As the dust settles around the Spiel fair, it’s time to start taking a look at a number of the games that were there. This year, we’ll start with
Ecos: First Continent is a game designed by John D. Clair, author of other such big hits as Mystic Vale and Space Base. Published by AEG, this 2-6 player game is all about building a continent in order to score the most points. The game uses mechanisms that were partially inspired by Bingo, but don’t let that scare you off – there’s a lot more strategy here.
Each player starts the game with a dial token. This is basically just a tile that shows the distribution of all the different elements in the game, plus a couple of special abilities (the same for everyone). This token begins with the word START on the top. You also get 7 energy cubes and 12 cards (a prescribed setup for your first game, drafted in subsequent games). Three of these are played face up in front of you (prescribed for your first game, selected in subsequent games), while the other nine comprise your hand. Four land tiles will be played out – two water, one desert, one grassland (land tiles are double-sided with desert on one side and grassland on the other). The 40 element tokens go in the bag.
The player with the bag is known as the Harbinger, and is the start player for resolutions during the round. The Harbinger pulls an element out of the bag and shows it to everyone. Every player may then mark one of the symbols on one of their cards that matches that element with one of their energy cubes. If a player does not have any energy cubes, does not have a matching symbol, or does not want to cover a symbol, they can instead rotate their dial token 90 degrees clockwise. If you have reached the third side, you could choose to trigger the special ability to gain a new card – either gain one that is face up, or draw two from one of the decks and add one to your hand, putting the other face up for someone else to possibly take later. If you reach the fourth side, you can choose to gain a new energy cube or play a new card out in front of you.
If any player manages to fill in all the spaces on their card, they call “ECO!” and the resolve it. Resolution goes in turn order from the start player. To do this, remove all the cubes back to your supply, and then resolve the card’s effects from top to bottom. This could involve placing new map tiles, placing forests or mountains, placing animal tokens, gaining specific elements, moving animals, gaining new energy cubes, gaining points, replacing map tiles, or removing map tiles. As you work, you’re trying to build an engine to score lots of points at the right time.
After you’ve resolved your card, rotate it 90 degrees clockwise. If there are still leaves on the top, you will be able to fill it and resolve it again. If not, discard it.
When the Harbinger draws a Wild element out of the bag, the round is over. Each player places an energy cube in any space and resolves, or rotates their dial token as usual. If any player has 80+ points, the game is over and the high score wins. Otherwise, put all elements back in the bag and pass it to the new Harbinger.
This game looks a lot more interesting to me than Rise of Augustus, which shares the “pull something out of the bag and everyone checks to see if they have it” mechanism. However, that one was more like Bingo in that everyone is completing their own objectives with no real interaction. This one has the map that everyone is contributing to, and that makes all the difference. It looks very cool, and it’s a game I want to check out.
That’s it for today – thanks for reading!