Game Buzz: Tomorrow

So, let’s dive headfirst into some controversy:

image by BGG user dknemeyer
image by BGG user dknemeyer

Tomorrow is a new game from designer Dirk Knemeyer that is being published by Conquistador Games.  It’s a game for 4-6 players that takes 90 minutes to play.  The game was successfully backed in January, and should be coming out at the end of September/in October.  The game is set in the near future where all scientists and nations of the world have agreed that overpopulation is at dangerous levels.  To fix it, the earth needs to be de-populated.  This means that you’re going to have to take some drastic actions to save the planet and your own people.  The cover of the box, and of the rule, has the following disclaimer:

WARNING: This game simulates forced global de-population via biological and nuclear horrors.

I did say there was controversy, right?  More on that later – for now, let’s look at the game.

image by BGG user edelen
image by BGG user edelen

Tomorrow comes with a board, a10-sided die, 100 wooden population pawns, 48 resource cards, 36 event cards, 30 biological cards, 18 secret objective cards, 13 territory cards, 3 special cards, 60 political capital markers, 30 control markers, 15 nuke markers, 2 track markers, 6 turn order tokens, and 6 player aids.  At the beginning of the game, you’ll lay out the map with the indicated population markers (each one represents approximately 70 million people).  Each player begins with 25 points of capital, as well as resource cards, secret objective cards (from which they will select one), control markers, nuke markers, and the player aid that correspond to their power (the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, China, India, or the Arab Caliphate).  Twelve even cards make up the event deck, and each player takes biological cards based on what is indicated on their player aids.  Turn order tokens are randomly placed face down on the turn order track.

The game is played over a series of game rounds, called turns.  Each turn has four phases: events, resource allocation, resource resolution, and clean up.

EVENT: Reveal the top event card and resolve it.

RESOURCE ALLOCATION: Each player secretly selects two resources for the turn and places them face down.  Each nation has eight resource cards, two of which are have only a one-time use.  Resources include biologicals, nuclear, terror, cyber, military, and diplomacy.

RESOURCE RESOLUTION: Reveal the first turn order token.  The corresponding player may use one, all, or none of their resources.  You can save them to block other players in the turn.  Once one player is done, you’ll reveal the next order token, and so on until everyone has had a turn.

Here’s a look at the different resources:

  • Biologicals: Biological defense cards are used to block other biological attacks against yourself or another player.  Biological attack cards, if not blocked, cause mass destruction.  Plus, they last 1-3 turns.  First, you pay one capital point, then you automatically kill off some people (as indicated on the card).  Then, you roll the d10 to see if it spreads into adjacent regions.  Finally, you end the resolution by doing a random annihilation check – roll the d10, and if the result is equal to or less than the population of a location, kill one.
  • Nuclear: These attacks kill one population pawn of a country, plus one for every five remaining.  A nuke token is placed in that territory, and this will cost you capital at the end of the game.  The US and Russia have nukes that can hit anywhere; everyone else can only hit adjacent regions.
  • Terror: Using a terror attack against another player causes them to exhaust one resource and lose one capital.  Counter terrorism can be used to block this attack.
  • Cyber: A successful cyber attack grants you control of the internet (the cyberspace card).  It gives you a third resource in the allocation phase.  Defense can block an attack.
  • Military: This allows you to seize control of regions.  A territory invasion gives you control of an adjacent region.  Air strikes can go against opponent capitals.  Counter measures block.
  • Diplomacy: This also allows for expansion, though not as powerful.  A coup can gain control for you, or lose control for someone else.  Insurgency can block.

Throughout all of this, the Global Threat track will show how the human population is doing.  Events will affect the threat level, and killing off population will lower it.  There’s a life marker, which tracks population decrease, and a death marker, which indicates how bad things are.  If the death marker has surpassed the life marker after everyone has taken their turn, everyone loses.

CLEAN UP: The order tokens are re-randomized, and the d10 is rolled.  The death marker moves down that many spaces.

Endgame - image by BGG user LazarusTaxon
Endgame – image by BGG user LazarusTaxon

The game can end if the death marker passes the life marker, as mentioned before.  Otherwise, it’s over when a) the event deck runs out, or b) when the global threat level reaches zero.  You then add or subtract from your political capital as follows:

  • For each color of population you annihilated, multiply the number of pawns you annihilated by the number on your secret objective card.
  • For each control marker you took from another player, receive the annihilate number on your objective card.
  • For each land territory you control, multiply the number of pawns there by the protect number on your objective.
  • For each land or water territory you control, gain one capital.
  • For each nuclear damage or active biological on territories you control, lose one capital.

Each player, in random order, can then choose to give any amount of capital to another player.  Why would you do this?  The rules say to settle accounts, and to throw political muscle to another player if you think you can’t win.  The player with the most capital is the winner.

This is a straight up, confrontational game.  And the ideas seem very interesting.  I think the biggest thing here that will affect game play is the random turn order.  You can have a full on attack ready to go that gets thwarted because another player went first.  It seems that this is a case of trying to outthink your opponents.  The use of different resources to gain certain advantages is also pretty interesting.  Theme aside, this seems like a fairly brutal game – lots of opportunities for backstabbing.  The rules encourage negotiation, and that’s thematic as you know the nations of the world would be doing the same thing.

So, let’s get into the theme.  Post-apocalyptic themes are all the rage in science fiction right now, but this isn’t really post-apocalyptic.  It IS apocalyptic.  It’s set in the near future, so we start with kind of a bleak idea of where we’re going.  The idea of having to forcibly remove population is abhorrent, but it’s nothing that science fiction hasn’t explored before.  Specifically, I’m thinking of the most recent season of Torchwood, where people stopped dying and the government decided to get rid of sick people by incinerating them.  I’m sure there are other examples, that’s just the one that springs to mind.

The controversy that has sprung up around this game mostly revolves around the fact that you, the player, are the one making the decisions to destroy humanity.  You may say, hey, I’m removing this pawn from the board now with this card.  But that biological attack you just played killed 70 million people!  When you think of it that way, you think how is this supposed to be fun?  It reminds me of a quote attributed to Josef Stalin: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”

However, games often don’t shy away from having people on the wrong side of ethical lines.  Think about it – almost every World War II game has someone playing the Nazis.  A game like Pandemic, which has a similar theme of global annihilation (though you’re fighting the disease) introduced a Bioterrorist in the first expansion.  There are countless battle games where the goal is to kill as many people as you can.  But I think what makes this one so intense is its basis in reality.  Now, I hope that people would not go to the extent of nuking an entire country just to get population under control.  But, given recent events in places like Syria, I think this game might hit a little to close to home.

I probably should mention that the game is not entirely serious.  One of the biologicals you can use is the Zombie Plague, and there’s probably others I just don’t know about.  Still, you’re wiping out a lot of humans at once.

So, to sum up: I think Tomorrow looks like a very good game.  The amount of conflict and backstabbery involved means it’s probably not something for me, but I’d play if given the opportunity.  The theme makes it something I don’t think would belong in my collection at all – I just don’t know the situations where I’d want to play.  Still, check it out if interested…if nothing else, it’s getting people talking about issues.  Thanks for reading!



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