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Subject: My Favorite Game: An In-Depth Look at Earth Reborn rss

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Trynant

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I know this is rather late to the party, but I can't contain my enthusiasm for this game. As such, here is my first review on Board Game Geek. It's somewhat lengthy, but that is only because I felt I needed to do justice to Earth Reborn. I hope you enjoy the review.

Table of Contents
Due to this review being somewhat sizeable, this table of contents is added so you can CTRL+F to a section of the review you might want to read or skip past a section you don't.

[ER00] Abstract
[ER01] Introduction and Reviewer Background
[ER02] Game Summary and Theme
[ER03] Components
[ER04] Rules Summary
[ER05] Rules in Play
[ER06] How the Pieces Fit Together
[ER07] How This Makes My Favorite Game
[ER08] Criticisms and Final Thoughts
[ER09] Recommendation

[ER00] Abstract

As the title of this review suggests, I love Earth Reborn. I am going to try to express why this is, and argue for the merits of the game. Since I'm so inclined to like this game, however, I feel that I need to go into detail about the game to better give you, the reader, an extensive idea of what to expect with this game.

This will be an attempt at a comprehensive review of Earth Reborn, meaning this will be a long review of Earth Reborn. I will give a background of my experience with boardgames and Earth Reborn. I will summarize the rules of the game and then describe how these rules work in practice. I will describe the resulting experience provided by rules, and then argue why this experience makes Earth Reborn my favorite boardgame. After some final thoughts, I will do my best to give my recommendation for if this game is for you or not.

If the title didn't warn you, try to take this review with a grain of salt. Though I will try to be fair and critical of Earth Reborn, expect my bias to show through. Hopefully I can provide insight to why this I feel this bias is merited, however.

[ER01] Introduction and Reviewer Background

“Your favorite game? Really? Have you been playing nothing but junk? What makes Earth Reborn stand out?”

To give you some idea of where I’m coming from with this love, I crossed the threshold into the fantastic world of board games a couple of years ago. Starting with the likes of Catan and Dominion, my tastes slowly grew to favor heavier titles. I mostly have played and enjoyed eurogames like Puerto Rico, Caylus, Agricola, etc. with an infrequent foray into Ameritrash like Arkham Horror (the novelty of which quickly wore off). I would be saying my favorite games are eurogames with their great, great mechanics making up for any dry theme or wooden cubes; but the hybrid Dungeon Twister—formerly my favorite game—proved me wrong in that regard. It turns out games with great mechanics and a juicy theme make for my favorites. When I heard of Earth Reborn, made by the same designer as Dungeon Twister, was out; I grabbed it the moment I saw it on a store shelf. Cut to a couple of months later and now I’m head-over-heels in love with Earth Reborn, writing this review.

This review comes from the result of playing all the two-player scenarios—some played several times, playing many of the multiplayer scenarios, and playing a couple two-player games of the ‘final’ game mode, SAGS (more on that later). I estimate I have played close to 30 games of Earth Reborn in the few months I’ve had it in my possession. While that may be enough plays for many games to give a fully realized review, due to the depth and rather absurd amount of content of Earth Reborn, this is in some ways an ‘early impression’ write-up. The rabbit-hole goes deep.

[ER02] Game Summary and Theme

Earth Reborn is a scenario-driven, tactical-minis game set in a post-apocalyptic world. Another description is if you took the old computer game X-Com’s tactical battles, added crazy items and characters, and made it all into an in-depth boardgame; the result might be Earth Reborn. Really, neither of these descriptions accurately portrays all that’s going on in this game. It will be best to start with the story.

500 years after a nuclear apocalypse, surviving humans reemerge from underground vaults. Two factions, the remains of NORAD and an occult community under the graveyards of Salem, clash and battles ensue. In short, it’s mechs (NORAD) versus zombies (Salemites). If this sounds kind of silly, that’s because it is. The game’s theme is silly and fun and it works. There’s a lot of fluff around the game found in the scenario book both in introductions to each scenario and as a general overview of the game’s setting. The theme of the game extends heavily into the gameplay of Earth Reborn; the mechanics really fit the story of the game (more on that later).

As mentioned before, the game is played through scenarios, either from scenarios detailed in the scenario booklet or from procedurally generated scenarios using Earth Reborn’s Scenario Auto Generating System (S.A.G.S.). The map is made up of a smaller floor tiles so the layout of the game is different each scenario. Players will each command a small squad of characters and turn by turn will be alternating rounds ordering troops one at a time until both players pass. The game is driven by order tiles and command points; a system in which players can execute multiple orders on a single round but are limited by what they draw and how many command points a character can be issued in a turn (more on that later). Orders involve things like moving, attacking, searching for gear, and interacting with something. Depending on the scenario, the game ends either when a win condition is met or after a number of turns have passed.

And that’s a very short overview of what Earth Reborn is! You order your troops across the board and get them to fight each other until someone wins. This could describe a lot of games, however, so it’s time to look in detail at Earth Reborn and find out why I claim this is my favorite game.

