Game Buzz: 011

I’m not really THAT familiar with the Steampunk genre.  Basically, it refers to a genre of science fiction set in the 19th century, when steam was the primary power source.  In steampunk, you get a lot of fantastical events using complicated futuristic machines as they might have been imagined back then.  I’ve never really sought out anything to do with the genre, but there’s no doubt that it’s an extremely stylized fiction that catches your eye.  Such is the case for:

image by BGG user Izraphael

011 was designed by Marco Valtriani, and will be released jointly by Scribabs in Italy and Elfinworks here in the US..  It’s a deduction game for 3-6 players aged 12 and up, and takes 90 minutes to play.  In the game, set in year 011 of the nineteenth century (which I assume is 1811), revolves around the eminent waking of Fenrir, son of Loki and instrument of Ragnarök, the end of the world.  So, one player is going to be the Incarnation of Fenrir while the others are searching for the chosen one, who must play a special song on an organ to prevent the end of the world.  This bit of Norse mythology infused with the steampunk genre is very interesting, but the game is also a marketing tie-in with the Swedish symphonic metal band Therion, whose images are used throughout the game.  There’s also apparently going to be a short film released at the same time, also starring Therion.  Now, I don’t really know anything about Therion.  Nevertheless, you have my attention.

In the box, you get a board which shows the city of Turin in a uchronic time known as year 011 (I had to look up the word uchronic – basically, it’s an alternate timeline).  There is a character chart showing the eight characters of the game – the incredible monodist Professor Johnsson, the mystical Princess Lilja, the brilliant inventor Mr. Pählsson, the phantasmagoric Dr. Vikström, the mysterious Captain Snowy, the impossible Detective Lord Koleberg, the unforeseeable hunter Vidal, and the charming Dark Lady Lewis.  There is also one character card and one miniature for each, as well as a miniature representing the Inscrutable Organ of Eternity (at this point, I need to mention that I absolutely love the adjectives used in this game).  There are three action gears – a machine gear, a walking gear, and an activity gear – as well as an hour hand and four metal hinges to attach them to the board.  There are 24 markers in the 6 player colors, 50 research tiles, 24 power cards, 5 hero cards, one Fenrir card, 11 event cards, and six quick reference cards.  There are also 21 clue markers, a blocked character marker, and paper and pencils for notes.

Along with the setup for the game bits (attaching the gears, shuffling the research tiles and event cards, and putting everything else nearby), you’ll shuffle the character cards and deal one to each player.  THIS IS NOT YOUR CHARACTER FOR THE GAME.  This basically gives you one piece of information as to who the Chosen One is NOT.  One of the remaining cards will be set to the side (this is the Chosen One), and all others will be the Unknown Character deck.  Each player gets four power cards and four player markers.  One marker goes on the Time Track, another goes on the Music Track, and one on the Turn Order Track (randomly placed).

You get 11 hours (rounds) to play the game.  If no one has won by the time the clock strikes midnight, no one wins.  So you’ll play each round in five phases: reveal event, bid for turn order, place clues on the map, character actions and movement, and play location tiles.

REVEAL EVENT: Pretty easy, you flip over the top event card.  It effects only the current hour, and instructions will be followed during phase four.

BID FOR TURN ORDER: You’ll bid for turn order using time points.  This is an interesting mechanic because you begin the game with 45 time points to use on bidding or actions.  If you ever hit zero, you’re out of the game.  So, the player currently in the first position chooses a space on the turn order track (up to the number of players) and bids a number of time points (it could be 0).  Then, in clockwise order, other players can raise the bid or pass.  Whoever wins gets the space, then you auction off the others.

PLACE CLUES ON THE MAP: Beginning with the player in the II position (the second player), each player (except the first player) places a clue token on an empty building on the map.

