So, after all the time on the Geek, I thought it is time that I also will begin writing Reviews.
And my first Review will be on a game, which hasn’t got that much love here on BGG. But I do think, it is worth that people will read the opinion of someone, who actually likes the game. But before I begin, I just want to say, that English isn’t my mother tongue, so if there are things, which aren’t correct in grammar or spelling, please forgive me! I will try my very best!
The game I want to review is Eragra. Because there is a lot of confusion about the rules, I will explain large parts of the game during this review. If you are not interested in that part and just want to read my opinion, then scroll down to the Conclusion.
Eragra is an unfolding card game. What does that mean? I was also puzzled at first, when I read about that, but the answer is quiet simple: There are elements in the game, which unfolds while you play (e.g. some cards will first become available after some specific conditions are met). In computer game terms you would say, you “unlock” those parts while you play.
So, it’s an unfolding card game. So it comes with a lot of cards. But that is not the only thing you can find in the box, which is filled with cards, coloured wooden cubes, coloured crystals and three dice. I will explain later, for what all that other stuff is. First about the cards:
The quality of the cards is ok. I saw better, but I also saw very much worse quality on cards. Because you won’t shuffle those cards a lot (as you do in the deck-building games which are so popular by now) this isn’t a bad thing. Some people would even ask: “What is wrong with those cards?” Well… I just tell those of you, which are quickly upset if game components aren’t “the best quality it could be”. For me, the cards are good (even if I scratched the edge of one while I was unpacking them…).
Best thing on those cards is the artwork! The artwork was at first the main reason, I became aware of this game. I just love it! (with a couple of exceptions, but you have that with every card game…). Next thing you realize, is the huge amount of text on the cards. I will come back to that later but for now let’s say: Eragra is very text heavy!
The rest of the components are very good! The cubes and crystals are handy and fulfil their role in the game. They come in four different colours (blue, green, yellow and red) and are either used to track different things in the game (which is true for the cubes) or must be collected during the game (the crystals). There are also some white cubes (which are counting the “life” of your white minions) and a bit larger black and white cubes (which represents good and evil deeds and are a resource for the incantation cards).
The dice are crafted with a lot of detail. Only reason to complain: The special combat die (the black one) is sometimes hard to read (because it is “lucent”). But this is no real bugger. I just mention it, so that this Review sound too “fanboyish”.
Back to the cards: With the box come a couple of different card stacks: The Duel Stacks (which consists of 60 cards each and is the main source for cards, the players draw), the Master Stacks (which consists of the same 10 for each player), the grim stack (of which every player will receive 15 cards at the beginning of the duel), the Parchment Stack (which will be used to summon minions), the Incantation Stacks (actually two stacks, one for white and one for black Incantations) and the Token Stack (which will be used for some card effects). Last but not least there are four Future Stacks.
That is actually a lot of cards you got there! The four Duel Stacks aren’t equal, but some share the artwork. But more importantly: They are so called “Highlander Decks”: Each card of those 60 card decks is unique to that deck! So you won’t have any card twice. The deck contains common minions (in 5 colours: yellow, blue, red, black and green and also white ones, which aren’t really coloured minions, more on that later), ceremonial and integral minions (with a multi-coloured background), Walls, Ploys ad Hoc (which are some kind of enhancers or equipment) and grounds. As mentioned earlier, these cards are your main source of cards, as the other two decks you play with (Master and Grim Stack) have to unfold first.
Basic Minions: All of those minions come with an effect and an origin (can be seen in the background of the text). Each minion unfolds its effect as soon as you summon/activate it (which means the same… I do like the word “summon” better ). For summoning a minion, you need the correct parchment laid out. What parchment you need can be seen by the symbol on the right side of the card (directly beneath the picture).
The Origin of a minion plays an important role in combat, because some origins can’ attack some others (e.g. a ground minion (symbolized by a mountain) can’t attack a flying minion (which is represented by a pair of wings)).
