(Full disclosure: I was NOT a KS backer. I picked up the retail version from Gen Con.)
I'm going to bury the lead a little and say, first off, that I enjoy this game. I wanted to enjoy this game. The art was great, the concept was novel, and the theme was compelling. So, maybe I'm a little more forgiving of the minor complaints/concerns I have...but I'll address them and let you, noble reader, draw your own conclusions about whether or not to pick this game up.
First impressions are important, and Epic Resort delivers in the looks department. The cards all evoke the setting in such a way that you can tell what you're in for when you sit down to play. The characters are beautifully drawn (I immediately thought of Lilo and Stitch's "exaggerated realism" when I saw the characters...the elvish ranger is lithe and angular, but the hulking Warlord is all pecs and biceps), and the Attraction and monster cards draw both the eye and the mind into the "story" of the game.
That said, the mini meeples used for tourists are quite small and some of ours were a little damaged. Nothing major. Just a bit of personality here and there. The cardboard components are thick and tactile. The small wooden hearts were cute, but we felt a few more could've been included for gameplay reasons. The card stock was acceptable, but, as with most deck builder-type games, you'll probably want to sleeve them if you're planning to play this a lot.
Overall, once your tableau is set up, you FEEL like a resort owner. You come to covet those little mini meeple tourists. You imagine your berserker using a zip-line at your attraction. The theme drew me in, and I was happy to be "in the moment" of the role Epic Resort set up for me.
The gameplay is reminiscent of Friedemann Friese's Copycat...sort of. Each turn, you'll draw your base hand of basic worker cards, who function as both employees at your attractions, or can be used for various special abilities by discarding them, or (and here's where the "deck evolution" part comes in) swapped for a more skilled worker who provides expertise and often extra "Units of Work" for your attraction.
Attractions are the locations for your resort. Each one produces the two primary resources for the game based on the number of tourists you've attracted to them: Flair (which is used to attract more tourists and heroes) and Gold (which is used to pay for staff upgrades and improvements to your attractions). Have more tourists? You make more money, and can hire more skilled laborers and intriguing attractions. Have fewer tourists? You can attract more with your flair and coax heroes to defend the attractions you have.
Wait? Defend from what? I thought this was suppose to be a place of fun and relaxation! Far from it. Each turn, you'll draw from a deck of cards called the Dock, where, if fortune favors you, will produce the flocking masses of tourists and heroes you hope to recruit, but sometimes will lead to an "Attack" card, which brings a nasty monster to attack someone's resort.
Meanwhile, your heroes will slowly replenish their health (provided the monsters don't wipe them out), and your attractions will get more and more...um...attractive. At the end of the game, after the monster deck is emptied, you'll gain Gems to determine victory points based on how much you upgraded your resort attractions and how many heroes left fully healed and happy during their stay.
In the interest of brevity (such as it is), I'll leave the full gameplay description to the "How to" videos, but I felt the gameplay was solid, innovative, fast-moving, and generally matched the theme well.
My overall impressions: Epic Resort is a strange, sometimes wonderful experience. There are a few niggling concerns, though. Replayability seems like it might be somewhat suspect after a few games. Sure, you can alter the various specialized workers, but at the end of the day, there's only so many kinds of attractions in the box, so I'm sure you'll start to see common combinations actively sought out by players. Also, set-up is surprisingly space-hoggy: even on a fairly large table, there was little room to actually play out our resorts. The center set-up in particular for a four player game was minimally three and a half feet (with a seven card "dock line"), so just be aware you'll need some strong vision to see the tier three attractions if you're on the wrong side of the table.
I read a complaint that the game is "too random." I didn't find it so. Sure, you can get a run of bad luck in the Dock cards (four or five "Attack" cards in a row did happen at least one season in our game), but the penalties for an attack are usually manageable and the attractions' ability to produce more flair (rather than gold) if you're low on tourists seems to balance this issue...at least for me. If you need no randomness in your game, Epic Resort might not be for you. That said, so would most games with any kind of theme, let alone one where the theme is a good part of the fun.
I would've liked a five player option. The game moves quickly. The first two phases of the game are basically simultaneous, so I don't think an additional player would slow things down too much. Perhaps in an expansion...
And that brings me to my final thought: I'd love an expansion. That's usually a sign of a pretty good game in my mind. There are some great ideas at work here. Epic Resort is fresh, interesting, and an absolutely beautiful package. It is a hybrid game, though, so if you're looking for a pure deck builder, or a pure worker placement game, there's a ton of options out there that might work better for you. But if you enjoy an innovative and immersive experience, and the light-hearted theme doesn't turn you off, give Epic Resort a try!
Thanks for reading!
great review! I am a backer and picked up my copy at gen con. I agree with most of your points (especially the space hog. playing this on the hotel room table was.... interesting)
a comment about the hearts, I found there were plenty of them since you only use 1 token per hero, although this may change in a 4 player game.
also I wanted to point out a mechanic that you briefly touched on "deck evolving" this isn't your classic deck builder where you start with 10 cards and eventually get 15 or 20, 25 then pull out the bad cards till your back down to 15. your starting deck is 13 cards, 3 of those are lazy peons who will be fed to monsters and removed from your deck. so you have a real deck of 10 cards and will always have a real deck of 10 cards. you cant hire a new person without removing someone else. once you have removed your entire starting deck in favor of more advanced workers, your done you cant change your deck anymore, hope you did good! it is actually quite refreshing.