CHARACTER ACTIONS AND MOVEMENT: On your turn, you’ll follow these steps:

  1. Choose a character.  Each character can only be used once per hour, and you’ll mark the one you chose with your marker.
  2. Use the character’s ability.  Professor Johnsson gives you two music pages on the music track.  Princess Lilja gives you two research tiles.  Mr. Pählsson allows you to use any other character’s ability for two time points.  Dr. Vikström give you three time points back.  Captain Snowy allows you to move his figure three extra spaces for free.  Detective Lord Koleberg places one cure on any empty mystic building.  Mr. Vidal lets you research, investigate, compose, or move a clue for free.  Lady Lewis allows you to investigate two cards.
  3. Adjust the action gears and move your character.  Rotate one of the gears 1-3 steps, spending that many time points.  This will also rotate the other two gears.  There’s a pointer on the board next to each gear which indicates which cog will be used for that gear.  The Walking Gear shows numbers 2-5, and that’s how many spaces you can move, though you must spend one time point per step and pick up any clues you cross.  The Machine Gear will allow you a special movement action for free: move three steps, move from a yellow space to another yellow space, green to green, or blue to blue.  You can combine your movement and actions in any way you want.
  4. Take an action.  Depending on the action showing on the Activity Gear.  INVESTIGATE allows you to look at one other player’s character card, or to look at a random card from the Unknown Characters Deck.  RESEARCH gives you a research tile.  COMPOSE gives you one music page on the music track.  MOVE CLUE allows you to move one clue token one space in an orthogonal direction, taking it if it lands on your space.  Clues can be spent to add extras to the investigate, research, or compose actions.

During this phase, you can also play a power card and/or an item tile, but no more than one of each.

At any time during this phase, you can declare victory.  As a Hero, you win if you have correctly discovered the Chosen One, moved them to the Inscrutable Organ of Eternity, have 15 pages of the Song of Making composed, and have enough time points to complete your actions.  If you can’t do this by midnight, you lose.

PLAY A LOCATION TILE: The player in last place on the turn order track may place a location tile.  At the top of the board, there are four location spaces surrounding the Inscrutable Organ of Eternity miniature.  Location tiles you place mean that the Organ’s actual position on the board is relative to the building shown on the tile.  So if you put a building in the northern space, you know that the organ is south of that building on the board.  Location tiles can’t contradict each other.  If you place a location tile, you immediately gain one clue and two time points.  Placing the fourth tile means that you can place the organ on any regular building on the board defined by the four tiles, and you get three time points.  Alternately for the fourth tile, you can discard an item that has an organ symbol and then place the organ in a building defined by the three location tiles.  You still get three time points.

At the end of the hour, the hour hand advances and you’ll have to discard down to three research tiles.  You’ll then start the next hour (providing that the clock has not struck midnight, which would signal that everyone loses).

But that’s not all!  At the beginning of hour five, each player will be dealt a card.  It will either be a Hero card or the Fenrir card.  Whoever gets the Fenrir card becomes the incarnation of Fenrir, and now is seeking to bring about Ragnörak.  This card cannot be investigated.  In order to win, Fenrir must collect two Marks of the Wolf, discover the Chosen One, compose at least 12 music pages, and move the character whose card they have to the Chosen One.  Again, you need enough time points to do this.  If the clock strikes midnight and you haven’t done it, you lose.  Now, it’s important to note that the Heroes do not win if you fail to meet your objective.  If the clock strikes midnight, everyone has failed and everyone loses.  Ragnörak happens anyway, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

A bunch of other games spring to mind when I think about how this game plays: Clue, because the Chosen One is secret from the beginning of the game; Mr. Jack, because you can move any characters around the board; Tobago, because you can partially control where the Organ will appear; Battlestar Galactica, because a Cylon, er, Fenrir will not know who he is until the middle of the game.  Despite the similarities, all of these combine into a game that seems really unique.  I know Fantasy Flight has been obsessed with dials lately, so the gears don’t seem quite as unique as they might have.  However, I’m not aware of another game where all three dials move based on the movement of one.  They’re pretty cleverly designed so that none of them have the same number of cogs, meaning you’ll get different combinations as you play more and more games.  There are a number of special abilities, event cards, research tiles, and power cards that will change what you can do, and as always, I really need to play it to get a feel for their power (though they’re all laid out in the rules).

This is at least the fourth deduction game from this year that I’ve covered on this blog – Letters from Whitechapel, Confusion, and Ninja are the other three.  Does that say something about my interest in deduction games, or does it say something about the quality of deduction games hitting the market lately?  At any rate, I’m really looking forward to trying this game out.  Maybe it will be my gateway into the steampunk genre.  At the very least, it’s making me want to find out more about Therion.  Thanks for reading!

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