[ER03] Components



The first thing you’ll notice about Earth Reborn is that it comes in a rather large box, and the second thing you’ll notice is that the lid is displaced almost an inch by a huge number of cardboard punch-outs. Although published by Z-Man Games, Earth Reborn has enough components to be one of the bigger Fantasy Flight titles. This game contains hundreds of cardboard bits, a myriad of cards, some of the best miniatures I’ve seen grace a table, and a ridiculously complicated insert.



A note about the insert: it’s almost a game in itself to figure out how to put all the pieces of the game back into the box the right way, but once figured out the insert does its job well. The only complaint I have beyond the initial guesswork (which you may or may not have fun working through) is that the individual tokens will still fly around the box enough that it is simpler to just put them in some plastic bags, which are thankfully included with the game. All the floor tiles, stand-ups, cards and minis fit perfectly.



And the miniatures! They are exquisitely detailed, very sturdy, and are even undercoated so you can paint them straight out of the box. You couldn’t ask for a better set of playing pieces.



People have complained plenty of times about the garish design of the cards, but to me this is a non-issue. The presentation is not an eyesore enough to deter me from playing and the information is displayed in and clear and understandable manner.


Don't worry, you don't need to know all the stuff on that card at first.

The biggest mark I can make against the components is the floor tiles. There is one single issue with them: the walls blend in with the artwork. Unless you are very aware or are playing in a very well-lit area, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up a strategy because you did not realize that a wall was in the way. If there is ever a new edition/expansion to this game the walls on the floor tiles need a better contrast with the artwork.



Besides the initial shock of the insert, the debatable graphic design of the cards, and the floor tile wall problem, the components are fantastic and numerous. Kudos to the miniatures especially; they are a treat.

[ER04] Rules Summary

So far I’ve seen few if any reviews try to go in-depth with rule summaries, arguably for good reason. While filled with pictures and examples, Earth Reborn has a 44-page rulebook, and that’s not even including the scenarios and story (which appear in a second book)! Well, gosh-darnit, I’m going to try to at least summarize those rules! The book presents the game mechanics in a piece-by-piece manner. A new batch of rules are introduced in each scenario up to the final game, so rules will be covered here in an manner analogous to the way the game presents them. I will briefly cover the rules introduced in each scenario and the gist of what they do. Note that this is not a complete writeup of each rule and exception, e.g. I won’t go into detail about how move orders can be executed multiple times on the same section or other such specifics. The rulebook is readily available at this link, http://earthreborn.ludically.com/downloads if you want an even more in-depth look into the game. Also, I’m not going to try to cover how all these rules work in practice until the next section: this is just looking at the puzzle parts before piecing them into a whole.


Yes, that's 72 pages of rulebooks. Don't worry, you only need to read a fraction of the text at a any one time. And there's a lot of pitures.

The Core Rules: Earth Reborn is played in turns. There are three phases in a turn: Initiative Phase (setup), Action Phase (main), and Final Phase (cleanup/reset). Initiative Phase is what you would think; you draw your allotted tokens which in this game are order tiles and command points. As mentioned before, order tiles are the way you command your troops. In the Action Phase, the players will alternate taking Action Rounds; in each Action Round a player can play one order tile on one character and place command points on those order tiles. Each order tile will have four different orders on it with each order numbered from one to four. The number on the order is the maximum amount of command points you can place on that order; addition command points on an order make that order stronger (move more spaces, do more damage in combat, etc.). In addition to a cap on the order tile, each character has a limit to how many command points they are given (averaging around five) in a single turn. When a player has maxed out their characters or simply wants to try to end the turn early, they pass. When both players pass in succession the Action Phase the Final Phase happens which is more or less clean up (discard used order tiles, get rid of certain effects, etc.). Basically Earth Reborn is played through the use of these order tiles and command points until the game ends through either a time limit or victory condition.

Move and Close Combat: Scenario 1 introduces the player to the basics: moving and melee. Movement is simple: every unit has a move value, and every command point on a move order lets them move a number of squares equal to their move value. The direction a miniature is facing is important, as Close Combat soon shows. Basically a character initiating close combat compares their facing with the target’s facing (denoted by a nifty graphic on the base of the mini) and both the attacking and defending players roll dice accordingly. If the attacker beats the defenders combined dice result and armor value, damage is dealt. Also, walls and floor elements are destructible (roll dice, deal damage equal to the object's hit points in one hit, object gets broken).

Line of Sight and Dueling: Scenario 2 introduces essentially the Overwatch mechanic from Space Hulk, or something similar to Attack of Opportunity if you’re more familiar with D&D. Line of Sight works exactly as you’d expect a LoS mechanic to work (draw a line and if it’s unobstructed you have LoS), with one caveat that characters have different LoS arcs (shown on the base of their minis) and can be blind-sided. Dueling makes things interesting. When an enemy activates in line of sight, moves into line of sight, or moves adjacent to one of your characters, you have the opportunity to interrupt. You and the opponent bid command points secretly and simultaneously reveal. If you exceed the enemy bid you can do up to two interruption orders (limited by red-colored orders on order tiles). You can also bid to go first on a turn.

