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The first thing you will notice is the finish on the box. This is that ultra smooth, almost reflective paper finish reserved for top notch production games like Nothing Personal and Ghost Stories. That, combined with the box artwork will tell you there is lots more eye candy inside. In short, if you didn't know better, you would swear this was a Days of Wonder production minus the linen finishes. The only thing that betrays that assumption is the fact that probably 50% of the box weight is the black ink used in printing the game. I swear this game probably has more black ink than any other game since Troyes. That fact helps to give it a distinctive look unlike any other game I've come across.

If you had this game on your radar, even for the most shallow of reasons, it would have been the art and graphic design that caught your attention. The public board, the cards, and even the player boards are top tier pieces of art. The tokens are medium thickness, and average stock, but the player boards have some sort of voodoo magic that allows them to be extremely rigid while being relatively thin.

The rule book itself has graphic design consistent with the entire package, is very well organized, and provides many examples of each of the game phases. Each of the player boards has turn sequence info, starting resource reminders that are different for each character, as well as a cheat sheet for the public board space iconography.

There are also double sided player cards that each have an easy and difficult side of the card. These cards have default actions that can be used by the dice during a turn for gathering resources, somewhat similar to 51st State faction cards. I played my learning game on the easy side, but half way through the game decided that all future games should be played on the more difficult side as I found gathering resources not difficult enough for my tastes.

The dice are all of a transparent colored variety and have pleasing heft. The colors of the dice serve to dictate how they can be used in game. This is a push your luck dice rolling game, but unlike most other games of this ilk such as King of Tokyo or To Court the King, colored dice have innate rules about how they can be re-rolled or manipulated. It is a very significant change from the standard Yahtzee style 3 roll mechanics that I will explain this in more detail below.

The start player marker is a map token, that can be stolen using a specific board space. Each player takes a full turn of several phases before play continues clockwise to the next player. Without getting into a full rules explanation, I can summarize by saying the gist of a players turn consists of choosing one of the 6 locations on the board to "explore", encountering one of a huge stack of randomly drawn cards that are seeded before hand, resolving the encounter using a combination of dice, resource tokens, and cards, and then purchasing goodies from a rotating market of randomly selected items. Successful encounters garner Ancient Secrets (VP).

What bears the most explanation, and what is really the heart of the game, are the encounters themselves. Each encounter card, has a unique name accompanied by extremely thematic artwork, an Ancient Secrets value, and default resource that is collected just be attempting the encounter, and finally a set of clear icons that indicate the dice roll combination required to best the encounter. The easiest encounters will require things like pairs of numbers of a certain value or higher, or three of a kind etc. More difficult encounters require rolls such as 5 dice all value 5 or higher, or a series of 2,3,4,5,6 in sequence.

How you obtain those values is a key differentiator in this game. Each player starts with a default 5 green dice that can be re-rolled up to 3 times. But the trick is ALL of the dice must be re-rolled. You cannot set aside dice you want to keep. You must re-roll ALL 5 of the green dice each time. That is, unless, you use Focus tokens that you may have accumulated in earlier turns that allow you to spend 1 token per die to re-roll specific dice. But even then you are still limited to a maximum of 2 re-rolls after the initial roll!

If you had a Feat card (you always have a hand of three every turn, and these are the key rule breakers of the game) that allows you to add a yellow Luck die to your pool, those dice can be re-rolled without using a Focus token, but again, to a max of 2 re-rolls. There are also red panic dice that cannot be re-rolled at all, but I didn't get a chance to try it in my test run. Finally there is also a pair of blue dice, that also cannot be re-rolled, but can incrementally be bumped up one value per blue Feat token.

Just those elements alone make it a very different affair, compared to most push your luck dice games, in trying to get the values needed for a successful encounter. Then you can factor in the resource tokens, Feat cards, and Swag (equipment) cards, that can all be used in concert to manipulate your chances of success, and you have lots of interesting choices on every turn.

The theme oozes from every aspect of the game, both in the artwork as well as the names of all of the game elements. Items, locations, and adversaries all seem ripped out of an Eldritch Horror universe but without any actual references to anything Cthulu, which I found refreshing and original, especially since I find Cthulu tired. You get to find and use cool items like a Gas Lamp, an Enigma, and a Tincture, in places such as a Crumbling Ruin, or an Accursed Shrine, while unlocking a Sealed Portal, finding a Book of Unspeakable Truth, or finding an Alien Carcass!

It is probably self evident from this short and hastily written review, that this game was definitely a winner for me, and I feel it will be for my group as well. I felt compelled to write this review (my first) simply because I feel this game will probably slip under many gamers radar as it's from a little known publisher and had a Kickstarter that seemed to have little fanfare compared to most others. This game deserves way more attention than it has received thus far. If you agree with me, please spread the word, as I can't wait to see what pleasantcompanygames puts out next!
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Everything that you said is EXACTLY why I supported this game from the get-go. I plan on taking some pictures of my copy (when I get mine today) to post on BGG, Google+, and one of my websites (doorlesschambers.com).

I haven't decided whether or not I want to do an unboxing video. I've never done one before, but I may geek out enough to do one just this once.
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/|\ Roland /|\
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Funny you say that. That's exactly what I had intended to do, but it was 2am. And I couldn't convince myself to stay up any longer.
 
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A. B. West
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Just had my first full play and we enjoyed it. I agree the production is marvelous! No quibbles there whatsoever (well, maybe the green/red dice could have been better distinguished for this old color blind guy). It *is* a dice game to be sure - and has all the issues with good/bad luck on rolls. Yes, you can re-roll, but you really are not changing the odds much with that. The key is the tokens and cards which are great fun.

I think you forgot to mention you can eliminate the dice roll completely by paying tokens - an important aspect for the game. And that you can 'win' bonus cards by collecting sets of encounters. Very nice!

I like this game quite a bit and look forward to my next play.
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adamw wrote:
Just had my first full play and we enjoyed it. I agree the production is marvelous! No quibbles there whatsoever (well, maybe the green/red dice could have been better distinguished for this old color blind guy). It *is* a dice game to be sure - and has all the issues with good/bad luck on rolls. Yes, you can re-roll, but you really are not changing the odds much with that. The key is the tokens and cards which are great fun.

I think you forgot to mention you can eliminate the dice roll completely by paying tokens - an important aspect for the game. And that you can 'win' bonus cards by collecting sets of encounters. Very nice!

I like this game quite a bit and look forward to my next play.


Yes, I did neglect to mention those aspects, both of which add depth. Next time, I will try and be more thorough.
 
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