I finally got to play it! Okay, it hadn't been sitting on my shelf that long (3ish weeks), but I was dying to get it played! On Sunday I got to play it with 2 friends for a 3 player game. Here are my thoughts from that first game.
This was pretty smooth. The rulebook, in my opinion, is very good. I had no issues when I read through it a couple of times before teaching, and the handful of times during the game when we had questions, we were able to find answers. There is also a separate sheet that details what every single worker placement space does, which is very handy. Teaching it was easy, as well. For being what I would describe as a mid-weight game (maybe just on the lighter side), everything is very easy to grasp, and as far as I know, my friends didn't have any trouble picking it up.
The components are all of good quality. Nothing too amazing or over the top, but the resources and workers are decent wooden pieces that are easy to tell apart and easy to manipulate. The card quality seems to be fine, but I sleeved anyway (I have a problem). The board quality is also good. The player boards are simple cardstock, not thick chipboard or anything. That is fine, especially considering that you don't actually do anything with them during the game, just reference them for your abilities. The neat thing about them is that the back side has a player guide showing every step of a round. There are 8 player boards, and the game only goes to 4 players, so there are enough for each player to use one as a player guide. Awesome!
This is just about the only complaint I've seen for this game online, and it's almost entirely directed at the board. There's nothing wrong with it, but people think the board looks bland. It doesn't bother me, but I can see why people want a little more there. The art on the cards is great. Some of it is artist renderings of the actors in the new movies, but as it's not screencaps, I have no problem with this.
Very good. Everything is very easy to see and read, and there is a handy symbols guide on the back of the rulebook, so this first game, whenever a new symbol came up, we could just look at that and knew exactly what it was. Symbols have different colors, but I'm pretty sure that everything is color independent, so people with color difficulties shouldn't have any issues with this game.
Random thoughts on gameplay:
- It seems like there are many valid paths to victory. Do you focus on building purchase value, and buying several "Spice Must Flow" cards, which give you a point just for purchasing them? Do you try to win as many combats as possible to acquire points? Do you try to work your way up several of the faction influence tracks to gain those points and other benefits? Do you focus on card draw? Or on gaining Intrigue cards, to maybe get a few extra surprise endgame points? Or on culling your deck to maximize your turns? None of these things are easy to do, and every turn feels important.
- The deck building is slow. This is not a problem - it's not a pure deck building game - but it's worth mentioning. You're acquiring 1 or 2 cards per round (max of 10 rounds), with maybe a few chances here and there to add cards. There are not a ton of chances to remove cards from your deck. My initial impression is that on the "worker placement/deck-building hybrid" scale, this game leans slightly toward worker placement. Don't get me wrong, though, the deck building is crucial, and I could see myself changing my mind on this.
- The game is tight! And I don't mean "cool," though it is that as well. The final scores for this were 11-10-10. It is not easy to get points. I think that for the first half of the game, we were all below 3 points.
- The deck building and worker placement hybrid implementation is really cool. It makes the decisions of what cards you're using for your "agent turns" (worker placement) vs your "reveal turn" tough and interesting.
- The combat really elevates this game. It adds so much good tension and second guessing - "oo I really want to win this battle, and I know I'll be able to reveal 3 combat strength on my reveal turn, so I need to move some troops in...but how much is my opponent going to send into battle? Does he even want to win this? Does he have the resources to go that space that adds 5 tropps (that's a lot)? Will he reveal 8 combat strength on his reveal turn and swoop in for a last second victory? [This happened in our game.] Or will I send in 6 troops only to find that my opponents don't care to win this one, meaning I'll be losing more troops than necessary.
I want to play this again NOW. Does that tell you anything?
Pictured below: the final game state.