Equipment and Shooting: After Scenario 2 introduces Line of Sight, shoot-mans-with-gun comes into play in Scenario 3. It works similar to close-combat except the attacker has to do a prerequisite aiming roll before rolling damage and the defender doesn’t roll defense dice (the attacker only has to beat the defender’s armor when shooting). In other words guns mostly have an easier time breaching a character’s defense. Who knew!

Equipment, such as a gun, is represented by cards; each equipment card has a weight value. Characters cannot carry more than a weight value denoted on their character card before having to drop something to pick another thing up (e.g. dropping a machine gun for a bazooka). In other words, guns shoot mans, and you can’t carry all the guns at once.

Iconographic Phrasing System (IPS) and Interact: Iconowhaaa? This ruleset actually makes more sense than it would seem. The IPS is just a graphical representation of special abilities of characters, equipment, and floor elements. In other words, where other games would have special rules text Earth Reborn uses IPS. Interact is basically the order that you use to execute an IPS of a piece of equipment or a floor element. Set a time bomb? Use the interact order. The more points you put into an interact order, the more likely you are to succeed in actually pulling off that order (i.e. you need to make a skill check to make something work).


Franck Einstein at the Satellite Com, a floor element with an IPS line.

Mission and Morale Points, Spy Points and Searching: Around Scenario 5 the game's scenarios shift from ending upon completing objectives to ending upon a time limit (usually six turns). This is where MP comes in (an abbreviation for both Mission Points and Morale Points). In short, MP is in Earth Reborn what VP is on other games. Complete an objective, score MP, whoever has the most MP at the end of the game wins. There are other ways to score MP, however, like from Spy Points. Spy Points are acquired through various means and can be spent in three ways, one of which doesn't come up until the last set of rules, one to gain MP, and one to look through the Search Deck.

The Search Deck? Oh yeah, you know how there's guns and gear in this game? There's a search mechanic where you can rifle through junk in a room to find gear, represented in the game by going through a shuffled deck of cards. Searching is done using the search order, an order that involves rolling dice to see how many cards you can search through and going through the deck of equipment until you find something you can snag or run out of points to search with. The search dice also can result in you picking up Spy Points. It should be also noted that the equipment cards are double sided, so it can often come up that the Search Deck gets flipped (and shuffled for that matter).


Mission Points, Search Dice, and Search Deck all together.

Character Special Abilities and Radio Scrambling: Although equipment and floor elements are interacted and execute special functions using the IPS, character abilities only come into play at Scenario 6. Character abilities are pretty straightforward: use the IPS on the character to use the special ability, no order tiles needed. Most orders require command points, but it's all detailed in the IPS line of each character.

It's not so straightforward is Radio Scrambling. Basically, Radio Scrambling is a ruleset for a very important item and floor element; at the beginning of each turn, if you've activated this item/floor element, you get to place tokens face-down on the opponents' characters. When the affected characters are assigned a certain amount of command points, the tokens are flipped. Most of the tokens do nothing, but one stops that character in its tracks and one gives you a spy point. The opponent doesn't know which will be which although that opponent will get one swap of two tokens at the beginning of a turn.

Large Miniatures: One thing you may have noticed about Earth Reborn is a large mech mini. Scenario 7 introduces the use of this mech. The only real difference in rules for the mech is that it takes move points to change its facing and the rulebook goes into detail about the mech's special ability to blast through walls super easily.


Fear it.

Capture and...Torture?: Yep. If a character is near-dead, you can declare an attempt to capture while doing close combat. If you do damage that would kill that character, they're captured instead; they become the equivalent of equipment. And if you play the bad guys (Salemites), you can torture that character (using an interact order) for Spy Points! An important special rule for capturing is that if the mech is captured, it is hijacked instead of dragged around as a prisoner.

Multiple Levels and Combined Orders: The last non-SAGS scenario uses multiple levels, i.e. stairs. Not to much to say about this rule; it's one move point to move up or down stairs and you have limited line-of-sight between floors. Combined orders is an interesting system where you can command multiple characters at once by using golden-colored orders on order tiles. It's kind of a complicated rule, but basically you command your active character and then use previously activated characters together to execute an order. This can range from moving multiple characters to everyone shooting at once to mutliple characters trying to arm a nuke. Note that since only one order tile can be placed per round, a combined order is the result of multiple rounds of setup.


Red and gold-colored orders can be used to interrupt. Gold colored-orders are for combined orders. All orders can be used as a normal order.

Scenario Auto-Generating System (S.A.G.S.): After going through all the scenarios (or learning all the rules in advance), players can make their own missions through this ruleset. In S.A.G.S., players take turns placing floor tiles and build the map they will play on. After the map is finished, players select their characters and equipment. After all this, several secret objectives are handed to each player; the match consists of each player trying to meet these objectives to gain MP. Whoever has the most MP at the end of six turns wins.

[ER05] Rules in Play

Summarizing the rules bit by bit is fine and dandy, but without context those summaries in the previous section are meaningless. How does this all work when put on the table? Well, it works out quite nicely actually.

