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Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Loving Guns & Steel + Guns & Steel: Renaissance With Two
Guns and Steel! I must say I have no interest in guns and steel is something I think of as central to my life only in the form of kitchen utensils and structural materials, but I do like a good multi-use card game and this one looked pretty good.
Guns and Steel (and Guns and Steel: Renaissance) is a civilization-building, hand-building, multi-use card game in which you use your starting hand of cards as resources or effects in order to acquire additional cards that will provide both additional resources/effects and VP from a card pyramid and claim wonders when you satisfy certain conditions.
All cards in the game are double sided - each has a development side and a resource side, with the development side providing an effect and the resource side providing a resource.
Resource side Development side of starting hand
Each turn, you will go through the following phases:
1) Resource phase - Play one resource card in front of you (back side of a card)
2) Development phase - Play one development card (front side of a card) and activate its effect. Civil cards (green) aid in production, giving you additional resources or allowing you to flip previously played development cards face-down. Tactic cards (blue) help you play additional attack cards or activate other attack cards. Attack cards (red) are used to attack other players by comparing your military strength to theirs. Opponents can respond to attacks by playing any number of cards bearing a response icon to increase their military strength and avoid incurring the penalty imposed by the attack.
3) Purchase phase - You may buy one civilization card from the supply if you have the right combination of resource cards in front of you to pay for the civilization card. Cards from the bottom of the pyramid can be purchased by paying the resource cost shown on the card, while cards above the bottom row require that you play either 1 or 2 additional resources of any type, depending on how many cards are situated directly underneath.
4) End of turn phase - If you have 0 or 1 cards left in hand and you are playing Guns and Steel on its own, you must first check whether you satisfy the requirements of any wonder card. If you do, you must claim it. If playing with Renaissance, this step is modified, as wonders in that version of the game require that you place a cube of your color onto the wonder at the end of any turn that you satisfy its condition, rather than only when you have 0 to 1 cards left in hand. Then, in both versions of the game, you take all face-up cards in front of you back into your hand and may choose to retrieve any number of face down resource cards. Otherwise, you keep playing.
The game ends at the end of a player's turn when
a) The last wonder card has been bought,
b) The last space age card has been bought, or
c) If playing with Renaissance, when one player has 15 culture points.
Your point total is the sum of all VP shown on cards you own, wonders you have claimed, and, if playing with Renaissance, culture tokens you have acquired.
Wonders are flipped over to their pretty side once claimed
Renaissance is a stand-alone expansion that is played the same way as the base game, but adds the elements I described above. It can also be combined with the base game for extra variety.
Culture - VP that can be gained by playing certain cards
Played prior to review 8x
1. Beautifully illustrated and incredibly well produced
Peter has a rating system for card quality. His gold standard are the cards in the game League of Hackers by Moaideas, which is the same company that produced Guns and Steel. He says those things were like credit cards. Guns and Steel cards aren't quite at the credit card level, but they are very thick. And the illustrations are superb.
2. Interesting hand-building mechanism
I love the hand-building mechanism in Guns and Steel. Rather then building a deck of cards, you are building a hand of cards that allows you to chain effects the way YOU want them, rather than the way the random card draw allows. And I love that! It gives you a great sense of control.
3. Tense hand management and tableau management element
The hand-building is enhanced by the fact that you cannot retrieve your played cards/purchased cards until you only have 1 or 0 cards left in hand. This forces you to make strong, strategic plans every time you are faced with a full hand of cards about which cards to play when and which cards to play as resources and which to play as effects, well as how to best chain and combine those. Some effects allow you to flip previously exhausted resources, allowing you to take double advantage of them. Others allow you to flip cards you've played face down as resources to trigger their effects and surprise your opponent.
Of course, you want to try to make the most of every hand of cards, but because you aren't required to take back into your hand cards you've played face down as resources, you can build somewhat longer term plans for your cards. And because many wonders trigger for conditions met when you are reclaiming cards, you often want to accelerate this reclaiming process.
4. Tension in racing to acquire the wonders (and/or culture when playing with Renaissance)
Wonders are key sources of points in this game. And because one way for the game to end is for the last wonder to be purchased, you are essentially in a race to collect the most wonders. To an extent. VP can be gained from cards and through culture effects of played cards when playing with the Renaissance, but wonders can be generous sources of points that are incidental to everything else you are doing.
In the base game, wonders can only be claimed during the reclaiming phase, meaning that you are generally focused on maximizing the frequency with which you can take this step. This means you generally avoid buying cards you don't need and focus on doing everything in the way prescribed by the wonders to maximize your chances of being the first to claim them.
When playing with Renaissance, you have to satisfy the conditions of a wonder 3 times in order to claim it, adding further interest to the race element. Your cubes are limited, so you have to focus your energy on satisfying one or two wonders at a time. Do you try to outrace your opponent(s) or stick to one of your own?
5. Good replay value when playing with both sets together
Although individual sets of Guns and Steel may have limited replay value (see below), together, they create a rich and varied ecosystem to explore. When playing with both sets, the card pyramid you build contains a random assortment of cards from both sets, so a different combination of card effects will be available in any given game, challenging you to create the best combinations to efficiently satisfy wonder requirements or collect culture.
6. Culture and interactive effects in the Renaissance set add a lot to the game
One of my major problems with the base game of Guns and Steel is the power of the military strategy. Military cards allow you to steal wonder cards from other players and wonder cards and card VP are the only two sources of VP in the base game. And because all the cards in the game are the same every time, each game of base Guns and Steel seems to devolve into a race for military. I like options. And Renaissance provides options. Culture is a brilliant addition to the game, as it takes some of the focus off of militaristic conquests of opponents and provides another way to a) make points and b) bring an end to the game. Rushing culture can be an effective strategy.
The interactive effects in Renaissance also add a lot to the game, creating some tense tradeoffs. These effects give you a bigger benefit in exchange for giving a benefit to your opponents. And timing when to play these in order to minimize the benefits you give your opponents adds another element to your round's planning.
There are many very nasty, cut-throat effects in this game and if you are sensitive to that, you should stay away. Take that is definitely present in full force. Obviously, military cards are the most brutal in this regard, allowing you to go so far as to STEAL a wonder that your opponent has worked very hard to acquire.
2. Either set alone is limited in replay value
When playing either the base set of Guns and Steel or Renaissance by itself, the cards available for purchase will not vary from game to game. Their location may vary slightly within a single row of the pyramid, but their vertical location in the pyramid will always be the same. The only truly meaningful element of variability are the wonder cards, but there are only two of each, so game-to-game variety remains low.
3. Military in the base set seems to be overly powerful
Military effects in the base game of Guns and Steel seem to be overly powerful, as they allow you to steal wonder cards from other players and wonder cards and card VP are the only two sources of VP in the base game. Combining the two sets resolves this complaint, as described above.
I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Guns & Steel and Guns & Steel: Renaissance. I was expecting to find a good multi-use card game, but I was not expecting to find a great one. And this is a great one. I love the difficult decision points generated by the double-sided cards, the tense hand/tableau management, and the race for wonders.
If I were to recommend one set to get, it would definitely be Renaissance due to its enhanced depth of strategy and somewhat more balanced military. But if you are really interested in the game, the full two-set experience is a must! I just hope the publisher continues to put out expansions for this game because both Peter and I are in love with the system!
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
Thanks for another great review, Mina! It's a shame that it's so mean, because that ruins it for me. The hand-building mechanism looks interesting though.
I always love your reviews - thanks for spending time with G&S:R