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Subject: Eternity (Game Review by Chris Wray) rss

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Chris W.
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Note: This review originally appeared on The Opinionated Gamers:
http://opinionatedgamers.com/2016/10/27/eternity-game-review...

Designers: Jim Dratwa and Cyril Blondel
Publisher: Blackrock Games
Artist: Virginie Rapiat
Players: 3 - 5 (Solo and Two Player Rules Also Included)
Ages: 10 and Up
Time: 30 Minutes
Times Played: > 5



Eternity is a trick-taking game that was released by Blackrock Games at Spiel 2016. The first thing I noticed about Eternity is the artwork: it is stunningly beautiful, especially in a game genre that often values function over aesthetics. But the gameplay is also exceedingly clever, and Eternity has thus far emerged as one of my favorite card games of Spiel 2016.


Gameplay Walkthrough: Trick taking with bidding and changing trumps...


Eternity is played with 42 cards: three suits each containing cards numbered 1-14. The three suits represent the Earth (green), the Sea (blue), and the Sky (red). In the 5-player game, each player gets 8 cards, and in the 4-player game, each player gets 10. The 3-player game is dealt as with 4-players, but the 10 unallocated cards normally given to the fourth player are put in a face up display. There are rules for solo and 2-player variants, but I’ve omitted them from this review.

The remaining two cards are put in the respective spaces in front of the trump boards. The trump suit will always be the suit with the most cards in front of its trump board. In the event of a tie, the leftmost suit wins. (The trump boards are not attached to each other, so you can rotate their position.)



In the most basic ways, Eternity is like many trick taking games: you must follow if you can, and the highest card wins, unless there’s a trump, in which case highest trump wins. If you can’t follow suit, you must play a trump card, but if you don’t have one, you can then play a card of your choice.

But the game is unique in most other regards: The first player must always lead, but later players get an interesting choice: play a card into the trick, possibly winning it, or instead “pledge.” This basically means you’ll be betting you win a trick. You do this by playing another card down sideways which is not part of the trick. Based on the card played, you’ll receive 0, 1, or 2 tree tokens, which represent tricks you should try to take.

Only one player can pledge during each trick in the 3- and 4-player games; only two players can pledge during each trick in 5-player games.
The pledged card gets added to the trump board, and the suit with the most cards in it becomes the trump for the next trick. In other words, trump will shift mid-hand, but not mid-trick.

When the trick is taken, it is flipped upside down, and players may “plant” a tree (or “honour a pledge”) by placing a tree token on a trick taken.
At the conclusion of the hand, if you match your pledges to your tricks, you get “harmony” bonus points plus points for each trick you took. If you get more tricks than pledged, you still get a point for each pledged trick. If, however, you pledged more than you won, you get zero points. The “harmony” bonus is two points for the first round, then four points for the second round, then seven points for the third round.
The player with the highest score at the end of three rounds wins the game.

My thoughts on the game...

Trick taking is one of my favorite game mechanics, but I’ll admit that the genre is littered with mediocre games. Trick taking games often suffer from one of two major problems: (1) a feeling of obviousness, or (2) a feeling of chaos. Some tricksters enter auto-pilot mode once you see your cards, as the strategy for playing any given hand seems obvious. Other tricksters seem disorderly, resulting in gameplay that feels random. Great games in this genre avoid both pitfalls.

Eternity is such a game. Based on my plays, Eternity is is a novel and deeper-than-average card game, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how interesting gameplay can be.

Bidding tends to work well in trick-taking games (a fact that explains, in part, the popularity of games like Bridge), and Eternity adds a twist by making the bidding occur mid-hand. The choice of whether to play or pledge --- and, equally important, with what card --- presents an interesting choice that keeps the game from veering into auto-pilot mode. Add in the shifting trumps and the gameplay is significantly more challenging than in the average trick taking game.

While the game state is constantly changing, because players control how the trumps shift, it feels like there is considerable strategy here. There are numerous ways to play any given hand, and success depends in part on clever bidding and reading your opponents.

This depth doesn’t come at much of a cost. The game plays fast --- the box advertises 30 minutes, but we play in 20-25 --- and it is decently easy to learn. If somebody is familiar with Hearts or Spades, I could teach this to them --- with examples --- in less than five minutes.

So far I’ve preferred the four-player game. Having more cards in hand makes gameplay more interesting, as there is more time to shift trump in your favor. Also, I like the idea of having only one player pledge per trick.