I should emphasize that all these rules are introduced scenario by scenario. A lot of people see how much information is one the cards and read that the rulebook is 44 pages long and are intimated. Once it's apparent how little you need to know to play the first match, however, the game is much more palpable. In addition, Earth Reborn's modular ruleset is not just heaping on chunks of rules after rules, but rather is elaborating on what is already there. The game's way of teaching is less like building a tower, where you just build up and up, but rather sculpting a statue, where you start with the basic shape and slowly reveal the refined, full product.

Before the game even begins, it should be noted that if you're given the option of deployment, where you start your characters can be a deciding factor in winning or losing. Starting positions aren't everything, but they are very important nonetheless.


Where best to deploy your troops can sometimes be a blurry prospect.

The core rules of placing tiles and points can be somewhat confusing at first (“wait, what does putting down three points in close-combat do?”), but it's quite easy to grasp after one turn of play. The result of this system is that you'll have to be making tactical decisions of which character you want to command first and which character you want to leave vulnerable to enemy orders. This is not to say that you're practically handcuffed with what you can do a single round. Quite the contrary, characters can make drastic actions with only a few commands. For example, it is quite possible for a character to move nearly all the way across the map in with a single order, provided the order allows enough command points to be allocated to it. The random draw of order tiles leads to a focus on risk-mitigation as players must carefully decide the moment they want to play their 'strong card' so to speak.

The order tiles are interesting in how their worth changes as more is added to the game. Since only two orders are actually usable in the first scenario, there is more focus on tile-drawing going on to get rid of outright bad tiles (for the scenario) and get good orders. As the game fleshes out, however, the difference between a good and bad order tile becomes a lot less distinct. By the time all the rules are in play, it is apparent that there is no overly good tile and overly bad tile; it's all situational. The game's tile system changes from optimizing your hand to reading what the situation on the board is and how your tiles can be used best.

As far as combat, Earth Reborn's play greatly rewards striking characters' weak spots, if only because even the weakest characters can take a ton of abuse. It often feels like you are just plinking away at each other, especially in close-combat, if you just attack a character head-on. Because damage negation is subtractive in Earth Reborn, you only do heavy damage if you set up for an optimal attack. Added to all this, since dice rolling can always give you a chance for failure, it's not enough to be able to set up for the perfect attack but also not force yourself into a corner if the dice turn against you. Again, the focus on risk-mitigation comes up. Lastly, one very nice thing about combat is how shooting is not mechanically identical to close-combat; learning the subtleties of both shooting and close-quarters fighting is both tactically and thematically rewarding. In other words, the mechanics greatly reinforce the theme while also maintaining solid gameplay.


Nick Bolter is vulnerable to a back attack from Jack Saw. Not good for Bolter....

Dueling is surprisingly important, or rather surprisingly involved. The interruption of other players' actions are not a static, guaranteed event. Players have to actively sacrifice a portion of their ability to command troops later in the turn to quickly interfere with another player's plans. I can understand why Earth Reborn introduced this mechanic so soon into learning the game, even before shooting. Learning when and where to interrupt (and what to do with your interruption) is a necessary skill in order to play this game well rather than some side rule that only shows up under very limited circumstances.


Of course, it helps to have your character alive if you want them to interrupt....

The Iconographic Phrasing System is probably the most intimidating rule to learn, yet it is the one of the most standout parts of this game. It is thankfully quite easy to pick up on how the IPS reads and is fairly intuitive for all that it does. I actually think this is a great way to replace on-card text since it allows players to quickly glance over what an item/equipment/character does rather than having to hunch over and read fine print of a card.

Ultimately, however, IPS is frosting on the cake; the 'cake' in this situation being the interaction order. Interaction is the turning point in learning Earth Reborn; this is where the game explodes into a bevy of tactical options and mechanics. The core rules are still there and still dominant, but when interaction is added in Earth Reborn, the board becomes alive.


How can Professor Kendall interact with the dead body of Nick Bolter? I wonder....

Where interaction exponentially increases the amount of stuff you can do in Earth Reborn, the mission point system drastically increases the playtime of the game. Most of the scenarios before MP is introduced lasted for me about two, maybe three turns. Scenarios with the MP rules end on the sixth turn. Thankfully the game reveals enough depth at this point to merit the time it takes to play.

Searching and Spy Points come into play at the same point as MP. Searching is the mechanic in Earth Reborn I think people are most ambivalent about, but I think it's an interesting system for finding items that gives a risk-reward mechanism to what is a usually mundane element in other games. Spy Points initially serve a double purpose of both gaining MP and sorting through the Equipment Deck (i.e. managing the outcome of what players will find when searching). When SAGS are introduced they serve the very important role of finding out what the other players' mission objectives are. Spy Points are always good to get since they can either help you win the game or help you manage searching, so it's important to divide some of your effort into obtaining at least several Spy Points during a game.

Character Special Abilities feel like a natural extension to what's already in the game at this point. It's a very straightforward mechanic, and the most noticeable thing this rule does is add flavor to each character. The IPS system is used for this rule, so really the same effect is achieved that normal IPS and interact orders do for floor tiles and equipment: add more variety and personality to the game (and in this case the characters).


