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Subject: Not a review: a rulebook review rss

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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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First off, I would like to mention that this is not a complete review of Earth Reborn. Rather, I thought that it would be useful to share my thoughts on the rulebook and the rules.

In fact, I initially put off buying this game in particular because its 44-page rulebook (without scenarios) is quite long, and I was afraid that they would be too dense, too complicated, and more generally quite cumbersome to remember. Furthermore, my wife and I wanted to love Dungeon Twister 2, also by Christophe Boelinger, and finally decided to sell it back; one of the problems with Dungeon Twister 2 was that whenever I thought of giving it another chance, I decided against it because I did not remember the rules well enough to play right away (they do not feel streamlined to us, and the rulebook is not very convenient, as a reference).

However, insights from BGG readers and having started to read the rules of Earth Reborn made me take the plunge and buy it.

Since then, I read all the rules, which makes me want to share my experience: hopefully this rulebook and rules review will spare potential buyers the time it takes to go through the rulebook, so that they can better decide whether the game is for them or not!

I must say right away that I am very enthusiastic about Earth Reborn, after all I read. A word of caution: I have yet to play the game, so this is more of a review of what the heavy rulebook and its rules feel like.

What kind of game is Earth Reborn?

Earth Reborn can be put in the same category as miniature skirmish games like Space Hulk (third edition) and Claustrophobia. Like them, it offers direct (and bloody) conflict, and also drips with theme, has a limited number of miniatures (a dozen), a modular board, scenarios, and plays in a relatively short amount of time (30 minutes to 2 hours, for 2-player games, 30 minutes to 3 hours for 3/4-player games).

Another comparison could be made with some tactical wargames like Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42: the main difference is that they simulate real war situations, while Earth Reborn simulates a post-apocalyptic zombie world.

However, contrary to the games I just cited, Earth Reborn offers the possibility of playing many tutorials or automatically-generated scenarios with 3 or 4 players, which is great!

Like these games, Earth Reborn also offers relatively simple rules. Let's see why, as this is not entirely obvious on first sight…

The rules are streamlined

As a scientist, I don't have much taste for exceptions. They tend to leak from my memory. They are often too fluid to be secured in a web of reasoning and simple rules. I therefore love games with no or only a few exceptions in their rules: with such games, when we want to play, I can just pick up the box and dive in (we find Commands & Colors: Ancients a little bit hard to play, for this reason). Earth Reborn, despite being relatively complex because of its 44 pages of rules, succeeds with brilliance in avoiding exceptions.

For instance, the orders that you can give to your characters generally require a single command point, and any additional command point gives you some bonus. There are no specific rules that would distinguish between shooting and searching for an object, for instance.

A simple graphical language

Another very effective design idea of the game is the graphical language defined in the game (they call it the Iconographic Phrasing System). This "language" is quite intuitive and gives one an easy access to a wonderfully wide array of equipments, room objects with which to interact, and special character powers. I still can't believe that with only a few rules, Earth Reborn provides you not only with some interesting weapons (a bazooka, a flamer, a taser,…), but also with a motion detector, a jet pack, or the possibility to use surveillance screens in order to spy on your enemy, and much more!

This graphical system provides players with an incredible variety of thematic actions that work in a very intuitive way, without players having to go through pages and pages of rules: 31 one individual pieces of equipment ranging from wiring plans to morphine; 21 rooms with special objects, including a missile launcher and a communication room; 10 characters with special powers. That's about 60 different items that all work together intuitively through only a few core rules, all with very thematic effects!

The rules are soaked in theme

Since the game is so much rooted in its theme, the rules are usually very intuitive, and therefore quite easy to remember. Very much appreciated.

The rulebook is a great reference book

The rulebook is very well organized, and I can't but applaud the efforts put in writing it.

One important point is that sections usually start and end with a page: they don't spill over the next page. No more furious browsing through many pages until one finds the information sought after! (This is a great relief for me, after suffering a little with Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42–whose rulebook is otherwise nicely laid out–, and quite a lot with Commands & Colors: Ancients.)

The rules are explained incrementally

On top of this, the rules are incrementally introduced through 9 scenarios, so that playing each new scenario only requires to learn a few pages of rules. (Many players do find that the first 2 or 3 scenarios are really only learning scenarios, but that the beauty of the game fully kicks in around scenario 3 or 4.)

That's still a little less than 4 pages of rules per scenario, though, which may seem quite a lot, given the fact that some great games have a rulebook which is shorter than that (Go, Samurai, Battle Line, Hive,…)! However, for the reasons described above, each topic is actually quite easily understood and remembered, with the details ready to be looked up if need be.

