What is this game about?
Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave is a standalone expansion to Hostage Negotiator, a solo classic from Van Ryder games that I have already reviewed on this site. Crime Wave works the same way as its predecessor: You use conversation cards and die rolls to simulate a hostage negotiation with one of the game's abductors. If you can rescue at least half of the hostages and either capture or kill the abductor, you win. Expect a harrowing, immersive gaming experience—I loved the original Hostage Negotiator and I'm also definitely feeling Crime Wave.
Although gameplay remains the same, Crime Wave comes with some new material to work with. You get a new set of conversation cards that are slightly different from the ones in the base game, as well as a new deck of Terror Cards to give you new challenges from the abductor each turn. You also get three new and entirely different abductors to test your mettle against. Look under the insert, and you will get an even bigger surprise! ;)
The components in Crime Wave are also bigger and better. You'll get a roomier board to track your interactions with the abductor, as well as bigger, chunkier dice and meeples. The box itself is much larger than the original box for Hostage Negotiator, and is even designed to store the original box in case you want to use it for more portable gaming in the future.
How does it play solo?
Like its predecessor, Crime Wave is made just for solo gamers.
If you're just getting started with Hostage Negotiator, I still personally recommend the original. I think the abductor stories are a bit more relatable, which makes it easier for me as a player to latch on. Also, there's nothing wrong with a small box and smaller components. I also think that the "starter abductor" in the original, Arkayne Massua, is better to begin with, even though he's the most generic adversary in the game. The starter adversary in Crime Wave, Lijah, is only interested in escaping and is not set up with a Major Demand. I think a more "standard" ruleset (in this case, with a Major Demand) is best for your first outing with a game.
That said, Crime Wave is a very worthy follow-up for the experienced Hostage Negotiator fan. I particularly enjoyed being able to switch out between sets of conversation cards. While the zero-point and one-point cards are essentially the same, higher value cards offer different rewards and penalties, and will absolutely force you to change the way you play. Having some fresh cards to play with felt great. Also, to maintain game balance, there are instructions on the back of the player board that tell you how to mix and match sets of new and old cards effectively. (You will get advice for combining Terror Cards, as well.) The game also includes a couple of special negotiator cards that give you special abilities, and also a character image to imagine other than the standard dude with aviator sunglasses. There are a couple of negotiator expansion packs that were sold as KS add-ons, and while their special actions can make your game easier, what I like best is the idea that there are multiple negotiators with interesting stories to engage with during gameplay.
As the size of the new game box will show you, Hostage Negotiator is meant to be enjoyed in full, and having more add-ons will definitely improve your gameplay experience. Even though Crime Wave is technically standalone, you're better off getting it as an expansion to the base game—and picking up as many abductor packs as you can. Having more varied choices has been the key to keeping this game alive in my years-long relationship with it.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. Crime Wave doesn't feel as "complete" to me as the original game, but it's a great gameplay experience.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
(Original Hostage Negotiator, plus the HN universe as a whole, is 5 stars for me)
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.