Game Buzz: Epigo

I like abstract games.  It seems that a lot of the best abstract games are very simple to explain, and have a lot of deep strategy associated with them.  But they don’t seem to get very much press – people would much rather hear about the newest dungeon crawl, or the latest Fantasy Flight monstrosity (I say this knowing full well how much time I’ve devoted to these games on this very blog).  However, on a recent episode of The Dice Tower, I heard Tom Vasel talking about a new abstract title that he enjoyed, but that I hadn’t heard about.  So, this time, I’ll be looking at:

image by BGG user MasqGames

Epigo is a game designed by Chris Gosselin and Chris Kreuter, and is being published by Masquerade Games.  It’s a game for 2 or 4 players aged 13 and up, and takes 15-30 minutes to play.  The art in the game evokes a kind of ancient Mesopotamian vibe, but there’s no real theme here.  It’s an abstract game, and is not dressed up as anything else.  The game comes with a board and 64 tiles (4 sets of 16).  Half of the tiles are so-called Epigons, while the others are Orders.

The board looks a bit like an altered chess board – it’s essentially an 8×8 grid with the corners removed, leaving 52 squares.  To set up a two-player game (which is all that’s described in the rulebook), you’ll place your Epigons face down in a line across the center of the board while your opponent does the same on the other side of the center line.  You can put the Epigons in any order.  When done, you both reveal and remove the tile marked X.  This means that each player will have a line numbered 1-7 with one empty space.

During a turn, two things will happen – a planning phase and an action phase.  During the planning phase, you choose three Order tiles.  Each one corresponds to one of the Epigons on the board and shows two arrows.  You’ll figure out which Epigons you want to move, then orient your Orders to point the direction you want to move.  You’ll lock your choices by stacking the Orders, with the one you want to do first on top.  This planning is done in secret, so if you finish before your opponent, you hide the top tile with an unused facedown tile.

During the action step, players will both reveal their top action.  The player with the higher number goes first, moving the appropriate Epigon one space in the indicated direction.  The lower number goes second.  If the numbers are the same, they cancel each other out and no one moves.  If an Order corresponds to an Epigon that isn’t on the board, you do nothing.  This happens for all three Orders.

When you move into an empty space, that is called a SLIDE.  If you move into an empty space without touching an edge of an opponent’s tile, you can slide one more space in the appropriate direction (a SUPER SLIDE).  If there’s an Epigon in the way, you can PUSH it.  Pushes can be blocked, however.  It’s a little complicated to explain – count from your pushing Epigon towards the next empty space.  If your opponent’s Epigon count ever exceeds yours, you’ve been blocked.

And that’s pretty much it.  You play until one player has captured three Epigon from their opponent by pushing them off the board.  Even if one of those Epigons was one you accidentally knocked off yourself, your opponent still wins.

So this seems like a pretty cool little game.  Programming your actions ahead of time is a mechanic that I really enjoy, and can be found in games like RoboRally, Space Alert, and Dungeon Lords.  Working it into an abstract game just about sells me on wanting to get this title.  Add in 21 additional variants included with the game (with more that will apparently appear on the website soon), and this becomes a game system that I really want to try out.  There seems to be a high level of “clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me” here as you try to outguess your opponents.  That one may be in position to push your opponent’s tiles off, but anything they play will go first (or a 1 could cause nothing to happen).  It’s a game where there’s no luck involved, but a ton of strategy in trying to read your opponent.  The large number of variants (which I guess include different setups, using Xs, and including SLAM orders not used in the base game) means that this game will be very replayable.  And at 15-30 minutes, it seems like it will be easy to pull it out, teach it, and be playing with people who may or may not be involved in the hobby.  This game has risen high on my interest list, and I look forward to seeing it when it comes out.  Thanks for reading!

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