Nobody's perfect

The rules are arguably a little ambiguous at times, but only when you start thinking about the details, which is good. Going through the threads here on BGG, or on the official forums shows that a few details are missing or unclear. However, when playing, I guess that thematic reasons usually help finding a temporary solution to rule questions.

Conclusion

As a consequence, I really expect this game to be easy to come back to, even after not playing it for a while. This is a feature that I really appreciate, because one cannot play all the great games from a collection every day: I love streamlined rules that are organized in a way that makes in-play lookup very quick. Earth Reborn delivers, in this domain. This is quite a feat, given the incredibly rich thematic possibilities offered by this game. This game feels like Ameritrash for Euro-lovers. Hats off!

Thank you for reading!
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Brian Gee
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Re: Not a review: a rulebook review :)
Very helpful review, thanks. I feel the same way as you do regarding stream-lined rules and liking to play different games all the time. I hate having to search through a rulebook for exceptions when playing a game I know but haven't played in awhile. I'm just surprised after browsing your ratings that our tastes don't line up that much!
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X Topher
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Re: Not a review: a rulebook review :)
Thanks for the review!

I was (am) still a bit worried about any "fiddly" bits the rulebook has, I haven't read it yet...it LOOKS a bit crazy...but I felt that way about Race for the Galaxy at first too.

Overall though, the components are quite impressive and I can't wait to play!
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Re: Not a review: a rulebook review :)
The entire *game* looks crazy, but the incremental way the rules are written along with the scenarios is downright brilliant! I've played the first scenario 4 times now and enjoyed each game. I'm almost hesitant to add any additional rules as the Basic+Move+Melee works so well and is enjoyable just by itself. Though I have to admit, shooting looks fun

-shnar
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Re: Not a review: a rulebook review :)
Thank you so much, guys: I appreciate the feedback.
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Constantin Goss
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 page of rules!
I'm still a bit on the fence about buying or not buying this game due to the rules.

In my opinion, the rules for Dungeon Twister are very clean and easy to learn and I just can't believe that a game with such a variety as Earth Reborn can be as easily understood as DT.


(Once it'll be available again in Germany, I think I'll have to get it anyways )
 
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
toffelkopf wrote:
In my opinion, the rules for Dungeon Twister are very clean and easy to learn and I just can't believe that a game with such a variety as Earth Reborn can be as easily understood as DT.
I also find Dungeon Twister's rules clean and easy to learn; what I found more difficult and cumbersome was to remember them and to pick up the game and play it on the spot.

The difference between Dungeon Twister's approach and Earth Reborn can be illustrated by the special character powers in both games: in Dungeon Twister, the characters have special power text, either scattered throughout the tutorial book, or put together in the veterans book; in Earth Reborn, these capabilities are nicely summarized in a single graphical sentence found on the character card, that is easy to comprehend, and where additional details are easy to find in the rule book, if need be. I find details like this one make Earth Reborn so much more user-friendly. I would indeed say that Earth Reborn is arguably richer than Dungeon Twister, in terms of the number of thematic mechanics; but this does not seem to make it much more complex or unmanageable, though, because of the reasons I highlighted in the review.
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Mark Mitchell
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
I've read through the rules a few times now and looked at the scenarios.

I think there are similar game mechanics to COH, but somehow seems a lot more engaging with a good dose of humour. What really got me was how it reminded me of games like Lasersquad or Lords of Chaos on the Amiga/C64 and maybe a little XCOM as well.

The scenarios seem fun as well with multiple ways of playing the map. With the ability to capture players (as well as toture them) and unique characteristics (damaging/destroying map sections) and abilities of rooms gives even further possiblities.

I can see potential fun stories being developed from play as well as quite complex tactical decisions. However what really pushed me over the edge to buy it was the innovative and streamlined system with very few exception rules. I HATE exception rules, Europe Engulfed was an absolute nightmare for me to play.

I like well implemented systems that give you freedom, COH is good at this but a little too constricted on play with everything starting a bit too close or on too tight a timeline considering the scale it is reproducing. The pacing of ER seems perfect for the scale and options available and even if I lose I get a good story at the end. I'll report back once I get a few plays in.

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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
The incremental way the rules and scenarios are written really streamline learning the rules. To play the first scenario, you only need to learn 3 sets of very basic rules (i.e. the basics (orders & commands, turn order, etc), movement, and melee). It doesn't take long to read those rules, setup the board and play your first game. You can practically jump right in, which cannot be said of other miniature board games (I'm looking at you Descent: Journeys in the Dark and Dust Tactics).

I'd say give it a go. It's a box bleeding full of goodness!

-shnar
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Brian Modreski
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
ER is "streamlined" compared to what...Advanced Squad Leader? You've got 8 facing arcs per figure, about 20 stats to attack with, and 6 different mechanics (including blind bidding) going on just to move a figure.
 