Kendall uses his special ability and makes Bolter's corpse a newly readied Zombie 1.

Radio Scrambling is the one of the few rules of the game that to me feels like it could have been in an expansion, but frankly that's not a bad thing. Being able to keep the opponent guessing which radio scrambling icons are going to be the bad ones is a cool system that makes it for another way to gain Spy Points, resulting in less dependence on completing objectives for MP. One great thing about Earth Reborn by the point Radio Scrambling is implemented is that there are multiple routes for victory in each game; the players do not have to focus solely on one victory condition. Still, the rules for scrambling feel like the worst to learn for the first time; especially since the game punishes a player if they flip a scrambling token too early—a mistake easy to make early on.

There's not much to say about the rules for the mech. It's a very simple addition, but probably the most anticipated one. Who doesn't want a giant mech on the board...other than the player who has to go against it?

Capture and torture are the rules that to me were hardest to execute. The conditions for a successful capture are very hard to meet, and since Spy Points only have a 1/6 of a chance of being rolled with one die, torturing is hard to pull off unless you can expend a lot of points to get as many dice to roll as possible. Again, these rules feel like expansion material, but that's not a bad thing. The rules aren't convoluted, and being able to hijack a mech is pretty dang cool!

Mutliple levels is a very small rule, so I don't have anything to say about how it changes the game. Combined orders, however, are definitely worth mentioning. I honestly was wondering why combined orders are implemented so late, but once I started playing with them their absence made sense. Combining orders is a very situational tactic or at least a hard-to-execute maneuver. Because you have to have to have order tiles on the characters you're combining orders with, and those combined orders have to be gold-colored; you're really only going to be able to feasibly execute a combined order on average of once per turn or so. In other words, while being a good addition, combined orders are not a game-changer like I thought they would be.

S.A.G.S. is brilliant. While generating your own scenarios could have felt like playing the same scenario with only a few randomized elements, S.A.G.S. really does feel like each game of it is a different mission. What really helps is that all the elements of preparation are either player-generated or randomized, so no two games are the same. Even your mission objectives are different each match, so your goals are changing every time you play. One noticeable thing about S.A.G.S. that is emphasized is starting placement of characters. Since the map is player generated, there are optimal spots for deployment and spots where you do not want your characters to start at. A bad starting position can lead to a disadvantage that could potentially cost you a game. Again, deployment isn't everything, but it becomes very important in S.A.G.S.


Yes, this is an actual mission you can get in S.A.G.S.

[ER06]How the Pieces Fit Together


What's this game like when you know what everything means?

Up to this point I've described the rules in a mostly piecemeal manner, but how does it all come together? Actually, the game's mechanics lock in quite wonderfully. One could suspect that Earth Reborn's crazy systems would be clunky and not mesh well like so many Ameritrash games, but this game does the brilliant job of pulling a wide, wide range of mechanics and combining them in an elegeant and cohesive manner. Everything feels like it fits in place even though you're given so many options. No rule feels tacked on.

The greatest benefit these interlocking mechanics provide is the ability to do a truly absurd variety of actions throughout play. Shoot a wall down. Grab a smoke grenade and use it for cover. Run up to another character and slash them with your character's recently-acquired titanium claws. Capture the character and torture them for information allowing you to find out the secret mission of the other player. That is just one crazy sequence of events that can happen through each turn of Earth Reborn, let alone each play of the game.

Even better, despite the amount of die rolling, tile drawing and card shuffling done, Earth Reborn rewards skill over luck. The designer of the game claimed play is 30% luck and 70% skill, and I can agree with that. You almost always can work around bad rolls, and in fact risk mitigation is a huge part of the game. This is not some game where you feel like you have little to no control over the outcome of play, a pitfall that many boardgames in this genre can fall prety to. At the end of our games players are always discussing how we could have played differently and what tactical decisions we could have made to change the outcome of the game.

In Earth Reborn you're always thinking about what you can do and never about how the rules work (with the possible exception of Radio Scrambling). In Earth Reborn you're given a huge variety of things to do, all the time. Most of all, in Earth Reborn all the crazy things you can think of and do will be rewarded if you play well.

[ER07] How this Makes My Favorite Game


Glorious.

Okay, even if Earth Reborn has good mechanics, why is it any better than all of those wonderful games out there? Why do I love Earth Reborn over Puerto Rico, Agricola, Caylus, Through the Ages, Dominion, Twilight Imperium, Twilight Struggle, Arkham Horror, War of the Ring, Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert, Dungeon Twister, etc. etc. etc.? What is the standout reason I'm absolutely in love with this one game?

Well, if I could pinpoint my favorite aspect of Earth Reborn, it would be how its mechanics are not only brilliant and engaging, but they support the theme of the game as well. Many games have wonderful systems, but it often feels like their themes are tacked on and their rules could be used in any other setting. Other games have great themes, but their rules feel contrived or forced. It is rare when a game comes together in both gameplay and theme. Earth Reborn not only pulls off this tremendous feat, it brings its elements together with a huge amount of content to boot. It's not just that the game plays great; the game stands out because you can play in so many different ways, and each thing you do feels like it has some corrolary with the theme. What this means is everything you're doing is interesting. Everything feels satisfying mechanically and thematically.

