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Subject: Gaming the Afterlife - A Review of Enki-Des: The Soul Gates rss

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Chris Hansen
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This review is part of my series reviewing games that were entered in the 2011 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. All reviews in the series are available on this geeklist.

Game Summary
Enki-Des: The Soul Gates is a solitaire dice game in which you must guide a recently deceased warrior through the phases of the afterlife. The warrior died young and therefore wasn’t able to prove himself in life. To enter the afterlife, you must defeat the guardians of six gates and find a pearl which represents your life’s worth. Each of the guardians fights a little differently and the same techniques won’t work on each of them. The game takes place in highly thematic fantasy world which gives a back story to each of the guardians, the warrior’s people, and the afterlife itself.

Game Play
The game is played on two player boards, a main playing area and an action chart. The playing area contains each of the six gates that you must pass through, your life points, and the player attributes: Lore, Creativity, and Training. The action chart is used to reference what actions are available to you based on your die rolls.

Each gate guardian has a certain amount of life points and an attack value. Each round you will try to eliminate the guardians’ life point as well as withstand their attacks. On a turn, you will roll three dice and choose two of them to select an action on the action chart. For example, if you rolled a 5,4, and 2 you could choose any of the available actions on the grid from 5,4 (Make a bandage), 5,2 (Search for your pearl), or 4,2 (Hide from the guardian and heal your life points). Instead of choosing an action, you can choose to save one of the dice to use on your next turn. For example, if you rolled a 6, you could hold it till the next round with the hope that you roll another 6 and kill the guardian.

A player uses a roll of 5 and 6 to select “Recall Weakness”

Once you kill a guardian, you can either stay at the gate and try to heal or find your pearl or move to the next one (although a few gates don’t let you stay). If you stay, the guardian will recover somewhat and you will be required to fight them again before you can pass through. Once you pass through all six gates, you’ve won the game. If you run out of life points before doing so, you’ve lost.

Most of the actions you can select use your various stats so it’s important to build them up. There are special hits and healing actions that use lore, creativity, and training. If these values are high enough, it’s possible to defeat an enemy with a single hit. Also, searching for your pearl is much easier when the stats have a higher value.

The game in progress. The player is at the 4th gate and has already found the pearl (marker in the blue circle).

Quality of Components
There aren’t a lot of components to this game. The entire package consists of a short rulebook and the two player boards. You’ll need to provide three dice and six cubes to use as markers. The playing area is clear and has plenty of room for cubes in the tracking rows, even with the oversized cubes from Risk that I use. The abilities of each guardian and the benefits you earn for defeating them are listed on the board so you don’t need to reference the rules very much when playing. The action chart is also nicely done. It doesn’t matter what order you look up the actions (column 6 row 2 is the same thing as column 2 row 6) and the descriptions of the benefits are pretty clear.

The rulebook does a good job of explaining how the game is played and if anything is unclear the designer is quick to answer any questions posted in the forum. The rules are much shorter than the six page rulebook lets on. Only two pages are dedicated to the rules, the rest is back story about the guardians and the afterlife. While thematically interesting, they aren’t essential to game play.

Theme
For being a simple dice game, Enki-Des has a pretty decent theme. The back story created for the guardians is well-written and woven in well with the game play. For example, the guardian at the first gate is called The Mirror Man and will reflect certain damages that you inflict upon him back to you. Another is burning from the inside out and hitting him will injure you.

There’s an interesting story in the game and the designer has done a good job telling it. The guardians and events in the game even have names in an invented language, such as Furrma for the afterlife, Enko-ori for the pearl, and Ininokra and Todolan-Shri for the guardians. The story even describes how you arrived in the afterlife (axe wound to the chest in a battle) which is a fairly non-conventional way to begin a rulebook.

Although the guardians are all richly described, the game probably could have used a few illustrations for better thematic immersion. It’s easy to forget about the theme entirely when playing and just focus on the number of hit points each guardian has.

The events described are exciting but the game’s appearance is fairly dull.

Print and Play Section
How Much Time to Make? How Difficult is it to Make? And What Components Will You Need?
This game requires no assembly and has only two sheets that need to be printed. The rules are simple enough that you can probably even get by without printing them if you read them from the PDF. You could print the two player boards on cardstock or even laminate them to make them more durable but printing on regular paper works just as well.