Not only is the gameplay impressive, but so are the components. The artwork is beautiful. Trick taking games --- and card games in general --- have often foregone a focus on artwork. But the production value of Eternity is top notch.

I didn’t know this game existed going into Essen, but I’m really glad I picked up a copy. This was one of the hits of the convention to me. If you like trick taking games, I enthusiastically recommend Eternity.


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S. R.
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Great review!

Have you played UGO!, another trick-taking game with a unique twist. I have played the latter, but the former is still waiting for the opportune situation. I wonder how they would compare...
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Ulrich Roth
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Sounds very interesting indeed.

I'd like to try out this game with improvised material, and for that I would need to know which card values carry 2 / 1 / 0 trees. Could somebody please specify?
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Chris W.
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ludopath wrote:
Sounds very interesting indeed.

I'd like to try out this game with improvised material, and for that I would need to know which card values carry 2 / 1 / 0 trees. Could somebody please specify?


If nobody else beats me to it, I'll add those details over the weekend.
 
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Chris W.
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Dumon wrote:
Great review!

Have you played UGO!, another trick-taking game with a unique twist. I have played the latter, but the former is still waiting for the opportune situation. I wonder how they would compare...


Ugo does have a similar feel. I prefer Eternity, but I guess Ugo is probably the closest thing I've seen to Eternity. I hadn't thought of that!
 
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Karl Hanf
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ludopath wrote:
Sounds very interesting indeed.

I'd like to try out this game with improvised material, and for that I would need to know which card values carry 2 / 1 / 0 trees. Could somebody please specify?


From the rules and images on bgg, 0 / 1 / 2 trees are on 1-4 / 5-9 / 10-14.

Here's my attempt at a complete set of rules, playable with a Sticheln or Rage deck e.g.. You could try a standard card deck instead, but because it has 13 cards per suit rather than 14, I can't guarantee that the play won't be subtly warped.

Eternity, by Jim Dratwa & Cyril Blondel
2-5 Players

· 1-14 in 3 suits Red,Blue,Yellow. (Or try standard deck A-K in suits Diamond,Spade,Club. Untested!)

· Trick-taking game. To start each of 3 rounds:
· - Deal 14,10,10,8 cards/pl (for 2,3,4,5-pl. game). (Or with standard deck, try 14,10,9,7 cards/pl.)
· - Deal 2 cards to Trump Area. Every trick, trump suit is suit w/ most cards here. If tied, Red>Blue>Y. (Or with standard deck, try Diamond>Spade>Club.)
· - For 3-pl. game, reveal remainder of deck face-up off to one side.
· - Dealer leads 1st trick. Lead trick w/ any card.

· Ea. other pl. takes a turn, clockwise. (But in 2-pl. game, after “pl. A” leads trick, pl. B takes 2 turns, then pl. A takes 1 turn, then decide trick winner.)

· On your turn, choose either:
· - Play a card to trick: Must play card of suit led; if unable, of trump suit; if unable, any card.
· - Pledge a card: Lay it horizontally, face-up. It's not in the trick. If it is 1-4 / 5-9 / 10-14 (or with standard deck, try A-4 / 5-8 / 9-K), you're pledging to take 0 / 1 / 2 additional tricks this round. Record your total pledge by taking tokens, or with pencil.
· - - After 1 pl. (2 pl.s, in 5-pl. game) has pledged a card, no one else may do so during this trick.

· Trick is won by she who played to the trick the highest trump; or if none, highest card of suit led.

· Trick winner takes trick's cards as a face-down stack, moves all cards pledged during the trick to Trump Area, (then for 2-pl. game, deal 2 more face-up off to one side), then leads next trick.

· Round end (when hands are empty): Score by #tricks you took:
· - If #tricks taken exactly = your pledge: 1 pt./trick + harmony bonus (2 / 4 / 7 pts. in round # 1 / 2 / 3)
· - If more than pledged: 1pt. / pledged trick
· - If fewer than pledged: 0 pt.

· Last trick winner deals next round. After 3 rounds, high score wins (or tied pl. who scored most last round).

· Variant 'First-past-the-post': Only the pl. who would score most from the round, actually scores. (If tied, ea. tied pl. scores.) Harmony bonus 3 pts. every round. Play unlimited # of rounds. Win w/ 20+ pts.
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Ulrich Roth
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Great - thank you very much!
 
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