In other words, the appeal of Earth Reborn, to me, comes down to being able to do so much crazy stuff and for all that crazy stuff to be grounded in great gameplay with great thematic results. It's not just that you're setting up a perfect maneuvre to reach a location to meet your objective; it's that you just dashed a character with Irritable Bowel Syndrome to a bathroom and that scored you points and impacted the game. Everything I do in-game has a tangible corollary with the theme and a meaningful mechanic behind it. That, to me, is brilliant.

That the game does this blend of gameplay and theme is great alone, but that it does it over and over with so much engaging and fun content is what skyrockets Earth Reborn to my #1 game.

[ER08] Criticisms and Final Thoughts

Sadly, while Earth Reborn is my favorite game, it is not a perfect game. There are some complaints, if not necessarily objective flaws, that could be marks against the game. Some of these criticisms could even be deal-breakers for people.

First off, the game has a long setup time. This is the trade-off for the game's modular board. Because there are so many titles to place to build the map for each game, you're looking at at least 15 minutes of setup—even more if you're new to the game and slow to place pieces.

The graphic design can be considered garish and ugly, although the actual artwork is great. The most mechanically interfering part of this is that the walls on the board are hard to make out sometime due to low contrast between the walls and the game artwork.
The back of the box says Earth Reborn takes 45 minutes to 4 hours to play. I would rephrase that claim; Earth Reborn takes 45 minutes or 4 hours to play. Somewhere between scenarios 4 and 5, when the game changes from ending on completing an objective to ending after a certain number of turns; the time of play explodes. There is very little middle ground for Earth Reborn. Either you're playing a fairly short game or a fairly long game.

Sometimes, although not necessarily a rule, one player may feel the need to concede in a time-limit game. There are situations where one player can trounce the other enough to feel the need to give up, although this is rare enough to not be a huge problem.

The worst complaint I can make of Earth Reborn is the result of its huge breadth of content. The game is so big that you will need multiple playthroughs to experience everything. To get all the rules of the game going you either need to go through a lot scenarios that introduce the game bit by bit, or cover a rather daunting amount of mechanics all at once. For gamers who do not have a consistent group, this can be problematic. Even though the game is fun to play at its earlier stages without all the rules implemented; Earth Reborn is at its best when you're playing the full experience. It can be hard to build up to that. You need at least one person willing to consistently play with you to get the most mileage out of this game.

Despite these flaws, I still treasure Earth Reborn over all else in my collection. I'm in the position to play the game with a consitent group to get the most mileage out the game. That I can play this game two dozen times or more and have only just gone beyond the tip of the iceberg and enjoyed every step up to this point says volumes about Earth Reborn. Even had I not been able to get to S.A.G.S. or the later scenarios, this game would still have rewarded me with a great experience; for every iteration of the game is enjoyable and benefits from replay.

Earth Reborn a fantastic experience, a gift that keeps on giving. You will never run out of things to do, and you will have a great time exploring the bountiful content of this game. That a game can blend mechanics and theme so elegantly is truly astonishing, and for Earth Reborn to manage this feat again and again makes it my favorite game.

[ER09] Recommendation

Of course, you didn't read this review to know why Earth Reborn is my favorite game, but rather to find out if Earth Reborn will be your favorite game. At the very least, is this a game worth picking up? Will you get enjoyment enough out of Earth Reborn to merit its price tag? Here's what I'll say:

Earth Reborn is for you if:
-You want a huge amount of content from a single game, and you want to be able to play a game over and over and still have it hold up to so many repeated plays.

-You have one to three other people who you can consistently play with to get the best out of this game.

-You don't hate minis and/or tactical skirmish games.

-You like deep, involved and rewarding gameplay.

-You like a fun theme and being able to do cool stuff.

If you meet at least three of these five requisites, I would recommend going out and getting this game. Even if you're not up for any of these things, at least give Earth Reborn a try. You don't have to like Ameritrash to like Earth Reborn, and you don't have to like wooden cubes and meeples to enjoy this game either. I found myself surprised to like this game as much as I did; I don't usually enjoy so much shuffling and die-rolling that's in Earth Reborn. Despite my bias for non-hidden information and history of drier eurogames, I love Earth Reborn. It is just too good a game to ignore. I can only hope that you can appreciate it too.
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Josh Morgan
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Glad to see such a thorough review. Keep spreading the good word!
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Ian McCarthy
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Amazing work, all reviews should aspire to be this great.

Your ability to both concisely explain and thoroughly discuss the rules is what really sets it apart. Frequently, reviewers tend to focus on one or the other.

My only small complaint would be that some of the pictures are blurry, but, even as they are, they still do an exceptional job of both conveying information and refreshing the reader's brain between large blocks of text.
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Trynant

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Thanks for the kind words you guys!