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
StormKnight wrote:
ER is "streamlined" compared to what...Advanced Squad Leader? You've got 8 facing arcs per figure, about 20 stats to attack with, and 6 different mechanics (including blind bidding) going on just to move a figure.


The rules and scenarios are "streamlined" in how they incrementally add rules as you go. In Scenario #1, the only think you worry about is Facing. Pretty simple.

In fact, I hope there are a bunch of new scenarios added that only have a few of the "modular" rules used. I really like the simplicity of Scenario #1 (as shown above, having played it 4 times already) and would love to see additional scenarios with just the basic modules.

-shnar
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
StormKnight wrote:
ER is "streamlined" compared to what...Advanced Squad Leader? You've got 8 facing arcs per figure, about 20 stats to attack with, and 6 different mechanics (including blind bidding) going on just to move a figure.
These numbers are absolutely not an issue, very much like a 20-sided die is no more complicated than a 6-sided one. For instance, it is hard to find the facing arcs complicated: they are directly printed on the figure base, and indicate simple things like the fact that Jack is stronger in close combat on his left side (because that's where his saw is). The same goes for the attack stats: if your opponent is in your dark blue fighting arc, then you look at the stats for (guess what) the dark blue fighting arc: the rules follow the principle of minimal surprise (and three colors of arcs is not too much).

Now, I won't say that Earth Reborn has trivially simple rules, but I find them remarkably designed and very well laid out.
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Sebastian Beck
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Re: Amazingly streamlined and rich: don't fear the 44 pages of rules!
I played this game on the SPIEL con in Essen and I loved it.

Autobuy.

Great review btw.
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Robert Jaeppel
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Re: 44 pages of rules! A review
Thanks for the review. This one is high on my watchlist. I have and enjoy Runewars, which also sports a 40+ page rulebook. I found that game to flow nicely, so it looks like this will be a game i can wrap my head around.

Runewars was full of small details, but nothing counterintuitive. I take it this weighs in at a similar rules and learning curve level? A question to those of you who know both games.
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Mark Mitchell
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Re: 44 pages of rules! A review
StormKnight wrote:
ER is "streamlined" compared to what...Advanced Squad Leader? You've got 8 facing arcs per figure, about 20 stats to attack with, and 6 different mechanics (including blind bidding) going on just to move a figure.


This is simply not true. Try reading the rules more carefully.
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Re: 44 pages of rules! A review
gamecat_uk wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
ER is "streamlined" compared to what...Advanced Squad Leader? You've got 8 facing arcs per figure, about 20 stats to attack with, and 6 different mechanics (including blind bidding) going on just to move a figure.


This is simply not true. Try reading the rules more carefully.
You're right. I guess that Brian was simply writing hyperbolically.
 
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Mark Mitchell
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Re: 44 pages of rules… and an enthusiastic review
He was and I was being deadpan sarcastic which I have now ruined by mentioning it...damn
His comment was misleading however even if he is using hyperbole for effect. It's simply not that complex. Try absorbing the political exceptions to Europe Engulfed, now that really does need a flowchart to understand it.

Saying that he did rate dust tactics an 8 rofl ..
 
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John Cosgrove
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Re: 44 pages of rules… and an enthusiastic review
Nice review Eric, thanks for this

- Omni
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Ian McCarthy
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Re: 44 pages of rules… and an enthusiastic review
Interesting review, I'm impressed that you took the time to just review the rulebook without actually playing the game.

Have you played yet? Was it fun?

Also, I'm curious as to roughly how many icons make up this Iconographic Phrasing System or "graphical language"? It sounds like a lot, from this terminology.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Re: 44 pages of rules… and an enthusiastic review
There's quite a bit, so much at first glance it's rather intimidating. But it works so surprisingly well that I'm glad I got over my intimidating and tackled this beast!

-shnar
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Re: 44 pages of rules… and an enthusiastic review
KenToad wrote:
Interesting review, I'm impressed that you took the time to just review the rulebook without actually playing the game.
Thank you, Ian! I felt like I had to give back to the game part of what it had given to me.

KenToad wrote:
Have you played yet? Was it fun?
I unfortunately only played the first 2-player scenario: the setup time was not really much fun (10-15 minutes), but playing the game was nice. What is now obvious to me is that the more rules, the better the gaming experience should be: being able to shoot, look for and use items, etc. should bring much fun! I have read that the game really starts to give its full flavor around scenario 3 or 4.

Quote:
Also, I'm curious as to roughly how many icons make up this Iconographic Phrasing System or "graphical language"? It sounds like a lot, from this terminology.
I'm not sure how many icons the system contains (maybe 15-30?); one reason I did not check this is that one can mostly understand it without having to learn it first, thanks to a good and simple choice of icon for each word.
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