There are five Origins in Eragra: Ground (Mountains), Amphibic (Island), Sea (Shell), Flying (Wings) and Immaterial (Star).
Also, some minions have so called calibers. Calibers are special skills, which lets a minion perform better in battle, makes it able to attack flying minions (or those behind walls) or which makes them unattackable against all non-human Minions! There are seven calibres and a minion can have up to two different ones, when you summon it (it can gain more calibres through the use of other cards).
All common minions also have one dice power (which can be seen in the red circle on the left). This means, that those minions roll one dice when they attack (or defend).
Ceremonial Minions: You can recognize Ceremonials by three features: The bluish/purple background, the two power symbols on the right (under the picture) and by the fact, that all Ceremonials have a dice power of two.
To summon a Ceremonial, you need a combination of two parchments. I will explain later, how these combinations work.
Beside that, Ceremonials work just as common minions (they are “just” stronger).
integral Minions: Integrals have a red/orange background, three power signs on the right side of the card and three or more dice power. To summon an Integral, you need a combination of three parchments. As with Ceremonial Minions, beside the mentioned rules Integral Minions work just as common ones.
The Master Stack contains four Master Mage Cards, three Vortexes, two Polarizations and the Cyberspace card. The last one plays an important role in the game, as it ends the “Ancient world phase” as soon as it is played and begins the “Future World phase”.
The Grim Stack contains the so called Grim Minions. These are probably the most powerful minions you can summon. As stated above, each player gets 15 Grim Minions at the begin of the duel. Normally these are dealt at random, but there is a rule, where summoners can draft them at the beginning of the duel.
Parchments contain some symbols, which are needed to summon your minions.
The Incantation Stacks contain powerful spells, which can be cast by the summoners. The range of effects of those spells go from buffing one own minion over a lasting effect up to the destruction of all enemy minions!
The Token Stack consists of white cards with numbers from 1 to 20. So far, nothing special about them.
Last but not least the Future Stacks, which will be used, as soon as you leave the Ancient World and continue your struggle in the future (as I stated earlier: There are a lot of cards!). The Future Stack consists of machines, which are used to fight your battle, enhancers, which can be used to strengthen up your other cards, viruses, which have mostly negative effects for your opponents as soon as they become active and most importantly: The future survivor! As soon as your future survivor dies, you have lost the game….
Talking about “lost the game”… What is the goal of Eragra? Well, in Eragra you begin the game as a summoner in the Ancient World, where you battle your opponent(s) (which is called your “rival” in the game) for crystals. You gain crystals by defeating your rivals minions. The more crystals you gain the better. At some point during the game (after you have unfold your Master stack) you become able to move forward to the Future World, where you battle for your sole survival (or for the survival of your future survivor). In the future you don’t fight with minions anymore, but with machines. To fuel this machines, you need crystals. You also need crystals to keep your future survivor alive… so, the more crystals you do have when you enter the future world, the better. But you should always be aware: As soon as one of your rivals enters the future world, you do have to follow them… no matter how many crystals you were able to collect!
How is it played?
As I mentioned, you start playing in the Ancient world. The basic rules of the game are quiet simple, or at least, they are after you understood them: When it is your turn, you draw one card from your duel stack, one card from the parchment stack, then you draw one card from each of the two incantation stacks, choose one and return the other on the bottom of the appropriate stack. If you already have unfolded the Master Stack (and maybe also the Grim Stack) you draw one card from them as well. Then you start to begin playing cards. You may play as much cards as you want/you are able to.
Parchments are just activated and laid into your playing field. As soon as you have played a parchment, you can summon minions with the appropriate symbol. You can also match two or three parchments, so that you will be able to summon Celestial and Integral minions. Most important rule about this: You may not add a card to an activated parchment. So these two or three card combos must be played from your hand! If you have at least three different parchment combinations active (a single parchment is a “combination”) then you have unfolded the Master stack. If you have at least five different parchment combinations, then your Grim stack is unfolded.
