The ABCs of Gaming: E is for…

We’ve reached the next letter in the ABCs of Gaming.  E is for…

image by BGG user CarldeV

Endeavor is a game designed by Carl de Visser and Jarratt Gray, and was published in 2009 by Z-Man.  It’s a game for 3-5 players aged 12 and up, and takes around 90 minutes to play.  The game is set in the shipping lanes of the Mediterranean, and you are building your empire by attempting to control those lanes.  This poll matchup was a lot closer than anything we’ve looked at so far, with Endeavor taking 20.9% of the vote to Earth Reborn’s 15.8%.

image by BGG user FortyOne

Endeavor comes with a board showing the Mediterranean and the surrounding areas.  You also get five player boards, 48 asset cards, 95 trade tokens, 26 large scoring chips, 45 building tiles, 150 population discs, 20 status track cubes, and a first player marker.  The game begins with the tokens randomly distributed on every circle of the board – some on shipping tracks, some on cities, some on connections.  Asset cards are stacked in each region, building tiles are sorted by type and level (1-5), and scoring chips are set to the side.  Each player gets a board, four status cubes in their color (which will be used to track industry, culture, finance, and politics on their board), and 30 population discs.

A game of Endeavor lasts seven rounds.  Each round has four phases: build, growth, salary, and action.

BUILD: During this phase, you MUST choose one building tile from those available.  You may only choose a building of your build level or lower.  Your build level is determined by your level of industry – 0-1 is level one, 2-3 is level 2, 4-6 is level 3, 7-9 is level 4, and 10+ is level 5.  Each building gives you certain rewards – increases in the four categories and powers you can activate later.

GROWTH: In this phase, you’ll add population markers from your supply to your harbor.  Your culture score determines how many you can take – 0-1 gets you 2; 2-3 gets you 3; 4-6 gets you 4; 7-9 gets you 5; and 10+ gets you 6.  If you don’t have enough left, you add what you can.

SALARY: Here, you’ll make payments – returning discs from occupied buildings back to your harbor.  Your finance level determines how many payments you gets to make – 0-1 lets you return 1; 2-3 lets you return 2; etc.  Only inactive buildings can be activated during the action phase.

ACTION: Now to the main part of the round – the action phase.  Here, you will take turns taking one action until everyone has passed.  You’ll take a population marker from your harbor and place it on a building to activate it, or you’ll spend a trade token that corresponds to the action you want to take.  You may have to use another token for your action.  Here are your options for actions:

  • Ship – If you’ve activated a ship icon, you can move a population marker from your harbor to the last unoccupied space of a shipping track, taking the trade token that is there and placing it in your harbor.  If the shipping track is full, you can still place there, you just can’t take another token.  When the last token is claimed, the region becomes open.  The player with the most tokens on the shipping track takes the governor card (which goes to the most recently placed marker in case of a tie).  This card goes on your board and gives you bonuses as long as you keep it.
  • Occupy – If you’ve activated a flag icon, you can move a population marker from your harbor to an unoccupied city in an open region (one with a full shipping track, or Europe and the Mediterranean, which is always open).  In order to occupy, you must have a presence in the region – on the shipping track or in other cities.  You always have a presence in Europe and the Mediterranean.  When you occupy, you take the trade token that is there.  If you control cities on both ends of a connection, take the trade token from between the two as well.
  • Attack – If you’ve activated a cannon icon, you can attack an opponent’s city in a region where you have a presence.  You will take a token from your harbor and discard it back to your supply.  You’ll then take another token from your harbor and replace your opponent’s token from the city.  If this means that you now control a connection, you get the token (if it’s still there).
  • Payment – If you activate a moneybags icon, you can take a token off any other building and return it to your harbor.  This token and building can be used again later.
  • Draw – If you activate a crate icon, you can take an asset card from an open region.  You must have a number of tokens in that region greater than or equal to the value of the card.  These cards have icons that will increase various statuses, and those statuses must be reduced again should you ever lose a card.  There are two decks in the Europe/Mediterranean region – a standard deck and a slavery deck.  The slavery deck will give you some short term benefits, but if someone draws the abolition of slavery card, it loses its benefits and costs you points at the end of the game.
  • Pass/Discard – If you choose this, you can’t take any more actions.  Discard down to your card limit, which is determined by your politics score – 0-1 gives you a one card limit; 2-3 gives you a two card limit; and so on.  You may keep one free slavery card beyond your limit, and one free governor card.  Discarded cards go back to their respective stacks.  If you discard a slavery card, you must keep it for a -1 point penalty at the end of the game.

The round ends after everyone has passed.  Check your status tracks, pass the first player marker to the left, and continue to play.  The game ends after the seventh round.  You score points based on each of your status levels – 0 for 0-1, 2 for 2-3, 4 for 4-6, 7 for 7-9, and 10+ for 10+.  You also get points for each city and connection you control, as well as cards, having an empty free governor space, universities, and extra population left in your harbor.  You lose points for discarded slavery cards.  The player with the most wins.

I have played this game once, and it was fine.  Actually, in writing this post, I’m more interested in it than I was at the time of the play.  Everything seems very straightforward, and it is to an extent.  However, there are so many choices to make and sooooo many bits all over the place, it’s kind of overwhelming on your first play.  You have to be extremely careful to not bump the table because everything will go everywhere.  I thought it was a fine game, even if the theme was kind of boring.  I need to give it another try sometime.

But do I think it’s actually the most essential E game?  This is one of the few letters where I really had a hard time making a decision.  Looking at the top 10, I really didn’t see anything that jumped out at me as a YES! game.  I actually hadn’t played any of the top 10 at the time, so that could be one reason I went with “Other” as my choice.  I played Endeavor after the list was pretty much finalized, and though I liked it, I don’t think I’d call it “essential.”  It seems like just another good game to me.  I think I’ll give my vote to Euchre – a great classic game, and pretty much the only partnership trick-taking game that I’ve played and like.

So, let’s look at the results.  In second came Earth Reborn, the top seed in the poll.  This game came out in 2010 from designer Christophe Boelinger and Z-Man Games.  It featured some pretty incredible production values, but I think the price scared some people off.  Nevertheless, it’s very highly rated, and I need to play sometime.  In third place was Other.  Nominees included Easy Come Easy Go, Eketorp, Elasund: The First City of Catan, Elder Sign, Electric Football, Elfenroads, Emerald, Eminent Domain, Empire Builder, Empires of the Middle Ages, The End of the Triumvirate, Enemy at the Gates, Entdecker, Entrapment, Era of Inventions, Escape from Colditz, Euchre, Eurorails, and Excape.  There were several nominations for El Grande, but the “El” is an article, and gets dropped for alphabetization, much like “The” or “A” in English.  You’ll see El Grande when we get to the Gs.

In fourth place is the public domain party game Eat Poop You Cat.  This was turned into a mass produced party game called Telestrations last year.  In fifth was Elfenland, the 1998 Spiel des Jahres winner from Alan R. Moon.  In sixth was Egizia, a 2009 Egyptian themed worker placement game that features some absolutely stunning art.  Seventh place went to Evo, the 2001 evolution-themed game from Small World designer Philippe Keyaerts that is getting a reprint from Asmodee soon.  The next three places went to wargames – EastFront (WWII), Europe Engulfed (also WWII), and Empires in Arms (Napoleonic era).  The trading game Edel, Stein & Reich came in eleventh place with 18 votes.

I hope you all had a very happy holidays.  Thanks for reading!

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