I kickstarted this game and eagerly anticipated its arrival. I wasn't disappointed when I got it and opened it up.
The design is simple, utilizing Zener cards in two decks with different backs, then a set of rules on how to use them. The components are compact and easy to understand.
Gameplay is kind of a cross between a child's memory game, Mastermind, and tile management systems such as The Stars Are Right. Each player has a "code" comprised of 5 Zener cards, a tableau of face-down Zener cards in a 4x5 grid above the code, a hand of cards, and the deck of unused cards.
Throughout the game you are creating hidden combinations of cards to use against your opponents or to block their incoming attacks.
You win either by guessing your opponent's code or by whittling down their hit points.
Each turn you may take any or all of the following
Reveal up to 2 cards in your tableau (opponent can see these as well)
Swap locations of any 2 cards in your tableau
Discard (face down) any card in your tableau and replace it with a card from your hand.
Reveal a set of cards from your tableau. If it's a valid set, resolve the effects and discard it. Otherwise, turn the cards face down.
Guess opponent's code.
There are 3 basic types of arrangements: attacks (3 vertical), shields (3 horizontal), and foci (4 in a square). There are specific effects based on which symbol is used.
There are nice easy to read sheets outlining what each special ability is. For beginners, I would have included the basic use of Attack and Shield since they're not included on the sheet, but after a few rounds it becomes easy to remember.
The memory aspect is extremely thematic, as the game is about cold war psychics and hidden information. It adds a level of challenge which keeps you attentive but doesn't frustrate you with needing to remember the symbol on every card in your tableau.
The special abilities are fairly well balanced and very interesting, though in my playthroughs so far Star seems to be a bit overpowered.
The code breaking part of the game seems to be overshadowed by doing direct damage to your opponent, though this may change with more experienced players.
There are a few rules clarifications that the manual could use, but it's a first edition of the game so I can forgive those.
If you like 1v1 games with direct confrontation and don't mind stretching your short term memory, this is a good game for you.