Each summoner has five “slots” for minions. These slots are arranged like a pyramid. When you summon a minion, you must choose a slot in which it should be summoned. You can also choose a state, in which it should be summoned: Either in an activated state, where it can use its special powers and attack your rivals minions, or in a so called rejuvenate state, where it can only defend for five turns, but become stronger with every turn. After these five turns, it switches to the activated state. You can also combine minions into the X-state: By laying the two minions on each other in a cross like shape, these minions help each other out while defending against attackers. This may sound a bit weird in the beginning, but as soon as you get the rules, they become very intuitive.
Walls are played on the minion fields too. But except for the minions, which can switch position, walls stay in the field where they were summoned… Many Ploys ad hoc on the other hand are played on a minion and stay with it. Those, which aren’t played on a minion are played in one of the two combo fields, where you also can play grounds, polarizations and master mages. The latter two are found in the master stack and activate different effects depending on, how many cards of the same type are combined. Last but not least you do have an incantation field, where you can play lasting incantations.
Again, this maybe sounds confusing so much to remember, but it becomes second nature as soon as you understand it. Even during my first game I played the cards just as if I haven’t done anything else ever!
You may also attack your rivals minions. Rules for attacking are quiet simple: Each minion can only attack your rivals minion, which is directly opposing him. So for example the minion on my most right position can only attack the minion of my rivals most right position, the one in the middle can only attack your rivals minion in the middle and so on. Some minions have special powers which allow them, to attack different positions and minions, which aren’t in a position (because they are in a combo field) can attack each field. If you attack a minion, you roll the attack dice a couple of times equal to your minions dice power. You sum up all the values you have rolled and if the result is higher than 0 (because the die has blanks, which count as zeroes) then your attack was a success. If the attacked minion can defend itself, it may also roll the die and then your scores are compared with each other. Whoever has more attack strength is the winner of the battle and wounds the opposing minion. Common minion die as soon as they receive a wound, other minions get into a wounded state. Only after they become wounded again, they are vanquished and are removed from the field and put into the “Limbo” which is in fact a pile where all beaten minions are placed, no matter from which summoner. If you have beaten a minion, you gain crystals: One for a common one, two for a ceremonial and three for an Integral or Grim Minion.
As mentioned above at some point you or one of your rivals will play the Cyberspace card and the game will shift to the future Warfield. Here you can activate machines, which will advance against the machines of your rival. Battle works a bit different here: Each machine has a strength value, measured in %. This strength can be enhanced by cards. Whichever machine has a higher strength wins the battle (so no dice rolling in the future). As soon as your rival doesn’t have any more crystals to power his machines or as soon as his future survivor has been he has lost. If it was your last rival (for the case you play with more than two people) you have won the game.
The Doom Arbiter is powerful machine which fights for your Future Survivor.
Conclusion: Eragra is a good game. The rules can be quiet confusing at first, but as soon as you get them, they are more than simple. It had happened a couple of times to me and my friends that we were thinking: That can’t be! We must read this card wrong, because it is to strong! But we were right! There are a lot of very strong cards. But that is ok, because there aren’t any “weak” cards (or at least: not many).
Eragra is a brutal game and it happens more than once that the complete field will be cleared.
The main “problem” with Eragra is (or at least will be for the first couple of games) that it is quiet text heavy: Every card has its own effects and every card is unique (except for the master stacks and a couple of grim cards). This will slow down the game, but as soon as you get more familiar with the cards, it becomes faster and faster. But I would highly recommend that you will play Eragra with only two people. At least until you have become quiet familiar with the game. I played it once with four people of which I was the only one who played it before and I will never do that again! All in all it feels more than a duel between two people.
So: A lot of text and as the very final conclusion all I like to say is: If you aren’t afraid of learning a game and cards with a lot of text, then I can only say: Give it a try! I’ve never regret the fact, that I bought this game in Essen last year!