I really wanted to go over the rules of the game; I couldn't find any other review of the game that went in-depth with them (fair enough considering how extensive the game is). I'm glad that part is appreciated.

I will readily admit how blurry those photos are. My camera was very much not cooperating with me when I was taking those pictures. You should have seen the shots I left out....
 
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Stefaan Henderickx
Belgium
Burcht
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Thanks for the review. Your point about needing some people that want to invest time with you into this game is so right. Respect for the fact you got all the way trough. I only played scenario 1 2 times and 2 1 time (and really liked it). Really need to get this to the table again next holiday and get some weapons out.
What do you think about some people saying the last few scenarios are unbalanced?
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Judy Krauss
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Pittsburgh
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but I'm not the only one
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Thanks for the great review! I recently punched and sleeved the game components and have started reading the rulebook in anticipation of playing sometime in the near future. So, your review was quite timely for me.
 
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Derek Porter
United States
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Excellent review. This should be required reading for anyone that is interested in this game.
 
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Alexander Juri
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One of my most treasured games as well. My only complaint: I would like to have some Expansion! laugh
 
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stefaan wrote:

What do you think about some people saying the last few scenarios are unbalanced?


I personally don't think there is much imbalance, although the person I was playing with did think the later scenarios heavily favor NORAD. At most, I think that Salemites have to make more complicated tactical decisions in some later scenarios, especially with deployment. For example, in Scenario 9 (the one you see in the review), the NORAD literally has one floor tile to deploy characters on, while Salemite has the entire rest of the map to place characters. Like I said, a bad starting position can really put you at a disadvantage, and there's plenty of room for mistake in deployment in that scenario for Salemites. So while I don't think there's perfect balance, none of the scenarios are unwinnable for either side.

S.A.G.S. to me is balanced from what I've played, although you could argue that a Salemite character with a bazooka at the start is damn hard to beat. The first time I played it I trounced the other player as Salemites, while the second time I played I won as NORAD (although it was much closer).

One thing about S.A.G.S. I think is worth realizing is that you want to make the map to your advantage. As NORAD, if you don't place enough outdoor tiles you're limiting your deployment options while giving Salemite better placement, and vice versa.

There's also the factor that I think I'm slightly better than the person I've been playing with whistle

And again, despite playing as much as I have, the meta-game in Earth Reborn is so dense that it will take many, many more plays to truly attest to how balanced each scenario is!
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Roger Knowles
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Great review,great game.My only complaint is I love the game so much, that it pains me not to be able to solo it very well(you miss a lot of the good stuff if you solo it).Oh well,such is life I guess.


bikerboy
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Christian Holmes
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I haven't read it yet..(Don't worry, will soon, gotta appreciate Earth Reborn Love!)

However at first glance, the pictures REALLY need to be color corrected. There are plenty of free applications that can do that. Just make sure that whatever is white in the picture is white.

Good job though, I appreciate the work you did!
 
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Jan
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thumbsup I wish I could buy you a beer (while playing ofc)..
Still, can I give you, for this great effort, an ER-fan micro-badge instead? ..any of your choice, PLEASE?!


(note: walls are to be "customized" just like figures are, but in a easier and more 'practically rewarding' way..)

E:got no objections only maybe slightly on:
[ER08,§#5] -its a required attribute of 'the game' and I don't see it as a 'point to criticize' but the necessity to be only accepted with gratitude. Why? Because without that, ER would be just another shallow game not to be ever 'mentioned' like this way.. (but I may be wrong ofc, sry if so)
[ER08,§#4] personally I find it only cool! Objectively, what's wrong with that?
..surely I second the all the rest.. touching reading. thank you!
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Evan Stegman
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Minneapolis
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iskerisky wrote:
...

I will readily admit how blurry those photos are. My camera was very much not cooperating with me when I was taking those pictures. You should have seen the shots I left out....


I looked at the image info for one of the images and the camera recorded that it was using a 1/4 second exposure time. That may sound short but in exposure terms, it is a long time (1/60 second is common). It is very difficult to hold the camera steady for 1/4 second and you end up with blurry pictures.

Either use much more light or use a tripod. Your lighting situation will result in blurry pictures (especially in the close-ups) almost every time otherwise.
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Thanks for the feedback about the pictures; if I do another review I'll definitely take those tips into account and hopefully have much better quality. I don't think I'll be retaking pictures for this review any time soon, however; sorry about that

spokosin wrote:
thumbsup I wish I could buy you a beer (while playing ofc)..
Still, can I give you, for this great effort, an ER-fan micro-badge instead? ..any of your choice, PLEASE?!


Well, if you insist, I've actually been eying this microbadge: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/microbadge/16924

Quote:
(note: walls are to be "customized" just like figures are, but in a easier and more 'practically rewarding' way..)

