think you’ll agree it’s one of those games you see for the first time and instantly think ‘I need to know more about this game’ or in my case it was ‘I need to play this game’.

First things first, this is a heavy game. It took me two hours to learn how to play it and even then I had to refer to the rulebook a lot – the game is open and honest about it and in the most part explains the concepts extremely well – but make no mistake this is not a straight forward game to learn. Is it worth the grind? In short, absolutely yes!

Players each take on the role of CEOs of energy companies, responding to government requests to build new green power plants. As a team you must meet the global demand for sustainable energy and you need money, resources and knowledge in order to do so. You will also need to raise global awareness of the problem by attending energy summits around the world before time runs out…

The game takes place over four decades (rounds). You lose the game if you go below zero Victory Points or if the carbon in the atmosphere is ever over 500ppm at the end of a decade. Even if you manage to avoid losing in these two ways, you still need to meet all but three of the U.N goals set at the beginning of the game in order to win! It really is that brutal.

The U.N goals are set at the beginning of the game and will stipulate how many of each power plant type will need to be built throughout the game (e.g. one card might say 2 wind and 1 hydroelectric, another might say 2 solar). In addition to this there are a number of smaller environmental goals which you will need to work towards throughout the game to avoid VP penalties. These can be as simple as “build a power plant in Africa”, “gain knowledge in solar power”, or “attend a summit about hydroelectric power”. The U.N goals must be achieved by the end of the game, whereas environmental goals are tallied at the end of each decade and you will lose VP for every one not achieved yet, so you better focus on these first!

Some of the environmental goals (green), U.N goals and energy summit locations

By now you’re probably thinking this sounds pretty damn difficult already? Well to make things even more of a challenge, at the end of each decade if a continent’s energy demands haven’t been met (because you haven’t built a renewable power plant there) you’ll need to build a dirty fossil fuel plant there instead, otherwise where is the energy going to come from?! So this adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, raising it towards that perilous 500ppm. A word of warning here it really doesn’t take much to tip you over the 500ppm, so make sure you keep a count of how far over you go! At the end of each decade you can pay your victory points to reduce the carbon dioxide back to below 500ppm. If you can’t afford the VP (because it would take you below zero), you lose the game!

Players take it in turn to perform actions. There are a variety of ‘free’ actions, such as moving scientists, gaining knowledge, buying or selling Carbon Emission Permits (the little purple discs, they are essential in this game), claiming U.N goals or playing lobbyist cards (which are like little bonuses which will help you on your way). Taking as many of these free actions as possible as part of your turn is essential to make the most of your time. In addition to these actions you also do one main action which tends to be building one of the three phases of the power plants.

Aren’t these little power plants so beautiful!!

Each continent has its own energy agenda, meaning only certain types of power plant can be built in certain areas. There are also only certain energy summits available at one time so tying the two together can be difficult, but is essential if you are to fulfill as many goals as possible each decade- this game is incredibly tight so one wrong move can be fatal for the team.

On our first game we concentrated heavily on environmental goals so we didn’t lose too many VP each round, but the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were sky rocketing due to coal power plants being built in Europe and South America, by the end of the third decade we didn’t have enough VP to reduce the 580ppm back to safe levels and we lost the game! To be honest we were struggling to fulfill the U.N goals too so it would have been very tight in the last decade!

If you enjoy weighty worker placement and resource management games, look no further. It is deeply thematic (potentially the most thematic game I’ve ever played?) and everything in the game is there for a reason, there are lots of little side notes in the rulebook which explain why certain things are the way they are- trying to make the game as true to life as possible. The co-operative element is excellent because you end up discussing your next three or four moves at a time, having everyone involved in this means there’s no down time. There is a risk here of course that experienced gamers could take over, so I would recommend players having had a similar number of plays as each other so it doesn’t become one sided.

I am going to say it again because it’s so true and an important part of the gameplay experience: its beautiful. The little power plants are adorable, the board is very well designed and all the elements have their purpose. Perhaps the player boards look a little tired but really that’s me nit-picking. It is the most complicated game either of us has played so if light/medium weight games are more your thing perhaps give this a swerve, but if you put the time in you will be greatly rewarded. There is a semi-cooperative version too using the other side of the board but we are yet to try that (if we can’t win as a team how are we going to win when we’re competing!?).

Finally, you will lose. It’s really hard. We’ve played four times and lost every time!

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