Session Report is a monthly series that explores the intersection of narrative and broader themes of game design by focusing on a specific tabletop game each month.
This is the tale of three castaways: Philip Ashton of America, Juana Maria of the Nicoleño, and Marguerite de la Rocque of France. All situations and images are from Castaways, designed by Alberto Corral and published by HomoLudicus/Passport Game Studios.
Week 7 (Ashton)
The weather has improved, making the waters wondrously clear. While watching the sunrise, I caught a glint near the entrance to the jungle, and was able to misappropriate the Indian’s gold and jewels before anybody noticed. I also had a peek at the pirate treasure, setting aside an unnoticeable amount in my personal stores.
My injuries are slow to heal. I spent the remainder of the day resting, while the Indian planned another expedition–I watched with jealousy as she set off by herself–and Marguerite took advantage of the clear skies to fish, then napped with me in the sun.
I had a peek at the Indian’s diary just now–she wrote in it for hours after her return. Apparently, no sooner had she stepped foot in the jungle than she was set upon by hostile natives. Perhaps now she will spend more thought before exploring the island without the aid of my rifle or Marguerite’s machete. She also discovered some sort of altar, with a bowl of fruit placed on it. I would have taken the bowl back to the camp and shared it with everybody, but she pocketed only a single piece, of which I have seen none…the nerve! Climbing an exceptionally tall tree, she scouted the path ahead, seeing a stray dog in one direction and a litter of jaguar cubs in another. She also spotted a stray cannon, but had not the strength to bring it back to camp on her own.
Poor Marguerite! The Indian and I ate the two fish the Frenchwoman caught before she woke up from her nap, and she spent another night hungry. She asked why we did not eat the food that we had stockpiled, and I pointed out (quite rationally) that it was her just desserts for failing to plan for the future as we have done.
She is not looking well. She has grown gaunt, and I fear her beauty and her health have been tainted by the harshness of island life. I am almost tempted to give her some of my seeds. But we will need a man’s strength if we are to make it off this island.
Week 8 (Juana Maria)
The seas are rough, uninviting. This morning, I woke early and watched the last of the ship’s remains be swallowed up by the horizon. I then investigated the treasure discovered by Marguerite. It is clear that the others have been stealing from it, so I did not feel guilty for doing the same.
Philip and I went on an expedition while Marguerite foraged for food. She would have been better served accompanying us–she arrived at the beach to find all the turtles gone. We both spent the evening resting, while Philip wrote in his journal.
It did not take me long to relocate the dog that I spotted yesterday. It was wary at first, but after I offered it some crab meat, we became fast friends. Philip, the luckless man, was surprised when a snake dropped from the branches onto his head, scratching his neck deeply with its fangs. I then spotted a shortcut to the headland, which cut through a treacherous stream. Braving the crossing, we found ourselves nearer to our goal than we could have expected, and no worse for it, though Philip was visibly strained from the effort. We happened upon a birds’ nest, taking a couple of eggs in case of emergency. Just then, Philip looked up and noticed that the weather appeared to be worsening, and I discovered a pair of discarded shackles, broken off on a sharp rock. Philip, begging exhaustion, returned to camp at the sight. I think he fears a run-in with these escaped slaves. For my part, I pressed onward, coming suddenly upon a flock of birds (if only I’d had Philip’s rifle, we might have had a good dinner for once). Finding within me an inner reservoir of strength, I moved forward until I was deep within the jungle. With the dog’s aid, I returned to camp in time to rest before dinner.
Taking pity on Marguerite, and knowing that escaping the island would be much harder without her, I shared some of my birds’ eggs with her, setting aside an equal portion for myself and for the dog. Philip noisily slurped his own yolk, then we slept by the warmth of the fire.
Week 9 (Marguerite)
Theft! There was quite the commotion in camp this morning. Apparently, somebody has stolen the indigene’s beloved Botanical Treatise. She suspects one of us. Taking advantage of the confusion, I relocated the gold and jewels from Philip’s hiding spot to someplace more…secure.
Even in the midst of excitement, our routine seldom changes. I foraged, finding enough food for two. Philip and I rested, while Juana examined the pirate treasure, “to ensure that none had been stolen.” Then, the two of them set off on another expedition, leaving to me the unglamorous task of tending camp. Once I get my strength up, I will show them.
Philip told me all about it: how he’d cornered the thief; how he’d fled, and Philip had barely prevented the man from plummeting off a precipitous cliff. That will look nice in his journal, no doubt. Juana discovered the turtle-shaped stone mentioned in the letter from the other castaway, the first clue to his camp’s location. There, they found another note, making mention of a tree with a man’s face. Philip, true to form, discovered nothing but a nest of mosquitos. The indigene rested, presumably to find the perfect phrase to describe a strange bush they’d just passed, indistinguishable from the hundred others on the island. Philip, for a change, found something nice: a beautiful lake, from which they drank and refreshed themselves. I wish I could have seen it for myself. The indigene “stumbled upon” a pair of jaguar cubs; knowing that my forage would not stretch to her, she beguiled Philip into hunting them with his rifle.