All game components

What’s the Ink Damage?
This game is almost entirely in black and white and uses very little ink. You could even print the game in black and white without affecting your ability to play. There is some shading on the action chart to differentiate rows, but that uses very little ink. Basically, printing the game is about the same as printing an Excel sheet.

Final Comments and Rating
Enki-Des: The Soul Gates is a quick playing and easy dice game. Although the game uses dice heavily, it’s not entirely luck based. You always have choices of how to allocate your dice and some actions even allow you to modify one of your dice somewhat, giving you even more choices. Although if you’re unlucky enough to roll three of the same number, you better just like whatever your action is for that round.

The roll playing aspect of the game is also a benefit. Many of the actions use your attribute values to deal damage or heal your life points. By taking time away from the battles to build up your attributes, you become more powerful later in the game. The game is good for a quick solo RPG fix, but it’s difficult to really care about a character in a ten minute game. Also, there is little actual difference between the attributes in terms of gameplay. Lore is useful for one group of actions, Creativity is useful for another group. Which one you can use laregly depends on which one you roll. This isn’t a bad thing because it encourages you to build up both attributes, but it would have been nice to see some additional in-game benefits to the attributes. Maybe Lore could be used to modify die rolls or Creativity could be used to hold a die in addition to using the other two.

The game can be fairly challenging to win. The first half of the game can be pretty easy but the Ininokra can hit pretty hard and take out a lot of life points very quickly. The last gate is somewhat luck-dependent because it requires being able to successfully roll for one the “Search for your pearl” actions, and then roll to achieve it. I’ve lost the game a few times on this gate simply by not being able to roll one of the combinations that allows me to search before my life ran out. This is frustrating but in a game this fast-playing, it is hardly a deal breaker.

Is this game worth the time to print, assemble, and play? Yes, with reservations. Overall Enki-Des is pretty fun although it’s perhaps more of a time-killer than a game you invest yourself in. While I enjoyed the game as is, I think it needs to be fleshed out a bit. I think the game could be improved by adding additional benefits to developing your attributes, such as gaining additional dice, die roll modifiers (both positive and negative), or rolling less dice if an attribute value gets too low. Right now, the game is fun but feels like a good start to an unfinished product. It probably won’t be something I play too often but with a few changes I’d be willing to revisit it. I rate the game a 5.5 but hope to see that rating go up as the game develops.
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Judy Krauss
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Where did you find the rules pdf? The files section seems to only have the charts and player board.
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Chris Hansen
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Jude wrote:
Where did you find the rules pdf? The files section seems to only have the charts and player board.

They are posted on the Solitaire Print and Play contest entry thread for the game.
WIP Enki-Des: The Soul Gates (Solitaire PnP Contest)

More specifically, here.
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Nate K
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Jude wrote:
Where did you find the rules pdf? The files section seems to only have the charts and player board.


They're in the process of being uploaded to the 'geek. For now, you can use a Google doc of an older version of the rules.
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Nate K
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chansen2794 wrote:

Is this game worth the time to print, assemble, and play? Yes, with reservations. Overall Enki-Des is pretty fun although it’s perhaps more of a time-killer than a game you invest yourself in. While I enjoyed the game as is, I think it needs to be fleshed out a bit. I think the game could be improved by adding additional benefits to developing your attributes, such as gaining additional dice, die roll modifiers (both positive and negative), or rolling less dice if an attribute value gets too low. Right now, the game is fun but feels like a good start to an unfinished product. It probably won’t be something I play too often but with a few changes I’d be willing to revisit it. I rate the game a 5.5 but hope to see that rating go up as the game develops.


Thanks for the review, Chris! I've had the game on the back burner for a while, but have recently been pondering how to improve it. I'm pretty happy with the guardians of the gates--I think they're sufficiently balanced--but some of the actions on the action chart need tweaking, and I'd like to find more ways to use the stats.

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Andreas Hellwig
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Enki-Des: The Soul Gates » Forums » Reviews
Re: Gaming the Afterlife - A Review of Enki-Des: The Soul Gates
Thanks for the great review Chris !!! thumbsup
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Nate K
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Updated game files have been approved and are available for download in the Files section of the game's BGG entry.
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