E:got no objections only maybe slightly on:
[ER08,§#5] -its a required attribute of 'the game' and I don't see it as a 'point to criticize' but the necessity to be only accepted with gratitude. Why? Because without that, ER would be just another shallow game not to be ever 'mentioned' like this way.. (but I may be wrong ofc, sry if so)
[ER08,§#4] personally I find it only cool! Objectively, what's wrong with that?
..surely I second the all the rest.. touching reading. thank you!
mb


While I personally have very little issue with what I criticized, I was trying to give fair warning to people interested in the game. I agree that ultimately Earth Reborn could not have been structured better, and the time you need to invest to play the game is ultimately a tradeoff for enjoying such an incredibly in-depth game. Also, I know some people don't like the idea of what essentially is elimination, and some games (not many!) of Earth Reborn end because a player simply cannot see himself winning (or got wiped off the board...). Due to how rare these occasions are, the critique is more of a personal preference some people have rather than a real design flaw.

Also the walls really shouldn't come out of the box with as little contrast as they have. Yes, you could fix all of that with some touch-up, but it really shouldn't have been an issue in the first place
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iskerisky wrote:
I've actually been eying this microbadge: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/microbadge/16924

ehm blush I'm not sure, if it's possible to buy one for another..
Please, do so for your self..

(didn't know that players elimination could be a problematic idea at all for any gamer(s).. Imho it's just a legal result, like any other, of certain previous play-style/actions taken ..
Not seeing self winning is a half way to loose hehe.. OT-sry:-)

On walls, I'm soo *glad* that it was the one and only imperfection (meaning: for me) in the box heh.
But true, fair warning is needed while in the end that's the most common complain on graphic design..

Thanks again for such a greatly written article (on my top game ever)..
cool
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Trynant

Charleston
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Much obliged good sir!
 
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Andrew C
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Excellent review!

iskerisky wrote:
I will readily admit how blurry those photos are. My camera was very much not cooperating with me when I was taking those pictures. You should have seen the shots I left out....


Did you take these at night? It seems like there was too little light and the colors are washed out (and some are blurry as you point out).

Try taking them in daylight and they will probably come out a lot better.

Still, an outstanding effort, particulary for a first review. You are to be congratulated. thumbsup
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Tim Royal
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And excellent excellent summary of the game. Thanks for taking the time to write this.
 
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Luke Stirling
Australia
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Cleitus the Black wrote:
Excellent review!

iskerisky wrote:
I will readily admit how blurry those photos are. My camera was very much not cooperating with me when I was taking those pictures. You should have seen the shots I left out....


Did you take these at night? It seems like there was too little light and the colors are washed out (and some are blurry as you point out).

Try taking them in daylight and they will probably come out a lot better.

Still, an outstanding effort, particulary for a first review. You are to be congratulated. thumbsup

Even at night there are a few things you can do to improve one's odds of a decent shot with an instant camera or phone camera. First of all, I like to use a 2-second delay when shooting static subjects indoors. It really helps cut down on blur from hand movements. Secondly, manually upping the exposure a couple of steps can really help. And lastly, choosing the right white balance options can make a huge difference.

Still, it makes no impact on the fact that this is indeed an excellent review!
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Andre Oliveira
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Haven't read your review yet. But I will!
But I thumbed it up already. For the effort.
It's because of efforts like this, from people like you, that I keep coming back to this site, over and over.
Thank you.
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Hector Bravado
United States
Colorado
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Fantastic effort. I read Drake's review on Drake's Flames, as well. Like you, he really took a liking to the incredible breadth of tactical variety the game offers.

Out of curiosity, have you ever played the revised edition of Tannhauser? I play it a lot with my GF's 17-year-old son, and we have a blast with it. It sounds like Earth Reborn offers much deeper play, but to tell you the truth, the learning curve on Earth Reborn is kind of scaring me off. (It took us several plays to even start getting Tannhauser, a much simpler game, right.) I love the action, art, and theme of Tannhauser — the battles feel like the wacky climactic scene of a tremendously enjoyable sci-fi/action B movie. Ever played it? Would love your thoughts...

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I have not played Tannhauser, so I'm afraid I really wouldn't be able to give a thorough comparison gameplay-wise. Looking over Tannhauser's rules, however, it seems Earth reborn at its simplest is easier to learn than Tannhauser; at its most complex Earth Reborn is harder to figure out if it was your first play.

That's the thing though, Earth Reborn doesn't throw all the rules at you on the first play. The learning curve of Earth Reborn should be least of your worries; the game is extremely scalable. You can start at the earliest scenario and understand the game in 15 minutes, and the game adds the rules bit-by-bit each game until you're fully comprehending a game rated in weight as 3.8 (e.g. Arkham Horror is at 3.4) as if it was a simple as Carcassonne. Yes, starting the game at its fullest would be daunting, but you don't have to jump in head first.

The best part is every level of Earth Reborn has high replay value. Even Scenario 1--the simplest version of the game--rewards multiple plays; I've played it at least 6 times and still found it enjoyable. That being said, once you get deeper into the game's rules you won't want to go back. It just keeps getting better.

Sorry that this doesn't give you my thoughts on Tannhauser; I will certainly try to give a comparison if I get the chance to play that game.
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Hector Bravado
United States
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Great reply, thanks. I will certainly keep Earth Reborn on my radar.
 
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Bernhard Vierthaler
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Great, great review. One of the best I read so far
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