Jaguar meat in tow, they finally moved on to the heartland, where Philip promptly discovered a stream inhabited by vicious, biting fish. They decided to cross it, and both returned to camp with their legs torn to ribbons (Philip got the worst of it, as usual). The indigene then got her comeuppance: an angry jaguar mother, most put out by the sight of its cubs slung across her back. How I wish I could have seen that! Apparently, the dog chased it away. Then Philip, the oaf, got them both lost, and they would not have made it back to camp had not the dog helped them scent out that turtle-shaped rock, from which Juana easily reclaimed the path.
Philip and I shared the food I foraged, while Juana ate the jaguar meat. The dog, filthy creature, ran off into the jungle as soon as it was clear there was no food for it. Good riddance. The fire warms us.
Week 10 (Ashton)
The weather improved, and with it came a minor fire in our camp, but we got it taken care of.
With the summit in sight, it is time to begin preparing for our rescue. To maximize our chances of being spotted, we have decided to gather wood for a large bonfire. The Indian took care of that, while I rested and prepared myself for a big effort. Marguerite gathered a bit of food, then the two of us headed out into the island. It is nice to have her company again.
We were attacked by more natives, who apparently hold the island’s summit sacred. After passing by some nice-looking scenery, losing and regaining the path, and having our strength tested, we found an end to our path at a narrow but deep ravine. Perhaps life on the island has made us reckless, but we jumped, and succeeded. As our final task for the day, we decided to drag back the cannon, as an additional precaution against our rescue. It took the last of our combined energy.
Today has made me reconsider my relationship with Marguerite and with Juana, who has amassed a small fortune in tales and baubles. Marguerite gave me the food she foraged, and in exchange, I gave her the last of my seeds. I let the Indian starve.
Week 11 (Juana Maria)
This morning, the worst happened. The pirates returned to the island, in search of their treasure. We could have let them have it, but Philip got a mad gleam in his eye and charged, without warning, at their leader. He wasted all of his precious ammunition on them, and with the help of Marguerite’s machete, they were defeated. No sooner had their ship retreated, though, than we heard a low growl–the jaguar mother had infiltrated the camp! If the dog had not run away, he might have smelled it coming, but we had no warning. Sensing her cubs’ blood on my hands, she tore into me, leaving me with a severe wound.
We spent the remainder of the day recovering from our exertions. I foraged and dug for some edible insects, while Marguerite and Philip gathered wood. We all rested. For dinner, Marguerite and I shared turtle meat while Philip ate the last of the cub flesh. Although the fire was warm, one of my limbs, where the jaguar scratched me, is incredibly cold. I do not expect it to heal.
Week 12 (Marguerite)
I went to check the pirate treasure, only to find a handful of coins remaining. Of course I took them for myself; it’s only fair, after all, after the evident greed of those two. I gathered some more wood, while Philip prepared for a big effort building the bonfire. I believe he expected our assistance, but just then, I saw Juana heading off into the jungle, so I had to follow her–we are so close to the summit, and I don’t want her claiming all the credit. Philip’s curses followed us until we were well out of sight.
Juana came upon a tree with a man’s face, but though we tried, we could not find the other castaway’s camp. As we made our dejected way forward, I nearly ran into a group of malnourished slaves from the slaver we spotted all those weeks ago. I pitied the hunger in their eyes, but I had no food to share, and for Juana’s part, she needed it to heal from her wounds. The hungry slaves attacked, but were too weak to overpower us. Shaken from our encounter, we were a little heartened to find the headland in sight. Our hopes were soon dashed, though, when it grew prematurely dark, and neither of us could find the trail back to camp. We sleep in the jungle tonight.
Week 13 (Ashton)
The past weeks’ hunger has taken its toll on my body, leaving me scarred in ways that time will not heal. I only want to be alone. Today, I enter the jungle by myself, bringing only what scraps of barely edible roots I can find.
During my exploration, I found the remains of the other crew members’ camp. I searched and searched for something that would be useful in signaling passing ships, but only found some canned food.
I have reached the headland. Tomorrow, we can begin to signal for ships, if we can finish the bonfire in that time. We have only a few days remaining before our chances of rescue diminish to nothing.
The others finally arrived back in camp at the same time that I did. I ate, as did Juana. I no longer care who lives or dies.
Week 14 (Juana Maria)
We awoke to signs of an approaching storm. The pelting rains and harsh winds blew out our campfire, and we had no time or energy to reignite it. While the others gathered wood for the bonfire, I reclaimed my gold and jewels, which Marguerite had tried unsuccessfully to conceal behind a rock.
I spent the evening writing about the new plant species I have discovered on the island, and of my hardships here. Philip finished the bonfire, Marguerite wrote in her journal, and I foraged for food.
For dinner, we ate the foraged food, except for Philip, who ate the canned food he discovered at the crew members’ camp. We all shivered in the cold, and Philip especially groaned–another of his wounds that will not heal.
We spent the next three days signaling passing ships from the headland, but none of them recognized our bonfire. In a last-ditch effort, Philip used his barrel of gunpowder to fire the cannon. As the booming died away, there was utter silence, then a cheer among us as the prow of the ship turned slowly toward us. I write this from the cabin that I share with Marguerite, Philip sleeping in the captain’s quarters.
Though history remembers all our castaways for their hardships and their bravery, it remembers Juana Maria, the woman who single-handedly wrestled a jaguar, diligently recorded several novel species of flora, and returned to civilization a rich woman, just a little bit better.